Thursday 29 November 2012

Chicken and Chorizo Parcels

I always have the dilemma of whether to cook with chicken breasts or thighs. Breast meat is better for you as on average it contains about a third of the saturated fat content of thigh meat and a lot more protein. But the problem is it's no way near as tender. In reality I use both depending on what I am cooking. For soups, casseroles, paellas and stir frys I use breast meat as I end up shredding or chopping the chicken making it taste less dry. Thigh meat works better for roast chicken, coq au vin or chicken curry (skin left on for the first two and off for the last). But finally I have found a great way of cooking chicken breast meat that keeps it moist and tender. My inspiration came from a recipe in Stylist magazine a few months back. Of course the end result had a fair few Accidental Cook signature variations! By cooking the chicken in baking paper it locks in the moisture and takes up the flavour of whatever you accompany it with. With this last thought in mind there could be no better pairing than my favourite ingredient, chorizo!

I served this dish with a mixture of sweet potato and regular potato wedges (another way to hide the sweet potato from N!) and some steamed asparagus.

Chicken and Chorizo Parcels
(serves 2 | total prep and cooking time 35-40 mins)
  • 2 chicken breast fillets
  • 3 tablespoons chopped chorizo
  • 1 tomato - chopped
  • 1/2 onion - diced
  • 3 cloves garlic - finely chopped
  • 2 tablesoons chopped herbs e.g. parsley, thyme or basil
  • Preheat the oven to 108 degrees fan
  • Heat the oil in a frying pan
  • Add the chorizo and fry for a few minutes until the oil starts to release from the chorizo
  • Add the tomato, onion and garlic and stir until the chorizo is cooked
  • Stir through the herbs
  • Place the chicken breast on a piece of baking paper and season
  • Spoon over the chorizo mixture
  • Wrap the paper into a parcel
  • Bake in the oven for 20-25 minutes until the chicken is cooked through

Sunday 18 November 2012

Sausage and Bean Cassoulet

Oh the humble sausage, it has saved many a meal time for me. It's quick and tasty and although I am a little sceptical about its nutritional value once in a while I think it is fine. I'm pretty sure N has 'forgotten' how to cook since we got married but if he ever does have to fend for himself it usually involves some form of sausages.

But this dish makes the humble sausage into something beautiful. I've tried a few sausage and bean cassoulet recipes in the past and they've always been fine, but never great. This is one of those dishes where every mouthful is an explosion of taste and no matter how full you are you really don't want it to end. And it tastes even better every time I remember that I invented the recipe myself!

Cook's tip: for a vegetarian version substitute the pork sausages for vegetarian ones such as Quorn or Linda McCartney.

The Accidental Cook's Sausage and Bean Cassoulet
(serves 4 | approx prep and cooking time 1 hour)

6 good quality pork sausages
2-3 tablespoons chopped cooking chorizo
1 onion - diced
4 cloves garlic - finely chopped
2 dried bay leaves
1 heaped teaspoon fennel seeds
1 can (400g) chopped tomatoes
1 can (400g) butter beans
1 can (400g) mixed beans (e.g pinto, canellini, kidney)
2 leeks - sliced
500ml vegetable stock
1 level teaspoon paprika
1 generous teaspoon whole grain mustard
1 tablespoon chopped parsley
  • Brown the sausages in a non-stick frying pan. They do not have to be cooked through.
  • Heat some olive oil in a large saucepan or stock pot
  • Fry the onions for a few minutes
  • Add the garlic and bay leaves and fennel seeds. Cook for a minute or two
  • Add the chorizo and mix well. Cook on a low heat until the chorizo starts to release some oil. Mix well so the onion is coated in the chorizo oil
  • Drain the beans and rinse thoroughly with water
  • Add the beans and the leeks to the stock pot and mix well
  • Add the chopped tomatoes and all the juices
  • Add the paprika and stir well
  • Cut the sausages into pieces (approx 1 inch) and add to the bean sauce
  • Add the stock, bring to the boil and simmer for approx 20 minutes. If there is too much water increase the heat to evaporate, or if it is too dry add some boiling water
  • Just before it has finished cooking still through the parsley and mustard
  • Serve with crusty bread

Sunday 11 November 2012

Good Food Day

What an amazing day I had at the BBC Good Food Show yesterday. For any 'foodie' it really is heaven in an exhibition centre. If you've never been I urge you to go next year. Whether you like cooking at home or prefer eating out there's something for everyone. My friend Shamli and I started our day watching a live performance by the talented James Martin. With his brash Yorkshire mannerisms he makes elegant food unpretentious. He did a mini version of Saturday Kitchen Live with the help of the excellent Theo Randall and with guest star radio presenter Chris Evans. I know they say sarcasm is the lowest form of wit but Evans had me in fits of giggles yesterday.

We followed Martin through to a question and answer session and then on to a book signing. I did feel like we were stalking him slightly but it was worth it to have my photo taken with him. Shamli's very helpful comment to interrupt my glee was that Martin's head looked twice the size of mine! On looking at it I agree. I'm not sure if he has a particularly large head or me a small one. I suppose it's because he is over a foot taller than me, it's a good thing he was sitting down or we may have looked like we were at a photo event promoting The Hobbit!

Our little circuit of following Martin was repeated with a similar one for Michel Roux Jnr. What a superb chef and actually a lot less scary in real life! The rest of the day was as you can imagine. Some great food, a wander round the stalls and some souvenir shopping...a bit of cheese, some kitchen gadgets and a very fun replica Masterchef apron. I don't think I'm quite at the Masterchef level (yet!) but a girl can dream...

Monday 5 November 2012

A Bonfire Hotpot

All I could think about today was lamb hotpot. From the moment I took the diced lamb out of the freezer this morning it was constantly on my mind. I've been planning the recipe all day, perfecting it in my mind. I could almost taste it before I even made it. November the 5th. It just felt like the right dish for bonfire night. Dark, rich and comforting. Perfect for a cold night. And trust me it didn't disappoint.

I didn't even have a base recipe for this one, it was invented by what I thought worked together. Lamb and aubergine belong together. The taste, colour and texture just work really well. And rosemary and thyme are the natural choice to go with them. I've been experimenting with knorr stock pots recently and have found they're a bit heavy for pastas and risottos but perfect for soups and casseroles. It gave the lamb base a great depth and flavour. As for the topping, I've read that sweet potato is better for you than regular potato but N has been very sceptical to try it. A combination of the two worked very well as a topping.

I know it takes a while to make this one so a weekday may not be practical, but I definitely recommend you try it at a weekend. The best thing about it is once it's in the oven you're free to have a well deserved break. A cup of tea, a glass of red wine or a peak out of the window to watch the fireworks!

  Lamb and Aubergine Hotpot
(seves 2 | total prep and cooking time 1 hour 30 minutes)
400g diced lamb
1 small aubergine - cut into 1 inch pieces
1/2 red onion - diced
3 garlic cloves - finely chopped
2 totmatoes - chopped
200ml hot water - finely chopped
1 vegetable stock pot
A few sprigs of fresh rosemary
A few sprigs of thyme
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1 potato - sliced
1 sweet potato - sliced
Dry Italian herbs
- Preheat the oven to 180 degrees
- Lightly grease an oven proof dish
- Remove any excess fat from the lamb
- Heat some olive oil in a frying pan and brown the lamb. Set aside
- Heat some oil in a saucepan and fry the oinions
- Add the garlic and cook for a few mins
- Add the chopped tomatoes and aubergine and mix well. Cook for a few minutes
- Add the paprika, rosemary and thyme leave
- Add the stock pot and boiling water
- Mix well and cook on a high heat until a lot of the water has evaporated. It should be moist but mot watery
- Transfer the lamb mixture to the oven proof dish
- Layer the potato and sweet potato slices on top of the lamb and sprinkle with a little olive oil and dry herbs
- Cover and cook for 40 minutes
- Remove the cover and increase the temperature to 200 degrees. Cool for a further 20 minutes

Thursday 1 November 2012

The only kind of drizzle I actually like

I can't believe I missed the Great British Bake-Off this year. It's like I'd been asleep for the last 3 months. I only actually came to realise it had been on when my work colleague said 'I can't believe I missed the Bake-Off final this week'! Missed the final, I'd missed the whole ten weeks. Well thank god for iPlayer. Especially now I can watch it on my new smart TV rather than on the tiny iPad screen. It's changed my life (a very dramatic statement and probably a slight exaggeration). And it's almost as good as watching it on TV except when it decides to start buffering for 5 minutes.

So, back to the Bake-Off. Those contestants are amazing. They can bake everything. I mean I'm ok at a cake or biscuits or perhaps a crumble or two but if anyone asks me to make a strudel I'd fall to pieces like flaky pastry. But these guys are stars, even the poor contestant that gets kicked out in week one! And the winner, what a guy. An amazing baker and what a great soldier. The amount of blood there was the week he cut his hand, I honestly had to look away and I work in a hospital!

But, for me the Bake-Off isn't just about entertainment, it's about inspiration. Most people can make a cake, but it's making a really good cake that I aspire to. The one where everyone fights over the last piece. And this lemon drizzle cake is the one. I am generally quite critical about my own food but I loved this one. So much so that I made sure it was me that ate the last piece!

Lemon Drizzle Cake
(makes 9-12 pieces | total prep and cooking time approx 1 hour 15 mins)

2 eggs
140g caster sugar
150g soft margarine, plus extra for greasing
Finely grated rind of 1 lemon
175g self raising flour (sieved)
125ml milk
Icing sugar for dusting
For the syrup: 110g icing sugar, 50ml of fresh lemon juice

- Preheat the oven to 180 degrees
- Grease a 7 inch square cake tin and line with non-stick baking paper
- Place the eggs, caster sugar and margarine in a a mixing bowl and beat hard until smooth and fluffy. It is best to use an electric hand mixer to do this
- Stir in the lemon rind
- Fold in the sieved flour lightly and evenly
- Stir in the milk and mix - Pour mixture into the cake tin and spread evenly so the top is level
- Bake for 45-50 minutes until golden brown, firm to touch and a skewer comes out clean
- Remove from the oven and stand the tin on a wire rack to cool
- Just before the cake is cool make the syrup. Place the icing sugar and lemon juice in a saucepan and heat gently. Stir until sugar dissolves, do not boil!
- Prick the cake all over with a skewer and spoon the hot syrup evenly over the top, allowing it to be absorbed
- Leave to cool in the tin and then turn the cake out and cut into even pieces
- Dust with a little icing sugar before serving

(original recipe taken from the Big Book of Baking, amendments by yours truly!)