Chicken with Hoisin Sauce

Another trip into the pages of Nigel Slater’s Real Fast Food for tonight’s dinner. We weren’t particularly faithful to the quantities, but the general method is the same. Nigel uses vegetable stock but there was none in the cupboard so we went for chicken instead.

  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 2 chicken breasts
  • About 120g of button mushrooms
  • A head of broccoli
  • A healthy glug of dry sherry
  • A healthy slosh of soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons of hoisin sauce
  • A few hundred millilitres of chicken stock
  • A couple of teaspoons of cornflour mixed in water

Begin by frying the chopped garlic in oil for a few seconds before adding the chicken which has been cut into chunks.Once the chicken is browned, add the chopped mushrooms and the broccoli florets and fry some more. Then add the chicken stock, sherry, soy sauce, hoisin sauce and let it simmer for about 10 minutes. Finally add your cornflour and water paste and simmer some more until it thickens. We had to add a little extra cornflour to get the consistency right.

The final dish was served up with some plain white rice which was great for mopping up the sticky sauce. I probably overcooked things but it didn’t seem to suffer for it, and we managed to kid ourselves that it was healthy because of all the mushrooms and broccoli!

Cod with Warm Potato Salad

Mark was away visiting his parents and I wanted something fairly light for dinner to help recover from the indulgences of Easter so this recipe from Nigel Slater’s Real Fast Food looked like a good option.

  • One cod loin or fillet
  • One medium/large potato
  • 1 onion
  • A few springs of parsley
  • A few tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
  • Juice of half a lemon
  • Freshly ground black pepper

The method is really incredibly simple. The potato is chopped into chunks and boiled in salted water, and the cod is poached in another pan of water. You then make a dressing out of the lemon juice and olive (just whisk them together) with the black pepper. Once that’s done, drain the potatoes and put them with the dressing, flake the cooked cod into it and add some chopped onion and chopped parsley. That’s it. Done.

It’s not the most visually appealing meal – it’s very white looking – but it’s a satisfying supper. I’d suggest going heavy on the black pepper though – and be prepared to smell of onion all night!

Portuguese Custard Tarts (pastéis de nata)

This is one of the recipes which I learned at John Whaite’s Kitchen. A bank holiday Monday offered a prime opportunity to see if I could make it work away from his supervision.

The first step is to make the rough puff pastry.

  • 125g plain flour
  • 125g unsalted butter
  • 75ml water
  • 1g salt, dissolved in the water

Cube the butter (~1cm), and rub half of it into the flour until it’s like breadcrumbs. Then add the remaining half, but only rub it in ever so slightly – one or two squeezes per cube. Add most of the water and bring the mixture together using a dough scraper, pressing it with the scraper rather than your hands. You may not need all the water.

The resulting mixture goes into the fridge for half an hour, and is then rolled out on a floured surface, folded, turned, rolled out again and folded again before going back into the fridge for another 20-30 minutes. You then repeat the folding and rolling process and chill it again for the same amount of time.

In the meantime, you make your creme patissiere.

  • 6 egg yolks
  • 120g caster sugar
  • 2 teaspoons of vanilla extract
  • 500ml whole milk
  • 40g cornflour

Put the milk, vanilla and half the sugar in a big pan on the hob and heat until it just starts to boil. Meanwhile, whisk 6 egg yolks with the other half of the sugar until pale and aerated, then whisk in the cornflower. As the milk starts to boil, pour half of it into the egg mixture and whisk vigorously, then transfer the mixture back into the pan with the remaining milk, whisking all the time over a high heat. The mixture will thicken. Pour it onto a plate and cover with cling film to cool.

Meanwhile, roll out your puff pastry once more and roll tightly like a swiss roll. Cut it into 12 pieces, and then turn each one on its end so that as you look down onto it you can see the spiral of pastry layers. Roll each one out flat, dusting with icing sugar to stop them from sticking. Use the pieces to line a muffin tray, and then pipe your cooled creme patissiere into each one (although I just used a teaspoon!).

Bake in the oven – I was aiming for 25 minutes at 200C (fan oven), but found they were just starting to burn after 20 minutes so your mileage may vary.

The end result is, frankly, delicious. They look great and taste amazing.

Chicken with Spices and Cream

This Nigel Slater recipe uses an ingredient we’re not used to seeing in his recipe books – or anyone else’s for that matter: curry powder. Nothing fancy, just plain ordinary curry powder.

It’s a speedy recipe too, coming from Real Fast Food Rub salt and pepper into the chicken and then fry it. Next add the chopped onion and garlic, followed a few minutes later by the curry powder and some ground cinnamon. Moisture comes from chicken stock and some chopped tomatoes, and the whole thing simmers for about 15 minutes. Before serving, a generous slosh of double cream and a squeeze of lemon juice finish the whole thing off.

When I made this it felt like a bit of a lazy option and harked back to some of the cooking I did in my student days, but as soon as Mark stepped through the front door he was intrigued because he said the house smelt amazing. The end result wasn’t like a typical curry, but the spices combined with the savoury stock make for a really tasty treat.

Spicy Chicken and Mushroom Supper

We’re so full of food after my day of pastry making with John Whaite, so tonight called for something a bit lighter. The recipe comes from old faithful Nigel Slater’s Real Fast Food.

Method is pretty simple – chop the various flavour makers and fry them together before setting aside. Next fry the chicken for a bit, then add the mushrooms and then return the flavourful paste to the pan along with some light muscovado sugar and a little lime. There’s supposed to be some nam pla in this, but Mark hates the stuff so I skipped it.

Finished meal wasn’t exactly a huge meal – very carb light, and not at all like what I usually make! Still very tasty though, and despite the number of chillies involved it wasn’t unduly hot.

Perfecting Pastry with John Whaite

I was absolutely blown away when Mark revealed that my birthday present this year was a day at John Whaite’s Kitchen learning how to make pastry. In case you’ve been living in a cave, John Whaite won the Great British Bake Off a few years ago – a series perhaps best remembered for the gingerbread colosseum he made.

So I rolled up on a beautiful Sunday morning to a farm in Wrightington to meet John and six other bakers who would be spending the day together… on reflection, it’s amazing how much we actually made in such a short space of time but that was in no small part made possible by John’s sister who spent the whole day efficiently clearing up after us!

We began by learning how to make rough puff pastry and then moved on to sweet and savoury shortcrust. With these, we then went on to make a pear frangipane tart, a Lancashire cheese, asparagus and bacon quiche, Portuguese custard tarts and Eccles cakes. Quite the haul!

As we finished cooking, we all then sat down to lunch of homemade soups and salads, plus some of the quiche… and then we stuffed ourselves senseless with Eccles cakes. Not a bad way to spend the day. I also managed to sneak a peak at his new book, Perfect Plates in 5 Ingredients, which isn’t out until April…

And just to prove that I did actually meet the man, here’s a picture of me gurning with excitement.

Pastry class: complete!

A photo posted by Paul B (@paulopadopalos) on

300 Instagram Followers!

Last night we broke through 300 followers on Instagram. I’m sure the figure will drop, but it’s a nice target to have hit.

I’m not quite sure what it was about last night’s photos though – we got over 100 likes for the ingredients which far outstrips our previous winner, John Whaite’s Trillionaire shortbread!

We’ve been running this site for just over a year now, and it’s great to know that so many of you enjoy what we post. We’ll try and keep it up!

Indian Spiced Shepherd’s Pie

It’s been a while since we cooked anything from Simply Nigella, and fancying some sort of mince and potato dish this recipe for Indian Spiced Shepherd’s pie looked like a good candidate. People seem to agree too, because the photos for this have had more likes than any of our photos before now!

The recipe takes a little while to put together. First you boil the sweet potato with some cardamom, peppercorns and pieces of lime peel. Meanwhile you blitz together onion, garlic, ginger, cumin seeds, cardamom seeds and coriander seeds to form a paste and fry this – supposedly with coconut oil but I just used butter and olive oil.

Next you add the turmeric, chilli flakes and garam massala before finally adding the lamb mince. When it’s all cooked add some red lentils, chopped tomatoes, Worcestershire sauce and water before seasoning and putting a lid on whilst it simmers for about 20 minutes.

You’re still not finished though! Now you have to mash the potatoes. Nigella is ambiguous about whether you should fish the lime/peppercorns/cardamom out. I did, or at least I removed as much as I could. To make the mash a bit easier to work with, Nigella suggests saving some of the potato cooking water and mixing it in as you mash.

Next you transfer the mince mixture to a your dish(es) and put the sweet potato mash on top, then bake it in the over for 15 – 25 minutes. It’s not supposed to go crispy on top, but mine did a little bit (possibly because I added some ridges with a fork) and was all the better for it.

Something magical happens with this dish. Before it went in the oven I thought it tasted a bit bland, but when it came out the flavours had deepened tremendously and the dish was a really tasty, interesting and satisfying dish.

Chicken, Watercress and Orange Salad

So we had a load of leftover cooked chicken from the roast we did at the weekend, and this recipe from the March chapter of Nigel Slater’s The Kitchen Diaries offers a good way to use it up.

A dressing is made of wholegrain mustard, olive oil and red wine vinegar. Meanwhile, some pumpkin seeds are splattered with soy sauce and toasted under the grill, and some almonds are toasted in a pan. We were supposed to use whole skinned almonds but the store was out so I used flaked almonds instead. The last ingredient is orange which is peeled and sliced, and any escaping juices are added to the dressing.

Finally, you take a big pile of water cress and add the chicken, dressing, orange and nuts. I also added some couscous on the side for a little bit of carb.

Boston Cream Pie

When we first set up this website, we used a photo of a Boston Cream Pie I had made as the profile picture – it was something I made a long time ago and posted on my personal Instagram account.

Since it was my birthday recently, I decided to revisit the recipe as my birthday cake. And I decided to make two cakes – one for my workplace and one for the Two Hungry Boys.

This recipe comes from How To Be A Domestic Goddess and features three distinct stages – first you make a batch of Nigella’s Victoria Sponge mixture, then some creme anglais to place between the two sponges, and finally some chocolate ganache to top it.

The resulting cake is amazing – light sponge, sweet custard and a thick chocolatey topping. Very rich and very filling, and it vanished within minutes when I took it to work!