CHICKEN, CHORIZO & MOZZARELLA BAKE with sweet tomatoes, spinach & pine nuts

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I recently discovered a love for dates and eat them like sweeties with my coffee but I’ve also started sneaking them into sauces. When you chop them up finely & let them simmer away in sauces they lend a mellow sweet flavour. I think they pair great with tomatoes as in many Tagine recipes but they work in this pasta sauce too.

Serves 4

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 red onion
  • 500g cherry tomatoes
  • olive oil
  • 5 dates destoned & finely chopped
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 0.5 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 chicken breast, diced into chunks
  • 190 g chorizo
  • big handful of spinach leaves
  • 75g mozzarella
  • 350g fusilli or other small pasta
  • 2 tbsp lightly toasted pine nuts (optional)
  • sea salt & freshly ground black pepper

METHOD

  1. Preheat the oven to 180c.
  2. Heat a pot of boiling water for the pasta.
  3. In a large saucepan with a lid, fry the chicken and chorizo together on a medium heat until lightly browned and chicken is no longer pink in the middle. Then tip the chicken & chorizo into a bowl and set aside.
  4. In the same pan with the juices, saute the sliced onion on a medium heat with a sprinkle of sea salt for a couple of minutes until slightly softened. Add the cherry tomatoes, finely chopped dates, cumin, cinnamon and 100ml of water. Simmer on a low heat with the lid on for 15 minutes until the tomatoes release their juices and a chunky sauce is formed.
  5. Meanwhile put the pasta into the boiling water to cook.
  6. Tip the chicken and chorizo into the tomato sauce and top with the spinach. Put the lid on and simmer until the spinach has wilted. Add a splash more water to the sauce if necessary and season to taste.
  7. Tip the cooked and drained pasta into a baking dish. Top with the chicken and chorizo sauce and tear over the mozzarella. Bake in the oven for 5-10 minutes until the mozzarella has melted.
  8. Sprinkle over the pine nuts if using and serve. Enjoy!

FAST FAJITA TURKEY WITH ORANGE CHILLI MARINADE & ZESTY GUACAMOLE

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If I could eat Mexican food every night I would. This healthy low carb combination combines some of my favourite flavours- orange, chilli, cumin and lime. Brightens up a frosty November night.

Serves 2-3

INGREDIENTS:

  • 300g Turkey Breast steaks, sliced into strips
  • 2 red bell peppers
  • 1 large red onion
  • 1 heaped tsp chilli powder
  • 1 heaped tsp cumin
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp coconut aminos, tamari or soy sauce
  • finely grated zest of 3/4 of an orange and the juice from the whole orange
  • 1 avocado
  • 1 lime
  • Fresh coriander
  • Salt  & freshly ground black Pepper
  • Optional Microwavable Mexican Rice & salad

METHOD

  1. Combine the olive oil, chilli powder, cumin, coconut aminos, orange zest, orange juice and a sprinkle of salt & pepper in a bowl and add the turkey strips to marinade for at least 15 mins.
  2. Slice the peppers into strips and finely slice the onion. Season with salt & pepper. Fry for a couple of minutes until slightly softened.
  3. Add the turkey strips to the pan with all the marinade. Stir Fry for 4-5 minutes until turkey is no longer pink.
  4. De-stone the avocado and scoop the flesh into a bowl. Grate in the zest of a lime and a little finely chopped coriander. Squeeze in the juice of half the lime and season with salt and pepper.
  5. Serve the Fajita Turkey with the Zesty Guacamole on the side, some microwavable Mexican rice and salad.
  6. Enjoy!

SPAGHETTI WITH PORK AND BEET RAGU

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Essex boy says he hates beetroot and would never eat it but I’ve sneaked it into loads of recipes and he’s none the wiser. This is one example. The beetroot gives this sauce amazing rich red colour. I knew it was going to be a winner and he said it was the tastiest spag bol he’s ever had. Please give this a try, especially at Halloween. It looks bloody gory and tasty!

Serves 4

INGREDIENTS:

  • 2 onions (2 small or 1 large)
  • 300g cooked beetroot
  • 375g pork mince
  • 0.75 tbsp smoked paprika
  • a pinch of chilli flakes
  • 500g Onion and Garlic bolognese sauce
  • 150-200ml water
  • 1 chicken stock pot
  • 350g spaghetti
  • small bunch parsley
  • 60g cheddar, grated
  • grated parmesan to taste

METHOD

  1. Put salted water in a large pot to boil for the spaghetti.
  2. Halve and thinly slice the onion.
  3. Coarsley grate the beetroot.
  4. Heat a tbsp of oil in a large frying pan on high heat. Put the diced onion and mince into the pan, season with salt and pepper and cook until mince is browned and onion is slightly softened.
  5. Add the smoked paprika, chilli flakes and stir for 1 minute. Stir in the grated beetroot, bolognese sauce, water and chicken stock pot. Simmer gently until sauce has thickened (about 10 minutes).
  6. Meanwhile cook the spaghetti.
  7. Roughly chop the parsley.
  8. Once the ragu has thickened, stir in half the parsley and season with salt and pepper to taste. Add the cooked spaghetti to the sauce in a large oven proof dish and toss together. Sprinkle over the grated cheddar, some parmesan and the rest of the chopped parsley.
  9. Pop under a hot grill for a couple of minutes until the cheese and melted and bubbling.
  10. Enjoy!dsc00014.jpg

CRISPY TOPPED CHILLI WITH GUACAMOLE & LIME CREAM

I do like rice with my chilli but this makes a nice change. Plus its easy to make. When they wolf it down like gannets you know its a hit.

Serves 4

INGREDIENTS:

  • 7-8 medium sized potatoes
  • 1 onion
  • 1 red pepper
  • 360g beef mince (or substitute with Quorn or soya mince)
  • 1 carrot
  • 1 tbsp mild chilli powder
  • 1 tin chopped tomatoes
  • 1 beef stock melt
  • small bunch coriander
  • 1 avocado
  • 1 lime
  • 50g cheddar, grated
  • 150ml creme fraiche or sour cream
  • (Optional) small cube of dark chocolate

METHOD

  1. Preheat the oven to 200C (180C fan)
  2. Chop the potatoes into 2cm cubes, pop on a baking tray and drizzle with olive oil, salt and pepper. Spread out a roast on top shelf of the oven until crispy, about 30 mins.
  3. Meanwhile dice the onion and red pepper.
  4. Add a splash of oil to a frying pan and brown the mince. Season with a little salt and pepper. Add the red pepper and onion and cook until veg is softened.
  5. Grate the carrot and stir into the pan with the other veg.
  6. Stir in the chilli powder and cook for 1 minute. Pour in the chopped tomatoes, 50 ml of water, beef stock pot and dark chocolate (if using). Bring to the boil then reduce to a low simmer for about 15 minutes.
  7. Put the creme fraiche into a bowl and grate the zest of the lime into it. Add salt and pepper to taste. This your lime cream.
  8. Finely chop the coriander. Halve the avocado, remove the stone, scoop the insides into a bowl and mash with half the coriander. Halve the lime and add the juice from one half to the lime. Season to taste with salt and pepper. This is your guacamole.
  9. Spoon the chilli into an ovenproof dish and top with the roasted crispy potato. Sprinkle the grated cheddar on top. Pop into the oven for 10 minutes until the cheese has melted.
  10. Once golden, serve on plates with a dollop of guacamole and lime cream. I like to serve it with broccoli drizzled with the lime cream.
  11. Enjoy!dsc02494.jpg

GNOCCHI WITH TALEGGIO & SAGE (easy & wee bit fancy)

Please DO NOT be put off by the pong of the Taleggio. When used sparingly it mellows into a gorgeous flavour that’s not overpowering. Together with the sage it reminds me of an amazing pasta sauce I had in Lake Como (back in the early days with Essex boy; pre-kids & eye bags).

Serves 4

INGREDIENTS:

  • 500g gnocchi
  • 50g butter
  • 50g plain flour
  • 500ml milk
  • 400ml chicken or vegetable stock
  • 60g mature cheddar
  • 40g Taleggio
  • Bunch of sage (chop some of it finely for the sauce) leave the rest whole leaves for the topping

METHOD

  1. Preheat the oven to 200C (180C fan)
  2. Melt 50g butter in a non stick saucepan on a medium heat and whisk in the flour. Cook, stirring, for about 3 minutes, then gradually whisk in the milk until you get a smooth sauce. Cook, while stirring, for a couple of minutes, then gradually whisk in the milk until you get a smooth sauce. Add the stock gradually until the sauce is your desired consistency.
  3. Remove saucepan from the heat, stir in the cheddar, Taleggio and about a tablespoon of finely chopped sage. Season with black pepper to taste. Stir the gnocchi through the sauce.
  4. Put the gnocchi and cheese sauce into a baking dish. Rub some whole sage leaves with olive oil and scatter on the top. Sprinkle a little cheddar too.
  5. Bake for 20 minutes.
  6. Delicious with garlic bread and a salad.

SHARP CHEDDAR MUFFINS WITH BLACKBERRY & BLACK PEPPER MIDDLES

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Well the English summer has well and truly passed. So on this rainy October Sunday I needed something savoury and sweet to go with a fine cup of tea. These were quick & easy to make and hit the spot.

Makes 12 large muffins

INGREDIENTS:

  • 230g self raising flour
  • 120g porridge oats (preferably Scottish :))
  • 4 tsp baking powder
  • 2 tsp paprika
  • 80g extra mature cheddar cheese, grated
  • 4 tbsp oil
  • 2 eggs
  • 400 ml milk
  • Blackberry jam
  • 1.5 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • Sea Salt
  • black pepper

METHOD

  1. Preheat the oven to 200C (180C fan)
  2. Lightly grease a non stick muffin tray with butter or oil
  3. Sift the flour into a bowl and add the other dry ingredients
  4. Beat the oil, egg and milk together, add 60 grams of the grated cheddar and mix into the dry ingredients until combined (do not over mix or muffins will be dense).
  5. Pour mix straight into the muffin holes.
  6. Bake for 10 or 12 minutes until risen, firm and pale golden.
  7. Meanwhile in a small bowl mix together the jam, balsamic vinegar, sea salt and a generous amount of cracked black pepper to taste.
  8. Remove muffins from the oven and use the handle of a teaspoon to make a large hole in the top of each muffin. Put a teaspoon of the jam mix into each hole and top with a pinch of the remaining grated cheese. (Pics of these steps below)

    9. Pop back in the oven for about 3-5 minutes longer until the scones are golden and cheese has melted.

BANANA PANCAKES WITH CHOCOLATE BURST

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I’m half American and miss breakfast at Ihop or Perkins more than anything. Waffle House too.  Oh with sausage patties, hashbrowns, the works.  Why Ihop haven’t franchised in the UK I have no idea. Anyway to satisfy my craving I’ve experimented with probably a hundred ‘fluffy American pancakes’ recipes over the years. I’ve used buttermilk, whisked egg whites etc but THIS batter is my favourite so far. I prefer them plain with maple syrup but my chocoholic piggies ask for the surprise middle. Kind of like Pain Au Chocolat but pancakes, obviously.

Serves 4

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1.5 level cups of plain flour (192g)
  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • 2.5 tsp baking powder
  • 0.5 tsp salt
  • 1 overripe banana
  • 1 cup (250ml) plus 2 tbsp milk
  • 2 large eggs
  • 0.5 tsp vanilla extract
  • 3 tablespoons melted butter
  • Chocolate spread (I like Biona as it’s palm oil free)

METHOD

  1. Whisk the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt in a large bowl.
  2. In another bowl, mash the banana, whisk in the eggs, milk and vanilla until well blended.
  3. Pour banana mixture and the melted butter into flour mixture.
  4. Fold gently until just combined. Do not overmix. Some lumps are ok. Let stand for 5 mins.
  5. Heat a frying pan on low-medium heat. Grease with cooking spray or a little melted butter and pour about 1/4 cup of batter into the pan. Dollop 1 tsp of chocolate spread in the middle of the batter and seal it with another tsp of batter.
  6. Once bubbles have formed on the surface of the pancake and the edges look a little dry, flip over.
  7. Cook until the other side of the pancake is lightly brown and transfer to a warmed serving plate. Repeat, covering the plate with foil each time you cook a new pancake to keep them warm.

This morning I fancied making mine with chocolate AND peanut butter as per my pic below. It was delicious.

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