Friday, 16 February 2018

Tandoori Lamb with Mint Raita and Flatbreads

This dish is a bit of a revelation. The idea is loosely based on fajitas but with an Indian twist - the lamb is marinated in curry spices, garlic, ginger and yoghurt; the veg are flavoured with chilli and lime and in place of the sour cream or guacamole, I use mint raita instead.

Aside from being delicious and feeling like a real treat, this recipe is low in calories and, with the marinating done the day before, you can have it on the table in less than 20 minutes. The lamb is juicy, the veg retain their crunch and the yoghurt provides a refreshing palate cleanser as you eat - go on, give it a go!

Tandoori Lamb with Mint Raita and Flatbreads
Serves 2

sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the lamb:
1 garlic clove, finely chopped 
thumb-sized piece ginger, peeled and finely chopped 
1 tsp garam masala 
½ tsp ground turmeric 
½ tsp ground cumin  
50g fat-free yoghurt 
1 lemon, juice and zest 
4 lamb leg steaks 

For the raita:
handful of fresh mint leaves, finely chopped
100g fat-free yoghurt 
2 small spring onions, finely chopped

For the veg:
2 red onions, sliced
1 red pepper, sliced 
1 carrots, peeled and cut into batons
1 red chilli, deseeded and finely chopped
1 lime, juice only

Make the marinade for the lamb by mixing all the ingredients in a large bowl. Season with salt and pepper and then rub well into the lamb. Cover and chill for 2 hours or overnight if you can. 

When you're ready to cook, preheat a griddle pan or frying pan over a high heat. Remove the steaks from the marinade, letting any excess drip off. Drizzle some oil into the pan and then cook the lamb steaks for around 4 minutes each side until charred on the outside and still pink in the middle.

In the meantime, for the veg, drizzle a little more oil into another pan over a medium heat. Add the onion, pepper, carrot and chilli and stir fry until softened. Squeeze in the lime juice and season well with salt and pepper.

For the raita, mix the yoghurt with the mint and spring onions then season. Once the lamb is cooked, serve with the veg, mint yoghurt and some flatbreads. 

Thursday, 15 February 2018

Healthy Chicken Piccata

The combination of lemon, garlic and chicken is age old and with good reason. Refreshing, tangy lemon, sweet, earthy garlic and the juiciest, most succulent meat you've ever had – what's not to love!?

This is a great midweek dish and it can easily be doubled or even tripled to feed a crowd. The chicken is browned first to give a good caramelised crust whilst keeping the centre nice and moist. The sauce is simple - red onion, garlic, capers and lemon all brought together with a bit of stock and reduced until thick and syrupy. The final flourish - a handful of fresh basil - really sets the dish alight and what's more, it's low it fat and calories and can be carb-free depending on what you serve with it.

Healthy Chicken Piccata
Serves 2

2 skinless chicken breasts 
olive oil 
2 heaped tbsp capers, rinsed 
1 red onion, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, finely chopped 
1 lemon, ½ zested and juiced, ½ sliced 
300ml chicken stock 
½ a bunch fresh basil, chopped
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Cut the chicken breasts through the middle lengthways, to open them out like a book. Put them between 2 pieces of clingfilm and bash them with a rolling pin to 1cm thick then season liberally on both sides. 

Heat 1 tsp oil in a frying pan over a high heat. Fry the flattened chicken breasts for 4 minutes on each side until golden and cooked through. Remove from the pan and leave to rest under foil. 

Add the capers and garlic and fry for a minute, then add the lemon juice, zest and stock. Simmer for a few minutes until the sauce thickens slightly. Add the chicken back to the pan, with the lemon slices and basil, and let the chicken warm through. Serve the chicken and sauce with couscous or cauliflower rice. 

Wednesday, 14 February 2018

Tuscan Pork Steaks

So this week my butcher had some lovely looking pork loin steaks on his counter and I simply had to buy them. To go alongside, I decided to take an Italian route - specifically taking inspiration from Tuscany - with capers, balsamic vinegar, lemon and garlic taking centre stage.

I've always thought that pork, and in particular the loin and chops, are vastly underrated here in the UK. We have sausages and bacon for breakfast every now and then and roast pork on a Sunday sometimes but never regularly and hardly ever midweek. Well that is about to change, as this recipe is not only a shining example of how easy pork is to cook but it's also full of flavour and incredibly healthy whilst not breaking the bank!

Tuscan Pork Steaks
Serves 2

3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
4 plum tomatoes, chopped
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
½ lemon, zested and juiced
1 tbsp small capers
150g spinach or kale, stalks removed and roughly chopped 
400g tin butterbeans, rinsed and drained
2 pork loin steaks
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Heat 1 tsp oil in a frying pan over a high heat, and fry 2 of the garlic cloves for a minute until fragrant. Add the tomatoes, vinegar, lemon zest and capers and stir fry for 2-3 minutes, then lower the heat and leave to simmer until most of the liquid has evaporated (about 15 minutes).

In another pan, fry the remaining garlic in 1 tsp of oil. Add the greens, butterbeans and the lemon juice to wilt the greens. Season well.

Season the pork steaks all over then place fat side down in a frying pan or griddle over a high heat. Let the fat render down and crisp up for around 3-4 minutes then cook for a futher 4 minutes or so on each side until cooked through. This will depend on the thickness of the steaks.

Taste the tomato sauce and then season accordingly. Divide the greens and beans between two plates or bowls. Top with the pork steaks and serve the tomato sauce alongside.

Tuesday, 13 February 2018

Bloody Mary Beef with Creamy Mash and Dressed Kale

Every now and then I have a weekend with pretty much nothing planned and, on the rare occasion this occurs, I love to cook something low and slow for hours on end until it's falling apart, melting in the mouth and filling the house with gorgeous aromas.

This recipe is inspired by a Jamie Oliver programme I watched about 4 years ago called Festive Feasts, in which he covered a beef brisket in large quantities of Bloody Mary and let it cook away for the best part of 6 hours. I used my own version of the classic cocktail but aside from that I followed Jamie's lead and I can honestly say the results were magnificent. The most tender beef I've ever had coated in a rich, tomato-y sauce subtly flavoured with vodka, brandy and Worcestershire sauce and served alongside creamy mashed potatoes with a hit of horseradish and simply dressed kale – what's not to love!

Bloody Mary Beef with Creamy Mash and Dressed Kale
Serves 6-8

1kg piece of beef brisket 
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper 
olive oil 
1 head of celery 
6 small red onions
a few sprigs of fresh rosemary 
2 bay leaves 

Bloody Mary mix:
700g jar of passata 
2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce 
few drops of hot sauce 
3 tbsp vodka 
1 tbsp brandy

Mash and Kale:
1.6 kg Maris Piper potatoes
50g butter
1-2 tbsp jarred grated horseradish
semi-skimmed milk
400g curly kale
extra virgin olive oil 

Preheat the oven to 130ºC/250ºF/gas ½. Place a large casserole pan over a medium heat to get hot. Season the brisket all over with salt and pepper, then add to the hot pan with a splash of olive oil and cook for about 10 minutes, or until nicely browned all over. Set aside.

Meanwhile, chop the celery into 5cm chunks, then peel and quarter the onions. Add the chopped veg to the pan, reduce the heat to low and cook gently for 5 to 10 minutes, or until slightly softened. Combine all of the Bloody Mary ingredients in a large jug, then pour into the pan with 250ml cold water and a good pinch of salt and pepper. Add the beef back to the pan and throw in the rosemary and bay leaves, then bring everything to the boil. Take the pan off the heat and cover with a a damp piece of greaseproof paper and the lid. Cook in the oven for 5 to 6 hours, or until the beef is tender and falling apart. 

When there’s about 20 minutes to go, peel and roughly chop the potatoes and cook in a pan of boiling salted water for 15 minutes, or until tender. Remove any tough stalks from the curly kale, put into a pan of boiling water for 2 minutes, or until tender, then drain, season with salt and pepper and drizzle with a little olive oil. Drain the potatoes in a colander and leave to steam dry, then return to the pan and mash well with the butter, horseradish and a splash of milk, then season to taste. Pull the beef apart with two forks, toss through the Bloody Mary sauce (discarding the herbs) and serve with the mash and kale.

Monday, 12 February 2018

Good Old-Fashioned Leek and Potato Soup

Having just got back from holiday, I was craving a bit of home comfort and leek and potato soup is one of those meals that I have enjoyed for as long as I can remember. Both my mum and grandma make exceptional versions and now I'm throwing my hat in the ring with my not-so-secret ingredient - a touch of mustard!

I like to have soup for my packed lunches at work so cooking a big batch on a weekend has become a bit of a ritual and I recommend you do the same with this as it makes eight decent portions. I always serve this simply with a good chunk of sourdough to dip in but feel free to fancy it up with a drizzle of oil, chopped chives and toasted croutons.

Good Old-Fashioned Leek and Potato Soup
Serves 8

500g leek, finely chopped
2 onions, finely chopped
600g potatoes, diced
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 litre vegetable stock
1 tsp wholegrain mustard
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Heat a good drizzle of oil in a large casserole/lidded saucepan over a medium heat. Add the leeks, onions and potatoes and plenty of salt and pepper, then cook gently, with the lid on, for 15-20 minutes. Stir every now and then to make sure the veg doesn't catch on the bottom. Add the garlic, turn up the heat and stir for a couple of minutes.

Add the stock and the mustard, bring to the boil and then lower the heat to low and simmer for 15 minutes until the veg are tender. Taste and season with salt and pepper then blitz using a hand blender or food processor. Serve straight away with a chunk of bread for dipping or leave to cool and freeze in portions for up to 3 months.

Monday, 29 January 2018

BLOG'S 5TH BIRTHDAY: Roast Chicken with Lemon, Caramelised Garlic and Thyme

Quite unbelievably my blog turns 5 years old this week. Over 30 countries reached, over 500 recipes posted and over 100,000 views later, it feels like a good time to celebrate.

If I had to choose a handful of dishes that I could not live without, a roast chicken dinner would certainly feature. Crispy chicken skin is one of God's gift to the world and when it's covering gorgeously moist flesh perfumed with the heady flavour of garlic and the fresh lightness of lemon, it simply cannot be beaten! As a Northern girl I couldn't live without gravy and when it comes to sides, roast potatoes are the king. So without further ado, happy birthday, blog, and happy cooking to all of you!

Roast Chicken with Lemon, Caramelised Garlic and Thyme
Serves 4-6

1 whole chicken, 1.5-2kg
1 lemon
10 fresh thyme sprigs
1 large onions, sliced
3 celery sticks, finely chopped
5 garlic cloves, bashed
1 tbsp oil

For the potatoes:
1kg baby new potatoes, scrubbed and halves
5 garlic cloves
handful fresh thyme sprigs, leaves picked
4 tbsp olive oil

For the gravy:
1 chicken stock cube
1 tbsp plain flour
400ml white wine

Heat the oven to its highest setting. Season the chicken inside and out then stuff it with the lemon and half the thyme. Spread the onions and celery in the bottom of a roasting tin. Scatter over the garlic and remaining herbs. Rub the chicken with the oil and season generously with salt and pepper.

Pull the legs slightly away from the body, then sit the chicken breast-side down, on top of the veg and put in the preheated oven. Immediately turn the heat down to 190C and cook for just over an hour (30 minutes per kg plus an extra 15).

While the chicken is roasting, put the potatoes on a large baking tray with the garlic and herbs, drizzle over the oil, season well and give everything a good toss. Roast in the oven with the chicken, stirring occasionally. They will be crisp and golden in about an hour.

For the most succulent meat, it's essential to rest the bird in a warm place, covered in foil, for 15 minutes while you prepare the gravy and any other side dishes. Put the tin over a medium heat. Crumble in the stock cube, whisk in the flour and leave to bubble for a dew minutes. Whisk in the wine a little at a time, letting it bubble a bit in between additions, then boil for a few more moments until the gravy is your desired thickness.

Pick out and discard the herbs and then strain into a gravy boat, pushing through all the good stuff. Carve the bird and then serve alongside the crispy potatoes, some simple vegetables and douse in gravy. Heaven!

Sunday, 28 January 2018

Glorious Chicken and Bean Casserole

There's something about a chicken stew that does wonders for the soul. The weather is truly miserable and I'm working long hours at work so my spirits were in need of a lift... and this recipe provided exactly that.

This is no ordinary casserole: there's mustard to add a punch of flavour to the sauce and there's Italian borlotti beans to give a slightly sweet taste and a smooth creamy texture. I like to eat this in a big bowl with crusty bread for dipping but it works just as well with rice or baked potatoes. In terms of mustard, I used a mix of English and wholegrain because that's what I had in the fridge but use whatever you like!

Glorious Chicken and Bean Casserole
Serves 4

4 chicken breasts, chopped into chunks and seasoned
2 onions, chopped
3 celery sticks, finely chopped
3 carrots, chopped
2 tsp mustard
500ml chicken or veg stock
240g (drained weight) borlotti beans
200g baby spinach

Heat around 2 tsp of oil in a casserole pot over a medium-high heat. Add the chicken and cook for around 5 minutes or until browned all over. Transfer to a plate.

Add a little more oil to the pan if it needs it and then fry the chopped onion, reducing the heat to medium-low. Season with salt and pepper, stir and then cover, allowing to soften for 5 minutes. Add the celery and carrot to the pan, turn the heat back up to medium-high and stir fry until starting to soften.

Return the chicken to the pan and add the mustard and stock. Bring to the boil then reduce the heat to low. Cover and simmer for 20 minutes.

Add the beans and simmer for a further 8-10 minutes. Stir in the spinach until just wilted and then season to taste. Serve either on its own with bread for dunking or alongside baked potatoes.