Pasta with chicken, pancetta and peas

We had roast chicken recently (no photos, sorry!) which once again left us with some cooked chicken leftovers. As ever, we turned to the fabulous book A Bird in the Hand by Diana Henry. We’ve cooked quite a few of her leftover recipes and they’ve always served us well (I’ll never forget that bird pie – awesome!).

This recipe really couldn’t be much easier. We’re cooking pancetta, onion and peas, then adding some chicken, lemon zest and double cream. Some chopped mint goes in near the end to flavour the cream, and then it gets served up with some pasta (we used fusilli – nothing fancy).

You can’t really go wrong here. It’s a winning mix of ingredients, and cooked chicken always tastes better the next day. We scoffed the lot and sat feeling very contented with ourselves afterwards.

Lemon and Thyme Bundt Cake

We keep going back to bundt cakes ever sine we got a tin and this week is no exception. Fortunately Simply Nigella contains quite a number of these, and we seem to be working our way through them with this lemon and thyme bundt cake. If you want to find a copy of this recipe online, you can find it at Chatelaine.

The cake is pretty easy to make – basically bung it all together and stick it in the tin (or at least that’s my recollection!). It rises enormously though – this was by far our biggest bundt do far! We topped it off with some lemon icing (badly) and sugar stars. It looked pretty enough and the slices were huge!

It was a hugely substantial and hugely satisfying cake, but the flavour wasn’t quite as strong as we were expecting. This is possibly because I didn’t put enough thyme it, and possibly also because I forgot to add the juice of one of the lemons (I just added the zest). The result was more like a Madeira cake with a hint of lemon – but that’s certainly no bad thing and we demolished the lot!

Meatballs with Sweet Potatoes and Couscous

When is a one pot not a one pot? Probably when it also requires multiple bowls, as is the case for this recipe from One Pot Wonders. Don’t get me wrong, this is a nice recipe and we really enjoyed it, but there’s a certain level of hassle involved which I wasn’t expecting given which book it came from.

It’s important to follow the steps in sequence, which begin with preparing the couscous. I thought this was too early, but some of the couscous is then used in the meatballs (a breadcrumb substitute I guess). With preparing the couscous and the meatballs plus the vegetable preparation and the roasting tray, I felt that the title of one pot wasn’t really deserved here. Hell, it’s not even a pot, it’s a roasting dish.

Such quibbles aside though, the washing up that was generated was easy to clean and the meal went down well. I was a bit worried that the couscous would be stone cold but it retained enough heat and absorbed some more from the rest of the dish.

Chicken with Lemon, Anchovies and Rosemary

We’re back to Diana Henry’s fabulous A Bird in the Hand tonight. This book has been an absolute godsend; I don’t think there’s been a single “miss” from all the recipes we’ve cooked from it so far… and we were delighted to discover this week that she has a new book coming out (“Simple“)in a few days. If you’re curious, at the time of writing there’s a free Amazon Kindle sampler of the book.

By far the biggest question of the evening though is why Tesco feels the need to put a security tag on a £2.25 pack of chicken thighs? I set the alarm off when leaving the shop because I’d used a self service till… whoops!

It’s another easy one to cook, following a fairly regular pattern of Diana’s chicken recipes – brown the thighs first, set to one side and cook the vegetables. Then we add liquid (vermouth) and the chicken, and pop it in the oven (uncovered this time).

The end result was really tasty, but the plate was less interesting than planned because I’d intended to use potatoes as carb but we didn’t have any in, so I went with brown rice instead. I then decided to do some peas on the side, only to discover we were out of those as well. Time for another supermarket shop I think, but I need to watch out for those security tags this time.

Lamb with Lemon and Mint

This Nigel Slater recipe comes from the Kitchen Diaries and is remarkably quick and simple. Mix a bit of olive oil with some lemon zest and chopped mint, then pan fry some lamb steaks in it. Then put the lamb to one side on a warm plate and deglaze the pan with some lemon juice.

This is accompanied with some boiled potatoes – the idea is that you cook them until they’re soft, and then when eating you can squash them with your fork to mop up the meat and lemon juices. We also threw some peas on the side because you can never get enough vegetables in your diet!

Simple and speedy, a tasty way to round out a long weekend.

Bird Pie

We had enjoyed a roast chicken at the weekend and were left with a mountain of cooked chicken which needed to be put to good use. Following on from the strawberry tart, pastry was looking popular this week so we turned to Diana Henry’s A Bird in the Hand for a recipe for chicken pie.

Firstly I’ll confess – I was going to make some rough puff pastry, but couldn’t be bothered in the end. We had some frozen shortcrust in the freezer so I ended up using that instead – but it’s OK because Diana herself confessed on Instagram that she uses shop-bought too!

You make a sauce from butter and flour to begin, then add some capers, parsley and mustard (supposedly Dijon but we used wholegrain because that was what we had in). Separately you saute some leeks and add them, along with the chicken, some lemon juice and creme fraiche and heat the whole thing through.

Then it’s just a matter of assembly. Diana just did a pastry top, but Mark was hungry so we did a pastry base as well – no blind baking, just rolled it out into the pie tin and then added the filling followed by a lid (make sure to cut slits in the lid for steam to escape). Before popping it in the oven, I painted a bit of milk over the top.

This pie was, frankly, amazing. The flavour was out of this world; easily one of the best chicken pies I have ever eaten. This recipe is HUGELY recommended. 10/10. Five stars.

Lemon and Asparagus Risotto

If you like asparagus, this is the recipe for you – it involves lots of the green stuff. This recipe is quite seasonal, coming from the May chapter of Nigel Slater’s The Kitchen Diaries. I was a bit wary – lemon and asparagus isn’t a combination I’ve ever tried before – but Nigel Slater has a proven track record in our house for choosing flavour combinations which work well together.

It’s pretty standard risotto making here – fry the onion in butter, add the rice followed by a glass of white wine or dry vermouth (we used the latter). Then slowly add the chicken stock a ladle at a time, adding the asparagus part way through. Now, I was lazy here and just poured it all in – didn’t seem to affect things negatively! You also need the zest and juice of two lemons at this stage.

Before serving, stir through some freshly ground black pepper and some parmesan and you’re done. The asparagus and lemon work really well together, producing a light and bright meal which is also comforting and satisfying. Thumbs up for Mr Slater!

Lemon Meringue Pie

This recipe is a coming together of many different things. There’s the recipe for sweet shortcrust pastry which I picked up from John Whaite’s Kitchen. There was the tupperware box of egg whites in the freezer. And there was Mark’s desire for lemon meringue pie.

The only thing missing was a recipe for the filling and the meringue itself, and The Guardian has one of their wonderful “How to Make the Perfect…” articles for this.

As a whole the recipe is fairly simple and light on cooking, but there are three very distinct phases. First up, you have to make your pastry. John Whaite taught me a technique which involves creaming the butter and sugar together first which works really well. The pastry gets blind baked with some baking beads for about 20 minutes, and then a further 10 uncovered.

The lemon curd filling is made to the instructions on the Guardian website. Very quick, very easy and very lemony! Once done, pour it into your pastry case which should be out of the oven by this point and leave it to cool. Once it’s set, it’s really quite firm.

Finally, make the meringue topping – again, we followed the Guardian instructions for this. Apart from the physical effort of whisking, this bit is really simple too. Then it’s into the oven for about 15 minutes and you’re done.

The end result was, if I do say so myself, brilliant. Crisp pastry, super lemony filling and a fluffy topping… delicious. There was one mistake I made though which was to not let the lemon curd cool completely before adding the meringue topping. As a result, moisture formed between the two layers and the finished tart “wept” a little bit, but not enough to spoil it.

Tinned Salmon Bake with Fried Cabbage

This is another really easy recipe from Nigel Slater (well, two actually – the cabbage is technically a separate one).

Begin with some tinned red salmon – break it up with a fork and put in a small oven proof dish. Don’t mush it up too much! Then add some chopped spring onion and a healthy squeeze of lemon juice, plus about 120ml of tomato juice. Sprinkle some breadcrumbs over (we used panko) and a few little bits of butter to help it brown.

Whilst it bakes in the oven for about 25 minutes at 200C, chop up some cabbage and slice some garlic. Then fry the garlic in oil, and add the cabbage and stir fry for a couple of minutes.

Serve the whole lot up and enjoy. Lots of tasty salmon and healthy cabbage!

Pork and Lemon Polpettina

Another Nigel Slater recipe for this meal, this time coming from Real Fast Food. The meatballs themselves are pretty easy to put together. We used panko instead of regular breadcrumbs and mixed these with pork mince, lemon juice, grated parmesan and some chopped anchovies. Thyme and parsley are added for some extra flavour.

As recommended, we served this up with some pasta (tagliatelle) and some broccoli for vegetables. Nigel’s recipe uses 500g of pork mince but says that it’s sufficient for 4 people. I made the same amount (just because the supermarket didn’t have smaller packs of mince) for the two of us and it was certainly a big plate of food… the recipe is probably enough for 3 hungry adults.