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Browsing The Book People I came across a bargain – Weber’s Complete Barbecue Book for £6 and it has quickly become a summer favourite. So many rubs, marinades, sauces and ideas for outdoor eating – no more plain sausages and boring burgers!!

One of the first recipes I stumbled across was the Layered Mexican Salad and it turned out to be so easy – perfect for throwing together when you have a last minute get together.  I love it! I have amended the dressing slightly as instead of using a poblano chilli I have been using up the Chipotle in Adobo in the fridge, just adding to taste.  Works a treat!

Layered Mexican Chicken Salad (courtesy of Weber’s Complete Barbecue Book)

Ingredients:

Marinade

4 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil

2 Tbsp fresh lime juice

1 tsp dried thyme

1 tsp dried marjoram

1/2 tsp sea salt

1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper

6 boneless, skinless chicken thighs

Dressing

1 large poblano chilli

125ml soured cream

25g coriander leaves, and tender stems

1 Tbsp fresh lime juice

1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil

1 large garlic clove

1/2 tsp ground cumin

1/2 tsp sea salt

1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper

Salad

250g Cos lettuce, thinly sliced or shredded

175g yellow, or blue corn tortilla chips, crushed

175g ripe tomato, diced

2 Haas avocados, diced

1 can pinto or black beans, rinsed

Whisk the marinade ingredients together in a medium bowl. Add the chicken thighs, turning several times to coat them evenly, then cover and refrigerate for 30 mins to 1 hr.

Prepare the barbecue for direct cooking over a medium heat. Brush the cooking grates clean. Grill the chilli over direct medium heat for 8 to 10 minutes, with the lid closed as much as possible but turning occasionally, until the skin is blackened and blistered. Transfer the chilli to a small bowl, cover with clingfilm and let steam for about 10 minutes. Gently peel the skin from the chilli and remove the seeds. Put the chilli in a blender with the remaining dressing ingredients and process until smooth. Refrigerate until ready to serve,

Arrange a bed of lettuce on a large platter and then add the chips, tomato, avocado and beans in separate sections on top.

Grill the chicken over direct medium heat for 8 to 10 minutes, with the lid closed as much as possible but turning once or twice, until the meat is firm and the juices run clear. Transfer the chicken to a chopping board and cut into 1cm strips. Place the chicken on a separate section of the platter. Serve the dressing alongside.

Summer dining

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Spring has Sprung!!

The last couple of weeks have provided fairly consistent clear skies and sunshine but………weather lady please take note that 3 days at 21 degrees does not constitute a heat wave! However today it is raining – of course it is it’s a bank holiday weekend! so not quite sure how we are going to entertain ourselves. It may be time to tackle some household chores which have been put on the back burner……….boring but necessary.

Before I contemplate that crazy idea any further I thought I would catch up on blogging and share with you a couple of fantastic chicken recipes I have made over the last couple of weeks. Moving away from hearty winter stews & soups and making use of spring and summer veg. These recipes worked for the whole family and was a great way to expand the repertoire of veg that Izzy will consider, along with some oh-so-good for you pulses.

First up was a Spring Chicken & Citrus Stew from Jamie Oliver. Jamie calls this a transitional dish – still has the stew element of winter but also the fresh colours & flavours of spring. Unfortunately, and strangely I could not find any dill so we had to go sans dill which was a shame as I think that would have added some extra va va voom!

Spring Chicken & Citrus Stew (courtesy of Jamie Magazine – Apr/May 10)

Serves 4-6

Ingredients:-

3 Tbsp olive oil

1 large chicken, portioned into legs, thighs, breast & wings

6 garlic cloves, finely chopped

1 large onion, finely chopped

1 fennel bulb, finely chopped

1 small leek, trimmed, finely sliced

Small bunch of parsley, stalks finely chopped, leaves reserved

Small bunch of dill, stalks finely chopped, tops reserved

Few stems of tarragon, stalks finely chopped, leaves reserved

Large handful of green olives, stoned

Large handful each of frozen peas, frozen broad beans and tinned cannellini beans

Juice of 2 lemons

2 large eggs, beaten

2 Tbsp natural yoghurt

EVOO

Parmesan cheese, for grating

Put large casserole  pan over a medium heat and then add some olive oil. Season the chicken portions, then place in the casserole. Cook for about 10 minutes, o till chicken is browned on all sides, then move to a plate. There should be a few tablespoons of fat left in the pan; if you have more get rid of most of it before adding the garlic, onion, fennel, leek and herb stalks, and cooking till softened.

Put the chicken back in the pan, pour in 600ml water, then season with sea salt and black pepper. Cover with a lid, then cook over a low medium heat for about an hour, until the chicken is tender and falling off the bone. Bring the mixture back up to a boil and stir in the olives, peas, broad beans and cannellini beans. When the frozen vegetables are done, add most of the herb leaves, reserving some to finish.

Remove the chicken from the stew and use 2 forks to pul the meat off the bones. Discard the bones, the return the meat to the pan. At this point the stew will be delicious, but it’s the next step that makes it amazing.

Beat the lemon juice and eggs well, then pour slowly into the stew. Don’t stir it in too much, the egg mixture should add a gorgeous shine, not scramble. Stir in the yoghurt before ladling the stew into bowls. Drizzle a little EVOO over each bowl, grate over some parmesan, then sprinkle over the reserved herbs.

Second spring chicken recipe…….

Chicken, Asparagus & Fairtrade Lemon Cassoulet (courtesy of LEON)

Serves 2

Ingredients:-

1 Fairtrade lemon, zested and juiced

4 cloves of garlic, roughly chopped

3 Tbsp olive oil (not EV)

2 heaped Tbsp chopped thyme leaves

2 free range chicken supremes,  skin on, with the little bone left in (I added a chicken breast too)

1 buch on English asparagus, with thickish stems

1 medium onion, cut into medium dice

1 x 400g tin of haricot beans

2 bay leaves

1/2 a glass of white wine

200-300 ml hot chicken stock

4 Tbsp fresh bread crumbs

Fairtrade lemon wedges

S & P

Put the lemon juice & zest, half the garlic, two thirds of the olive oil, the thyme and plenty of black pepper into a dish. Add the chicken, turn to coat, and leave in the fridge over night to marinate.

The next day, break the woody ends off the asparagus, then chop the stalks into 4cm pieces, keeping the tips whole: save two whole spears for the top.

In your favourite frying pan heat the remaining olive oil.

Take the chicken out of the marinade, but don’t throw the marinade away.

Season the chicken well, especially on the skin side, and lay it down in the hot oil.

Once the skin is a nice light brown, take the chicken out of the pan and rest it skin side up – it shouldn’t be there for more than a couple of minutes.

Now tip the onion into the pan and stir for a minute or two.

Keeping the heat up, add the reserved marinade and the rest of the garlic and fry for another couple of minutes to get the flavours moving.

Stir in the drained beans and bay leaves, give them a quick roll around, pour in the wine and reduce by half.

Turn the heat off, stir in the asparagus pieces and season to within an inch of it’s life.

Preheat the oven to 200C.

Tip it all into an oven-proof dish so that the beans are filling it pretty much to the brim, then press the supremes in, skin sides up, so that the flesh is just at the same level as the beans.

Pour in the hot stock to the point where you can just see it below the beans. Scatter the breadcrumbs all over the beans but not the chicken, lay the last two asparagus spears on top of the breasts and give it all a last light drizzle of olive oil.

Bake in the oven for around 30 minutes – you want golden breadcrumbs, bubbling edges.

Serve with a handsome piece of lemon on the side.

Ready for the oven

Out of the oven and ready for the table

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On Sunday Izzy’s wee buddy Sebastian and his Mum Tina came over for lunch and a play date. It was another miserable rainy day and I wanted to make something bright, comforting & super tasty but I didn’t fancy spending alot of time in the kitchen. Sticking with Jo Pratt’s ‘In the Mood for Entertaining’ I found a recipe that I was sold on as soon as I read the title – Lazy Tray-Baked Chicken! Perfect!

Jo describes it perfectly in her pre-recipe dialogue – ‘You’ll love the simplicity of this recipe – minimal preparation, minimal washing up, but maximum flavour. There is no need for anything else to be served with it, unless you are really missing your greens, in which case a portion of tenderstem broccoli or even a green salad would be lovely’.

If you try nothing else from my ramblings the make sure you give this one a go!! If your confidence in the kitchen is restricted to turning on an oven and chopping some veg then this is the recipe for you. I served with steamed broccoli.

Lazy Tray-Baked Chicken (courtesy of Jo Pratt – In the Mood for Entertaining)

Ingredients:-

8 boneless and skinless chicken thighs

2 onions, each cut into 4-6 wedges

2 large carrots, cut into large chunks

500g new potatoes, cut in half

1 large red pepper, cut into chunks

8 cloves of garlic, unpeeled

4 stalks of rosemary

4 Tbsp olive oil

2 tsp paprika

juice of 1/2 lemon

1 lemon, cut into wedges

150g smoked bacon lardons or pancetta

sea salt & freshly ground black pepper

2 1/2 Tbsp runny honey

Preheat the oven to 200C.

Toss everything together, apart from the honey, in a roasting tray. Place the hob over a high heat and turn the chicken and vegetables around for a couple of minutes. Arrange the chicken so it is snuggled into the vegetables and then place in the oven for 30 minutes, turning the food a couple of times.

After the 30 minutes, drizzle over the honey and cook for a further 15 to 30 minutes.

Serve two chicken thighs, lots of vegetables and plenty of the sticky juices per person on to warm plates. That is it!!!

The juices are delicious – beats a heavy gravy any day. Simplicity at its best!

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Now this salad is so simple and healthy – just perfect for a light mid week supper. I do like beans but served up as an accompaniment I don’t find them particularly exciting – just a matter of eating them because I know they are good for me. However this recipe changed all this – beans as the base for a salad works beautifully! Just 3 ingredients and a simple dressing and presto a great family dinner. We even managed to get Izzy to try the almonds by getting her excited about the crunch texture and teaching her to chew, chew, chew them!

Chicken, French bean and Almond salad (courtesy of Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall – River Cottage Everyday)

Ingredients:-

About 200g French beans, trimmed

A good handful of blanched almonds

About 200g cold cooked chicken, torn into shreds

For the dressing:

1/4 – 1/2 garlic clove, crushed

1/2 tsp Dijon mustard or other mild mustard

1 tsp cider vinegar or white wine vinegar

About 1/2 tsp honey

2 Tbsp rapeseed or EVOO

Sea salt & freshly ground black pepper

Cook the French beans in a large pan of boiling salted water for 3-5 minutes, until just tender but stil with a bit of bite. Drain, refresh immediately under cold running water and pat dry.

Scatter the almonds in a dry frying pan and toast over a medium heat for a few minutes, shaking the pan occasionally, until golden brown. Leave to cool.

Whisk all the ingredients for the dressing together in a bowl or shake in a screw top jar to combine.

Put the beans, shredded chicken and almonds in a large bowl and toss together with your hands. Trickle over the dressing, toss well and serve.

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Meredith & Isobel were hanging out with us this afternoon and it got to that time on Sunday that we needed to star thinking about dinner – always early on a Sunday due to shorter trading hours. As Mer was needing to do exactly the same as me – shop & cook – it made sense to do it together. A quick trip to the supermarket later we were in possession of a chicken and a medley of veg. It was a win win situation – half the grocery bill and great company while preparing together.

Mer had also picked up a Graffiti Cauliflower on the way over this morning – this was completely new to me as never seen or heard of it before. What a beautiful sight it is – vibrant purple. Much much more interesting than the usual boring white cauliflower! We decided to make this into a cauliflower cheese which I haven’t had in years.  Once the cauliflower had been simmered for 8 minutes the water was bright blue.

Beautiful!

Beautiful!

Apart from the Cauliflower Cheese there was no recipe to follow – just some Lemon stuffed into the chicken with some garlic and rosemary, chopped up butternut squash, carrots & parsnips and a drizzling of oilve oil….oh and a sprinkle of S & P.

IMG_6155

Once everything was cooked we split everything in half and Mer & Isobel headed home to Stu with dinner in tow. Worked really well as was the perfect  amount of chicken & veg – no leftovers in this house!

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I don’t know about you but the last few months have felt like nothing but doom and gloom. Almost everyone around me has suffered a loss or a bad situation. I have never known anything like it and I can honestly say I am looking forward to the end of 2009 and then start of a fresh and prosperous year for everyone! All this in the midst of a recession too – crappy!

With all this going on around us sometimes it feels like we have little control over our lives. However one thing we do have control over is what we put in our bodies. In these strange times I have found a real sense of peace in my kitchen. There is a great satisfaction in preparing a meal for loved ones, baking goodies for Izzy’s nursery or our offices or taking a slice of whatever is freshly baked over to our neighbour Sam. I must say I am not totally altruistic – I probably get more satisfaction cooking it than they do eating it.

Comfort food is perfect in these times however traditional comfort food can be stodgy and heavy in the stomach. My ultimate comfort food is mashed potato – love it love it love it! These days I don’t have it very often but James knows when it is needed, just as Mum did for many years!

Tonight we added some mashed potato and although it was not necessarily needed I did have a few potatoes starting to sprout and so needed to be used or they would be in the bin (which goes against my waste not, want not..). The rest of the dinner also consisted of what was in the fridge and cupboards (I am getting good at this!) and we will definitely be making this a Wright family favourite over winter. A perfect comfort food and with chicken and a simple tomato sauce!

I have only recently discovered Rachel Allen and I find that since she is a Mother herself her recipes are very family friendly. One of my work associates told me yesterday that he thinks she is the perfect woman as he imagines that after a night between the sheets she will not only get up and make the breakfast but also bake a cake! Each to their own I guess!

Chicken Casserole with Chorizo, Tomatoes and Beans (courtesy of Rachel’s Favourite Food at Home – Rachel Allen)

Ingredients:-

1 large chicken, cut into pieces (I used chicken breast as this is what I had in the freezer)

2 Tbsp olive oil

125g chorizo, cut into 8mm slices

2 x 400g tins of chopped tomatoes

5 cloves of garlic, peeled and left whole (I crushed – I love my garlic press and so it is always crushed in this house)

Salt, freshly ground black pepper and sugar

2 x 400g tins of pre-cooked beans, drained

Squeeze of lemon juice

Brown the chicken in a flameproof casserole with the 2 Tbsp of olive oil. Add the slices of chorizo, tomatoes & garlic. Season with salt, pepper and 1 or 2 good pinches of sugar. Bring up to the boil, cover with a lid and cook (on top of hob or in an oven preheated to 180C) for 30 minutes until the chicken is cooked.

Remove from the oven and add the drained beans and simmer for another 5 minutes. Season to taste, adding a squeeze of lemon juice if necessary.

Rachel recommends serving with orzo, boiled rice or pilaff rice. I found mashed potato works for me!

James and I made this up last night and then put it in the fridge so tonight it was just a case of heating it up – easy peasy!

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Tonight Izzy was lucky enough to have her 2 best buddies come over and join her for dinner. The 2 Isobel’s (aka Mackie & Wrighty) and Easton have been friends since birth and it is such a joy to watch them grow and interact together. Izzy is always so excited to see them both and there are cuddles and kisses all around. Check out this photo and you can see for yourself! Have you seen 3 cuter kids?!?

The 3 Musketeers - love, love, love them!!

The 3 Musketeers - love, love, love them!!

For dinner Meredith and I quickly put together Parmesan Chicken Goujons with mashed sweet potato and peas. This went down a treat and I stood at the bench tucking into the left over chicken dipped into tomato sauce. Scrummy!

Parmesan Chicken Goujons (courtesy of Rachel Allen – Rachel’s Favourite Food at Home)

Ingredients:-

600g boneless & skinless chicken

50g plain flour

Salt & pepper

2 eggs, beaten

100g breadcrumbs

50g parmesan cheese, finely grated

You can either cook on the hob or in the oven – I went for the oven.

Preheat oven to 200C.

Cut the chicken into goujons the size of a big finger. Place the flour in a mixing bowl or in a plastic bag with some salt & pepper. Place the beaten eggs in another bowl.  Mix the breadcrumbs and finely grated cheese together and place in a bowl or bag as well.

Toss the goujons in the seasoned flour, making sure they do not stick together, then remove. Shake off the excess flour and dip them in the beaten egg. Remove from the egg, letting the excess drip off, and toss into the breadcrumb and cheese mix. Shake off the excess and lay the goujons n a plate.

Drizzle the base of a preheated baking tray with oil (I didn’t use any oil at all) and lay the floured and seasoned goujons in a single layer. Bake in the oven for 12-18 minutes, turning the goujons over halfway through (forgot to do this!), or when golden on one side. When they are completely cooked , remove from the oven and serve.

A success I think!

A success I think!

This is such an easy recipe. I remember my Mum crumbing fish in the same way and once you have done it once you don’t need a recipe at all! It’s so quick – it takes minutes and has to be better for them than frozen chicken nuggets. Well, I hope so! Finished off with juicy slices of watermelon…..

Good girl Mackie!!

Good girl Mackie!!

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