Springtime tagliatelle with chicken, asparagus and purple sprouting broccoli

 

When the first spears of asparagus appear in the garden or in our weekly vegetable box, there is only ever one way to eat them: simply steamed and served with melted butter and sea salt. There is something so beautiful in this simplicity, focussing completely on the heavenly fresh green taste of the fresh, crisp asparagus, it needs nothing else.

Then as the English asparagus season continues, the recipes become more varied and asparagus makes an appearance in all kinds of meals. We tend to eat as much of it as we possibly can this time of year. This easy pasta dish, which sees the asparagus partnered with tender stems of purple sprouting broccoli, also at its best in late spring, is a firm family favourite. Continue reading “Springtime tagliatelle with chicken, asparagus and purple sprouting broccoli”

Review: Kerry LowLow

This is a sponsored post.

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We don’t eat a lot of processed cheese in the Bangers & Mash household, but I am trying to keep an eye on my weight so when Kerry invited me to try out their LowLow cheese spreads I was keen to give them a go. This spoof ad made me chuckle and I love the idea of cutting down on our fat intake without sacrificing on taste. Can it really be possible?

While LowLow probably won’t replace a couple of slices of a mature local Cheddar in my lunchtime sandwich, I was impressed with LowLow as a cooking ingredient and will use it again as a substitute for full fat soft cheese or maybe even cream in certain dishes.

Kerry sent me recipes for Pancetta Wrapped Chicken and Spring Vegetable Risotto and I put them to the test on my family, including my discerning mother who was over from Spain to stay this weekend. I played with the recipes a little to suit the tastes of my brood and also to make the most of what happened to be in our fridge, particularly the heaps of wild garlic and purple sprouting broccoli we have to use up.

LowLow Collage

The first dish I tried out on my family was the Pancetta Wrapped Chicken. Both my husband and mother pulled faces when they saw I was cooking with a low fat cheese spread, and I rather wished I hadn’t told them beforehand what I was up to. Personally I thought the end result was rather good. I don’t think I would have spotted the cheese was a low fat alternative if I hadn’t already known, but Jason and my mum were convinced it tasted different to normal soft cheese. However, they still ate it regardless and the children wolfed theirs down quite happily. Here’s what I did…

lowlow chicken in pancetta

Pancetta Wrapped Chicken

2 large sweet potatoes
1 tsp Cajun seasoning
low-fat spray
4 chicken breasts
125g LowLow Mature Cheddar Spread
8 sun-dried tomatoes
8 slices of pancetta
300g spring greens
black pepper

Preheat the oven to 180°C (gas mark 6).

Scrub the sweet potatoes, dry with kitchen towel and slice into wedges. Place in an ovenproof dish, spray with a little low-fat oil and sprinkle with Cajun seasoning. Roast in the oven for around half an hour until soft inside and a little charred on the outside.

Meanwhile, prepare the chicken breasts by cutting a slice in each one at the thickest point, to create a pocket. Spread a quarter of the LowLow Mature Cheddar Spread into the pocket and pop a couple of sun-dried tomatoes into each one.

Wrap 2 slices of pancetta around each chicken breast, making sure to seal the pocket.

Place the chicken breasts on a baking tray and spray with low-fat spray. Season with black pepper. Cook for 20 minutes.

While the chicken is cooking, shred the greens and steam for 4-5 minutes.

When the chicken is cooked through, slice and serve with the greens and sweet potatoes. Enjoy!

spring vegetable risotto

When I made the Spring Vegetable Risotto the following day, I learned from my previous mistake. This time I didn’t tell anyone I’d used LowLow when I served up this lovely fresh and creamy risotto. It went down an absolute treat with adults and children alike, and my husband and mum both requested second helpings. The LowLow gave the dish a rich cheesiness, which wasn’t too cloying, and rather good to know wasn’t piling on the calories at the same time. Here’s how I prepared the risotto…

Spring Vegetable Risotto

2 tbsp olive oil
1 large shallot, finely chopped
300g risotto rice
1.25 litres vegetable stock (hot)
200g spears of asparagus spears, trimmed at an angle
200g purple sprouting broccoli
100g frozen peas
125g LowLow Mature Cheddar Spread
large handful wild garlic, roughly chopped

Heat the oil in a large, heavy-based saucepan. Add the shallots and sauté for 3-5 minutes until they are soft. Stir in the rice so it is coated with oil.

Pour in a ladleful of stock and stir. Cook, stirring regularly until the stock is absorbed. Continue until the stock is used up and the rice is tender all the way through.

In the meantime, steam the asparagus and broccoli until just cooked, retaining a little bite.

When the rice is cooked, stir in the asparagus, purple sprouting broccoli, LowLow Mature Cheddar Spread and wild garlic. Cook for a minute or two until the vegetables are heated through and the cheese has melted. Serve immediately, sprinkled with a little extra wild garlic.

asparagus risotto

If you’d like to try Kerry’s LowLow yourself, I have five vouchers each worth £3 to give away. Simply leave a comment below saying why you’d like to try it.

Megadarra with roasted broccoli for Live Below the Line

megadarra

Here’s my final frugal recipe offering for Save the Children and the Live Below the Line challenge, which will see thousands of people this week attempting to spend just £1 a day on food and drink – the equivalent to the extreme poverty line. My previous creations have been a Virgin Bloody Mary soup made from tinned tomatoes and red pepper, and Spicy Bean Burgers made from tinned kidney beans.

Admittedly it might not look all that appetizing, but it is tasty and cheap and filling. And at less than 40p a portion, that’s no mean feat.

Also known as mujaddara, this is a peasant dish made from lentils and rice, popular across the Arab world. It’s supposed to be made with brown or green lentils. I made mine with red lentils, which is possibly why mine went a little mushy but my family weren’t to know and ate it without complaint for lunch today. Well, except Mia the youngest, who complains about everything the first time she tries it. She got into it two after a few mouthfuls. I was lucky enough to use fresh broccoli from our vegetable patch, but you’ll see I’ve costed frozen broccoli in the recipe below as this, I’ve discovered, is the cheapest way to buy vegetables.

Megadarra with roasted broccoli

Serves 4 

250g red split lentils, rinsed and drained
East End red split lentils from ASDA £3.50 for 2kg = 43.75p

800ml vegetable stock (made from one stock cube)
ASDA Chosen By You vegetable stock cubes 12 for 78p = 6.5p

250g brown basmati rice, rinsed and drained
ASDA brown basmati rice £1.68 for 1kg = 42p

1 tsp (2g) ground cumin
ASDA 57p for 41g = 2.78p

2 tbsp vegetable oil (60ml)
ASDA sunflower oil £3 for 3 litres = 3p

1 onion (80g), finely sliced
ASDA Smartprice brown onions £1.16 for 2kg = 4.64p

2 cloves garlic, crushed
ASDA loose garlic 30p for approx. 8 cloves = 7.5p

300g frozen broccoli, defrosted
ASDA Smartprice broccoli £1 for 1kg = 30p

1 tsp (2g) mild chilli powder
ASDA mild chilli powder 80p for 44g = 3.63p

100g plain yoghurt
ASDA Smartprice low fat natural yoghurt 45p for 500g = 9p

Total cost = £1.53. Cost per serving = 38.25p

Preheat the oven to 200°C/Gas Mark 6.

Put the lentils and stock in a large pan and bring to the boil. Simmer for around ten minutes before adding the rice and cumin. Simmer for another 15 to 20 minutes until the lentils and rice are cooked and the stock has been absorbed. You may need to add a little more liquid if it starts to dry out before they are cooked.

While the lentils and rice are cooking, you can get on with preparing the onions and the broccoli.

Fry the onions in a tablespoonful of oil over a low heat. Cook gently for around half an hour until soft and golden. Add the crushed garlic and fry for another couple of minutes before removing from the heat.

To roast the broccoli, place in an ovenproof dish and toss with a tablespoonful of oil and sprinkle with the chilli powder. Roast for around 25 minutes until just tender and darkening.

To serve, stir two-thirds of the onions into the lentils and rice, and serve in bowls with the rest of the onion and broccoli on top with some yoghurt on the side.  Dig in!

megadarra

And as with all my Live Below the Line dishes, I’m entering this into April’s Credit Crunch Munch co-hosted by Helen from Fuss Free Flavours and Camilla from Fab Food 4 All.

Credit-Crunch-Munch-Just-Pic

Penne with chicken, tarragon and broccoli

Tarragon is one of my favourite herbs, especially when paired with chicken. Its unique flavour lifts simple dishes to new heights.

I first got excited about tarragon many years ago when my father-in-law cooked us Elizabeth David’s sumptuous poulet et l’estragon one summer holiday in France. It was incredible and my husband and I have recreated it many times since and it always takes us back to those long hot days in the Dordogne.

But that is really one to save for special occasions (my husband last cooked it for me on my birthday), while this pasta dish is much more of a quick, every day family favourite. Nonetheless it tastes fantastic and all because of that lovely fresh tarragon.

Penne with chicken, tarragon and broccoli

400g dried penne pasta
250g purple sprouting broccoli, cut into manageable chunks
1 large leek, washed and finely sliced
2 skinless chicken breasts, cut into bitesize pieces
2 tbsp vegetable oil
70ml chicken or vegetable stock
2 tbsp fresh tarragon, chopped
100g cream cheese
salt and pepper

Cook the penne in a large pan of salted water following the packet timings. About five minutes from the end of the cooking time, add the broccoli to the pasta water and cook until both pasta and broccoli are tender. Drain.

While the pasta (and broccoli) are cooking, heat the oil in a frying pan. Add the leeks and sweat gently for a couple of minutes. Add the chicken pieces and cook for about five minutes until there is no sign of any pink inside.

Pour the stock into the pan, stir well and cook for a couple of minutes before stirring in the tarragon and cream cheese. Season to taste. Mix in the pasta and broccoli and serve.

I’m entering this dish into July’s Herbs on Saturday blog challenge, set up by Lavender & Lovage and hosted this month by me! If you have a herby recipe you’d like to enter, you can find out all the details here.