chicken with bacon, sweet potato and courgette

DSCF7094

A year ago, in January 2012, I began this blog. I have immensely enjoyed compiling recipes, writing reviews and developing ideas wherever I can! I hope you’ve enjoyed reading along, and hopefully have successfully made a few dishes. Here’s to another year of culinary experimentation!

Ingredients (serves 1)

  • 1 chicken breast
  • ½ courgette, cubed
  • 1 small sweet potato, peeled and cubed
  • 3 rashers of smoked, streaky bacon
  • 1 chicken stock cube, and 2-4 tablespoons of hot water, depending on the size of the pan!
  • Dried sage
  • Olive oil

Method

  1. Heat the oven to 200 degrees. In a medium sized frying pan, heat a little olive oil. Fry the chicken breast for roughly 4-6 minutes, until golden brown on each side. Then, transfer to a roasting dish and place in the oven for 15-20 minutes, until tender and cooked through.  DSCF7095
  2. Add the bacon to the frying pan, and fry until crisp. Cut into strips with scissors, then add the diced sweet potato. Stir fry for a few minutes, before crumbling over the stock cube.
  3. Pour in a little boiling water, and stir. Add enough water that the cubes of sweet potato are partly submerged, but not so much that they are ‘drowning’ in stock. Reduce the heat to a simmer, and boil until the sweet potato is tender, and the stock has mostly reduced.
  4. Add the courgette, and allow to simmer in the remainder of the stock. Sprinkle in 1sp of dried sage, and season. Add a little more water if necessary, to prevent the vegetables and bacon sticking to the pan.
  5. Remove the chicken from the oven, and thickly slice. Arrange the vegetables and bacon on a plate, and serve the sliced chicken alongside. Season, and serve!
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roasted vegetable cous cous with mozzarella salad

Last week I experienced the perils of both “buy one get one free” and the advice of persuasive members of the public. Even though there was an attractive offer on packs of peppers, I only wanted one – the last week of term, there seemed little point in filling the car with an abundance of leftover peppers when that valuable space would be much needed to house a clothes airer, for example. However, as I was selecting my single pepper a friendly, yet persuasive member of the public, engaged me in light conversation and managed to convince me that it would be better to make use of the offer and as a result I came home with 6 peppers. I don’t know how much of a regular situation this is for most people, but nevertheless this recipe is a great way to use up a large amount of vegetables!

This roasted vegetable cous cous with mozzarella salad makes a good, light supper – the flavours are well balanced and not overpowering; the different textures of each component make it really enjoyable. The flavours of the dish come mainly from the vegetables you choose to use – I added a small amount of smoked paprika to my ingredients to give it a bit of spice, but there is no reason why other herbs and spices could be used. For example, a sprinkling of oregano or basil would give an Italian hint to the dish; parsley would add freshness.

I think making this dish in the summer would be fantastic – instead of roasting the vegetables, BBQ-ing them, before adding to the cous cous, would give a smoky flavour that you could not get in any other way! BBQ’d vegetables with cous cous and a salad would be brilliant on a warm summer’s day, enjoyed outside with sunglasses and a glass of homemade lemonade. But perhaps as it is only March, I am getting ahead of myself…

Ingredients

  • Peppers, quartered and then trimmed into  ‘squares’. 1 per person, in different colours if possible for good presentation!
  • Mushrooms – most varieties are fine, but bare in mind that the smaller (eg. button) the mushroom, the more easily they have the potential to char!
  • Salad tomatoes, quartered
  • Cous cous
  • Salad – rocket goes well with this, but any green is just as suitable
  • Mozzarella, sliced, then torn into rough strips
  • Paprika
  • Seasoning
  • Butter, for the cous cous

Method

  1. Cut the top off the pepper, then quarter. Take each quarter and lay it skin-side-down, and trim it into a ‘square’ shape (this is really only for presentation!). Quarter the salad tomatoes, and cut the mushrooms into quarters or halves depending on their size. Any other vegetable you wish to use in the dish is fine – remember some vegetables will take longer to roast than others, and this should be taken into account otherwise you will have difficulty serving them all the same time!

    making the dressing in a jar will ensure the flavours are complementary before adding to the salad
    making the dressing in a jar will ensure the flavours are complementary before adding to the salad
  2. Heat the oven to 180 degrees, and lightly oil a baking tray. Add the peppers to the tray, and roast in the oven for 10 minutes until they begin to soften. Remove the tray, add the tomatoes, season, and return to the oven for 10 minutes more. Remove the tray once more, add the paprika or other spice/herb you are using, and place in the oven for a final 5 minutes. It is important to keep checking on the vegetables – some ovens are more powerful than others, and whilst a slightly charred effect is good, overly burnt isn’t!
  3. Boil the kettle and prepare the cous cous according to the packet instructions. Leave to absorb the water, then add some butter and ‘fluff’ the grains.
  4. In the serving bowl, place the salad and add the mozzarella. Dress lightly with oil and lemon juice, before seasoning with salt and pepper. It may be an idea to make the dressing in another bowl, to ensure the combination of oil to lemon juice isn’t too sharp – this way the salad won’t be ruined!
  5. Add the cous cous alongside the salad in the bowl

    adding butter and 'fluffing' the cous cous ensures the grains don't stick together
  6. Take the vegetables out of the oven, and place them in the remaining space in the serving bowl; season with more spices/herbs if you wish.

steak, chips and salsa

Steak and chips is a great British comfort food – a treat when you need it most. And as I’ve been busy all this week researching an essay, I decided that Saturday, I would treat myself with comfort food. Steak bought, potatoes bought…no peas. Admittedly I could have walked to the shop and bought a big bag of frozen peas, but I am lazy, and so instead I decided to make a salsa. Adapting a recipe for a really flavoursome tomato soup, I made a tomato and red onion dipping salsa: incredibly speedy, and using only store-cupboard ingredients, it was the perfect accompaniment to my evening meal.

I adapted the tomato soup recipe because I knew the flavours worked well together. Adding puree instead of stock gave the salsa the right consistency; as the tomatoes broke down as part of the simmering process, the puree thickened the salsa. This salsa is best when made in advance and left to cool down – the flavours intensify in the cooling process, making it suitable to be used for this dish as well as ‘party foods’, such as crisps, or vegetable batons.

Ingredients

  • Steak
  • 1 baking potato per person – peeled
  • 5 fresh tomatoes, diced OR a 400g tin of tomatoes
  • Onion, diced – red onion gives a sweetness to the salsa that complements fresh tomatoes really nicely
  • 2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
  • Tomato puree
  • Ground paprika
  • Dried chili flakes
  • Teaspoon of brown sugar, if using tinned tomatoes

Method

  1. Heat the oven to 180 degrees. Lightly oil a baking tray and place in the oven.
  2. Chop the potatoes lengthways into strips of 1cm width. Laying each 1cm thick potato slice flat onto a chopping board, slice lengthways again into strips, width depending on whether you like thick or thin chips! Repeat for all potatoes using.
  3. Remove the baking tray from the oven, and add the chips to the tray. Coat in the oil and return to the oven; check on them and turn after roughly 15 minutes.
  4. For the salsa, heat a little oil in a small saucepan over a medium heat, and sauté the
    easy to make, this salsa's colour and flavour are incredible

    onion and garlic until just beginning to brown. Add the tomatoes, and stir. Season with the paprika and chili flakes to taste. Add a teaspoon of tomato puree and combine. If using tinned tomatoes, also add a teaspoon of brown sugar.

  5. Reduce the heat and simmer. The tomatoes, if fresh, should begin to break down. Stirring occasionally will aid this – as the tomatoes soften from simmering, stirring will break them down further, resulting in a good, thick consistency. The juice of the tinned tomatoes will similarly thicken as it simmers.
  6. Remove the salsa from the heat and leave to cool down.
  7. Check on the chips; turn them, and re-place in the oven.
  8. Heat a small amount of oil in a frying pan over a medium heat. On a clean board, season the steak, rubbing the salt and pepper over its surface. When the oil is hot, place the steak in the pan and cook for 5 minutes, before turning and cooking for 5 minutes the other side. Remove from the heat and leave to stand for a minute before serving.
  9. Remove the chips from the oven, season and add to the plate. Serve alongside the salsa, and a fresh rocket salad if desired.