Mrs. Jackson Cooks

Life through food

Friday night fakeaway: Chinese lemon chicken

This is utterly delicious, and so easy to make, you won’t be tempted to the takeaway at all.  Plus it saves money, is lower in calories and actually tastes better than the average chinese takeaway.  Make with my schezuan crispy beef https://mrsjacksoncooks.wordpress.com/2011/05/20/spicy-crispy-beef-szechuan-style/ (consistently one of my most looked at recipes) and some egg fried rice and you’ve got yourself a friday night chinese feast!

The original recipe is here http://blairsboys.wordpress.com/2011/09/21/lemon-chicken/.  I kept to it more or less, although I actually found the amount of sauce that was suggested here for 6 servings, did very well just for 2!  So I used the full sauce portions and reduced the amount of chicken and veges accordingly.

Chinese takeaway lemon chicken

Serves 2

  • 200g chicken breast, very thinly sliced (I find this is 2 supermarket sized breasts or 1 large breast from the butcher)
  • 1 tbsp cornflour plus 1tsp for the sauce
  • 1/2 tsp salt & pepper
  • 1 tbsp oil (sesame, groundnut, sunflower, etc – not olive)
  • 1 onion, finely sliced
  • 1 red chilli, finely chopped (deseed if you don’t want too spicy)
  • knob of ginger, peeled and grated
  • Juice and zest of 1 lemon
  • 1 tbsp rice vinegar (or use white wine vinegar if you don’t have rice vinegar)
  • 2 tbsp runny honey
  • 100ml chicken stock
  • handful of chopped veges – I used mangetout, but anything ‘chinesey’ is great – spring onions, sugar snap peas, baby corn, chinese greens – or a mix of them
  • handful of toasted and chopped peanuts or cashews
  1. Put the cornflour (reserving the tsp for the sauce) with some salt and pepper in a bowl.  Add the sliced chicken to it and mix well to coat the chicken.
  2. Heat the oil in a wok or high sided pan and when it’s very hot, chuck in the chicken.  Fry until it starts to go a golden brown.  Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on kitchen towel.
  3. Mix the sauce.  Combine the remaining cornflour, honey, vinegar, chicken stock and lemon juice into a sauce.  Set aside
  4. Add the onion, garlic, lemon zest and chilli to the pan and fry for a couple of minutes until the onion is softened.  Add in the sauce, mixing well and allow to bubble and reduce slightly.
  5. Add the chicken back into the sauce and cook for a further 30 seconds.
  6. Add the veges and cook again for another couple of minutes.
  7. Serve with the nuts on top and some rice or soft fried noodles.
  8. Enjoy your very own made chinese takeaway!
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Easy midweek meals: chicken and mushroom puffs

If you have some ready-rolled puff pastry, these couldn’t be easier to make and take about 45 minutes all in – so you can have them on the table in no time.  You can also prep these ahead of time and just keep in the fridge ready to bake.  They’re so tasty as well and will keep any fussy eater satisfied.  Yes, they have mushrooms in it, but as they’re chopped, they’re hard to distinguish from all the other flavours.  They just form a part of it.

The original recipe is from my Leiths cook book http://www.amazon.co.uk/Leiths-Simple-Cookery-Jenny-Stringer/dp/074759046X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1316973179&sr=8-1

I adapted it slightly and served it with a simple garden salad.  Although some prepared vege would be good too.

When I read the ingredients, I didn’t think there’d be enough for 4.  Then when I was going to put the mix in the pastry, it seemed like there was too much – but actually, it’s just right.

Chicken and mushroom puffs

Serves 4

  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 2 chicken breasts, chopped into bite size pieces
  • 150g mushrooms, chopped
  • 50g frozen peas, defrosted
  • 1 tbsp plain flour
  • 150ml chicken stock
  • chopped fresh parsley
  • salt & pepper
  • 1 pack of ready rolled puff pastry
  • water
  • 1 egg beaten
  1. Preheat the oven to 230 degrees celsius
  2. Heat the oil in a pan and saute the onion on a medium heat until softened.
  3. Then add the chicken and fry for a minute before adding the mushroomsand peas.  Fry until the chicken has browned.
  4. Then add the flour.  Mix well and cook for a minute.
  5. Take the pan off the heat and add the stock.  Stir well and return to the heat.
  6. Add the parsley and season to taste.  Allow the mix to reduce to a thick sauce.
  7. Roll out the pastry onto a baking sheet.  Cut into 4 rectangles.
  8. Place a quarter of the mix in the middle of each pastry rectangle.
  9. Gather up the corners of the pastry into the middle and press together.  Seal the seams with some water.  Don’t worry if it doesn’t quite stay all stuck together – the pastry will hold its shape and puff out and keep the mix inside it.
  10. Brush over with some egg to glaze.
  11. Bake in the oven for about 25-3o minutes until the pastry is puffed and golden.
  12. Serve immediately with salad or veges and some crisp white wine.
  13. Enjoy!
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Leftover roast chicken: mexican chicken and cheese tortillas

Last weekend I did a roast chicken (courtesy of Delia’s fast roast chicken – a seriously good recipe there!).  It was exceedingly good (like Mr. Kipling, but less cake involved) and the chicken was a good quality one (which is a little surprising as it came from Aldi!).  It was free range, and they always tend to be on the small side.  This one wasn’t big, but there was lots of meat on it.  More than I expected.  If you’re on a budget, a whole chicken is one of the best things you can buy in terms of value for money.  We got 5 meals out that one (roasted, paella, fried rice, tortillas, and soup).

So I was looking for something to use the chicken up in that was different from the usual curry or rice dish (risotto, fried rice, paella are all good for leftover chicken), or pasta) and so I looked on the BBC good food and came across this http://www.bbcgoodfood.com/recipes/9787/salsa-chicken-and-cheese-tortillas

It seemed very simple and quick to make (and I was starving!).  I’ve actually made this twice now, and altered it slightly the second time – I added onions and peppers and some fajita spice.  Plus, I didn’t have any kidney beans that time so I used baked beans and just rinsed off the tomato sauce – I didn’t do this thoroughly, just got rid of most of it by tipping them in a seive and rinsing under the tap for a bit.  When I did the onions and peppers, I fried them in some oil on a medium heat and added several shakes of fajita spice mix.  You could just add some cayenne or chilli pepper and paprika if you don’t have the pre-prepared mix, and some ground cumin and coriander if you’re feeling adventurous! 

Hubby very much approves of this recipe and as it’s so quick and easy, the next time I do a roast chicken, I’ll definitely be making this.  And the great thing about this recipe is, you could just as easily use left over roast pork, beef or turkey instead. 

The only thing I found about this recipe is, the amounts in it, are no way near enough for 4 people, if it’s a full meal.  I did one per person for dinner.  There’s about 600 calories in the serving size I did, which isn’t unreasonable for dinner.

Mexican chicken and cheese tortillas

Serves 2

  • 1 tbsp oil
  • 1 onion, finely sliced
  • 1 pepper, finely sliced
  • 1 tsp fajita spice mix
  • 4 flour tortillas
  • 4 tbsp salsa from a jar
  • 100g roast chicken, shredded
  • 1 tin kidney beans
  • 50g cheddar cheese
  • 1 tbsp chopped fresh coriander
  1. Heat the oil in the pan and add the onion and peppers over a medium heat.  cook for a few minutes until softened, then add the chicken in and stir well to heat through.  Remove from the pan and set aside. 
  2. Get 1 tortilla and spread a couple of tablespoons of ready-made salsa all over it.  Top with chicken & vege mix, beans, coriander and cheese.  Sandwich another tortilla on top of it all. 
  3. Using the same pan as before, heat on a medium heat.  Carefully transfer the tortilla sandwich to the pan.  Cook until browned on one side.  Then get a large plate and put it face down on top of the tortilla.  Holding the plate tight, tip the tortilla sandwich upside down onto the plate.  And return to the pan to cook the other side.
  4. When it’s cooked, carefully slide out of the pan onto a plate and cut into quarters.
  5. Repeat with the remaining ingredients.
  6. Serve immediately and tuck in
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Chicken satay noodles

These are delicious and healthy – what’s not to love!  I used leftover chicken from a whole roast chicken, but you could use fresh chicken breast instead or any other meat, seafood or tofu or just leave out for vege friendliness!

It’s so easy to do as well and the ingredients for the satay sauce are things that many people will have in their cupboards anyway, so it’s not complicated at all and you don’t need to buy special things.  Great for cooking on a budget and for whipping up something quick midweek.

I used chow mein noodles for this, but any chinese style egg noodles that are medium to thick in width would be fine.   Even straight to wok would work too.   You can use any veges too really – mangetout, baby corn, carrots, peppers, courgettes, onions of any variety, green beans, chinese cabbages or greens, beansprouts – whatever you’ve got – it doesn’t matter.  Just slice thinly and you’re good to go.

I got my original inspiration from this recipe, but, me being me, it got adapted!  I can’t get the original link to work at the moment, so here’s a cached version but hopefully if you go to that link you’ll be able to find the ‘live’ page again.  http://webcache.googleusercontent.com/search?q=cache:pTPj3oIRZtsJ:family.daltons.info/cooking/recipes/toms_satay_noodles.html+satay+noodles&cd=8&hl=en&ct=clnk&gl=uk&client=firefox-a&source=www.google.co.uk

Although the mix for the satay sauce is pretty similar to other recipes online, I liked that this one used other spices to marinade the meat.  I read recently that by just adding a bit of turmeric, cinnamon or paprika to food, you reduce your risk of heart diseases by up to 30%.  And considering hubby’s family has a history of heart diseases, I thought this couldn’t be a bad thing!  I don’t think it even has to be very much – just half a teaspoon or something – you probably wouldn’t even taste it.  As the chicken I used was already cooked there was no point marinading it, so I just chucked in the spices after adding the veges and chicken and it worked really well.

Chicken satay noodles

Serves 3 (ish)

  • 150g chinese egg noodles
  • 1 tbsp sesame, sunflower or peanut oil
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1 onion, finely sliced
  • 1 carrot, finely sliced
  • 1/2 a head of broccoli, cut into florets
  • 4 pak choi, chopped
  • handful of mangetout
  • 2 small red chillis, finely chopped
  • 1 inch knob of ginger, peeled and grated
  • 200g pre cooked chicken off the bone, chopped into bite size pieces
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp coriander
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric
  • handful of beansprouts
  • handful of chopped fresh coriander

For the satay sauce:

  • 65g crunchy peanut butter
  • 50ml coconut milk
  • 1 tbsp sweet chilli sauce
  • 1 tbsp light soy sauce
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1/2 tbsp lime juice
  1. cook the noodles according to the packet instructions, or prepare if pre-cooked one.  Drain, refresh in cold water and set aside until needed.
  2. Mix all the satay sauce ingredients together.  Add some extra water if it’s too thick.  You want  a fairly thick sauce.
  3. Heat the oil in a wok or large pan.  When it’s hot, add the garlic and fry quickly until browned.  Then add the onion, carrot and brocolli (or other hard veges) and cook for a couple of minutes, stiring frequently.
  4. Then add the softer veges such as the pak choi and mangetout for a minute before adding the cooked chicken.  If using fresh meat, cook this first, after the garlic.  Stir quickly, then add the ginger, chilli and dried spices.  Stir again to mix and then add the noodles.  Stir again to mix well.
  5. Then add the satay sauce, stiring well to mix before topping off with the beansprouts and coriander.  Stir once more and serve immediately.
  6. Enjoy your speedy healthiness!
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Fast roast chicken with homemade stuffing

I was intending on making a roast chicken the normal way this sunday, but got a bit distracted by selling stuff on ebay, and before I knew it, it was 6pm and I hadn’t even started! So, i remembered that I’d seen a Delia recipe on how to roast a small chicken quickly. I found it and it seemed perfect – roast in 45minutes.

It’ll only really work with a small to medium bird. I used a 1.5kg chicken. Probably anything up to 1.8kg would be ok – adjust your cooking times accordingly – but much beyond that and you’ll either end up with it being dry or under cooked.

And I’d already been looking for a stuffing recipe but nothing inspired me, until I looked in my Leith’s recipe book and there was a herb and apple one that seemed perfect, so that was that sorted.

But the chicken recipe said not to open the oven during the cooking so I thought I’d better shove the vege in at the same time – not such a great idea, it was very over cooked (i.e. burnt!). But the chicken was delicious as was the stuffing so that made up for it. So, learn from my mistakes and do your vege on the hob if you make this recipe!

The original recipe from delia is here http://www.deliaonline.com/recipes/main-ingredient/poultry-and-game/chicken/fast-roast-chicken-with-lemon-and-tarragon.html

The stuffing recipe is from my Leith’s cookbook but I have adapted it so it’s not infringing copyright!

Fast roast chicken with apple & herb stuffing

Serves 4-6 people

  • 1 small-medium chicken (mine was 1.5kg)
  • 20g butter
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • Salt & pepper

For the stuffing

  • 1 apple, grated
  • fresh herbs, chopped (I used basil, sage and thyme)
  • zest of 1/2 lemon
  • 40g breadcrumbs
  • 30g butter
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 small egg, beaten

For the gravy

  • 1 tbsp flour
  • 250-300ml white wine (something cheap and cheerful or you don’t like drinking)
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • extra water
  • 1 tsp gravy browning or marmite
  1. Heat the oven to 230 degrees celsius. Remove the chicken from the fridge at least 1 hour before cooking (or 30 mins on a hot day). Remove the string and spread out the joints so it warms up quicker.
  2. To make the stuffing, heat the butter in a small pan and fry the onion in it until softened but not browned.
  3. Put the apple, herbs, lemon zest and breadcrumbs in a bowl. Add the butter & onions to it. Mix well and add seasoning to taste. Add the egg (just enough to bind) mix well and leave to cool.
  4. When the chicken is warmed up to room temperature, make some small slits in the skin on the breast of the chicken and using small slivers of butter stick them in the slits and in the leg and wing crevises. Splash the olive oil over the top of the skin and season with salt and pepper.
  5. Stuff the stuffing into the chicken’s cavity (and if you have extra room, then add a lemon, halved)
  6. Put in the lower third of the oven and roast for about 45minutes without opening the oven door (Delia suggests 45 minutes for 1.35kg bird so I did it for 52minutes and I think to be honest it was probably done at 45minutes. I would roast for 45 minutes without opening the door and then check it at this time, roasting for 5-10 minutes longer if it’s not done. You can see if it’s done by inserting a knife into the fleshiest bit of the thigh. If the juices run clear it’s done).
  7. Place the bird on a carving board (or plate) and cover in foil. Leave to rest for 20 minutes.
  8. Meanwhile, using the remaining juices in the roasting pan, place it on the hob on a low heat and add the flour. Mix well for a couple of minutes and then add a splash of the wine. Mix well to get an even consistency (I find it best to use a whisk to remove and prevent lumps) and keep adding the wine a bit at a time until you have a reasonably thin sauce.
  9. Bring to the boil and add the salt & pepper to taste.
  10. Allow to simmer and thicken. If it’s too thick add some water.
  11. When you have a suitable gravy consistency add some gravy browning or marmite if you want a darker colour. Or leave as it is.
  12. Uncover the chicken, scoop out the stuffing. Pour any juices that have come out of the bird into gravy and mix well.
  13. Carve the bird giving a mix of breast and leg meat
  14. Serve with the stuffing, vege and gravy.
  15. And voila – abeautifully done, succulent roast chickenwith homemade stuffing in about an hour. Enjoy!
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The first bbq of the year

I’m sorry, I’ve been absent this week.  It’s not that I’ve not been cooking, its just I’ve not cooked anything I’ve not already blogged about, and so many things to see and people to do this week this is the first time I’ve had any time to sit down and write.  And to be honest, I don’t want to.  I want to be outside in the sunshine but I can’t get the laptop to work – plus I’m dying my hair!

This weekend we’ve had truly gorgeous spring weather.  Well it’s been warmer than spring, for England in any case.  Not quite the dizzying heights it reached at our wedding but not far off.  So out came the spade and the trowel and the compost and things got pruned, and weeded and mown.  And then we went to B&Q and got some plants to replace the ones that didn’t survive the winter.  And it was just lovely, chilling in the garden, doing the gardening, enjoying the sunshine.  And what could be better than a bbq.  So I hurriedly marinaded some meat that was in the freezer (having defrosted it, of course!) and we had the impromptu bbq.  It was very good, if I do say so myself!

We had jerk pork, sticky chinese chicken drumsticks, red cabbage coleslaw and baked potatoes.  Yummy.

The jerk seasoning I had in a bottle that’s been lurking for years in the fridge ever since we brought it back from Jamaica – but it wasn’t mouldy, didn’t smell or taste bad so I slapped it on the pork chops.  But if you don’t have any in your fridge, you can get some from the supermarket (the reggae reggae sauce is popular, but not one of my favourites) or you can make your own, which is what I was going to do until I realised I didn’t have half the ingredients.  But if you did, then here’s a recipe you could use:

http://www.bbcgoodfood.com/recipes/11811/jerk-spiced-ribs

I marinaded them for about 1 hour, and really you should do them longer but even in this short time they tasted really good.  I do recommend scraping off the seasoning before bbqing or eating as it was quite overpowering.

The sticky chinese marinade for the chicken, I found here

http://www.taste.com.au/recipes/19062/sticky+sesame+chicken+legs

I didn’t do all of it – I didn’t bother with the sesame seeds as I thought they’d just fall off in the bbq and I just used the marinade bit and didn’t bother with the rest.   They were really delicious – sweet and sticky and the perfect antidote to the jerk pork, which was lovely and full of spiciness.

The coleslaw was the same as the one I used with the falafels, which you can get here

https://mrsjacksoncooks.wordpress.com/2011/03/19/healthy-vege-lunch-options-falafels-with-red-cabbage-salad/

This time I left out the onion and added in carrot and sweetcorn and it was as lovely as ever.  Baked potatoes, well if you’re doing a full bbq you can just wrap them in foil and stick them in the coals, but as we only had a mini one, with it just being hubby and me, I did them in the oven – whack it on full heat, and shove them in for about an hour. Or if you’re lazy, prick them a few times on each side, stick them in the microwave, 5 mins on each side, then put them in an oven on full heat for about 15-20 mins to make them all crispy.

In any case, as the sticky chinese marinade was the only thing that was both new and made from scratch – I’m reproducing it here for you.  But if you needed any excuse or proof for an impromptu bbq, then look no further – very easy to do and even if you only marinade for an hour, it’s still delicious.  of course, you can put any meat in the marinades, this is just what I did.

Sticky chinese style marinade for bbqs

Serves 2

2 chicken drumsticks, skin on

2 chicken thighs (or 2 more drumsticks), skin on

  • 4 tbsp dark soy sauce
  • 4 tbsp runny honey
  • 4 tsp rice wine (or dry sherry)
  • 1 garlic clove, crushed
  • 1 small knob of ginger, peeled and grated.
  1. Mix the soy and the honey together in a medium sized flatish dish.  Then add the wine, garlic and ginger.  Mix well.
  2. Then add the chicken a piece at a time, squidge around in the marinade on both sides and repeat with all the chicken until coated in the marinade.
  3. Place in the fridge for at least an hour, preferably overnight, to marinade.
  4. Remove, and place on the bbq – ensuring its cooked all the way through.
  5. The honey will make it burn and go crispy, but that’s what makes it so tasty!
  6. Enjoy with a G&T or white wine spritzer and feel all summery 🙂
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The ultimate in comfort: chicken noodle soup

I love chicken noodle soup, adore it. But I rarely make it because it seems like a ‘waste’ of chicken so I only make it when I’ve done a whole roast chicken and have leftovers. Happily, I had roasted a chicken, so I made chicken noodle soup – with proper stock as well – look at me! Now I’m not opposed to stock cubes, in fact, I use them regularly, but if you’ve got a whole chicken you may as well make stock from the bones. Seems like a waste otherwise, really. And I know chickens aren’t the brightest but it lived for me to eat it, so its really only fair to make the most out of it.

Making the stock is the bit that takes the longest amount of time. Making the soup itself is very quick as there’s no real cooking of anything or blending. So another easy, gadget free, friendly recipe (not for the vegetarians though). And if you don’t want to make your own stock or can’t be bothered (or haven’t got any chicken bones) then by all means use some stock cubes or some fresh ready made stock.

But, chicken noodle soup is just great, especially at this time of year when we’re all feeling sorry for ourselves and sniffling into tissues. This recipe is full of chilli, ginger and garlic – full of germ fighting anti-oxidants and metabolism boosting to burn off calories quicker, if you’re still trying to loose weight. Me personally, I’ve abandoned that. Life’s too short for diets. But if like me, you’ve gone from dieting to drinking then this is good for boosting immune systems and reducing the effects of hangovers.

It’s also great for lunchbox lunches at work – just take some bread with you (or not, there’s noodles in it already so it’s not really needed). And when you’re busy at work, and it’s cold and miserable outside, this is the perfect pick me up.

Chicken stock

Makes about 800ml

1 onion, finely chopped

1 carrot finely chopped

2 celery sticks finely chopped

2 garlic cloves, minced

chicken bones with any meat scraps on them (without skin – skin makes the stock very fatty). Remove any leftover meat that’s easily removeable first, for the soup.

2 bay leaves

10 whole peppercorns

salt

1.2-1.4 litres water

  1. Put the vegetables and garlic in a large saucepan with the bones. Cover with enough water to cover the bones and bring to the boil.
  2. When it’s boiling add the bay leaves, peppercorns and salt. Stir well, reduce to a simmer and cover.
  3. Simmer on a low heat for about 1-1.5 hours, topping up with water to ensure the bones are fully covered.
  4. After this amount of time, seive the contents of the saucepan, reserving the juice. Return the juice to the pan and simmer again with the lid off to reduce the quantity by about half – this really intensifies the flavour of the stock.
  5. With the bones and veges – these can be discarded, once you’ve extracted out all the meat. This should be relatively simple to do as most of it will have fallen off the bones and any still on the bone will come off easily. I find using a pair of kitchen tweezers/pincers is the easiest way to do this.
  6. Add the chicken you get off the bones to the leftover meat you removed before – this will all go in the soup.
  7. When the stock is ready, remove from the heat and set aside until needed. It can been kept in the fridge for about a week or it can be frozen.

Chicken noodle soup

Serves 4 (ish)

1 tbsp sesame or other oil

1 onion, finely chopped (or use spring onions instead)

1 red chilli, finely chopped (de seed if you don’t want too spicy)

2 garlic cloves, finely chopped

a knob of fresh ginger, peeled & grated

veges – mange tout, bok choi, sugar snap peas, carrots (julienned) etc – whatever takes your fancy

roasted chicken pieces (de boned and skinned)

800ml – 1l chicken stock

70g chinese egg noodles, cooked according to instructions and cut into pieces (scissors is easiest)

1/2 tin sweetcorn

2 tbsp dark soy sauce

1 tbsp nam pla or fish sauce (or add extra soy if you don’t have this)

1 tsp sugar

  1. In a large saucepan, heat the oil. When it’s hot add the onion and fry until golden brown. Then add the garlic and chilli and fry for a further minute.
  2. Next add in any fresh vege and the ginger and fry for a further minute or two until softened.
  3. Chuck in the cooked chicken and stir well to mix.
  4. Then add in the stock (adding extra water if necessary)
  5. Add in the noodles and the sweetcorn
  6. Finally stir in the soy sauce, nam pla and sugar. Stirring well to mix. Taste and adjust as necessary.
  7. Pour into large soup bowls and serve with chinese spoons and prawn crackers.
  8. Perfection 😉
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Sunday lunch: greek spiced roast chicken

I must apologise, I was so hungry, waiting for hubby to return from refurbing our tenanted house that when he did, we just ate and I totally forgot about photos until it was completely demolished!

I am continuing with my January thriftiness. Roasts are a great way of getting cheap meat that you can use for the rest of the week. Chickens in particular are good because you’ll have the roast, then you’ll get at least one more meal out of it – curry perhaps? – before using the bones for stock. I can often make them stretch to include a risotto in there too, so one chicken can do at least 3, and sometimes 4 meals, which is very thrifty if you ask me! And buying a whole chicken is often a lot cheaper than buying bits of chickens, even free range or organic ones, whole are cheaper than chicken breasts, especially.

It was originally, just going to be a normal roasted chicken with some herbs and garlic stuffed into the skin and some almond and apricot stuffing in the centre. But I had some random channel on that does repeats of old shows. I can’t tell you the channel or the show – I wasn’t really paying any attention – until some woman came on and said ‘this is just like your normal roast except with a lot more flavour and spices’ and I was hooked. Turned out it was for pork chops and not roast chicken at all, but by then it was too late – I was imagining all sorts with the pestle and mortar.

So I made the spice mix with my pestle and mortar but because it wasn’t pork chops I had to think of a way to flavour the chicken effectively. So I mixed it up with some softened butter and shoved it under the skin of the chicken. This was good for two reasons – the spices under the skin were able to penetrate the meat more effectively and didn’t burn like they would on top of it and the butter under the skin would more effectively baste the chicken making it juicy and not dry.

I also tried a different way of cooking the chicken. Taking this from capon roasting recipes I looked at for Christmas, I roasted it on a wire rack suspended over a roasting tray that I put the roast potatoes and other vege in. This way the veges roasted in the chicken juices and spices and the chicken didn’t sit in it’s own fat making it healthier. I also started by roasting the chicken upside down so that the bottom browned, and then I turned it over.

I roasted the chicken according to times in a cookery book which were 20 minutes, and then 20 minutes per 450g at 200 degrees celsius. However, I did start off with the oven at 230 degrees celsius and turned it down to 200 after 20 minutes (when I turned the bird over onto its bottom).

This was all really effective. The chicken was delicious, beautifully spiced and juicy but not greasy, the potatoes and vege were beautiful and the gravy was great.

Greek spiced roast chicken

Serves 3-4

  • 1.5kg whole chicken (approx – a small one)
  • 1 lemon, halved
  • 4 bay leaves
  • 4 whole garlic cloves, peeled
  • Potatoes (approx 1 medium one per person) and veges for roasting

For the spice rub:

  • 1 tbsp cumin seeds
  • 1 tbsp coriander seeds
  • 1/2 tbsp juniper berries
  • 1 tbsp dried oregano
  • 1 tbsp dried thyme
  • 1/2 tbsp rock salt
  • 4 tbsp butter at room temperature (approx – I added a bit as I went along)

For the gravy:

  • 1 heaped tbsp plain flour
  • 100-150ml hot water
  • 1 tsp marmite or gravy browning (optional)
  • seasoning to taste
  1. Pre-heat the oven to 230 degrees celsius. If the chicken is in the fridge, remove and allow to reach room temperature.
  2. Make the spice mix. Toast the coriander and cumin seeds together until they start to pop. Tip into a mortar and add the juniper berries. Grind to a reasonably fine mix. Add the remaining herbs and salt and grind again to combine and reduce to the same size.
  3. Put half the butter in a small bowl and tip in the spice mix. Mix together – I found this easiest with my fingers. Add more butter as needed until you have spiced butter that is well combined and fairly dense with spice but isn’t so dense it completely covers the butter.
  4. Place the halved lemon, garlic cloves and bay leaves in the chicken cavity.
  5. Using the end of a wooden spoon, lift the skin of the chicken from the meat over the breast area. Make quite a large space between the two. Then using your fingers or the end of the spoon, shove about half the spice mix under the skin, working it all the way down to the end of the chicken. You may want to massage it down on top of the skin with your fingers.
  6. Place the chicken upside down on a wire rack suspended over a baking tray at the top of the oven. Roast for 20 minutes, or until the bottom of the chicken starts to brown.
  7. Then remove the chicken from the oven, reduce the heat to 200 degrees celsius. Cover the outside of the chicken, all over with the remaining spiced butter (this is a little tricky because the chicken is hot and so the butter melts very quickly and trickles off) and roast the chicken, uncovered, the right way up for the remaining time. Place parboiled potatoes in the baking tray beneath the chicken to roast in its juices. Add the remaining veges when you have about 30-40 minutes remaining.
  8. When the chicken is done, remove from the oven (leaving the veges to continue cooking, although you may want to reduce the heat to 170 degrees) and place on a heated carving board or plate, cover in foil and clean towels and leave to rest for 20 minutes.
  9. When the veges are done, remove them from the oven and place them in a warmed serving dish, reserving the juices. Return to the oven (now turned off) to keep warm.
  10. Place the baking tray with the juices on the hob and add the flour. Heat gently whilst continually stiring to combine. When fully combined add about 40ml of the hot water to the tray and whisk vigorously to combine. Whisking helps avoid lumps. Continue adding the water gradually until you have slightly thin gravy. Bring to the boil and then simmer until the desired thickness is achieved. If the gravy is looking a bit anaemic add some marmite or gravy browning to darken the colour. Adjust seasoning to taste.
  11. Carve the chicken and serve with the veges and generously cover in gravy.
  12. Enjoy with a nice glass of white wine and your friends and family around you. Sunday perfection!
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Food glorious (christmas) food

We’ve been eating…lots…but as I say, that’s what Christmas is all about.  This is a medley of photos and food I’ve cooked and eaten over the past few days.  I kept forgetting to take photos, so they’re all a bit random!

My husband and I are in Scotland, renting a cottage with friends, as we couldn’t cope with the idea of another family Christmas where we try to please everyone, and fail, and only end up making ourselves miserable!  After an argument that lasted all of boxing day last year, we decided we wouldn’t be doing the family thing again.  And so far, I have to say a cottage in Scotland is the way forward!  We’ve not been entirely without family, we visited my lovely Scottish relatives.  But a few hours with some relatives you rarely see is not the same as all day with family we see all the time.

Food wise, I have been indebted to the Hairy Bikers and their 12 days of Christmas recipe book for all the delicious food.  Without them I would have been lost and panicking, but with the book, whilst it was lots of work, we produced lots of delicious food, with Christmas dinner being one of the best we’ve ever had.  Although they didn’t have capon roasting directions, but they were easily enough found on the internet.

We decided that there wasn’t enough of us for a turkey (minimum 10lbs!) so we went for a capon instead.  Which is a castrated cockerel.  Apparently it makes them eat more, get fat, and become more juicier than chickens or normal cocks.  And I have to say, this was a delicious capon.  And more or less a perfect size for us.

If you’re interested, it was about 7lbs and I did it for 30 mins on high heat, upside down, covered in foil, then 1.5 hours the right way up, covered on a medium heat, and then 30 mins with the foil off to brown it at the same heat.

I’m not going to reproduce all the recipes, if you’re that interested – buy the book!  But I’ll tease you with a few.  We loved the brussel sprouts especially, which is odd as normally we hate them.  But the key, it seems, is frying them in maple syrup.  The sweet syrup takes away all the bitterness.  And we also added chestnuts and bacon to them which just added to the flavours.

We also loved the stuffings.  They were just great.  We made chestnut and sage and apricot and almond, both out the hairy biker’s book.  I’ve made stuffing from a packet before, but doing it from scratch makes all the difference and really turns the stuffing into something worth eating and blogging about!

I have to say though, I bought fresh chestnuts and my fingers still hurt from peeling them!  If you can get vacuum packed pre-peeled ones, then I would definitely recommend them if you like your fingers!

My friend made the brandy sauce for the pudding and it was extremely tasty…might have something to do with the quantities of cream and brandy she put in it, but hey, its christmas!  And it’s freezing cold so we need our fats and alcohol.

The other thing of note was the christmas spiced vodka.  I wrote about making it in my previous post, but we’ve now drunk it and can definitely say, it is so beautifully warming and delicious (despite being frozen!) that its worth the effort and the wait.  And really 3 days isn’t much of a wait.

Well, the haunch of venison is now marinading in the fridge, for the obligatory 2 days.  We’ll be cooking that in a couple of days.  And looking at the meat, even uncooked, I know it’s going to be beautiful.

Even just thinking about all this food makes me feel happy.  There is something about cooking and eating that can be the best thing in the world.  Yes, I’ll have to put in some serious hours in the gym, but then, that’s what January is for.  That and paying off the credit card!  But as it’s still December I won’t contemplate either for any longer here.

Since Christmas day, we’ve had the obligatory capon and ham pie and capon curry.  And we’re now making soup from the capon bones.  I might even make a ham pasta bake with the remaining ham!  But Christmas is full of traditions, especially food ones, and to break them only makes for unhappiness.

I hope you all had really lovely Christmases full of gorgeous food and lots of wine.  And are now looking forward to 2011 in anticipation of all the great food that is to come.  Here are the recipes for the stuffings and the brussels sprouts.  All out the Hairy Biker’s 12 days of Christmas.

Brussels sprouts with pancetta and chestnuts

Serves about 4-6

500g Brussels sprouts, peeled and halved

1 tbsp oil (we used olive)

125g pancetta or streaky smoked bacon, chopped

125g roasted chestnuts, peeled and halved

1 tbsp maple syrup

salt & pepper

  1. Boil the sprouts in a pan with boiling water and salt for about 8-10 minutes or until they look softened.  Drain and set aside.
  2. Heat the oil in a pan, add the pancetta and fry until crispy.
  3. Add the sprouts, chestnuts and maple syrup to the pan and mix together well.
  4. Cook for a minute or two until the syrup caramelises, then add the seasoning, remove from the heat and stick in a warmed serving dish until ready to serve.
  5. Eat, and be surprised at the sweetness and lack of bitterness.  You may find you actually like sprouts for the first time ever!

Chestnut and sage stuffing

enough for about 4-6 people

1 tbsp oil

1 medium onion finely chopped

75g roasted chestnuts, peeled and roughly chopped

115g sausagemeat

25g white breadcrumbs

zest of 1 lemon

1 bunch of sage, chopped

salt & pepper

  1. Heat the oil in a frying pan, and fry the onion until softened.  Remove from the heat, put in a large-ish bowl until cooled.  It’s important its cold when combining with uncooked sausagemeat.
  2. When its cold, add the rest of the ingredients to the onions, stir well so it’s all well mixed.
  3. Set aside until it’s needed to stuff a turkey or chicken, or form balls with it and roast in the oven until cooked.
  4. Sit down, stuff your face and let the compliments roll in!

Apricot and almond stuffing

serves about 4-6 people

1 tbsp oil

1 medium onion, finely chopped

1 garlic clove, crushed

50g apricots (ready to eat) roughly chopped

50g blanched almonds, toasted and roughly chopped

125g sausagemeat

zest of 1 orange

40g white breadcrumbs

2 tbsp fresh chopped parsley

salt & pepper

  1. Heat the oil in a frying pan and fry the onion over a low heat until softened.  Remove from the heat and place in a large-ish bowl until cooled.
  2. Add the rest of the ingredients to the onions, when cool, and mix well to combine and set aside until needed.
  3. Stuff in turkey or chicken or roll into balls and roast in the oven.
  4. Eat in smug satisfaction at your cooking expertise!

And now, after all that cooking and eating, sit down with a glass of spiced vodka and tonic and let others do the washing up!  You deserve it

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In pursuit of dahl

I must apologise for dissappearing on you for a while – it’s been hectic!  But have no fear, I am back and I’ll be inundating you with Christmassy recipes.  But not just yet, I’m still eating comfort food.  This was actually a post I wrote a couple of weeks ago but I didn’t get around to adding the photo until just now.  I have actually made the second of these recipes again since, with chicken this time, and without the chana dahl (it takes longer to cook and I was in a hurry!) and it was as delicious as the first time.

Having spent a number of years growing up in Nepal and India, there is nothing quite so comforting and so satisfying as dahl.  Even saying ‘dahl baht’ brings back memories of my didi cooking in our kitchen, all the wonderful smells of spices and delicious curries and dahls.  This is one of those things that you really don’t want al dente.  The mushier the better.  I miss my didi and her wonderful cooking.  And I do my best to replicate it, but it’s never quite the same.

However, despite not being my didi’s recipes, these two turkey dahl recipes are delicious.  Of course, you can use chicken or lamb instead if you like, I just happened to have some turkey in the fridge.

I always rinse and soak my lentils before cooking – it makes cooking easier and quicker, and it’s probably a throwover from watching my didi cook.

If you’re wondering where to buy lentils, and are a bit worried about what to do with them – your local Indian grocery shop will have them or Asian supermarket, and probably even a normal supermarket.   The latest lot I bought were from M&S.  And if you’re a bit worried about how to cook them, these are perfect easy recipes.  You really can’t go wrong with them.  For your basic lentil store cupboard needs I’d go with some red split lentils or masoor dahl, some chana dahl or yellow split peas and some puy lentils, for when you’re not doing Indian, but doing something vaguely French or Italian instead.

Both want yellow split peas or chana dahl.  And the second combines the chana dahl with masoor dahl.  But really, combine it with whatever you have – I used a mix of black and green lentils.  What really makes these recipes are the spices.  Both are full of lots of wonderful spice flavours.  Don’t worry if you don’t have them all – just substitute with something else.

This first recipe is a slight fusion recipe because it uses chicken stock and wine to cook the lentils in, rather than water, which is more traditional for Indian food.  The second is slightly more fiddly because it’s a tarka dahl and you fry some spices together and chuck it over the dahl at the end, but have no fear, it’s very simple.

Indian fusion turkey dahl

Serves 4

2 tbsp oil

1 red onion finely sliced

2 peppers (I used green) roughly chopped

1 clove of garlic finely chopped

2 red chillis (deseeded if you don’t want too hot), finely chopped

1 tsp mustard seeds

1 tsp ground cumin

1 tsp garam masala

1/2 tsp ground chilli powder

120ml white wine

600ml chicken stock

225g chana dahl or split peas

350g diced turkey

  1. Rinse and soak the lentils
  2. Heat the oil in a pan and fry the onion until beginning to brown.  Then and the garlic, chili, dry spices and peppers and fry for a further minute.
  3. Add the turkey and fry to coat in the spices and browned on the outside.
  4. Add the dahl to the pan and fry to coat the lentils in the oil, for about a minute.  Then add the wine and let it bubble and reduce.
  5. Then add the chicken stock, bring to the boil, reduce the heat, cover the pan and simmer slowly until the stock is absorbed and the lentils are cooked for about 30-40 minutes.   Add more water if necessary.  Check on the pan occasionally to ensure the lentils aren’t sticking to the bottom
  6. Serve with chappatis or plain rice, and let the heady scent of the spices warm up your Autumn night.

This next recipe is spicier than the first.  In fact, if you want to keep the first quite mild, just remove the fresh chillis all together, and only use the dried ground chilli powder.  But the point of the second recipe is to be quite spicy, and is great if you have a cold – it really clears your nose and sinuses out!

Turkey tarka dahl

Serves 4

40g chana dahl (yellow split peas)

50g masoor dahl (red split lentils)

1 tbsp oil

2 medium onions finely chopped

1 tsp garlic pulp (I use garlic you get in a tube ready pulped)

1 tsp grated ginger

1/2 tsp ground turmeric

1.5 tsp chilli powder

1 tsp garam masala

1/2 tsp ground coriander

1.5 tsp salt

200g diced turkey meat

handful of fresh coriander, chopped

2 green chillis (de seeded if you want it milder) and chopped

2-3 tbsp lemon juice

300ml water

2 tomatoes, quartered

For the tarka

1 tsp oil

1/5 tsp cumin seeds

2 whole garlic cloves

2 dried whole chillis

4 curry leaves (use 2 bay leaves if you don’t have curry leaves.  Curry leaves can be bought in Asian supermarkets)

  1. Rinse and soak the lentils.  Then boil them in some water until soft and mushy.  Then set aside til later
  2. Meanwhile, heat the oil in a saucepan or wok.  Fry the onions until soft and browned.
  3. Then add the garlic, ginger and dried spices.  Fry for a minute until the spices perfume the air.
  4. Then add the turkey and fry to coat in the spices and brown on the outside, for about 5 minutes.
  5. Add half the fresh coriander, fresh chillis, lemon juice and water and cook for 3-5 minutes.
  6. Next add in the cooked dahls and the tomatoes.  Cook for a further couple of minutes.
  7. Add the remaining coriander, stir well and remove from the heat.
  8. To make the tarka, heat the oil in a pan, when it’s hot add all the spices and fry on a high heat for about 30 seconds, then pour over the dahl and serve with plain rice immediately.
  9. Eat and feel your head clearing immediately.
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