Prawn Jalfrezi

A quick burst of heat for dinner on a cold winter’s day comes in the form of this prawn jalfrezi, the recipe for which is available online at the BBC Good Food website.

There were a few panics whilst making this – particularly when I realised we had no tinned tomatoes in the cupboard and I had to run to the corner shop on a particularly cold and windy night. The recipe also calls for you to cook the onions and spices, then add the chopped tomatoes and water and blitz with a hand blender. I tried to do this in the pan (heat turned off, obviously!) but the depth wasn’t sufficient to do without spattering so I had to decant everything to a pyrex jar, blitz it, and then put it back in the pan.

Also, the recipe called for one 400g tin of chopped tomatoes plus half a tin of water – I suspect the water wasn’t needed because our sauce was quite wet even after reducing down for a long time. The recipe said cook uncovered, but we took the lid off in an attempt to try and make things a bit thicker.

Despite that, the end result was really nice. Not a 100% authentic jalfrezi, but a nice and spicy sauce with a fresh taste.

Potatoes and Peppers

Time for a veggie option, this time coming from Nigel Slater writing for the Guardian. The ingredient list is nice and simple – potatoes, peppers, garlic and chicken stock.

Cut the peppers into big strips first and fry them so they soften a little. Then fry the sliced potatoes so that they brown a little, throw in the garlic and the chicken stock with the peppers and let the whole thing simmer and reduce. You end up with beautifully soft potatoes and a tangy garlicky sauce – this is comfort food at its best.

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.

Chicken and Broccoli Stir Fry with Coconut

The next few recipes we cooked came from the Sainsbury’s Homemade by You website. Sainsbury’s have been running a campaign called “Little Twists”, encouraging people to be a little bit more adventurous with their cooking, and this recipe is part of that.

It’s a pretty simple dish and quick to make – it’s a chicken and vegetable stir fry like any other, but the different comes at the end when you toss some toasted desiccated coconut into the dish. It’s a simple thing, but it does add a nice bit of flavour and an interesting texture too. I liked it, and so did Mark.

West African Chicken & Peanut Stew

This is a new one for us – an evening meal which features peanut butter as a main ingredient. Don’t get me wrong, we love the stuff, it’s just that we’re more familiar having it on toast… or possibly just eating it with a spoon straight from the jar…

This Diana Henry recipe (as ever, from A Bird in the Hand) is a lengthy one, as evidenced by our “before” photo. On closer inspection though, there’s nothing fancy here and if you have a reasonably stocked spice cupboard then you’ll have pretty much everything you need anyway.

It’s very strange to make the sauce by dissolving peanut butter into chicken stock, but the resulting meal is utterly fabulous – substantial and satisfying with a great nutty flavour and smoothness. Obviously not a good meal for those with certain allergies, but since we don’t fall into that camp we were happy to gorge ourselves on it.

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.

Chicken Jambalaya

I’ve loved the food of the deep south for many, many years and every now and then I get a hankering for some good old jambalaya. Over the years I progressed from jars of sauce bought in supermarkets through to actually making things myself, but I never really found a recipe I was happy with. Tonight though, the hankering was back so I decided to give a new recipe a try and I found this one on Delia Smith’s website.

That said, I wasn’t overly impressed with the presentation of the recipe on the website. It broke the cardinal rule by listing ingredients in a different order to the one in which you need them, and there was also a mistake in that the Tabasco sauce was listed as part of the garnish when it’s actually an ingredient.

I also thought the amount of liquid added was wrong – it took much longer to reduce than the recipe said (and the recipe said leave the lid on; we ended up leaving it uncovered).

But the end result was well worth it – I’m not saying it was 100% authentic, especially given we were using chorizo instead of andouille sausage… but it was a damn good approximation.

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!

Mexican Lasagne

It’s like lasagne, but with a twist. I’d been thinking of making this for quite some time but was always put off by the fact the recipe is for eight people… but I decided to give it and go and reheat the leftovers for lunches later in the week. This recipe comes from Nigella Lawson’s Kitchen.

It’s pretty simply to make. Onions, pepper, chilli and chopped tomatoes make the sauce (plus a good glob of ketchup), and these are interspersed with a mixture of sweetcorn, black beans and cheese. You build up layers of sauce, beans and tortilla and then bake the whole thing in the oven.

It’s surprisingly tasty – helped in no small part by the vast quantities of cheese. Not sure how well it will reheat – the end result was wetter than expected, but still very tasty.

Caribbean Pumpkin and Pea Curry

Still on the mend from our man-flu we needed some vegetables in our system, so we turned to trusy old Thrive On Five for some inspiration. They have a great range of spicy recipes and we’d not trid this one before.
The list of ingredients is long but healthy – squash, tomatoes, onions, peppers, mango, peas, ginger, garlic, turmeric, allspice, curry powder, coconut milk, black eyed beans and… drumroll please… a scotch bonnet chilli.

We have a mixed history with these fiery chillis. I’ve had nice meals made with them in the past, but Mark once made a curry so hot it was completely inedible. This recipe works well though – pierce the chilli and let it sit in the curry as it simmers, then fish it out before serving. Spicy but not too spicy.