Honey mustard chicken with salsa and beans

This recipe is weirdly both a lot of hassle, and almost none whatsoever. There is a long list of ingredients, it takes a long time to make, and it’s technically three different dishes. But at the same time, each individual dish is pretty easy to make. This recipe comes from the ever fabulous Diana Henry’s A Bird in the Hand.

The first thing is the chicken, which has to sit in its marinade – ideally for a few hours. The marinade is olive oil, vinegar, chilli, dijon mustard and garlic, so it’s pretty easy to throw together. It’s also recommended to put some slits in the chicken flesh so that the flavours can penetrate.

Once its had its time, it goes in the oven in a casserole dish for about 45 minutes. Actually, I found this to be a little too long and the skin of the bird burnt – but maybe I should have just been more on the ball with my basting.

The second thing to make is the black bean mix. This is also really easy – basically just a few ingredients stir fried together and sat in some orange juice and chicken stock whilst it reduces down. The orange juice is the star here – don’t be tempted to skip it!

Finally, just before you’re ready to serve, the last bit to make is the avocado salsa which is also really easy – basically just some chopped avocado and tomatoes with a couple of extra ingredients. Easy peasy.

We also served it up with some toasted tortilla for a bit of extra carb. Mark was late home for this meal, so it worked quite well with all the dishes on the go – the chicken could sit in its marinade, and then go to the oven about an hour before he was due back; the black beans simmer for part of that cooking time, and then when he comes through the door I quickly throw together the salsa and tortillas.

Roast Chicken in Turmeric, Paprika & Cumin with Corn Cakes and Mashed Avocados

The list of ingredients here is pretty long but a lot of it is storecupboard stuff – and if you’ve cooked any number of Nigella Lawson recipes you’ll probably have most of the rarer items anyway (I’m looking at you, polenta). The recipe itself is from Diana Henry’s A Bird in the Hand.

The recipe is actually three dishes. It looks like it takes a lot of time and preparation but actually it’s really simple. First you make the batter for the corn cakes, which basically means put the ingredients in a food processor and blitz them together.

Next you make a spice mix for the chicken, rub it all over and bang it in the oven for 45 minutes.

When the chicken is nearly ready, mash the avocado with a fork and add sherry vinegar and lime juice. Then fry your pre-prepared batter in a pan to make your corn cakes and serve the whole thing up.

I think I under-did the seasoning in the corn cakes and chicken, and overdid it with the sherry vinegar in the avocados. But the overall result was highly impressive. Presenting three home made items on a plate for dinner makes you look like some kind of domestic wizard!

Chicken Gumbo

After the tasty jambalaya we made a short while back, it seemed appropriate to make some chicken gumbo as a follow up. None of our recipe books really have much in the way of creole recipes, so we went with a recipe we found on the BBC Good Food website.

Things didn’t get off to a good start when the online shopping delivery didn’t come with any okra (they tried to offer us some pak choi as an alternative – clearly the person who packed our shop had no idea what okra was!).

I was also a bit worried when I started to read some of the comments under the recipe which said that it was bland and unauthentic. There was no need for concern though. I made the whole meal for 4 for just the two of us (some comments suggested that the recipe was a bit measly in terms of portions) and the quantities seemed to work out just right. I was a bit heavy handed with the spices too – “just in case” – and it all seemed to come together really nicely. The flavours seemed (to my British palate) pretty authentic and we thoroughly enjoyed the whole thing.

The recipe suggested serving with some rice or bread – Mark had brought home some freshly baked rye bread which, when smeared with lashings of butter, complemented the whole thing beautifully.

Afghani Style Stew with Pine Nuts

Recipes have been a bit thin on the ground this week because I’ve been ill. I had an ill fated attempted at cooking a Nigel Slater lamb casserole earlier in the week and I’m going to blame the illness because it was a disaster – possibly the single blandest meal I’ve ever had.

I’m on the mend now, but feeling the need for something healthy so where else to turn but good old Thrive on Five? Five portions of veg in one meal must help get me on the road to recovery.

This recipe isn’t the easiest – get all the chopping and prepping done first because it’s a tight turnaround between adding each set of ingredients, and if you don’t keep stirring the pan then things will burn and taste bitter. I thought I’d managed it but got caught out and half way through the recipe I tasted it and thought it was disgusting.

By the time I got to the end though, things had improved. The yoghurt helped balance out the bitterness and the end result wasn’t half bad. Lots of vegetables and lots of spice. We also followed it with a dessert of cherries, strawberries and banana so I think that’s 8 portions of fruit and veg just at dinner time… I’ll be back to full health in no time.

Slow Cooked Moroccan Chicken Stew

Another Simply Nigella meal today – and because it’s Sunday we can invest the time necessary for one of the slow cooked recipes from the “Breathe” chapter. Slow cooked is a relative term though… this recipe would take 4 hours in a slow cooker, but Nigella provides an alternative method using an oven for each of the recipes in this chapter and this one only takes an hour that way.

The method couldn’t be easier. First cook the onions a little in the casserole dish. Then put everything else in with them, bring to the boil and transfer to the oven. Bake for an hour and you’re done! We also did some rice on the side for an extra fix of carbs.

Technically this recipe is for six; we halved the quantities but ended up using the full amount of chicken stock to ensure there was enough liquid for everything to steep in. This resulted in more liquid than was ideal but it wasn’t enough to ruin things – it just made dishing up a bit tricky. The flavours work really well though – highly recommended.

Chicken Cosima

A slightly unusual name for this dish, but it makes sense – it comes from Simply Nigella and is the dish Nigella made for her daughter Cosima’s 21st birthday. Apparently it contains all the things Cosima likes best – and we can concur that she’s got good taste!

That said, I did muck up the quantities. The chicken thighs we’d bought had gone off so I had to go and buy more but the supermarket only had larger packs… the recipe in the book is to serve six, but although I halved the quantities I ended up using enough chicken for six people. Whoops.

Still, we ate it all. As I said before, Cosima has good taste.

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!

Lamb, Olive and Caramelised Onion Tagine

First things first – despite the name, this isn’t a tagine. Nigella describes it as such in Express but we just cooked it in a big casserole pot – if memory serves, so does she.

We were lacking one ingredient – caramelised onions – which I’ve never been able to find in a supermarket. So after a quick Google search I made my own, cooking chopped red onion over a low heat in a little olive oil with a pinch of salt until softened, then adding a teaspoon of caster sugar and a glug of balsamic vinegar and cooking some more. The recipes online said it should take about 45 minutes – maybe it was the small volume I was making, but mine only seemed to take about 20 minutes.

With that done, the recipe is incredibly simple. Add diced lamb, black olives, some whole cloves of garlic and some capers to the pot. Then throw in a bit of ground ginger and ground cumin before pouring the best part of a bottle of (cheap!) red wine over it. Bring to the boil on the hob, then transfer to the oven at 150ºC for a couple of hours. To serve, I just did a bit of couscous with a small tin of chickpeas thrown into it.

The end result was amazing. The lamb was so incredibly tender and the flavours were out of this world. This comes from the “Quick, Quick, Slow, Slow” chapter of Nigella Express and it really is quick to prepare. The toughest part is waiting two hours as your home fills with the most amazing smell of lamb and wine.

I had grand plans to follow this with a custardy Eton mess with home made custard and meringue, but a burst water pipe in the bathroom meant we had to put that plan on hold!

Lamb Stuffed Sweet Potatoes

Since Mark’s been having so much success with recipes he’s found online with the BBC Good Food website, I decided to see what I could find online and I wound up with this Nigel Slater recipe which was published in The Guardian. It’s not a quick recipe, but it’s not too tricky. Fiddly, more than anything.

Bake a sweet potato in the oven. As it’s cooking, fry some lamb mince, then some onion, a chopped red chilli and some garlic. We threw in some spices too – cumin, coriander and nutmeg as suggested. Then put this in a mixing bowl and spoon the (now cooked) sweet potato out of its skin and into the bowl. Mix it all up, then add the mixture back into the potato skin and bake for another 15 – 20 minutes.

We dished it up with some peas (and a glass of wine for company). It’s fiddly handling the hot potatoes, and all too easy to tear the potato skins, but you can’t really go wrong with lamb and sweet potatoes. Even if it looks messy, it tastes good.

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.