23 March 2018

Chicken sausage burrito bowls - frisky comfort food!

Two posts in one month!  I'll be meeting myself coming back, soon.

I dare say you won't be surprised to hear that I collect recipes like a magpie collects milk bottle tops.  Except, milk bottles don't have shiny tops any more.  Oh well, you get the drift.  I have LOADS of recipes I've bookmarked for future reference.  I look through them whenever I'm putting together the menu plan for the week and will often choose one or two.  Interestingly, this week, it would seem that all the chosen recipes are good'uns (doesn't always happen!).

Mind you, I always wind up tinkering about with the recipes for one reason or another but really that's neither here nor there.  This one - the burrito bowls - was originally a vegetarian recipe that I decided to add some protein to, in the shape of chicken sausage meatballs.  It worked very nicely!  Here's the original recipe if you're curious, but remember that I've changed several things in my version.

I'll warn you, that it is chili peppers three times over (chili powder in the rice, chilis in the Mexicana cheese and some chili in the salsa) so be prepared for your nose to run and your tongue to tingle - but it is controllable and the avocado helps no end!

Another great pro point is that it all comes together beautifully in the one pan.  *happy sigh*  I like those recipes.

Let's get on with it then, eh?  Forwards!


Ingredients : 

2 tbsp rapeseed oil
8 chicken sausages, skinned and cut into 4 pieces
3 spring onions, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 green bell pepper, cut into small squares
½ a red bell pepper, cut into small squares
12 cherry tomatoes, halved
2 vine ripened tomatoes, chopped into small pieces
1 tsp hot chili powder (adjust as desired!)
1½ tsp sweet smoked paprika (use hot if you're a chili hound!)
150g short grain rice (Spanish if you can get it)
300ml hot water
1 tsp vegetable stock powder
1 x 200g tin red kidney beans, drained
Sea salt
Black pepper
100g Mexicana hot cheese, grated
1 avocado, chopped into small squares
salsa, to taste.

Method :

Heat the rapeseed oil in a deep frying pan and add the sausage pieces.  Fry over a hot heat until the pieces are golden coloured but not wholly cooked.  They will finish cooking with the rice.  Remove the sausage pieces to a bowl with a slotted spoon so as to leave as much oil in the pan and reserve.

Put the spring onions, garlic and bell pepper into the pan and stir fry until the pepper is beginning to soften.

Add the tomatoes, chili powder and smoked paprika to the pan and fry until the tomatoes are beginning to break up.

Add the rice, hot water, vegetable stock powder, kidney beans and reserved sausage pieces and stir through.  Taste for seasoning and adjust with sea salt and black pepper if necessary.  Cover the pan and cook for some 10-15 minutes until the rice is tender, stirring from time to time to prevent the rice sticking to the bottom of the pan.

Once the rice is tender, serve into warmed bowls.

Garnish with grated Mexicana cheese, cubes of avocado and a good dollop of salsa.  If you like it, some fresh coriander is good, too!

21 March 2018

Quick barbecue orange chicken - super speedy!

I have been hearing a lot about "Orange Chicken" just recently and had been keeping my eye open for a recipe that would suit me.  Such a lot of recipes seem to involve coating the chicken pieces in batter and either deep frying them, or frying them in some way, shape or form, before adding the sauce - and I'm just not into that.  I'm not averse to colouring the chicken in a frying pan though - ostensibly frying it, but in just a whisper of oil and without the batter.

This week, I found this recipe "Crockpot Orange Chicken" from Heidi's Home Cooking blog and it was so simple that I felt it would stand up to being swiftly cooked in a wok or frying pan (or skillet, depending on where you're from!) as opposed to the slow cooker it was intended for.  However, as is my wont, immediately I began thinking about ways of broadening its flavour horizons.

So, step 1 was to make sure the seasoning was on point and as we're using soy sauce there were no worries about the salt.  However, pepper wasn't mentioned - and I wound up using both black and white peppers.  Black pepper directly on the chicken and the white pepper in the final seasoning of the sauce.

I could also see that some garlic and ginger wouldn't go amiss, however hubby is sensitive to ginger so that was out (but feel free to add some if you're okay with it!) but some finely chopped fresh garlic cooked with the chicken became step 2.

Because of the lack of ginger, it seemed as though some red chili pepper would be a good idea, so step 3 was to add a finely chopped fresh red chili and dried red chili flakes, to taste.  This was a lovely addition as it definitely helped to balance out the sweetness from the barbecue sauce and the orange marmalade, although using a dark coloured marmalade also helped in that regard as it was rather more bitter than sweet.

All together, because I had everything prepped and ready to go before I started cooking, the dish only took around 25-30 minutes from start to serve, which was perfect.

Both my menfolk really liked this dish and returned clean plates to the kitchen.  Always a satisfaction!  The flavours weren't hugely in one way or the other - both the barbecue sauce and the marmalade seemed to be knitted together with the help of the soy sauce and the garlic and chili just helped to make everyone friends.  As it was cooked so quickly, the chicken didn't have an opportunity to dry out, staying moist and tender throughout.

I served the chicken with egg fried rice, some prawn crackers and chopped spring onion sprinkled over as garnish, however it occurred to us that it would be fairly epic served similarly to crispy fried duck - in small pancakes with spring onion & cucumber shreds.  So I'll leave that aspect up to you, but do let me know how you like it if you try it!


Ingredients :

200 ml of a good, tasty barbecue sauce
1 heaped tbsp of a dark orange marmalade
2 tsp cornflour
1 red chili pepper, finely chopped
3 tbsp light soy sauce
a good pinch of white pepper
1 tbsp rapeseed oil
3 skinless, boneless chicken breasts, sliced finely against the grain
a pinch of black pepper
1 large garlic clove, finely chopped
2 spring onions, finely chopped on the diagonal for garnish.

Method :

In a jug, whisk together the barbecue sauce, marmalade, cornflour, chili pepper, soy sauce and white pepper and set aside.

Heat the rapeseed oil in a deep frying pan or wok and add the chicken.  Season with the black pepper.  Cook over a high heat until all trace of pinkness has gone from the chicken.

Add the chopped garlic and continue to cook for another 1-2 minutes until softened and fragrant, in the residual liquid from the chicken.

Pour in the sauce and stir to combine.  Bring the sauce to a boil and allow it to reduce until a sticky glaze consistency has been reached and it is coating the chicken.

Serve, adding a sprinkle of chopped spring onion as garnish, with your choice of additional rice and a few prawn crackers for crunch.

Printable version

29 December 2017

Thick, chunky creamed vegetable soup (with a little bacon)

It's the 29th December, 2017.  We have eaten our own body weight in turkey over Christmas.  It is time to give our digestions a bit of consideration, hence, a vegetable soup.  However, because we're not vegetarians, it's got a wee bit of bacon in it too - just for the flavour input, don'tcha know.

Now for all that I like the brothy kind of soups, I wanted this one to be hearty, thick and worthy of being served as a dinner soup.  Perhaps with some crusty bread, or as it turned out, a gorgeous thin flatbread with mozzarella, basil and olive oil.  Mmmnn, delicious.

Truth be told, you could use just about any vegetables you wanted for this soup.  I will give you the full rundown of vegetable input in the recipe, but you need to follow a few rules, no matter what veggies you use.  Said rules go like this :

a)  chop some veggies very small, so that they cook down and disappear into the vegetable stock.

b)  chop some veggies into bite sized pieces, so that they will be retained and create lovely texture.

c)  start with a tasty oil - coconut, or butter, or rapeseed - and a finely chopped onion.  Do not be tempted to use a bland vegetable oil, or a slightly bitter olive oil.  If you start wrong, you won't ever be able to come back from it.

d)  use the best vegetable stock you can source.  It is the base of your soup and deserves to be delicious.

So there you are.  Not difficult at all, but make sure to set aside a good time to be spent  choppin', cuttin' and a-peelin'.  Not to mention a good hour or so in the preliminary cooking stage and a pause in the middle of however long you've got.  Good soup does not come about in a half an hour.  Well actually it can, but not with this one.

Here comes the recipe!


Ingredients :

1 tbsp coconut oil
1 red onion, finely chopped
4 rashers of streaky bacon, finely chopped (optional)
2 tsp ground coriander
a large pinch of sea salt
1 tsp ground black pepper
half a tsp dried thyme
half a tsp dried parsley

Peeled and chopped small :

1 medium carrot
1 large stick of celery, with fluffy green bits if possible
1 large leek
2 chestnut mushrooms
6 sweet cherry tomatoes (halved works for these)
half a medium potato

Peeled and chopped into bite sized chunks :

2 medium carrots
2 large sticks of celery
5 chestnut mushrooms (quartered)
1 and a half medium potatoes
2 small parsnips
a decent sized chunk of swede or turnip

plus :

750ml of strong vegetable stock (I used 1.5 tsp Marigold vegetable bouillon and 1 tsp Essential Cuisine vegetable stock powder)
4-5 tbsp dry split red lentils
3-4 large leaves of Savoy cabbage, ribs removed and leaves sliced
2-3 tbsp double (or heavy) cream
2 tsp cornflour mixed with a drop of water to thick pouring consistency
sea salt & ground black pepper to taste.

Method :

To begin, make sure you are using a pan which can contain the entire contents.  It needs to be BIG and have a lid which fits.  I used my steep sided wok, which worked perfectly.

Heat the oil and add the onion & bacon (if using).  Cook, stirring often, until the onion is transparent and the bacon is beginning to render its oil.  Add the coriander, sea salt, black pepper and herbs and stir through.

Add all the chopped small ingredients and cook on, stirring regularly to turn the pan contents.  Once the leek and mushroom pieces are softened and the whole is beginning to look cooked, add the vegetable stock.

Increase the temperature under the pan and bring the contents to a gentle boil.  Add the bite sized chunks of veggies, the red lentils and the cabbage.  Gently stir through, cover the pan and bring back to a gentle boil.  Cook on for 30-40 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Taste to check the seasoning levels - which should be fairly high as when you add it later, the cream will obliterate a certain level of seasoning.

Remove from the heat, leave covered and go and have a sit down for a couple of hours.

When you return, using a hand blender, blitz a certain amount of the soup to your preference.  I probably made it 50:50 blitzed to chunks which seemed to go down well.

Turn the heat on under the pan and add the cream and cornflour slurry and stir through.  As the soup heats up to a lively simmer, the cornflour will thicken the soup to a consistency where it will coat the back of a spoon - which is what you are aiming for.  If it becomes too thick, add a little water.

Finally, check the seasoning and adjust to your taste.  Serve into warm bowls with crusty bread for dipping.

Printable version

9 November 2017

Bacon & Cheddar Twice Baked Potatoes - jackets with knobs on!

When I decided to put these twice baked potatoes on the menu plan for this week, I imagined that I would have a recipe here on the blog to consult where quantities were concerned.  Well I was wrong!  I seriously can't quite believe that I haven't blogged the recipe for these little darlings, mostly because they're so NICE!

Now, having made them again without following any recipe but relying on my (patchy, at best) memory of what to use and how much, I appear to have made the best version of these baked potatoes, to date.  All of which necessitated a blog entry, so that I can re-create them in future.

They are very simple to make and don't take much longer than a standard jacket potato.  You just need to allow a bit of time for filling the potato shells and putting them back into the oven to finally bake.  Making the filling is a little bit fiddly, but can easily be done while the potatoes are baking, so no worries there.

In this instance, I served the potatoes with some leftover gammon ham, juicy tomatoes and homemade coleslaw.  However, finding something to serve them with really shouldn't be difficult - they can be lunch, the star of the show, a side dish or even a standalone item in a finger buffet (so long as you let them cool down a bit!).

So the next time you find yourself with two rashers of bacon that are homeless - break out the twice baked potato and do yourself a super-tasty favour.


Ingredients :

3 large baking potatoes (floury are best - I like Marabel type)
a drizzle of rapeseed or olive oil
sea salt & ground black pepper
2 rashers of smoked back bacon
1 heaped tsp of sour cream or mayonnaise
1 tsp of wholegrain mustard
2-3 spring onions, sliced finely on the diagonal
200g & 50g mature cheddar cheese, grated.

Method :

Pre-heat your oven to 200degC/400degF/Gas 6.

Taking each baking potato, cut each in half long-ways.  Shave a tiny amount from the underside of each half, so that it will sit level and steady on a baking tray.

Drizzle each half with oil and season lightly with sea salt & black pepper, then place into the oven - on a high rack - to bake for 45mins.

While the potatoes are baking, make the filling.

Grill the two rashers of bacon until cooked through and the fat rendered, but not crispy.  Set them aside to cool.

Into a large heatproof bowl, place the spring onions, sour cream, mustard and bulk of the cheese.  Reserve the 50g of cheese for sprinkling over the filled potatoes.  Cut the bacon into tiny pieces and add to the bowl.

When the potatoes are soft and baked golden brown on top, remove them from the oven and set aside to cool slightly in order for them to be handled.  Using a teaspoon, gently remove the bulk of the cooked flesh from inside each half and add it to the filling bowl.  Replace the empty shell onto the baking tray.  

Once each potato is done, break up the potato flesh using a fork and mix lightly into the rest of the ingredients.  Taste for seasoning and add more if necessary.

Spoon the filling back into the shells, making sure not to pack it down.  Leave each spoonful light and airy for a deliciously luscious look.  Once the filling is evenly distributed, divide the remainder of the grated cheese between each potato half, sprinkling it over the top.

Place the potatoes back into the oven for 15-20 mins until golden brown and delicious.

Serve with your choice of accompaniment.

Printable version

8 November 2017

Chicken Mulligatawny soup - with thanks to Jo Cooks

I was recently introduced to the terrific recipe blog "Jo Cooks" by another cooking friend.  He certainly is absolutely right about the wealth of interesting recipes on there - and lots that fit within my favourite type of "sit and put things in the pot in order" one pot dinners.

As a first foray, I immediately decided upon giving a go to Jo's recipe for Chicken Mulligatawny soup.  Mainly because it looked so good, but also because I've been looking for a great Mulligatawny recipe for the longest time.  So many Mulligatawny recipes are thin, brothy type of soups and to my mind, a good Mulligatawny needs some body.  I'm sure that back in the days of the British Raj - when the soup first found favour - it wasn't light and brothy, but rich and hearty.  Oh and speaking of the British Raj, the origins of the name are interesting (thanks, Wikipedia!), as the name apparently originates from the Tamil words "millagai"/"milagu" and "thanni" and can be translated as "pepper-water".  Ha!  Cute.  

Everything about Jo's recipe said "yum!" to me.  The fact that it was made with chicken appealed very much as I now have to be careful over my red meat consumption owing to a marked tendency towards gout.  So chicken ticked that box.  The use of the apple cubes appealed, too.  I like a fruity, milder, coconut flavoured curry and one turned into a soup could only be good in these colder early autumnal days.  I loved the simplicity of the cooking method, as well.  None of this "cook this, take it out, cook that, take it out and bring it all together at the end" malarky.  Nope.  Just chuck it into the pan in the right order and cook as described.  Lovely.

I made a few changes to Jo's original recipe - the first being that as I was making just half the original quantity, yet had to buy a 400ml can of coconut milk, was that I used the whole can and reduced the quantity of the chicken stock (broth).  I countered that by using an extra amount of chicken stock powder, so that the chickeny flavour was right up there and not compromised at all.

Secondly, I added a half a large potato, diced.  I just love potato in curry and as I was after a good, thick, hearty Mulligatawny I figured if some dissolved and added to the thick texture of the soup that could also only be good.  It certainly was - good, that is!

Aside from that, I made just small changes such as using 50:50 butter and coconut oil to start with, I used a red onion for its antioxidant properties, I used the full amount of turmeric for the health benefits and the full amount of curry powder because if it's supposed to be curried, let's taste it!  I  also backed off from some of the seasoning as my chicken stock is low salt, but it's worthwhile being cautious and adjusting the salt at the end.  You can't take it away once it's been added!

So I have detailed my version of Jo's recipe below - but my advice to you is to take a look at Jo's original recipe - here - and decide for yourself which recipe to follow.  Oh and for people who don't use cup measurements, mine is expressed in metric.  I know some of you have problems with cup measures!

Personally, I can't wait until tomorrow lunchtime because the leftovers of that soup are MINE, all MINE!  *chuckle*


Ingredients :

1 tbsp butter 
1 tbsp coconut oil
1 large red onion, chopped finely
1 medium carrot, diced finely
1 stalk of celery, diced finely
1 clove of garlic, chopped finely
1 medium potato, peeled and diced finely
sea salt and black pepper to taste
4 boneless and skinless chicken thighs, cut into bite sized chunks
half a tsp dried oregano
1 tsp turmeric
1 tbsp curry powder
1 tbsp all-purpose flour
500ml chicken stock, made with 1.5 tsp chicken stock powder
150g dry basmati rice
400ml unsweetened coconut milk (1 can)
1 medium Braeburn apple peeled, cored and diced small
1 tbsp fresh parsley, chopped.

Method :

Using a large saucepan, soup pot, or as I did - a wok -  melt the butter and coconut oil over a medium-high heat. Add the onion, carrot, celery, garlic and potato to the pot, season with a pinch of salt and pepper, stir and cook for about 5-10 minutes or until the onion and carrot softens and the garlic becomes aromatic.

Add the chicken thigh pieces to the pot and cook for around 10 minutes, or until the chicken is no longer pink. Don't worry if it's not cooked through - it will finish cooking once the liquid is added.

Add the oregano, turmeric, curry powder and stir well to combine.  Sprinkle with the flour and stir again.

Add the chicken stock, rice and coconut milk, lower the heat to a medium-low and stir through well.  Let the soup simmer for about 10-20 minutes or until the rice is cooked through and you can be sure the chicken is fully cooked.

You may find that you need to add a little hot water every so often to maintain the soupy texture.  It is worthwhile having a little on hand in a jug so that you aren't tempted to swamp the soup!  Just add a small amount and stir through until the texture returns back to being soupy.

Add the apples and simmer for a couple more minutes, to heat them through and bring everything up to a piping hot temperature.

Garnish with fresh parsley and serve in warm bowls with crusty bread for dipping.

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