Chicken Cacciatore

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chicken (2) 24/03/2018

For the uninitiated, cacciatore (pronounced catch-chee-ah-tor-ay) refers to a “hunter-style” method of cooking in which the meat, vegetables and herbs slowly simmer in a single pot. This recipe stays true to the Northern Italian tradition of using white wine, but adds passata, because, well, why not? Buon appetito!

Serves 4

Ingredients:

  • 500g skinless, boneless chicken thighs
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tsp minced fresh rosemary (from about 2 sprigs)
  • 3-4 tbsp olive oil
  • 250g chestnut mushrooms, stems removed, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 4oz smoked pancetta, cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 2 large onions, roughly chopped
  • 2-300ml passata
  • 250ml dry white wine
  • 1 chicken stock cube
  • Chopped flat-leaf parsley, for garnish

Directions:

  1. In a small bowl, combine garlic, salt, black pepper, rosemary, and 2 tbsp of the oil; stir to make a paste; rub evenly over chicken pieces. Cover and chill for 2 hours.
  2. Heat remaining oil in a heavy cast iron pot over high heat. Working in batches, cook chicken pieces in a single layer, turning to brown all sides. Transfer chicken to a plate.
  3. Add mushrooms, pancetta and onions to the pot. Cook, stirring occasionally, until onions are golden brown and pancetta is rendered, about 8 minutes.
  4. Add the wine and stir to loosen browned bits from the bottom of pot. Add the stock cube and passata and bring to a boil. Return chicken pieces to pot, reduce heat to medium heat, partially cover, and cook for 10 minutes. Then uncover pot, reduce heat to medium, and cook 15-20 minutes more (depending on the size of the chicken pieces. Sprinkle with parsley and serve.
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Cheesy Lentil Bake

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lentil 13/06/2017

You could try using different veggies and cheeses for this. I just used what I had in at the time but this could be great with leeks, spring onions, parsnips, green beans, peppers… anything. Just remember that since you want this cheesy lentil slice to set nice and firm, you’ll need to thoroughly cook any particularly wet vegetables beforehand, and cut them nice and small.

This cheesy lentil slice is super high in protein and fibre and it’s still absolutely delish. The slice can be… well, sliced. This means that as well as making a great dinner alongside some homemade chips, garlic bread, salad or whatever else tickles your fancy, it can also be packed into lunch boxes to be served cold. Gotta love a versatile recipe!

Ingredients:

  • 190g red lentils
  • 1 litre chicken stock
  • 1 tbsp tomato puree
  • 1 tbsp oil
  • ½ onion, finely chopped
  • 1 small carrot, diced fairly small
  • 60g frozen peas
  • 75g rolled oats
  • 1 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1/2 tsp each oregano and thyme
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 70 g cheddar cheese, grated
  • 1 large tomato, sliced

Instructions:

  1. Add the red lentils, chicken stock and tomato puree to a saucepan, and bring to a simmer. Cook over a medium heat until the red lentils are tender and any excess liquid has cooked off – around 15 minutes. You’ll need to stir regularly, especially in the last few minutes, to ensure the lentils don’t stick to the pan.
  2. Meanwhile, heat the oil in a frying pan, and add the chopped onion and carrot. Cook for a few minutes over a medium heat, until softened then add the peas for a couple more minutes. Set aside to cool.
  3. When the lentils are cooked, transfer them to a large mixing bowl, and add the cooked vegetables, rolled oats, smoked paprika, herbs and a generous pinch of black pepper. Allow the mixture to cool for a few minutes then add about half of the grated cheese (hold some back for topping). Mix thoroughly.
  4. Spread the lentil mixture out into a greased baking tin (mine was 9 inches squared), and smooth out the top. Add the remaining grated cheese and a few slices of tomato. Bake at 180°C for around 45 minutes, or until the lentil slice is firm and the cheese on top is golden (cover with foil if you feel the cheese is browning too quickly). Either serve immediately, or allow to cool and cut into slices.

 

Curried Vegetable Brown Rice Bowls

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curry bowl 09/06/2017

Quick and easy to make, super healthy and positively bursting with spicy Indian-style deliciousness, vegan dish number 5 is a winner!

Serves 6

Ingredients:

  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp smoked paprika
  • ½ tsp cumin and coriander each
  • 1 tsp chili powder
  • 1 ½ tsp garam masala
  • 1 ½ tsp curry powder
  • water as needed
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, grated
  • 1 inch root ginger, grated
  • 2 ½ cups cooked brown rice
  • 1 lb. bag of frozen veggies, (I used broccoli and peppers)
  • 2 cups frozen peas
  • ½ tsp salt and pepper each
  • 2 Tbsp tomato puree
  • 1 tsp peanut butter
  • ½ cup water

Instructions:

  1. Add the olive oil to a large pan or cooking pot.
  2. Add the paprika, cumin, coriander, chili powder, garam masala and curry powder. Turn the heat to low and let the spices bloom for a minute. Add a splash of water.
  3. Raise the heat to medium and add the onion, ginger and garlic and another splash of water. Sauté for about 2 minutes.
  4. Add all the remaining ingredients and stir well to combine. Put a lid on the pot and let heat through for 5-7 minutes, or until the veggies are hot, stirring frequently.
  5. Serve in a bowl for a comforting, healthy and simple meal.

Quick Chickpea & Spinach Curry

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chickpea 07/06/2017

Using canned and frozen veg, this easy vegetable curry recipe will be ready in as little as fifteen minutes. Aromatic, satisfying and healthy, this recipe still delivers when you’re short of time or just simply want a curry fix.

Serves 2

Ingredients:

  • 3 tbsp of oil, vegetable or sunflower
  • 1 tsp small black mustard seeds, heaped
  • ½ tsp cumin seeds
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 800g of tinned chickpeas, undrained weight
  • frozen chopped spinach, 8 blocks
  • 3/4 tsp turmeric powder
  • salt, to taste
  • 1 ½ tsp each garam masala, ground coriander
  • chilli powder, to taste
  • 1 handful of fresh coriander, chopped

Method:

  1. Drain the chickpeas from the tins and set aside. Put the oil in a saucepan that will be large enough for all the chickpeas
  2. Put it on a medium heat until the oil is hot. Test this by adding a few mustard seeds. If they fizzle and pop the oil is ready.
  3. Add the cumin and mustard seeds and then quickly add the chopped onion. Fry for a couple of minutes then add the drained chickpeas.
  4. Add the salt, chilli powder, coriander and cumin powder and turmeric powder and stir through with a fork. Add the blocks of chopped spinach and a few tablespoons of water and then cover the pan and leave on a medium heat for about 15 minutes. The spinach should then be soft.
  5. Turn the heat off, stir the spinach through and then serve hot with rice or bread. I like pitta breads with yoghurt too.

Spiced Butternut Squash Cake with Mexican Chocolate Mousse

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Screenshot_2016-08-12-18-14-12-1[1] 12/08/2016

It’s not even funny how good this cake is. I mean seriously good. The squash makes for an incredibly moist sponge brought to life by warming spices and it is sandwiched together with heavenly, creamy chocolate mousse spiked with a tiny bit of chilli heat for a tingling surprise.

This recipe came about as I had half a huge butternut squash to use up and didn’t fancy making another soup (from which the first half was used). Butternut squash is extremely versatile and when pureed it can be used in all manner of recipes too. Squash puree is also fantastic stirred into a cheesy sauce for a pasta bake amongst many other things. But before I go on a ramble about the many uses of the vegetable, let me tell you about its use here.

I have used squash in place of the popular tinned pumpkin puree which is full of additives, preservatives and sweeteners. While I am aware that this cake is not exactly a diet food, I at least know exactly what is in it and can add flavour with beautiful, natural spices.

To create squash puree, peel and deseed the butternut. Cut into small dice and place in a microwavable bowl. Cover with clingfilm and microwave on full power for 5-8 minutes or until the squash can be easily… squashed between your fingers. Drain away any water that may have collected from the steam in the bowl then mash until smooth. You can do this in a blender for very fine results but I was saving on the washing up and used a potato masher which gave slightly coarser puree that I personally really liked in the overall bake. You are now left with about 2 cups of puree, depending on the size of your squash, which is just perfect for this amazing recipe.

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Ingredients:

For the cake:

  • 2 cups plain flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon grated nutmeg
  • ¼ teaspoon allspice
  • ¼ teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1⅓ cups golden caster sugar
  • ¾ cup vegetable oil
  • ⅓ cup yogurt (I used yeo valley 0% fat)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 cups butternut squash puree
  • 4 eggs

For the chocolate mousse filling/topping:

  • ½ cup dark chocolate chips (70% cocoa)
  • 1 cup cold double cream
  • 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
  • ½ teaspoon cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon chilli powder

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 180C/160C fan. Grease and line 2 round 20cm cake tins.
  2. Whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and spices. In a separate large bowl, combine sugar and oil. Stir in yogurt, vanilla, and squash. Beat eggs in one at a time, mixing very well after each addition.
  3. Gradually add the wet ingredients to the flour mixture. Pour the batter into the prepared tins. Bake for 40-50 minutes until a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean. Remove from the tins straight away and place on a wire rack. Cool completely.
  4. While that’s happening, melt the chocolate chips and allow the chocolate to cool a bit. Whisk together the heavy cream, cocoa powder, cinnamon and chili powder. Whip just until the cream reaches the “stiff peaks” stage. Carefully fold about half of the chocolate into the cream. Then fold in the remaining chocolate.
  5. When the cake is completely cool, layer the cream in the middle and on top of the cake.

 

Prawn Wontons

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Screenshot_2016-08-08-20-21-22-1[1] 08/08/2016

Wontons are hands on. There’s lots of chopping and assembling but once you get into it, they’re uber simple and the combination of zingy ginger, juicy prawns, umami mushrooms and fresh vegetables is pure heaven!

Ingredients:

  • 12g dried shitake mushrooms
  • 150g raw peeled prawns, chopped finely
  • 3 sticks of celery, deveined and chopped very finely
  • 4 spring onions, sliced very finely
  • A knob of ginger, grated
  • 2 tsp cornflour
  • 1 tsp soy sauce
  • 1 tsp sesame oil
  • 1 tsp Shaoxing rice wine
  • Ground white pepper
  • ½ packet of wonton wrappers

Method:

  1. Place the shitake mushrooms in a small bowl and cover with boiling water to rehydrate while you prep the other ingredients
  2. Add the chopped prawns, celery, spring onions, ginger, flour, soy sauce, sesame oil, Shaoxing rice wine and pepper to a mixing bowl and mix everything well. By the time you have done this, the mushrooms should be ready to drain, chop finely and add to the mix.
  3. The mixture should just hold together. If it is quite runny, add another spoonful of cornflour.
  4. To assemble, lay out a wonton wrapper, dampen the edges and spoon a small teaspoon of the prawn mixture into the centre. Bring the corners of the wrapper together to make a triangle and make sure the edges are well sealed so the filling doesn’t pop out when being steamed. Try to remove as much air as possible from the centre when sealing.
  5. Repeat this process until all the mixture is used up or, as in my case, you run out of wonton wrappers.

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6. At this stage you can pop the wontons in a single layer onto some greaseproof paper in a bamboo steamer in a wok of boiling water. Steam for 10 minutes then serve.

7. You can also freeze the wontons at this stage. Arrange in a single layer on a greaseproof lined baking tray and freeze for a couple of hours then remove the wontons to a sealable freezer bag and steam for 15 minutes from the freezer when ready to eat.

Root Vegetable Soup

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Screenshot_2016-07-28-07-24-38-1[1] 28/07/2016

The beauty with soup is that you can use whatever you have and pretty much always guarantee a satisfying, tasty meal. I’m not going to sit and tell you what variations you can try. Decide for yourself. Go crazy! This is a really simple, luxuriously smooth, thick and wholesome soup that is easily freezable and even tastes better the next day.

Serves 4

Ingredients:

  • 1 Tbsp butter
  • 3 cloves garlic, sliced
  • ½ onion, chopped
  • 1 carrot, peeled and diced
  • 2 parsnips, peeled and diced
  • 1 small sweet potato, peeled and diced
  • ½ butternut squash, peeled, deseeded and diced
  • ½ teaspoon each of dried thyme and rosemary
  • 1 litre hot chicken stock
  • Freshly ground black pepper

Method:

  1. Melt the butter in a large saucepan over a medium low heat. Add the onion and garlic and gently sweat for 5 minutes until softened. Add the other vegetables, stir well and cover with the pan lid to sweat until beginning to soften. Stir occasionally.
  2. Add the dried herbs and the chicken stock and bring everything to a simmer. Simmer for 15 minutes or until the vegetables are soft when pricked with a knife.
  3. Remove from the heat and pour into a blender. Be careful with the hot liquid. A ladle might be useful so you don’t splash yourself. Blend the soup to a creamy velvety consistency. Be careful with the blender lid. You may need to hold the lid with a cloth to allow a little steam to escape.
  4. Season with black pepper and check the thickness of the soup. You may need to add more water to achieve the consistency you like.
  5. Pour back into the pan and heat through gently. Serve with lovely crusty bread and butter.

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