chicken with bacon, sweet potato and courgette

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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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black bean chili with chocolate and lime

Yesterday it poured with rain, and today it is brilliantly sunny. The weather really influences the food I desire – when it is cold and miserable outside, I want something in the evening to make me feel like being cooped up inside isn’t so bad after all. So yesterday, this Black Bean Chili was a fine example of the type of warming hearty dish you’d long for when you’re in need of comfort, because it’s just not that nice outside.

I’ve wanted to try to make a Black Bean Chili for ages. Although it’s not particularly any different to a normal chili con carne in terms of flavour, I wanted to see the textural differences between beans and the usual mince component. After the success (and personal enjoyment) of the spaghetti bolognese using lentils and beans last term, I thought this would be similarly tasty! The black beans are soft to bite, which means as a comfort meal, it has an element of indulgence, as essentially it doesn’t require much strength to chew! Moreover, the beans soak up the flavours of the spices – the chili powder and the smoky paprika make an excellent combination, that is flavoursome throughout the dish in comparison to a usual chili, where the flavours only usually reside in the sauce.

The thing that sets this aside from a meat chili con carne for me, however, is the addition of cocoa powder and the topping with lime juice. Hearing about both of these accompaniments to chili con carne, I couldn’t wait to try them out. Whilst I was initially sceptical about using chocolate in a spicy dish, I was brought round to the idea by seeing the popularity of items such as chili chocolate – if chili/chocolate is a combination that can be enjoyed where chocolate is the main staple, chili/chocolate must surely work where there is a hint of chocolate amongst a wealth of warming spice. In actual
fact, the use of cocoa powder gives a depth and a richness that I haven’t really tasted elsewhere! It doesn’t taste at all sweet, but the sauce takes on a new consistency, appearing more like velvet; something I am sure must come from the chocolate. The lime squeezed on the chili before serving gives a refreshing zesty tang to the beginning of the dish. As it is not stirred throughout, its citrus tones are not lost in the dish; it stays as an accompaniment that is authentic, as limes are used frequently in Mexican dishes, such as guacamole. Together, they give an excellent spin on the usual chili con carne that I was previously unaware of, but from now on, will be using with regularity. So for those, like me, experiencing strange day-on-day-off weather, combat the rainy blues with a helping of this comforting chili.

Ingredients

  • 1 red onion, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • Button mushrooms, halved
  • Half an orange pepper, chopped
  • Half a yellow pepper, chopped
  • 400g tin of black beans, drained and thoroughly rinsed
  • Small tin of kidney beans
  • 400g tinned tomatoes
  • 1 tbsp of tomato puree
  • 4 tsps chili powder
  • 2 tsps smoked paprika
  • 1 tsp cocoa powder
  • Juice of a lime to taste, squeezed before serving

Method

  1. Place a saucepan over a medium heat, and add a drizzle of oil. Fry the chopped onion until it begins to soften, and then add the crushed garlic cloves. When the garlic becomes fragrant in the pan, add the peppers and mushrooms and fry until the peppers begin to soften.
  2. Sprinkle in the chili powder and the paprika, and stir to coat all the ingredients in the spices. Allow to fry for a few moments further, before adding the drained and rinsed beans and the tomatoes.
  3. Stir in the tomato paste, and the tin of kidney beans. Bring to the boil, and then reduce to a simmer. Add the cocoa powder, and stir well.
  4. Place a lid on the saucepan, and heat through for thirty minutes until the sauce has thickened and reduced.
  5. Accompany with rice, and a fresh salad for garnish. Before serving, squeeze the lime juice over the dish, to add zesty freshness! If desired, top with grated cheese.


sausage cassoulet

Last Christmas, my brother gave me the Jamie Oliver ’30 Minute Meals’ recipe book, and I think it’s brilliant. I have to admit that I’ve never timed myself, and so I’m not sure if, as many people angrily claimed that they did not, the recipes do only take thirty minutes exactly, but I definitely can say that isn’t a book packed full of long slaving-away-in-the-kitchen dishes. Everything I have made has been relatively speedy, and always delicious. In fact, I don’t think I’ve made something from it that has gone even a tiny bit wrong!

So, wanting to use the last of the tomato sauce from Wednesday, last night I made the “Kinda Sausage Cassoulet” from said book. I did some research online, and you may be interested to note that this recipe apparently can be made in 30 minutes! So all is timely thus far.

Even though I didn’t have bacon, or a crispy breadcrumb topping, my sausage cassoulet did not compromise on taste nor texture! The onions and leeks are slowly cooked in rosemary and sage, allowing them to soak up the flavours of these herbs early on. Because I didn’t have a breadcrumb topping, I added my garlic cloves to these early stages of the cooking process, and thus the garlic was able to infuse with these herbs. These flavours are held onto by Jamie’s instruction to add a little boiling water – this collects the herby, and in my case garlicky, flavours and makes a foundation for the later sauce; the water absorbs the flavours, and as it is heated it thickens, producing a sort of jus. When the tomatoes are later introduced, the two sauces combine, and this ensures that the taste of the herbs are not lost by the addition of the tomatoes and other later flavours.

The beans are soft to bite, and add a different texture from the crispness of the sausages. The sausages cooked under the grill adds speed to their completion, as well as adding crispness in texture. Furthermore, because they are cooked separately, it means that when they are added to the vegetable and bean dish for the final stages of cooking, they maintain their own rich, meaty flavour. This means that when a forkful of cassoulet is assembled, several different textures and flavours are combined – the flavour of the sausage juxtaposed with the combined flavours of the vegetables which have simmered throughout, plus the softness in bite of the butter beans. Mmm!

Ingredients

  • Sausages
  • 4 rashers of smoked streaky bacon, chopped into 1cm thick strands – I didn’t include this because I forgot, but I imagine it gives the dish a good smoky flavour that is complimentary to the sausages
  • 1 red onion, finely sliced
  • 2 leeks, finely sliced
  • 680g jar of passata – I used the rest of the homemade tomato sauce, but tinned tomatoes would also suffice.
  • Tin of butter beans
  • Tin of haricot beans
  • 2 cloves of garlic, crushed
  • Fresh rosemary – a sprinkling of the dry herb worked for me!
  • Fresh sage – a sprinkling of the dry herb worked for me!
  • Fresh bay leaves – again, I used two dried bay leaves and then removed them before serving
  • 3-4 thick slices of bread (for the breadcrumb topping)

Method

  1. Place a roasting tin over a high heat, and fry the bacon strips in olive oil. Add the bay leaves, rosemary and sage to the tray, and coat the bacon in the herbs. Add the onions and leeks to the tray along with a few splashes of boiling water, and stir to combine. Reduce the heat to medium, and leave the vegetables to soften.
  2. Turn the grill onto high. Place the sausages in a separate roasting tin with olive oil, and grill for around 8 minutes until they are browned on one side.
  3. FOR THE BREADCRUMB TOPPING: tear the slices of bread into chunks and food process, along with salt and pepper, sage, the garlic and olive oil, until you have coarse breadcrumbs.
  4. Because I didn’t have a breadcrumb topping, I crushed the garlic into the tray with the vegetables at this point.
  5. Add the passata, or the tomato sauce/tinned tomatoes, to the vegetables. Stir in the beans – the recipe advocates along with the water in the tin, but I didn’t do this because I didn’t want a watery sauce. My sauce was the right consistency without the tinned water! I’d advise to stir in the tomato component, then assess the sauce consistency – only grilled for a further few minutes, it doesn’t reduce as a normal sauce would – and then decide whether to drain the beans or not.
  6. Take the sausages out of the grill. Sprinkle half the breadcrumbs over the vegetables and beans. Then, lay the sausages dark-side-down in the tray and sprinkle over the remaining breadcrumbs. Drizzle with olive oil, and return to the grill for about 4 minutes (I put mine in for 8, because I like my sausages quite brown!) until the breadcrumbs are crisp and golden.
  7. Serve with broccoli, cooked gently for a couple of minutes in boiling water until tender.