Ropa Vieja and Bienmesabe

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Today has been quite possibly one of the coldest days of the winter so far; a cold-to-the-bone kind of cold when it takes an hour in a hot bath to thaw out. In the depths of winter, I can’t help but dream about summer holidays in warmer climes…

When Monarch Holidays invited me to recreate some traditional Spanish recipes for their new online Island Cookbook, I thought it was a perfect opportunity to feed my craving for sunshine food and cheer up these dark, dank days. I took my inspiration from the third largest of the Canary Islands, Gran Canaria, where I have fond memories of holidaying with my family as a teenager Continue reading “Ropa Vieja and Bienmesabe”

#ThriftyOrganic three-course family meal

Organic September Collage

If you are a bit of a foodie and/or follow any social media here in the UK, you’re probably more than aware that this month has been dubbed #OrganicSeptember. Everyone’s being encouraged to celebrate all things organic. The message is that by making a small change to your everyday shopping, we can make a big difference: swapping to organic food has huge benefits for people, animal welfare and the environment.

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While most of us will agree that organic produce is better for our environment, better for animal welfare and, well, just a more natural approach, isn’t it hideously expensive to shop organic? I try to buy organic wherever I can, particularly fruit and vegetables. For instance I have a weekly organic veg box delivered by Riverford – although I tend to do this less during late summer and early autumn when we tend to have a glut of veggies in our own garden. But I doubt I could afford to go totally organic.

Or could I? Continue reading “#ThriftyOrganic three-course family meal”

Italian baked chicken with grapes followed by semifreddo with honey, figs and walnuts

Italian feast

Boasting honey, figs, grapes, nuts and sweet wine, this Italian feast would surely have won the approval of Bacchus himself. When I think about good food, when I dream about delicious dishes bringing together the simplest ingredients to create something truly magical, when I picture myself being served an incredible meal in an idyllic setting, I tend to find myself transported to Italy.

It’s been a few years since I’ve travelled in Italy and I long to return. My parents are in Tuscany right now and as you can imagine I am extremely jealous. My step-mum Sue has been sending me droolsome updates on Whatsapp, replete with photos, documenting their food adventures. There have been accounts of wonderful salads with chicken, ravioli in a walnut cream sauce,  the thinnest pizzas with just one or two toppings, grilled sea bass with roast courgettes, fritto misto in the lightest of batters, fagiolini with fine green beans and bacon in tomatoes and garlic. Oh and lots of gelati with figs and cherries… The list goes on. It’s been pure torture.

So when Expedia challenged me to come up with an Italian meal for their #expediaworldonaplate challenge, I knew I would be taking my inspiration from Tuscany. Continue reading “Italian baked chicken with grapes followed by semifreddo with honey, figs and walnuts”

Springtime tagliatelle with chicken, asparagus and purple sprouting broccoli

tagliatelle with chicken asparagus and purple sprouting brocolli 3

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”

Pot-roast chicken with soured cream and allspice

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It’s a slightly old-fashioned kind of dish but I’m rather partial to a pot-roast chicken. It’s the easiest way to guarantee a succulent, perfectly moist bird, especially when you slaver it in plenty of butter too.

This pot roast is very much like the Poulet a l’Estragon I made in France and featured on the blog last year. But whereas that one is a wonderfully aromatic summer dish, this pot-roast is a subtly spiced winter warmer. Continue reading “Pot-roast chicken with soured cream and allspice”

Black pepper chicken

Black pepper chicken

I’d love to tell you some story about how I first came across this black pepper chicken curry when I was backpacking around India, or how I discovered it in some wonderful Keralan restaurant. But in fact this was the first time I’ve tried this recipe and it was the result of looking up inspiration for pepper recipes online.

When I started researching something to cook for this month’s Spice Trail challenge, which has peppercorns as its theme, Kerala-style dishes came up again and again. I suppose this isn’t surprising really, since black pepper is thought to originate from the rainforests of Kerala in southern India and it’s still one of the main producers of the spice. Continue reading “Black pepper chicken”

Chicken tortilla bake

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With Jack Frost nipping at our toes, the time for warming, hearty comfort food is most definitely here. And if it’s quick and easy to rustle up, so much the better.

This simple Chicken Tortilla Bake is a firm family favourite, and so easy to throw together with a few frozen veggies. It’s basically a lasagne with flour tortillas replacing the pasta sheets. Continue reading “Chicken tortilla bake”

Madhur Jaffrey’s chicken tikka kebabs with spiced vegetables

chicken tikka kebabs

There are times when you try out a new recipe and you know the very instant it touches your tongue you’ve got yourself a keeper; that this dish is set to become a firm family favourite, an easy regular for the weekly meal plans.

And so it was with these chicken tikka kebabs from Madhur Jaffrey’s Ultimate Curry Bible. I thought it was about time I cooked a dish to enter into my own Indian-themed Spice Trail challenge, and this felt like a good excuse to try another recipe from Jaffrey’s classic curry tome. Continue reading “Madhur Jaffrey’s chicken tikka kebabs with spiced vegetables”

Chicken satay with peanut sauce and coconut rice

Satay Collage

It’s typical, isn’t it? I finally get around to posting a summer barbecue recipe and all of a sudden the gorgeous weather disappears, the grey clouds gather and  a deluge of rain descends from the heavens. Blinking typical.

What else can you expect when it’s Glastonbury Festival? Even if it weren’t all over Twitter, radio and TV, we’d know it was Glasto time just by the sheer number of helicopters flying over our house taking the VIPs to the festival down the road in Pilton. We always give them a wave as we wonder who might be on board…

But I am ever the optimist and I’m sure the days of balmy sunshine will return to us soon. And this chicken satay is a dish we’ll making again on the barbie.

chicken satay

This was one of my favourite dishes when I went to Malaysia and Singapore as a child to stay with my Mum’s family. I thought the hawker stalls were just so exciting and loved the way the sticky rice came wrapped up in banana leaves. I can’t clam my version is at all authentic I’m afraid, and it isn’t easy to come by banana leaves in the middle of Somerset. It is ruddy tasty though, and I could easily polish off a whole bowlful of that peanut sauce on its own.

The chicken satay is packed full of spice and while it’s fine to mince the marinade ingredients in a food processor, I rather like doing it with a pestle and mortar to work out some of those pent-up tensions. It’s best to marinate the chicken overnight or at least for three to four hours.

Chicken satay with peanut sauce and coconut rice

Serves 4

For the satay chicken

500g chicken breasts, skinned
1 large onion, peeled and coarsely chopped
2 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
1 lemongrass stalk, trimmed and white part finely chopped
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground turmeric
1 tbsp ground coriander
salt
pepper
demerara sugar
1 tsp fish sauce
½ chilli, deseeded and chopped
a little sunflower oil for brushing

For the peanut sauce

2 tbsp vegetable oil
½ onion, peeled and finely diced
1 red chilli, finely chopped
1 tbsp crushed garlic
½ tsp ground ginger
5 tbsp crunchy peanut butter
1 tsp tamarind paste
1 tsp dark soy sauce
250ml coconut cream
50ml water

For the chicken satay

Slice the chicken into thin strips and place in a bowl.

Crush together the onion, garlic,  lemongrass and ground spices using a pestle and mortar (or in a food processor) to create a rough paste. Add a little salt, sugar and pepper to taste. Stir in the fish sauce and chilli. Pour the paste onto to the chicken and mix well with your hands to thoroughly coat.

Cover with cling film and leave to marinate in the fridge overnight, or at least three to four hours.

Soak 16 bamboo skewers in water for around 30 minutes to stop them from burning on the barbecue later.

Carefully thread the marinated chicken onto the skewers.

When you are ready to cook, brush a little sunflower oil onto each satay skewer and then gently lay them onto the barbecue grill. (Or of course you can do this under the grill or in a griddle pan.)

Grill the chicken for about five minutes, turning frequently, until it has cooked through.

For the peanut sauce

Heat the oil in a saucepan and gently fry the onion, chilli and garlic for a few minutes until the onions are soft.

Add the ground ginger and peanut butter giving it all a good stir until the peanut butter starts to melt down. It should start to melt. Then add the tamarind paste and soy sauce and stir again. Next goes in the coconut cream and water. Cook and keep stirring for a few more minutes until everything is well incorporated.

Pour the peanut sauce into a bowl and serve warm alongside the chicken and rice.

For the coconut rice

400ml coconut milk
½ tsp ground ginger
salt to taste
1 bay leaf
1 lemongrass stalk
200g long grain rice

Place the coconut milk, ground ginger, salt, bay leaf, lemongrass stalk, and rice in a medium saucepan over a medium heat. Stir together and cover with a lid. Bring to a simmer and reduce heat. Continue to simmer very gently for around 20 minutes, until the rice is tender and has absorbed all the coconut milk. If it dries out before the rice is done, add a little water. When it’s cooked, fish out the bay leaf and lemongrass stalk – you don’t want anyone chowing down on either of those.

chicken satay

Serve the rice by packing it into a small, very lightly oiled bowl and turning it out onto a plate alongside the barbecued chicken satay and individual bowls of peanut sauce. I like to add a simple dressed salad to the plate too. Now that is properly finger-licking good.

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As the spice mix for the chicken satay features cumin, I am entering it into this month’s Spice Trail challenge, where of course the theme this month is cumin.

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I’m also entering it into June’s Family Foodies, hosted this month by Louisa at Eat Your Veg. The theme is Barbecues, Picnics and Outdoor Eating and I think these chicken satay fit the bill perfectly.