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.

Chicken and Tuscan Beans

I’ve never watched an episode of Lorraine in my life, but I knew that John Whaite had a cooking slot on her show. That led to me to an explore of the Lorraine website, where I found this recipe of John’s for chicken and Tuscan beans.

The ingredient list isn’t quite as short as you’d find in his Perfect Plates in 5 Ingredients, but it’s not much longer. Fry the chicken thighs and some pancetta (we used smoked streaky bacon) in a wide casserole dish, then put to one side. In the same pan, now fry the onions, tomatoes and garlic before adding white wine (we used vermouth) and reducing. Finally add your tomato puree, rosemary, parsley, seasoning, cannellini beans and chicken stock then bring to the boil. You now put the chicken and bacon back on top and put the whole thing, uncovered, in the oven for 40 minutes.

Very easy, and only one dish to wash up afterwards!

Four Hour Pasta Sauce

A recipe for tomato sauce doesn’t sound too exciting, but this one comes from John Whaite’s Perfect Plates in Five Ingredients. Because the pasta is one of those five ingredients, this seems like an incredibly simple recipe! The only caveat is that it takes a long time – four hours!

Skin the plum tomatoes, roughly chop them and sprinkle with a little salt. Fry some chopped red onion and garlic. Add the peeled tomatoes which have been roughly chopped, along with some seasoning, a healthy glug of red wine (John suggests Malbec and we didn’t see any reason to disagree!). Stick the whole thing in the oven with a lid on it and leave to cook for 4 hours.

When it comes out, it doesn’t look too much like pasta sauce but stirring it quickly changes things – the tomatoes fall apart and you suddenly have a rich pasta sauce. We served it with tagliatelle and a little pan friend pancetta, and there was enough sauce to freeze half for a future date. We also found a slug of balsamic vinegar pepped things up.

Comforting Potato Supper

What a way to round out the week – this is a super simple recipe from Appetite by Nigel Slater which produces something outstanding. Once again the list of ingredients looks to short to result in anything interesting, but Nigel knows best.

It’s a bit fiddly to make, mind, because you have to pan fry the potatoes and onion first, then combine in a big dish with chopped pancetta, a few sage leaves and chicken stock… and then you have to wait an hour whilst it cooks in the oven.

The finished product is worth the wait though – tasty and satisfying, and although you’ve not added any cream it almost has a creamy quality. Really delicious.

Spaghetti Bolognese

Happy Christmas folks! Part of my present from Mark this year was a fabulous signed copy of The Kitchen Diaries by Nigel Slater. If you’re not familiar with it, it’s basically a diary of what Nigel cooked for a year – it’s like a set of recipes for what’s in season, but more granular than that.

It may be December, but this recipe comes from the January section of the book. It’s a simple bolognese using nothing particularly unusual – carrots, garlic, onion, celery, pancetta, mince, bay leaf, chopped tomatoes and vegetable stock. It’s seasoned with salt, pepper and nutmeg.

What makes it different is the amount of time spent cooking… it simmers for a good hour (Nigel even suggest pushing that to 1 1/2 hours), and then adding some cream or full fat milk and simmering for another 20 minutes. The end result is sublime… far richer and smoother flavours than any other bolognese or ragu I’ve ever made.

If this first chapter of The Kitchen Diaries is anything to go by, we’re in for some tasty treats in 2016.

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. 

Coq au Riesling

This recipe is really an excuse to have some mid-week wine. The recipe comes from Nigella Express, is for 4-6 people, and a whole bottle of Riesling is an ingredient. We halved the recipe which left us with half a bottle of wine to enjoy!

The method here is super super simple. Garlic oil and pancetta (supposedly bacon lardons but we substituted) cook in a pan before you throw in some chopped leek, oyster mushrooms and chopped chicken thighs. Pour the wine over, chuck in some bay leaves and pop the lid on. About 30-40 minutes later you’ve got dinner. 

Nigella suggests buttered noodles with these – I just slapped some tagliatelle in the bowl and that suited us just fine. 

Easy prep, easy wash up. If you’re prepared to twiddle your thumbs whilst it cooks, this is a lovely easy supper. 

Anna del Conte’s Lamb Ragu

A few years ago Mark worked with an Italian lady who gave him a copy of Anna del Conte’s “The Gastronomy of Italy”. It’s a truly beautiful book but not one we’ve cooked from very much. Whilst having a browse I spotted a recipe for lamb ragu which reminded me of a similar recipe in Nigella’s repertoire. Nigella is a fan of Anna do this makes sense and there are strong similarities between the recipes. 

That said, Anna’s is somewhat more involved with mushrooms, red wine and red wine vinegar. There’s also a lot cooking things and then taking them out of the pan for a bit. I took the lazy route and skipped as much of this as possible, trying to turn it into a (nearly) one pot. 

End result? Big flavour. Big success. A bit more fiddly than Nigella’s but a more rounded result. I’ve got a feeling we’ll be coming back to this book. 

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.

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.