Chicken and prawn xinxim

Yet another Diana Henry recipe today from A Bird in the Hand, and it’s a spicy one!

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I’d never heard of xinxim before but it sounded like an interesting recipe and I’m absolutely delighted that I tried it. The whole dish was a spicy delight – I’m not sure why, but it seems that added ground nuts to curry type dishes really works well (I’m thinking of the peanut stew which we made a while back).

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Parsee Chicken with Apricots

Something nice and spicy today from Diana Henry’s A Bird in the Hand.

We’ve raved about this book often enough, but this meal is a prime example of why we love it so much – it’s easy to put together and doesn’t call upon any especially exotic ingredients but the end result is a really tasty, comforting and spicy meal – but also noticeably unique from the myriad of other chicken recipes you can find in other books.

I’d eat this again and again – possibly the apricots appealing to my sweet tooth, but it was a real treat of a meal.

Tagliata for Two

We’re revisiting a classic tonight, Nigella’s Italian themed Nigellissima – it’s the book which first got me into cooking properly and not just buying quiche and frozen pizza from the supermarket every week! This dinner is actually composed of two recipes from that book, but tagliata for two is the “main event”.

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The meal is pretty straightforward to make. You oil some steak and then fry it, then transfer to a marinade of olive oil, red wine vinegar, chilli flakes and oregano. Then you remove the steak and thinly slice it, and put some chopped cherry tomatoes (I accidentally used plum) in the marinade and serve it up.

For a bit of something extra on the side, I also used Nigella’s recipe for mushrooms in garlic – nice and easy and a bit of extra vegetable on the side.

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The resulting meal was nice but nothing to write home about. Trying to combine all the various elements, time got a little bit away from me and I ended up serving a fairly cold dish. Mostly my fault, but it didn’t help the end result. Nothing wrong here, just nothing all that exciting.

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!

Turkey Meatballs in Tomato Sauce

Making a bundt cake recently reminded me of what a wonderful book Nigella Lawson’s Kitchen is, so I went rummaging through it for recipes which I’d still not tried and found this one. I was attracted to it because the picture in the book shows the meal simmering in a yellow casserole dish very similar to the one we own!

The recipe is in two parts – making the sauce is pretty simple because you just blitz some veg in a food processor and then gently fry it for a bit before adding a tin of plum tomatoes and some water and letting it simmer.The rest of the ingredients go to making the turkey meatballs which require very little effort. I’d forgotten how easy Nigella’s recipes can be!

You then gently place the meatballs into the liquid (they pretty much float on top) and let them cook whilst the sauce simmers. Mine took a bit longer than expected because I had halved quantities, but had to use the full amount of water to ensure there was enough liquid for the meatballs to float in. It reduced down to a really tasty tomato sauce, although the meatballs weren’t the most exciting things I’ve eaten. Some pasta on the side and this made for an easy and tasty supper – and relatively low fat with the turkey mince, too.

Chicken and Squash Laksa

This was supposed to be chicken and pumpkin laksa, but UK supermarkets never seem to stock any kind of pumpkin except at Halloween. Squash is basically the same thing though. We’d had a roast chicken on Sunday, and this recipe from Diana Henry’s A Bird in the Hand is how we decided to use the leftover chicken.

Recipe wise you can probably say this one is pretty healthy – lots of veg in the form of steamed squash, tomatoes, spinach and onion. You steam the pumpkin first and make a paste out of chilli, garlic, ginger, lemongrass, lime zest and coriander stalks. Then you fry the chopped onion, followed by the paste, and then add coconut milk and chicken stock. Bring the whole thing to the boil then add the tomatoes and simmer for a little bit (Diana says 7 minutes but I got distracted and it was much longer!). Finally add your chicken and spinach, then serve the whole thing up with some noodles.

There are some great flavours here, but I regret using a regular chilli instead of a birds eye chill as the recipe states. This should teach me to heed Diana’s wise words!

Courgette and Lentil Dhal

How much health can you get in a single bowl? Quite a lot, actually, when you’re using the Thrive on Five cook book. We’ve raved about this book before but the long and short of it is that it contains recipes which will give you your five portions of veg for the day in a single meal. There are a lot of nice recipes in the book (although some of them can get a bit samey – I’m looking at you, mushrooms) and we found this one we hadn’t tried before.

There’s a lot of spices and interesting flavours going on in this meal, but it upset me by requiring the use of the food processor to blitz carrot and celery (I hate anything which creates washing up!). The end result was very tasty but Mark enjoyed it more than me. Some brown rice and chapatis rounded out what turned out to be a very filling and tasty meal.

Followed by a slice of the healthy cake we made at the weekend, it’s 6 portions of fruit and veg in one sitting!

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.

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.

Eastern Spiced Meatballs with Fiery Tomato Soupy Sauce

Quite a long title for this recipe! This is the first recipe we’re trying from John Whaite’s new book, Perfect Plates in 5 Ingredients. The premise is simple – every recipe has just five ingredients. The only extras on top of that are salt, pepper, oil and butter.

I must confess, I wasn’t sure how this would work out. Five ingredients doesn’t seem like much, but then again we know Nigel Slater can produce amazing flavours from very little. So this recipe was our first test and I must say it was very well received. The other real joy about this recipe is just how easy it was.

To begin, vine tomatoes are quartered and sprinkled with a little salt. They are then roasted in a hot oven for about 15 minutes with a few red chillies. Meanwhile you make the meatballs from minced beef (which must have a reasonably high fat content), olive oil, cinnamon and allspice. These then roast in the oven as well for another 10 – 15 minutes.

Once that’s all cooked, you remove the stalks from the chillies and blitz them with the tomatoes and a little butter. Sauce done. That’s really all there is to it, and believe me this sauce is HOT! You don’t get a huge amount of sauce, but it really packs a punch and is very tasty.

Serve up the sauce with the meatballs – and we added a bit of pasta just for some extra carbohydrates. Our picture of the meal doesn’t really do it justice – it may not look pretty, but this is a super tasty meal and it looks like things bode well for this book…