Quick Chicken Stir Fry

The weather’s hot right now – certainly for us pasty English boys. A quick stir fry lets us have our dinner without getting too hot and bothered in the kitchen. This one comes from The 30-Minute Cook by Nigel Slater.

It’s very easy to make too. Chop everything and have it ready with the chicken marinating in soy sauce, rice wine, cornflour and egg white. Then fry the garlic, ginger and spring onions followed by the chicken and finally the chicken and its marinade. Finally throw in some rice wine and soy sauce before dishing up with some rice.

We rounded things out with that most English of desserts – strawberries and cream. After all, it is Wimbledon season.

One-Pan Roast Salmon and Asparagus 

The tray bake is an easy way to make a tasty weeknight meal: very little prep and minimal washing up. Usually very tasty they’re rarely healthy, see for example Nigella’s Spanish Chicken.

This recipe from BBC Good Food has all the ease of a tray bake but less guilt. New potatoes are roasted over about 45 minutes while other ingredients are added to the pan. First in-season asparagus, then cherry tomatoes, and finally salmon fillets. A drizzle of balsamic vinegar mid-roast adds sweetness while the fresh factor is boosted by a handful of torn basil at the end.

An easily adaptable recipe that could see any meat, fish or seasonal veg thrown in. Replace asparagus and tomatoes with apple and Brussels sprouts and the salmon for belly pork, for instance. Doesn’t that sound good?!

Roasted Asparagus, Pancetta and Cherry Tomato Pasta

A quick meal with few instructions needed, from BBC Good Food.

Roast panecetta and asparagus in a drizzle of oil, meanwhile begin to cook the penne. When the pasta is almost cooked, add halved cherry tomatoes to the roasting dish for five minutes.

Throw the cooked pasta into the roasting dish, tare in some basil leaves, stir in seasoning, then serve.

Fast, easy, inelegant and honest food.

Thai Green Chicken Curry

We love a good curry… I’d never managed to successfully make one until I discovered the korma recipe in Nigel Slater’s The 30-Minute Cook. The book also contains two recipes next to one another – Thai green chicken curry and, immediately preceding it, Thai green curry paste.

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As ever, I had to make a few substitutions. We couldn’t quickly lay our hands on any galangal, so as per Nigel’s instructions we used lime and ginger instead; I had basil to add to the chicken dish at the end, but it had gone off so we had to skip that; and finally I didn’t have any kaffir lime leaves – an oversight.

That said, it all seemed to work beautifully. The dish tasted genuine (to us, anyway) and was mild and sweet with a hint of spice. Making the paste was hardly any effort at all (throw everything in a food processor and you’re done). Next, simmer some coconut milk and add the paste, pour it over some pan fried chicken pieces and simmer for about 10 minutes. Then dish up with rice – great stuff.

Chicken with Dates, Capers and Green Olives

Three days and fifty minutes in the making … Quick? No. Easy? -ish.

Yotam Ottolenghi is most famous for his vegetable dishes such as the mushroom pithivier we made back in June. A reputation which, apparently, he hates – he isn’t a vegetarian and makes some quite acceptable non-vegetarian dishes thank-you-very-much. This was one of them.

We made several substitutions from the given recipe. Chicken things (skin on) are placed in a plastic tub, and stoned and sliced dates, capers, pitted green olives, fresh oregano (we used dried), salt and pepper, bay leaf, red wine vinegar and olive oil are added. Pop on the lid and give a good shake before placing in the fridge for two days. Give it a good shake whenever you go in the fridge for the milk.

The chicken and marinade are then spread over a tray, and drizzled in white wine (we used vermouth) and pomegranate molasses (we used treacle). Roast for 50 minutes.

Possibly the ingredients didn’t scale well because we found the dish a little too acid, although the roasted dates were soft, sweet little gems to be dug up amongst the salty capers and olives.

Perfect Pilau

Tonight it’s time for another healthy meal from Thrive on Five.

It’s another vegetable loaded stew with a mixture of spices to liven things up and some rice baked in with it to make a complete dish. It’s not the most exciting dinner we’ve had, but it’s loaded with healthy stuff and leaves us feeling virtuous enough to have some dessert with (relatively) little guilt.

Baked Pappardelle with Pancetta and Porcini

Pasta bake doesn’t have to come out of a jar. This recipe from Simon Hopkinson, first seen on BBC TV on his programme ‘The Good Cook’ is very grown up yet still as simple to make and satisfying to eat as a student tuna pasta bake.

Dried pasta is cooked whilst the sauce is prepared: the recipe calls for the broader ribboned pappardelle but we used tagliatelle because, well, we had tagliatelle.

Dried porcini mushrooms are rehydrated in a saucepan of warming milk whilst a roux of butter and flour is cooked. Rather than adding the pancetta later, we cooked ours with the roux so that the bacon fat might have its greatest, flavourful impact. The porcini flavoured milk is then added to the roux, constantly mixing in all the while to ensuring for a smooth, creamy sauce.

Rather than transferring the sauce and pasta to a third dish to place in the oven, we just put the oven-proof frying pan straight in. Before doing this we emptied nearly an entire pot of greater parmesan over the top. You may wish to follow the recipe and use two tablespoons.

Thirty minute later, the parmesan has both melted into the thick sauce and formed a crisp top. Simple and impressive.

Dark Jamaican Gingerbread

Not one of our usual cook books – this recipe comes from Delia’s Cakes. The beauty of this recipe is that you most probably have everything you need to make it in the cupboard already – the only thing we had to nip out and get was a bit of extra butter!

That said, it was a less than successful bake. Despite the recommended time being 90 minutes, we found ours was starting to burn quarter of an hour before that. The exterior ended up quite hard and charred, and the interior is drier than I would have liked. You can see that this could be a really nice cake but it wasn’t meant to be this time. Slathering it with some butter seems to have helped the problem though.

Delia’s cake recipes always seem a bit hit and miss to me. When they work, they work really well… but they don’t have the reliability and reproducibility of Nigella’s.

Homestyle Jerk Chicken with Rice and Beans

Most of Nigella’s recipes with some extreme element (like her “Chicken with 40 Cloves of Garlic”) come with some reassurance such as “…it sounds a lot, but don’t worry…” No such reassurance with this recipe – in fact, she warns against making it unless you’re a fan of the hot and spicy… If that’s not put you off, you can find the recipe in Kitchen.

This one requires some serious prep – the spices, garlic, chilli and various liquids all get blitzed together in a food processor and you then smother the chicken in it and leave for 2 – 4 hours. When you’re finally ready, it gets baked in a hot oven for an hour.

Maybe we left in a bit too long, but ours didn’t come out looking as pretty as the picture in the book – a little more charred, but very tasty – Nigella wasn’t joking about the spiciness, but it’s not so much as to be unpleasant.

To accompany, we went with the recommended rice and peas/beans. These are made with coconut milk which undoubtedly helps temper the heat of the main dish.

Chicken with Pesto and Mozzarella Gravy

Tonight’s dinner comes from Nigel Slater’s Real Fast Food and looks almost too simple. Nigel offers two ways to cook it though – one produces a “prettier” meal, and the other produces a “tastier” one. Yes, we photograph everything we cook… but I couldn’t resist going for the latter!

Cook the chicken in some butter and oil, then top it with some pesto followed by some slices of mozzarella. It gets messy because you then flip the whole thing so that the mozzarella is on the bottom and starts to melt into the pan juices. Then you flip it back over to serve, but make sure you add a bit of water and more pesto to the pan juices to whizz together into the gravy.

Not the most photogenic thing we’ve cooked. Certainly quite messy when the melted cheese starts going everywhere and the oils in the pesto are oozing around… but tasty? Hell yes.