Mrs. Jackson Cooks

Life through food

Living in the big smoke: Moroccan lentil chicken tagine

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So, I’ve decided to start blogging again.  I know, it’s been a while.  More than a year in fact.  And it’s been a tumultuous year.  We moved to London, for my job.  I’m now working for Oxfam and absolutely loving it.  But chatting to the government is aided by being near them, and so we moved.Upped sticks, lock stock and barrel.  Sold our lovely home in Manchester and have now bought a new house in South London.  And it’s very lovely too, remarkably similar in fact.  Just a bit smaller and significantly more expensive!

But as we settle and start to feel comfortable again, making a home and finding comfort in homeliness has come back to us, and hence the blog.  I’ve never stopped cooking and perhaps my cooking has become simpler, quicker and more frugal as I find ways to make money and time stretch further in a city that demands so much and also is so absorbing.

I wonder if too, this blog may also become about eating and drinking in London – whether at home or out and about…we’ll see.

But I start with a very easy and cheap meal and pretty quick meal.  It’s delicious and something you can leave cooking whilst you do other things.  It’s a chicken lentil one pot tagine.  I quickly discovered the joys of Brixton market, including their very good and cheap halal butchers.  But if you’re without a market, then chicken legs are often much cheaper anyway, or get a whole chicken and cut it up.  I used boneless, skinless thighs as the recipe states, but you can use bone in and skin on ones, or thighs and drumsticks, just cook for a bit longer and use less oil when browning the chicken as there’s more fat in the skins which will release when you cook it.

The recipe is here http://www.bbcgoodfood.com/recipes/1860/moroccanstyle-chicken-with-lentils

As always, I adapted it.  I used raisins instead of apricots, but you can leave them out all together if you like, and I added in olives and peppers.  But you can use whatever you have really.  I also cooked it in a tagine pot, but you can use a casserole dish or a heavy bottomed saucepan too.  The advantage of a tagine is it’ll cook it much quicker.

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Serves 2

  • 2 tsp olive oil (or any oil really)
  • 4 boneless, skinless chicken thighs
  • 2 cloves of garlic, crushed
  • 2 tsp cumin
  • 2 tsp coriander seeds, crushed
  • 2 tsp sweet or smoked paprika
  • 1 onion, sliced
  • 1 pepper, sliced
  • 15 large olives
  • 50g red lentils (washed and drained)
  • 1 tin chopped tomatoes
  • 300ml chicken stock (you may need more if not using a tagine)
  • 1 tbsp tomato puree
  • 1 cinnamon stick, broken
  • handful of sultanas or raisins
  • juice of half a lemon
  • handful of chopped fresh coriander or mint
  1. Mix together the dried spices with the oil and rub over the chicken
  2. Heat the tagine on the stove and add the chicken thighs, until browned on all sides.
  3. Remove the chicken and turn down the heat.
  4. Add another tsp of oil and fry the onions until softened
  5. Add the garlic, tomatoes, stock, cinnamon, pepper, lentils, lemon juice and raisins to the tagine
  6. Cook for about 30 minutes, or until the chicken is cooked through and the lentils have absorbed the liquid.  You can also put in an oven if preferred at this point, but it’ll need longer to cook.
  7. You may need to add more stock if it becomes too dry, or leave the lid off towards the end if too liquidy
  8. 5 minutes before the end, add the olives.  And check the salt level.  Add some if needed.
  9. Just before serving, stir through the coriander or mint

And voila, easy peasy moroccan chicken that’s healthy, cheap and pretty quick to make.

 

 

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Hug in a bowl: creamy chicken soup

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The title belies this soup – there isn’t actually any cream in this soup, and it’s relatively low in calories too for a chicken soup – 339. Of course there are soups with fewer calories, but when you want a nice hearty chicken soup, you’re not really thinking of calories. This one hits the spot and it pretty simple to make.

I had made the Italian lemon chicken recipe again with a whole chicken and so used the meat left on the bones when I chopped it up to make this soup. But left over roast chicken or even chicken breasts, pre cooked (grilled for example) would work just as well.

It’s pretty simple to make, doesn’t take long and if you don’t have a blender, leave it chunky. But a chunky soup will be clear rather than creamy.

The original recipe is on my go-to website here: http://www.bbcgoodfood.com/recipes/9831/roast-chicken-soup

I didn’t bother with the yoghurt and I don’t think it needs it but you can add it if you like.

Creamy chicken soup

Serves 4

  • 1 tbsp oil
  • 2 onions, finely chopped
  • 3 carrots, finely chopped
  • small handful of thyme leaves, chopped
  • 1.2 litres chicken stock (I made this from the chicken bones but you can use stock cubes)
  • 300g pre cooked boneless chicken, chopped into small pieces.
  • 100g peas
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 garlic clove, crushed
  • salt & pepper
  • heat the oil in a large saucepan, on a low heat, and fry the onions, carrots and thyme until softened but not browned – for about 10 minutes
  • Turn up the heat, add the chicken stock and chicken. Bring to the boil and simmer for about 10 minutes.
  • Blend half the soup until smooth, then mix it all together and add the peas, garlic and lemon juice. Season to taste. Give it a good stir and heat through and then serve with some crusty bread.
  • Enjoy the comforting warming soup 🙂
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Italian lemon chicken: Pollo alla Cacciatora

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This is utterly delicious. If you don’t cook anything else – cook this. It’s super easy too, and could be done on a week night easily enough. It’s also bikini diet friendly at 475 calories. High in protein, no carbs and fully of zesty flavour. The skin gives it more flavour and keeps it juicy, but if you are really panicking at the sight of your cellulite, then take it off to reduce the calories and fat.

The recipe comes from my Italian Comfort Food cookbook by Julia Della Croce. I’m not sure I actually altered the recipe by much at all – I added in less wine and olive oil than the recipe suggested and used a smaller chicken, but apart from that, it’s pretty much the same. I used a whole chicken as the recipe suggests – this is actually a pretty cheap option considering the price of whole chickens compared to buying thighs or breasts, and I made chicken soup out of the what was left on the carcass – so that’s lunches sorted for a couple of days – bargain!

But if you prefer, you can do this with drumstick and thighs or breasts. You can do a leg and thigh per person or a breast and drumstick per person.

I have capers so I used them and they do add to the tart flavour, but if you don’t have them it doesn’t matter too much, just leave them out. You can also leave out the chilli flakes if you’re wanting a mild flavour – but to be honest they don’t really make it spicy, just add to the overall zesty tartness.

Italian Lemon Chicken

Serves 4

  • 1 small-medium sized chicken (about 1.3 – 1.7kg) or chicken pieces to the same amount
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 5 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • handful of chopped fresh rosemary or 2 tsp dried
  • handful of chopped fresh sage, or 2 tsp dried
  • 60g green olives, drained and sliced
  • 100ml white wine
  • 1.5 tbsp white wine vinegar
  • 1 tbsp capers, finely chopped
  • 2 lemons, 1 finely sliced into rounds, the other pips removed and finely chopped (both with rind on)
  • 1 tsp chilli flakes
  • salt & pepper to taste
  1. Cut the whole chicken up into legs, wings, breasts and anything else you can get off the carcass. Then make chicken stock from the carcass. Heat the oil in a large high sided pan and when its hot add the chicken pieces and fry on both sides until browned.
  2. Remove the chicken and drain on kitchen towel. Pour off all but about 1 tbsp of the oil. Allow to cool (until it stops smoking).
  3. Then on a low heat, add the onion, garlic, rosemary and sage, frying until the onion is translucent but not browned.
  4. Add the chicken pieces back in, along with the olives. Carefully stir to mix.
  5. Next add the wine, vinegar, lemons, and chilli flakes. Bring to the boil, then reduce to a low simmer and partially cover for about 20 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through. Add water if it becomes too dry.
  6. Taste the sauce for seasoning and add as needed.
  7. Serve immediately with new potatoes, mash or hunks of farmhouse bread. Or just have on its own
  8. Enjoy the zesty flavours 🙂
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Chicken Channa Dhal

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I know, it’s been a while. My new job is being quite demanding, as it my social life! I can’t promise more posts in the near future, but I do promise, whatever I do post will be quality.

Mr J and Kaz were both in need of comfort food. It was post a big weekend (what weekend isn’t one of those at the moment?!) and they were feeling delicate. And so I made Chicken Dhal. As far as I’m concerned there’s nothing more comforting than dhal. We had it with naan. It’s also very healthy and low in fat and calories and all those things so great for the bikini diets – maybe have it with chappattis instead of naans. You can, of course, eat it with rice too.

According to my calories in recipes site, theres 352 calories, so with a naan of about 150 calories, you’ve got a perfect dinner meal at 500 calories. Or just leave out the naan if you’re really going for it!

Channa Dhal is really dried yellow split peas rather than strictly lentils but they still come in the same category.

I found the recipe here and more or less followed it, just adding in mushrooms for more vege, and leaving out the leeks, replacing them with onions. I also added garlic and ginger because they’re great for stomachs and no Indian recipe is without them as far as I’m concerned.

http://www.celtnet.org.uk/recipes/miscellaneous/fetch-recipe.php?rid=misc-chicken-chana-dhal

And here’s my version:

Chicken Channa Dhal

Serves 3

  • 100g channa dhal, rinsed
  • 1 tsp coriander seeds
  • 1 tbsp sunflower, vegetable, walnut, peanut oil etc
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • a small piece of fresh ginger, peeled & grated
  • pinch of curry leaves
  • 3 small red chillis, finely chopped (de seed if you don’t want too spicy or replace with 1 large chilli)
  • 1 tsp mustard seeds
  • 2 chicken breasts, chopped into bite size pieces
  • 6-7 closed cup mushrooms, sliced
  • 3 tomatoes, finely chopped
  • 2 tsp amchoor powder (use 1tbsp tamarind puree or lime juice instead if you don’t have)
  • 1 tsp chilli powder
  • salt & pepper
  • handful of chopped fresh coriander
  1. Boil the dhal in plenty of water until cooked through – this takes about 20-25 minutes (channa dhal takes longer – you can tell when its done when the middle goes from opaque to more transparent and they double up in size). Then drain and set aside until needed.
  2. Meanwhile, toast the coriander seeds until they start to pop. Then tip into a pestle and mortar and grind to a rough powder
  3. Heat the oil in a large saucepan or wok. When it’s hot add the onion, garlic, ginger, curry leaves, fresh chillis, coriander seeds and mustard seeds. Fry for a few minutes until the onion starts to brown and the mustard seeds pop.
  4. Then add the chicken and mushrooms and cook until the chicken whitens on the outside.
  5. Add the tomatoes, amchoor powder, salt & pepper to taste and chilli powder.
  6. Reduce the heat and dry fry, stiring constantly until the chicken is cooked through – about 7 minutes.
  7. Add the cooked lentils and the coriander and stir through for a minute.
  8. Serve immediately with naan or chappattis.
  9. Enjoy 🙂
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Tamarind and lime chicken curry

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As you know, I love tamarind. So when I found this recipe for tamarind and lime curry, I had to try it. There was a distinct lack of chilli in it though, so I added some quite generously! And it was absolutely delicious – let the sauce simmer and thicken for quite a while – it’s just delicious and perfect for dipping naan bread in. Plus the longer you cook the chicken the more it just falls off the bone. It’s still very doable as a midweek meal though – I think it would take 40-45 minutes.

This curry doesn’t have much vege (and you know how I love to have vege in everything) so we had a potato and aubergine takari side dish, which was also very delicious and I’ll blog about in a later post. It went with the curry very well. We didn’t bother with rice, we just had some naan with it (which we didn’t really eat much of either – the potatoes being filling enough).

The original recipe is here http://www.bbcgoodfood.com/recipes/1852638/coconut-and-tamarind-chicken-curry

I did vary it somewhat. I didn’t bother to bake it, I just did it all on the hob and bunged the chicken in the sauce to cook. I also didn’t bother with coconut cream – and it really didn’t need it. And I used low fat coconut milk to reduce the calories.

It’s actually a pretty healthy option – the original recipe is 466 calories a serving, without the cream and with reduced fat coconut milk – it’s going to be less – perhaps nearer to 400 calories. With the takari and naan – you’re looking at 6-700 calories max.

You could also replace the chicken with a firm white fish for a fish curry version, or add veges to keep it vegetarian and vegan friendly – or for a lower fat option.

Tamarind and lime chicken curry

Serves 3-4

  • 6-8 skinned chicken leg pieces (thighs and drumsticks) on the bone
  • Juice and zest of 2 limes
  • 2 small green chillis, finely chopped
  • salt & pepper
  • 2 tbsp oil (I used peanut, but sunflower, vegetable etc is also good – not olive or sesame)
  • 1.5 tsp mustard seeds
  • small handful of curry leaves
  • 2 medium onions, finely chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, crushed
  • small piece of ginger, peeled and grated
  • 2 tsp paprika
  • 2 tsp chilli powder
  • 1 can tomatoes plus 200ml passata or 2 cans tomatoes and 1 tbsp tomato puree
  • 1 can reduced fat coconut milk
  • 200 ml chicken stock
  • 1 tbsp brown sugar
  • 2 tbsp tamarind pulp
  • 1 tbsp chopped fresh coriander
  • 2 large green chillis, sliced
  1. Put the chicken in a dish enough for it to spread out. Add the lime juice and zest, small green chillis, salt & pepper. Mix well to coat and set aside until needed.
  2. Heat 1 tbsp oil in a large saucepan or flameproof casserole dish (that has a lid). Add the mustard seeds & curry leaves until they start to pop. Then reduce the heat, add the onions and cover. Allow to cook slowly for about 10 minutes, until softened and browned, stirring occasionally.
  3. Whilst the onions are browning, heat the remaining oil in a frying pan. Remove the chicken from the marinade and fry on either side until browned. You may need to do this in batches. Set aside.
  4. Add the garlic and ginger to the onions and turn up the heat again. Cook for about 30 seconds before adding the paprika and chilli powder. Stir well.
  5. Then add the tomatoes and passata or puree, chicken stock and sugar and place the chicken in the pot, covering them with the liquid. Cook on a low heat, covered for about 10-15 minutes.
  6. Then remove the lid and turn up the heat, until the sauce is thickened and reduced.
  7. Then stir through the coconut milk and tamarind. Simmer for a further 5 minutes or until the sauce is a nice deep red in colour and thick.
  8. Add the coriander and chilli slices, stir again and serve immediately with naan or rice.
  9. Enjoy the delicious tart and sweet flavours 🙂
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Spicy chicken curry and coriander flatbreads

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I absolutely loved this meal. It was so delicious. I made it a few days ago, and I’m still thinking about it! I’m definitely making this again soon. It’s not the lowest in calories if you’re on a diet, but it’s pretty good. It’s a great option instead of a takeaway on a Friday night. This is very spicy, so not one for the timid. But guaranteed to get rid of any lurking coughs and colds.

As per the original recipe, I made my curry powder from scratch. And I’d say it’s worth it – the smells coming from it are so much more than pre-made curry powders. It made it so tasty. But if you don’t have all the ingredients, or can’t be bothered, substitute with garam masala or madras hot curry powder. It’ll still taste very good.

The flatbreads are a piece of cake to make, and take minutes, as they don’t have yeast in them, there’s no hanging about waiting for them to rise. Plus, you’re less likely to bloat and are much more friendly for me to eat! They need gram flour. This flour is lighter than normal flour, so it makes the flatbreads very light and easy to eat. Not stodgy at all. Gram flour is made from chickpeas – so it’s also good if you’re gluten intolerant. Just substitute the normal flour for more gram flour. You can find it in Indian supermarkets and probably most large normal supermarkets these days – in the world foods bit, or the ‘free from’ section. Sometimes its called garbanzo flour or chickpea flour.

Calories wise – I worked out there’s 121 calories in each flatbread and 512 in the the curry – per serving. You can reduce the calories in the curry by leaving out the coconut milk and putting in less chicken. But it won’t taste as nice.

Here are the original recipes. This is the curry http://deliciouscravings.wordpress.com/2012/01/07/spicy-chicken-curry/ and this is the flatbreadshttp://elephanteats.com/2011/09/22/no-yeast-cilantro-chickpea-flatbread/

Spicy chicken curry with coriander flatbreads

Serves 2 (and the flatbreads will serve more or keep)

For the curry powder:

  • 3 tbsp coriander seeds
  • 1 tbsp cumin seeds
  • 1/2tsp fennel seeds
  • 1/2tsp mustard seeds
  • 1/2tsp ground cinnamon
  • 2 cloves
  • 2 cardamom pods (seeds removed)
  • 3 dried curry leaves
  • 1/2tsp whole black peppercorns

For the curry:

  • 1 tbsp vegetable or sunflower oil
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 1 carrot, finely chopped
  • 1 pepper, finely choppped
  • small handful of curry leaves
  • 1 green chilli, finely chopped (de seed if you don’t want too spicy)
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • small knob of root ginger, grated
  • 1/2 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1/4 tsp mustard seeds
  • 2 fennel seeds
  • 1 tbsp chilli powder (use less or leave out if you don’t want too spicy)
  • 2 chicken breasts, cut into pieces, or use chicken on the bone – about 2-300g
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric powder
  • 1 tomato, chopped
  • 250ml water
  • 1 tsp curry powder
  • 100ml coconut milk
  • handful of chopped fresh coriander

For the flatbreads:

  • 90g plain flour
  • 120g gram flour (plus extra as needed)
  • 200-250g plain low fat yoghurt
  • 2.5 tsp ground coriander
  • 1.5 tsp baking powder
  • 0.5tsp baking soda
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • handful of chopped fresh coriander
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  1. First, if you’re making the curry powder, grind all of the spices together in a pestle and mortar until a fine powder, or use an electric grinder. It will make more than you need, but you can keep it and use it as and when, for several months.
  2. Next, to make the curry, heat the oil in a large saucepan or wok on a high heat. Add the onion, green chilli and curry leaves. Fry until the onion starts to brown.
  3. Then add the spices, garlic and ginger (but not the curry powder or salt), carrot and pepper and fry for another couple of minutes.
  4. Then add the chicken, mixing well to coat it in the spice mix.
  5. When its whitened on the outside, add the water (enough to just cover the chicken), tomato curry powder and salt. Bring to the boil, then reduce to a simmer.
  6. Simmer for about 20 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through and you have a thickish curry sauce. Then stir through the coconut milk and coriander and simmer for a couple of minutes before serving.
  7. Meanwhile, put all the flatbread ingredients together in a large-ish bowl and mix well (hands are good for this). Slowly add a little gram flour or yoghurt (I did it by the spoonful) until you have a wet dough that’s just holding together.
  8. Then turn out on a floured surface and knead until smooth. Split into 8 pieces and roll into balls.
  9. Then roll flat (a couple of rolling pin rolls either side is enough).
  10. Heat a little oil in a frying pan, on a low-medium heat (I found medium too high, and kept it quite low). Place 2-3 flatbreads in the pan and cook either side for about 2-3 minutes or until turning golden brown and rising slightly. Then turn out onto kitchen paper. Add more oil as needed, and cook the remaining flatbreads in the same way, so they don’t burn but brown, and cook the remaining flatbreads in the same way.
  11. Serve immediately with the curry and enjoy all the wonderful smells and tastes.

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Emerging from Christmas: leftovers filo pie

Hello!  We made it to the other side of Christmas in one piece!  And actually, it was pretty good.  Getting drunk on christmas eve wasn’t the best plan, I’ve never been so hungover on Christmas day!  And it meant everything was a bit delayed and I wasn’t on the ball in making sure the capon didn’t go dry.  But all in all, pretty good.

I did the same lunch as I did last year – you can find it here if you want https://mrsjacksoncooks.wordpress.com/2010/12/29/food-glorious-christmas-food/

The pudding was a complete success – everyone loved it and it was very fruity and delicious and not as dense as some can be.  The recipe for that, is here https://mrsjacksoncooks.wordpress.com/2011/09/27/preparing-for-christmas-a-fruity-christmas-pudding/

But after you’ve cooked all that, fed everyone until they can’t eat anymore, you still have an insane amount of leftovers.  So what to do?  Well it’s traditional to make a pie.  But as you know, I’m hopeless with shortcrust pastry (unless its an upside down tarte!) so I thought I’d try filo, especially as I’d already made a few filo things and they turned out well and it’s a much lighter pastry.  After the Christmas excess the last thing you want is heavy stodgy pastry.

I found this recipe here, which seemed perfect and very easy http://www.deliciousmagazine.co.uk/recipes/chicken-ham-and-leek-filo-pie

I more or less followed it, but I didn’t have any gravy left so I just used chicken stock and I added extra vegetables.  I used carrot and celery, but mushrooms, peppers, brocolli would also be nice in it – whatever you have in the fridge.   I also left out the leek as I didn’t have one.

You could also put bacon in it, or substitute it for the ham – depending on what leftovers you’ve got.

Chicken and ham leftovers pie

Serves 4 ish

  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 1 carrot, finely chopped
  • 2 celery sticks, finely chopped
  • 200g chopped, cooked ham (or whatever you’ve got)
  • 400g chopped, cooked chicken (or turkey)
  • 300ml leftover gravy or chicken stock
  • 1 tbsp plain flour
  • handful of chopped fresh thyme (or about 1tbsp dried thyme)
  • 2 tbsp thick double cream
  • salt and pepper
  • 4 (ish) sheets filo pastry
  • 25g butter, melted
  1. Preheat the oven to 200 degrees celsius.
  2. Heat the oil in a high sided frying pan or saucepan.  Gently saute the onion, carrot and celery until softened.
  3. Add in the ham and chicken pieces and fry for a further few minutes.
  4. Stir in the gravy or stock.  Sprinkle over the flour.  Stir well to mix and bring to the boil.
  5. Reduce to a simmer and add the cream and thyme.  Allow to simmer for about 5 minutes.
  6. Add salt and pepper to taste and remove from the heat.  Add extra water if the sauce is too thick.
  7. Chop the filo pastry into strips.
  8. Pour the pie mixture into a casserole dish or oven proof baking dish.
  9. Brush the strips with melted butter and scrunch up.  Place all over the pie mix until covered.
  10. Bake in the middle of the oven for about 20 minutes or until crispy and golden on top.
  11. Remove from the oven and serve immediately.
  12. Enjoy a lighter version of a pie 🙂
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South Indian chicken curry

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As I write this, I’m eating my lunchbox salad of beetroots, green beans and goats cheese. And very nice it is too. Perfect for lunches as it’s low in carbs and high in protein – giving me the boost for this afternoon and not making me sleepy! Whilst the dieting mantra is no carbs after 5, actually this doesn’t make sense in terms of how your body functions. You want to avoid carbs at lunch as they’ll make you sleepy and stock up on protein to give you a boost, and eat carbs for dinner to slow you down and give you a good nights sleep (and to avoid a glucose crash in the middle of the night, waking up with a headache). This will be my next post (the salad, not dieting tips – I’m not sure I have any of them, I just use common sense – this being one such example).

Now, for those of you who are dieting (I’m not, by the way, I don’t do diets, I just try to eat sensibly) this is a very good option. It even has coconut milk in it, which normally is a ‘no no’ for dieters, but according to the recipe, it’s only 320 calories. Have it with a bit of rice or a chappatti, and you’ve got a very healthy 500 calorie-ish meal. Perfect for dinner. The only thing I would say is, I made half of this recipe for 2 people and we ate all of it. So 6 servings is probably unrealistic unless you are very committed to your diet. So probably 450 calories is more realistic – which still isn’t bad. If you use reduced fat coconut milk you could probably lose a few more too.

For those of you not dieting, don’t worry, it’s full of flavours and utterly delicious. I think I may even prefer it to the chicken and cashew nut curry I posted last week.

I do not love the name though, because it suggests that this is the only South Indian Chicken curry, when of course there are many, and I’m not sure I ever ate one in the 2 years I lived there that had coconut milk in it. Maybe it’s more of a Keralan version. Anyway, as it’s a very generic title I’m not sure what else to call it and have kept the unsatisfactory name.

Here’s the original recipe, but I of course changed it a bit. Not by much though: http://www.womanandhome.com/articles/food/recipes/291512/southern-indian-chicken-curry.html

South Indian Chicken Curry

Serves 2

  • 1 small green chilli, roughly chopped (de seed if you don’t want too spicy, add another if you like a good kick)
  • 5cm piece root ginger, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 1 garlic clove peeled and roughly chopped
  • 2 medium onions, peeled and one roughly chopped, the other sliced
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric
  • salt to taste
  • 1 tbsp oil (groundnut, sunflower, vegetable, rapeseed – whatever)
  • 5 curry leaves (can be bought from most Indian and some Chinese supermarkets, and often local Indian corner shops – keep in freezer and take out when needed)
  • 2 skinless boneless chicken breasts (or 1 large if from a butcher), chopped into bitesized pieces
  • vegetables – I used mushrooms but carrots, peppers, peas, beans – whatever you have, will work just as well
  • 1/2 tin coconut milk
  • 1 tbsp tamarind paste
  • juice of 1/2 lime
  • 2 large green chillis, chopped on the diagonal (de seed if you want – they aren’t very hot anyway)
  • handful of chopped fresh coriander
  1. Wizz the chopped onion, garlic, ginger, ground spices, salt and small chillis in a food processor or blender to make a paste (or you can do it by hand with a pestle and mortar). Add a bit of the oil if it’s sticking and not very pasty (the recipe suggests water – I found that this made it too watery and when adding to the hot oil in the pan, made it spit at me).
  2. Heat the oil in the pan. Add the paste and cook out for a couple of minutes.
  3. Then add the onions. Cook until starting to brown. Then add the chicken, stiring well to coat in the paste.
  4. Cook until the chicken turns white on the outside before chucking in your vege, mixing again.
  5. Cook for a further couple of minutes until the veges start to soften.
  6. Add the coconut milk, tamarind paste and lime juice.
  7. Cook for a few minutes until you have a nice thick curry sauce and the chicken is cooked through.
  8. Toss in the coriander and chillis, stirring through.
  9. Serve immediately with boiled rice, naans or chappatis.
  10. Enjoy!
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Diet friendly creamy curry: chicken & cashew nut curry

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This is one of those that I cook on a fairly regular basis but keep forgetting to take photos of, so this is the first time its made it on here! This is a great curry, pretty easy to make, low in calories and fat, high in taste and deliciousness, probably even fairly kiddy friendly as it’s not super spicy and the nuts are ground up.

The best thing about this curry is, wouldn’t know it was low calorie at all, just from eating it. It’s quite creamy but doesn’t have any cream or coconut milk in it – it’s all provided by a tablespoon of yoghurt and some cashew nuts! And the cashews give it a really great earthy flavour too. It’s also quick to make so it’s a great midweek option.

I had friends over on Saturday so I thought I’d make this to line our stomachs for the drinking that was coming after it! We had it with rice and naan.

Chicken and cashew nut curry

Serves 4

  • 2 medium onions, chopped
  • 2-3 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1.5 tsp garam masala
  • 1 tsp chilli powder
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric
  • 50g cashew nuts
  • 1 tbsp tomato puree
  • 1 tbsp low fat plain yoghurt
  • 2 tbsp oil (rapeseed, groundnut, sunflower, vegetable)
  • 4 chicken breasts, chopped into bitesized pieces (or two if very large breasts)
  • handful of sultanas (or raisins)
  • 200g mushrooms, sliced
  • 100g frozen peas, defrosted, or chopped green beans
  • 1 mug of water
  • handful of chopped fresh coriander
  1. Put the onions in a mini food processor and grind first before adding the garlic, ground spices, tomato puree, yoghurt and cashew nuts – and blending to form a rough paste (doesn’t need to be smooth – the little bits of cashew nuts in the sauce are quite nice). Alternatively, if using a large food processor – blend all at once to form a paste.
  2. Heat the oil in a large saucepan or wok on a medium heat. Add the paste and cook it out for a few minutes until it starts to darken in colour (add more oil and lower the heat if it starts to stick).
  3. Then add the chicken and mix well to coat in the sauce. Cook for a couple of minutes until the chicken is cooked on the outside.
  4. Then add the raisins, mushrooms and peas or beans. mix well again to coat, before adding the water and mixing well again so that there’s a nice creamy sauce.
  5. Bring to a simmer, and allow to gently cook for a few minutes until the chicken is cooked through and the sauce is quite nice and thick (but not so thick its not a sauce anymore!).
  6. Chuck in the coriander and stir through.
  7. Serve with rice, naan, chapattis, and enjoy!
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Fakeaway no. 2: MJFC (Mrs Jackson’s Fried Chicken)

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I know, I realise, MJFC does sound like a football club. I assure you its not. Infinitely tastier, for starters, and generally not full of football fans (although it may fill football fans). It’s my (or rather, Ravinder Bhogal’s) version of KFC. And I must say I’m pretty pleased with it. When I eat this, I wouldn’t rather have KFC at all. Ever!

I serve with spicy wedges (recipe you can find here https://mrsjacksoncooks.wordpress.com/2011/01/05/spicy-baked-wedges/), and some corn on the cob (done in a very high tech way of sticking in the microwave!) or some coleslaw (recipe for which you can find here https://mrsjacksoncooks.wordpress.com/2011/03/19/healthy-vege-lunch-options-falafels-with-red-cabbage-salad/). You could even do some baked beans if you wanted…the colonel would be proud!

The recipe for the chicken comes from Ravinder Bhogal’s Cook in Boots recipe book which you can find here http://www.amazon.co.uk/Cook-Boots-Ravinder-Bhogal/dp/0007291175/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1320768392&sr=8-1 and is still my favourite recipe book of all time. She uses this recipe for chicken wings, but I prefer thighs and drumsticks. Just make sure you cook them properly (I usually stick them in the oven to keep warm for a few minutes once the wedges are done).

The recipe calls for whole spices, which I use – I’ve never used the ground ones and they do give a different taste, but if you don’t have the whole spices you could try ground coriander, cumin and some ground pepper instead. I expect it would work – it may just taste a little different.

What I like to do is get the wedges on early – do them before anything else as they take a good 30-40 minutes. Then whilst they’re doing I make the chicken coating, followed by the coleslaw. It’s perfect because the coleslaw needs about 15 minutes in the fridge once it’s made – which it gets, and then you’re ready to fry the chicken – and the wedges are then done at the same time as the chicken and you just get the coleslaw out the fridge. It’s all done in about 40-50 minutes tops.

Serve it all immediately in front of the tv and some comforting reality tv or a good movie and maybe even a bottle of wine. Perfect night in.

Mrs Jackson’s Fried Chicken

Serves 3

  • 4 tbsp cornflour
  • 2 tsp cumin seeds
  • 2 tsp coriander seeds
  • 2 tsp black peppercorns
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 2 dried chillis, crumbled or crushed (or use chilli flakes)
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • zest of 1 lemon
  • 3 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 3 chicken drumsticks
  • 3 chicken thighs
  • Lots of oil (vegetable, rapeseed, sunflower, groundnut etc) for deep frying
  1. Grind the whole spices (and chillis if you like) together to form a rough powder.
  2. Put the cornflour in a bowl with the dried spices, the lemon zest, garlic, chillis, salt and cinnamon and mix together well.
  3. Heat about 3-4 inches of oil in a wok or high sided frying pan.
  4. Coat the chicken all over in the flour & spice mix. shake off the excess.
  5. When the oil is very hot and smoking, drop the chicken into the oil – be careful it doesn’t spit at you. You may need to fry in batches – make sure you give enough room to the chicken pieces to cook properly.
  6. I usually cook the chicken for a good 5 minutes on each side – sometimes longer if they’re large pieces. Test they’re done with a knife or skewer and drain onto kitchen towel.
  7. Serve immediately with wedges, coleslaw, corn on the cob, baked beans – whatever you prefer – it’s finger lickin’ good!

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