Green Chicken Minestrone

Last night’s dinner was a recommendation by my old housemate from student days, @dr_slevans, who cooks this one for her husband and boys. It’s a Nigel Slater recipe which you can find on the Guardian website.

The ingredient list isn’t too long, and was great for us because it was a chance to use up some broad beans which have been sat at the back of the freezer for way too long.

Considering we just used a chicken stock cube, it’s amazing how rich the broth tasted. With all the peas, leeks and broad beans it contains plenty of veg too. Many thanks for @dr_slevans for a tasty dinner recommendation!

Chocolate Chip Cookies

I’ve got a sweet tooth and I love making cakes, but one thing I’ve never really had much success with is biscuits (cookies, if you’re American). I decided to try and break that tradition today by making some of Nigella Lawson’s chocolate chip cookies as featured in Kitchen – if you’ve not got the book, you can also find the recipe on her website.

It’s a pretty easy recipe. Melt some butter and mix it with two types of sugar. Then add a whole egg plus a single egg yolk and mix some more before adding plain flour and bicarbonate of soda (baking soda). Finally, you fold in some chocolate chips.

The mix is supposed to make about 14 cookies, but mine stretched to 18.

The end result was nice, but I must confess to being a bit disappointed. They weren’t as chewy/soft as I had hoped – it’s not that the biscuit isn’t nice, it’s just that it wasn’t what I expected. It’s also possible that I overbaked them, and splitting the mixture into more pieces than recommended probably compounded that.

On the plus side, I can console myself with biscuits.

Hunter’s Chicken

We’ve had Hunter’s chicken (chicken a la cacciatore) a few times in the past – both Nigella Lawson and Jamie Oliver have recipes which we’ve tried and enjoyed. It turns out there’s another recipe for it on the Homemade By You site so we decided to give their version a try. 

The basic ingredients are pretty much the same, but I’m not convinced that the olives are needed. This version takes much longer than Nigella’s but produces a very rich and delicious sauce.

We made a last minute decision to switch from mashed potatoes to polenta instead (greed caused this – we only had one potato!) which worked really well and was more authentically Italian anyway. The end result was quite salty but very hearty and satisfying. 

Hunter’s chicken is a bit of a vague name which encompasses a variety of recipes. I’d find it tough to say which I prefer the most but we’d definitely recommend this one. 

Pork and Broccoli Stir Fry with a Honey Twist

Yet another recipe from the Sainsburys / Huffington Post “Homemade by You” website – this one is for pork and broccoli stir fry with some added honey for sweetness.

This one wasn’t as easy to make as the other recipes we’ve tried from the website this week – but I always panic a bit with stir fries because of the short cooking time and number of ingredients to juggle; I’m more comfortable with a one pot meal simmering away!

End result was nice and tasty – and with the broccoli and peppers, felt fairly healthy. Sparky really liked it but I thought it was just OK – I’d happily eat it again, but wouldn’t go out of my way to cook it again.

Vegetable Pasta Bake with a Yoghurt Twist

We continue our exploration of the “Homemade By You” site with this healthy recipe for a vegetarian pasta bake with a Greek yoghurt ‘twist’.

The recipe involves a whole load vegetables making it pretty healthy even when you consider the yoghurt and cheese. We used wholemeal penne pasta for a bit of extra fibre.

Technique wise, it’s very simple. Roast the chopped vegetables in the over, then mix with cooked pasta, chopped tomatoes and herbs and some Greek yoghurt. Sprinkle with some grated cheese and then bake in the oven.

Easy and healthy – and pretty cheap to make, too.

Clementine Cake

Whilst perusing Nigella’s “How to Eat” I spotted a recipe for cake in the Christmas section which appealed to me. It’s for a flourless clementine cake which has a few unusual features. 

First and foremost, you have to boil the fruit for 2 hours so this isn’t a quick recipe to make. Secondly, you then blitz these – skin and all – before adding it to the cake. Don’t do what I did and taste this mush – it’s horrible!

But then you mix it with the eggs – all 6 of them! – plus sugar and ground almonds and the result is a truly beautiful cake. Soft, moist and ever so tasty. Something magical happens and the bitter orange mush becomes a thing of wonder. Nigella warns that the cake can burn on top, and mine nearly did. I followed her advice and put tin foil over it halfway through the hour’s cooking but really I was a few minutes late. Still, it wasn’t enough to spoil what is a truly wonderful cake. 

Chicken Curry with Spinach

Whilst searching for inspiration for what to cook this week we discovered that Sainsbury’s has launched a new recipe site in conjunction with the Huffington Post. After having a browse around the new site (“Homemade By You“) I settled on this curry recipe.

We didn’t quite follow the recipe to the letter though. We’d run out of ground cumin so used some roughly chopped cumin seeds instead; due to the sizes of tins at the corner shop we had a higher proportion of tomatoes than intended; and since Sparky isn’t a huge fan of paneer we dropped it from the side dish and just fried up some shallots and spinach.

The end result worked well though and was really tasty. Not an “authentic” tasting curry (Nigel Slater’s quick chicken korma still wins that hands down) but we enjoyed it a lot. Plus the spinach, onions and tomatoes went a long way towards our five portions of fruit and veg!

Aromatic Beef and Chilli Noodle Soup

This recipe is more involved than ones we normally bother with. First up, it needs dashi stock so I made some using the kombu we have left in the cupboard (no bonito flakes though, which makes it simpler to make but not quite as tasty). This is left to simmer with various ingredients – cinnamon, garlic, ginger and chilli flakes.

The steak is then marinaded in soy sauce, sugar, chilli sauce, cinnamon, garlic and ginger. It sits in this for about 30 minutes, whilst the stock (no longer being heated) sits and infuses.

Then there’s a frantic period before serving. Cook the steak on both sides, and cook the bok choy and sugar snap peas in the broth, then throw in some cooked noodles and serve with the beef sliced on top.

The end result is good. The beef is really really tasty but the broth was a bit lacklustre. Still, this does come from the “Low Fat” chapter of Nigella’s How To Eat and for something which is supposedly good for us this was pretty tasty.

Bread

Bread. Plain and simple. Although we have books on baking bread, the recipe for this particular loaf comes from Nigel Slater’s Appetite. It’s a simple recipe, but not a quick one in that the bread has to rise twice.

It’s also not a recipe for a small loaf. With 1kg of flour, the resulting loaf is enormous. We also popped a tray of water in the over with it so that the steam would help make it really crusty (it did). Now we’re frantically trying to eat lots of bread and jam at every possible opportunity to get through this monster loaf!

Roast Chicken, Potatoes and Leeks in White Sauce

Tonight’s dinner is a mash up of recipes from various places.

First up, the roast chicken is done according to the ingredients found in Nigel Slater’s Appetite. It’s a very simple recipe – smear the chicken in butter, stick half a lemon inside and squeeze the other half over the bird.

The roast potatoes were done according to the instructions found in Nigella’s How To Eat. Pretty standard process here.

Finally, the leeks were done according to a recipe found in Nigella’s other great tome, Kitchen.

The chicken was a winner and went down a storm. Next plan is to do something with the carcass like make real chicken stock. The leeks were also really nice… the potatoes were a bit of a week point though – possibly my fault for overcooking them.

It took quite a while from beginning to end this one – about 2 hours all in – and whilst the level of effort wasn’t all that high, it was higher than that required for yesterday’s lamb casserole. Still, if the chicken stock works out then we may be back for a repeat.