Category Archives: chicken

Spanish Rice: 1000 Calorie Counted Recipes Challenge

This part of my 1000 Calorie Counted Recipes Challenge, where I’m aiming to cook every recipe from The 1000 Calorie Counted Recipes by Carolyn Humphries. It’s an amazing book… but there are no pictures!

1000-calorie-spanish-rice-whole


Spanish Rice | 450 calories per serving | Serves 4


Ingredients

  • 175g roast chicken, shredded
  • lemon juice
  • 1 green pepper, diced
  • 1 red pepper, diced
  • 1 red onion, diced
  • 225 g rice (I used Basmati)
  • 600ml vegetable stock
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 100g frozen peas
  • 10-12 cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 3 spring onions, sliced
  • salt and pepper
  • chives to garnish

How to Make Spanish Rice

  1. Shred the roast chicken, squeeze over lemon juice and set to the side.
  2. Spray a little oil into a large frying pan (one that has a lid) and gently cook the green pepper, red pepper and red onion until slightly softened, which should take 5 minutes or so over a gentle heat.
  3. Tip the rice into the pan and stir around for a minute.
  4. Add the vegetable stock and turmeric.
  5. Bring to the boil, then cover and simmer for 10 minutes.
  6. Add the chicken, frozen peas, cherry tomatoes and spring onions. Season to taste.
  7. Put the lid back on and cook for a further 10 minutes, or until the rice is thoroughly cooked through.
  8. Garnish with chives or other herb of your choice (the book recommends parsely, but I despise it).

The Verdict

Flavour: 2 – could have done with chilli
(1= flavourless, 5= delicious)

Satisfaction: 3 – plenty of it, but needed more flavour
(1= unsatisfying, 5= satisfying considering low cal!)

Ease of Preparation: 5
(1= difficult, 5= easy)

Aftermath Factor: 5
(1= tons of washing up, 5= one pot wonder)

I felt like this recipe was tasty, well-textured and filling. I would definitely cook it again and the principles of a one-pot veggie and rice dish is one I’ll look to adapt in future for quick, flavoursome, healthy meals.

The original recipe only calls for boneless chicken meat – I used leftover garlicky, herby roast chicken and added extra lemon juice to moisten it up. The fact it was previously roasted probably added a few calories, but I feel it also added some crucial flavour and proved to be quite frugal! A bit of chilli or cayenne pepper would have given this dish a kick, which I think it could have done with.

This recipe says that it serves 4, so we only ate half of it and will be freezing the remainder in portions to take with us to work for lunches. Win!

1000-calorie-book-spanish-rice-portion


This part of my 1000 Calorie Counted Recipes Challenge <- click the link if you want to find out what it’s all about and see the recipes I’ve already tried. Please note that I tinker with recipe ingredients and meander from the method – the recipe above will deviate slightly from the original book and the method is just the way I happened to cook it this time!

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Roast Chicken Dinner

roast dinner

The roast dinner is the cornerstone of great British cooking, and the roast chicken the foundation of so many dishes. Considering this, maybe it seems a bit strange that I’ve not blogged about it yet. Or is it really so strange? I’ve been reluctant to blog about it. Everyone has their own idea of what a perfect roast is, and really anything slightly different from that is just not good enough. I don’t mean just in terms of when things go clearly awry (dad, I’m thinking of those Yorkshire flops I made last week!) but also when a vegetable you love is missing, or prepared differently. Wondering if the dinner would be better still with your favourite Parmesan parsnips can sour an otherwise lovely meal. Think of all the pressure that’s put on Christmas dinner – and how it ought to be perfect. Smugsters point out that a Christmas dinner should be fairly easy as it’s just a roast dinner with extras. True. But they’re probably the same lot who don’t recognise all the expectation that goes into a weekly roast dinner. When anyone presents a roast dinner it is instantly open to judgement: the roast is subject to examination and scrutiny unlike any other meal. This is why I’ve been shy in showing you a roast dinner.

I’m happy to show this, not because I think it’s perfect (the gravy certainly wasn’t) but because it’s about bloomin‘ time and I admit that I was fairly pleased with this one. I present this as a version, not even my own definitive version, and as a record of how it worked today – because I did a few things differently and they seemed to lift my roast to a better level than before. So, blow by blow, here is my roast:

First, the chicken. I started the chicken much earlier than I wanted the roast. This leaves time to make the gravy, and vitally lets the chicken rest so it can be carved with ease. As I used a small chicken, I put half a lemon, two cloves of pink garlic (it’s very strong but I would ordinarily use a bit more), three sprigs of thyme and some sage leaves into the chicken cavity. I chopped an onion in half and sat it in the same pan as the chicken. I cook the chicken at about 190, and I keep it covered for 2/3 of the cooking time and uncover it for the last 1/3 of cooking. I baste about three times in total. Now, I never really do cooking times, but I always just if a chicken is cooked by yanking on the leg. If there is ‘give’ in the leg and it doesn’t resist yanking on it, and deep down in the thick of the carcass the meat isn’t pink, then it’s cooked. This is usually about an hour and a half for a small chicken. Now, I ran out of kitchen foil, so without wanting to leave it uncovered I used greaseproof paper. This was a revelation. The chicken didn’t steam during the covered cooking time, but there was still plenty of juice. I’m definitely going to use greaseproof in future! Plus, when it comes to carving it holds the juices well (I’m clumsy and often stab the foil and end up with juices dripping on my feet).

At this stage I start on the potatoes. The first step is to peel and cut them. I use Nigella Lawson’s method of cutting on the diagonal, so that each well-sized potato makes three roasties. I then par-boil the potatoes, until a knife goes in without much prodding. The potato should need a little shake to get it off the knife (rather than falling off under it’s own steam which tends to make them a bit over-cooked and liable to disintegrate in the oven). I strain the potatoes and then run cold water over them and then shake them up to get future crispy bits. I don’t know why I run cold water over them, but that’s my hocuspocus part of roast potato cooking (and you’ll find everyone has their own – covering in semolina, using hot hot fat etc).

I then made the gravy by removing the chicken and onion (I wrapped the chicken in greaseproof and left on the side and threw the onion in a stock pot), putting the pan on the hob and stirring like mad – getting all the crispy bits off the pan. I then added some salt and pepper. I added cornflour (always mix it with water first in a small bowl and add gradually so that it doesn’t make the gravy lumpy or too thick!) Now, I could and probably should have strained it as there were some oniony bits floating around. But c’est la vie. I poured the gravy in a jug and left – you can scoop off some extra fat when it’s cool and it’s easy enough to heat in the microwave at the last minute.

Later, once the chicken was cool, I carved it. To carve the chicken the first step has already been achieved: a well-cooked chicken that has cooled. Your hands are the key to this, and a bird that’s too-hot-to-handle is a nightmare. First, the legs and wings come off (they should come off easily with a tug if the chicken is cooked properly) and then gently ease the meat away from the bones and set aside. The breasts will come off easily too. BUT, the first thing I do is to run a knife down either side of the cartilage at the centre of the bird. I then get to its neck end and find the wishbone and pull this out. Now, it’s a matter of gently separating the breast and under-breast from the carcass. DO it slowly and you’ll leave less waste on the carcass. You then end up with white meat and brown meat separately and very little wastage.

I slice both breasts and tear up the brown meat. We use one breast for a roast dinner, and the rest of the breast for weekday sandwiches. A little brown meat makes it to the roast plate but most goes to a chicken pie or other chicken-leftover meal.

You remember I said that cold water was my superstitious way of cooking roast potatoes? Well I clearly overlooked the fact that I will only cook roast potatoes in a glass/pyrex dish. My reasoning behind this is that a bad metal pan is the enemy of crunch – metal holds on to the crispy bits and strips them from your roast potatoes (same rule applies for wedges). So I always use pyrex.

Today I used half sunflower oil, half garlicky olive oil to cook the potatoes. The garlicky olive oil is just olive oil I put garlic in and left to infuse… nothing fancy! Sometimes I put some shallots in to roast with the potatoes, sometimes I put whole cloves in. I have come to decide that they detract from the potato cooking so I think I’ll stick to garlicky oil from now on.

I don’t baste the potatoes, but rather turn them so that each side gets an equal crunch. As the success of a roast dinner often hinges on the potato, when I see this:

I see a 20-minute time to extraction, and know it is time to put the other veg on. When the roast potato is cooked completely, it should look like this:

Well, it would be great if that ALL looked like that, wouldn’t it? That was the best of its batch, but it was a fine bunch. When I see the potato above, I set them out on kitchen roll to drain and I zap the gravy in the microwave for a final time. By this time my chosen veg should be cooked. (I try to limit veg, as otherwise I find myself eating vegetables just to see the wood for the trees! It’s easy to add peas as well, oh and broccoli!, and parsnips of course, and cauliflower… and you end up overwhelmed)

One vegetable portion that is a firm favourite is the leek. More specifically, when it comes as leek sauce, also known as creamed leeks. I cook the leek sauce in industrial batches and freeze, partly because it’s a total faff to make it as and when desired, but also to make the most of leeks when they are cheap. I think I made this batch when they were on St David’s day special offer.

To make leek sauce, I slice the leeks as finely as I can bear to (the finer the better really) and then sweat them with a little salt and butter. Keeping a keen eye on them is key, because one bit of burnt leek and, to me, it spoils their taste. When they go glossy, tip them out onto a plate. Make a white sauce as you would, and once that has cooked through and thickened, turn off the heat, stir in the leeks and add a little white pepper to taste. I always cook this in the morning of a roast if I cook from scratch, to allow the leek flavour to permeate the sauce. Cooking it ahead is by far the easiest way of ensuring lots of lovely leeky sauce:

As you can see from the picture at the top, I also cooked carrot and cabbage for our roast. The carrots I just scrubbed and cooked whole, and the cabbage I cooked by pouring boiling water over, letting it come to the boil on the hob and then immediately turning it off. This way, the cabbage doesn’t seem to over cook.

Finally, I put the carcass along with the onion it was roasted with, the garlic (but not the lemon), some pepper corns, a bay leaf, a carrot and some celery into a pot which will be boiled for stock. I had some bacon (the fatty parts that we cut off when having bacon for breakfast) and threw that in for good measure too.

So….

How do you do yours?

The chicken that keeps on giving


A classic way of being frugal – I wrote a poem at primary school that went along the lines of ‘I hate Mondays/Let me tell you why/I have to wash the dishes/after eating chicken pie/Again’. So my mum was up to the trick of making a chicken last seemingly forever. So last week I did the same:

  • SUNDAY I roasted the chicken, with a whole head of garlic a lemon and some sprigs of thyme. We had one of the breasts for our roastie dinner – it’s easy to eat more for no reason when you’ve got all those trimmings to fill you up!

I then covered the chicken in cling film and let it go cold so I could dismantle it properly.

  • Sandwiches for the week were made from the other breast, thinly sliced.
  • Chicken Pie (enough for two meals – frozen after the first meal) was made from the ‘under breast’ (I don’t know what it’s real name is!) and some of the thinner bits of leg to make the filling. I used the left over gravy and a leek to make the filling, and it was surprisingly good.
  • Carbonara sauce for pasta was made with the final scrappy ends of the breast, to which I added some mushrooms and sliced bacon. Just enough to keep it interesting. (I had leftovers for lunch)
  • Chicken Stir-fry was a bit of an experiment, and it worked! We had been to Yo Sushi before christmas I noticed they used what appeared to be already cooked chicken thigh in one of their salads. To replicate it at home, I broke the legs up into fairly hefty chunks, put them in a bowl with a fair swig of: soy sauce, sesame oil, a large grating of ginger, lime juice, some rice vinegar and a dash or mirin. I left them to marinate overnight and sat them on top of stir-fried vegetable and noodles the next evening – very tasty!

All in all, not a bad outcome! The little hearts on the chicken pie are inspired by another of my mum’s tricks – using a little quirk to make the food more interesting. She always drew little faces in pencil onto boiled eggs 🙂

Thai Green Pea Green Curry

After a week of picnics, barbeques and celebratory dinners we were 1) very full and 2) left with only a packet of pea shoots in the fridge. It was 8:30 pm by the time we realised we were hungry, and on a Sunday there’s not a lot you can do to remedy the situation. What with Glastonbury coming up, we predicted being sick with take away very shortly so we really wanted something homemade. I posted about our trip to Thailand in the afternoon and after a quick look in the kitchen I realised I could make up the basic curry (had all the ingredients in – as an easy storecupboard meal) and add pea shoots and frozen peas and frozen soya beans.

I couldn’t be bothered with rice, so we used noodles. This worked remarkably well and we were fed by 9pm. Woop!

Chicken Rogan Josh

Sometimes only a curry will do, and takeaways have a lovely mouth feel but sometimes only one ‘note’. Beneath the heat of this curry, you can taste the mildness of the yoghurt, the lemon and the coriander.

I think a rogan josh is traditionally a lamb curry, but we have plans on a lamb curry another day so this time we plumped for chicken. I’ve never followed a recipe for curry before as I usually just bung things together and see how it goes, but I wanted to try a recipe from my “One Pot” book and did so, inspired by Ruth’s “Bookmarked Recipes” event.

Ingredients – makes enough for two large portions

  • 150 ml natural yoghurt
  • juice of one lemon
  • 2.5 cm piece of ginger, minced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • salt
  • 2 chicken breasts (though I usually use chicken thighs)
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 4 cardamom pods
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 1 red chilli, deseeded and sliced (this wasn’t hot enough for me, so I added some flaked dried chillis later, next time I’ll use two or more chillis)
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1 handful of coriander, chopped
  • 1 can chopped tomatoes
  • 2 tablespoons tomato puree
  • water to slacken, if needed

How to Make it

Chop up the chicken breast and marinade in the yoghurt, garlic, ginger and lemon. Get it in the fridge in the morning for best results.

Heat the oil in a large frying/saute pan and throw in the cardamom pods to cook for a couple of minutes. Add the onion, chilli, and cumin and cook for 5 minutes or till the onion is slightly softened. Add the tomatoes, tomato puree and coriander. Allow this mixture to cook down over a simmer for half an hour or so, it should be fairly stiff. Add the chicken in its marinade, which immediately slackens the mixture. Cook with a lid on for about 10-15 minutes, or until the chicken is cooked through. Season with salt as necessary, and add a dash of water if the sauce is too thick for your liking, and it’s ready.

I felt this curry could have done with more garlic, so I will be using far more cloves next time – cooked with onion as well as in the marinade.

For that authentic curryhouse feel, cobra beer went along with curry dishes from the local pound shop (which is in the city’s curryhouse central) as we waited for the rice to go ‘ping’

Chicken and Ginger Gyoza


A friend lent me their wagamama cookbook and though the gyoza appealed, I thought the likelihood of me getting my hands on gyoza skins was so small I didn’t note the recipe. When I went to the asian superstore, however, I found some in the freezer section. So I looked around the net, improvised and guessed the filling.

I made the above gyoza for a buffet (I made over 40 in total!!) and I fried them to appeal to the masses. You can just as easily steam them or part-fry, part steam them by adding some water in a wok. Although they’re called gyoza (sometimes Beijing dumplings I’ve read) we seem to have got into the habit of calling them potstickers as we usually have them in the more healthy steamed way.

I love the flavour of these, and I get to use my swish Cuisinart mini food processor (Christmas present) to zap the chicken.

The following recipe makes about 20 -25 depending on how much you stuff them.

Ingredients

  • 1 chicken breast – blitzed
  • 1/2 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 tablespoon rice wine
  • 1/2 teaspoon sesame oil
  • white pepper to taste
  • 1/4 onion very finely sliced
  • 1 cup of finely sliced cabbage (any works, but chinese cabbage is best)
  • 2 tablespoons beansprouts, sliced in thirds
  • 1 cm of minced ginger
  • 1 clove minced garlic

How to Make It

It’s a case of whizzing the chicken to a pulp, then mixing all the above ingredients together. And it should end up looking like this:


You then put about a teaspoon or so of filling into the centre of each gyoza, wet all round the edges and press round. Apparently very experienced people can do this with one hand. It took me some time… TOP TIP: use an enormous plate to put them on and cover it with cling film (I learnt after the picture below) or they tend to stick to things, including each other.


You then cook in the desired fashion. Fry until they go golden brown, steam through (may take about 10 minutes? Check by cutting one open), or fry initially in a wok then add water and cover for 10 minutes or so. There is such a small amount of chicken in each that these short cooking times cause no worry.

I’ve tried various dipping sauces, many turning out overwhelmingly strong. A lovely dipping sauce to go with the gyoza is:

Dipping Sauce

  • 3 tablespoons light soy
  • 1 tablespoon sweet chilli sauce
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon ginger minced

Leave in a fridge for the flavours to mingle beforehand.

These disappear instantly when offered around, so make plenty! If you have any insights about gyoza, please let me know, I’d love to try variations on this.