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Sautéed Chicken with Tarragon Sauce and Skinny Fr...

Sauteed Chicken with Tarragon Sauce and Skinny Fries

 

I usually work on Saturday but fortunately I don’t start until the afternoon. That means I have just enough time to watch Saturday Morning Kitchen and the lovely James Martin. A few weeks ago he prepared this dish. Instantly I knew what we would be having for dinner that night. In fact we love this so much we have had it every week since. It is warm and comforting – perfect for these cold, blustery winter nights. It also has a few of my favourite ingredients in it: Mushrooms, Chicken, Cream, and Tarragon! What’s not to like?

It’s probably for the best that we are not in possession of a deep fat fryer. The combination of my desire to attempt to deep fry every chocolate bar known to mankind and my accident-proneness make the idea of owning such a device more than a little scary. Using oven chips makes this an even easier, but no less tasty, dish to prepare.

In fact this is exactly what I am making for dinner tonight – my mouth is already watering! Oh, while watching the show the addition of the egg yolks was explained as adding richness to the dish and helping to slightly thicken the sauce. In fact the sauce is so good I guarantee you’ll be tempted to lick the plate!

Sautéed Chicken with Tarragon Sauce and Skinny Fries courtesy of James Martin and the BBC Food website

Ingredients

For the chicken

1 Tbsp vegetable oil (I used olive oil)

50g butter

4 chicken breasts, boneless and skinless, cut into chunks

2 shallots, finely sliced

125g pearl or baby onions

125g baby button mushrooms (I used chestnut mushrooms which I cut into thirds)

200ml white wine (plus an extra glass to drink while cooking 🙂 )

300ml chicken stock

150ml double cream

2 free-range egg yolks

salt and freshly ground black pepper

4 tsp fresh tarragon finely chopped (I used dried tarragon and kept the measurements about the same – but taste as you add it as it does have a strong flavour)

 

For the Fries

4 large chipping potatoes, peeled and cut into fine chips

vegetable oil, for deep frying

sea salt to taste

OR

you can used oven ready chips and just pop them in the oven and cook according to package directions

 

Directions

For the chicken: heat a frying pan until medium-hot. Add the oil, half the butter and the chicken and fry until golden-brown and nearly cooked through (approx 3-4 minutes)

Remove the chicken from the pan and set aside. Add the shallots to the pan and gently fry for 2-3 minutes until translucent

Increase the heat and add the remaining butter, pearl/baby onions and mushrooms. Cook for 2-3 minutes until golden-brown

Add the white wine and cook until reduced in volume by half, then add the chicken stock and bring to the boil

Cook for a couple of minutes, then add the chicken and return to the boil

Cook for 2 more minutes or until the chicken is cooked through

In a bowl, whisk the cream and egg yolks together. Add to the pan and stir through. Remove from the heat and season to taste with salt and freshly ground black pepper

Finally, stir the tarragon through the sauce and keep warm until ready to serve

 

For the skinny fries:

Heat a deep fat fryer to 180C / 350F (Caution: hot oil can be dangerous. Don’t leave unattended)

Add the chips amd fry for 4-5 minutes until golden-brown and cooked through

Drain on kitchen paper then sprinkle with sea salt

 

To serve: spoon the chicken onto the plate then pile the fries alongside

Enjoy!

 

Polenta with Peas, Pancetta and Parmesan...

This is a tough time of year. Here in the UK we have a tiresome combination of cold, dark, blustery and wet. Despite a real passion for cooking the seasonal blues take hold and drain my motivation, especially when it comes to midweek meals.

This recipe from Rachel Ray via the Food Network provides the perfect solution. It’s easy to make, absolutely delicious and ticks all the comfort food boxes. As a one-pot meal it also saves on the washing up – BONUS!

Give it a try. You won’t be disappointed.

Polenta with Peas, Pancetta and Parmesan

Ingredients

1 Tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

2-3 slices of pancetta cut as thick as bacon, chopped (I have successfully used the following: thin pancetta, thick smoked back bacon and leftover roast honey-glazed gammon)

1 1/2 cups chicken stock

3/4 cup milk

3/4 cup quick cooking polenta

salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 cup frozen peas (thawed)

a couple handfuls of grated Parmesan / Parmigiano-Reggiano (I used Grana Padano)

 

Directions

Heat the oil in a saucepan over medium-high heat

Add pancetta and cook until crisp (about 5-minutes) then remove to a plate

Add the chicken stock and milk to the sauce pan and bring to a boil

Whisk polenta into the liquid and continue to whisk for 2-3 minutes to thicken

Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper

Stir through peas to heat through (about 1-2 minutes)

Remove from heat

Stir in cheese and adjust seasoning

Garnish with pancetta

 

Optional: garnish with a few slivers of the cheese as well (I have also started adding a knob of butter at the same time I add the cheese. For me it adds richness and makes it even creamier)

Enjoy!

Sausage Hotpot With Sweet Potato Mash...

 

Sausage Hot Pot

It has been cold, dark and drizzly here in the UK (no surprises there really!). This type of weather always makes me crave good old fashioned comfort food. Mashed potatoes had been on my mind for sometime and there was a pack of sausages in the fridge. Bangers and Mash – classic comfort food! Somehow though, it just didn’t seem right. I was in the mood for something a little bit different.

Not being sure what to make I decided to visit one of my favourite recipe websites. The BBC GoodFood website is full of great recipes and ideas. It never fails to inspire my cooking and give me direction in the kitchen.

Their recipe for Frying-Pan Sausage Hot Pot is on my favourites list. It really is an easy recipe to make and it tastes delicious. I decided to use this recipe as a base for my own sausage hotpot which would help use up some of the vegetables beginning to languish in my fridge. It also gave me an excuse to make sweet potato mash which is always a treat.

This is a great recipe to play around with so get in the kitchen and have some fun!

Luna Raye’s Sausage Hotpot with Sweet Potato Mash

Ingredients

• Drizzle of Olive Oil

• Drizzle of maple syrup OR a teaspoon of soft brown sugar to help caramelize the onions

• 2 small red onions thinly sliced

• 6 plump good-quality sausages (I used English pork and caramelized onion sausages) You can keep the sausages whole but I prefer to cut them into thirds.

• 1/3 of a glass of good red wine

• 175ml vegetable stock (My favourite is Marigold Swiss Vegetable Bouillon Powder)

• 4-6 broccoli spears chopped into halves

• 1 large carrot chopped

• 1 can of cannellini beans

 

For the sweet potato mash

(I like to use a mixture of sweet potatoes and white potatoes for this mash – I find it has a nicer texture)

• 4 small russet potatoes

• 3 large sweet potatoes

• 2 cloves of garlic minced

• Knob of butter (approx ½ Tablespoon)

• Freshly chopped parsley (about 4 Tablespoons)

• Season with salt and lots of freshly ground black pepper.

 

Directions

1. Heat the olive oil in the pan and add the sliced red onions. Add a pinch of salt and either a drizzle of maple syrup OR a teaspoon of soft brown sugar

2. Cook over a medium heat until the onions are nice and soft. Once soft remove them from the pan and set aside

3. Get your sweet potatoes and russet potatoes on the boil so they will be ready when the hotpot is under the grill

4. Place the pan back on the heat and start cooking the sausages. It’s up to you if you want to keep them whole or cut them into pieces. Just make sure they are thoroughly cooked. Usually 8 – 10 minutes is enough

5. Prepare your grill and turn it to medium / high

6. Add the following to the pan with the cooked sausages:

• red wine

• vegetable stock

• caramelized red onions

• chopped carrot

• broccoli

• drained and rinsed cannellini beans

7. Gently stir and allow the mixture to bubble away for about 5 minutes or until the sauce begins to thicken

8. Remove from the hob and place under the grill

9. Check to make sure your potatoes are done. Drain and place back to the pot with a knob of butter and the minced garlic

10. Mash until smooth. Add salt, lots of freshly ground black pepper and the freshly chopped parsley. Stir everything in well to make sure the mash is seasoned throughout

11. Remove the frying pan from under the grill. The carrots and broccoli should be softened and not overdone

12. Spoon the sweet potato mash onto plates and serve up the bubbling hotpot!

Enjoy!

The Sunday Roast: Not Just for Sundays...

There is nothing quite like a home made roast dinner, especially when the nights are drawing in and the weather has turned damp and cold. They remind me of cosy Sundays spent with my family watching All Creatures Great And Small while delicious smells wafted from the kitchen into the front room. Of course traditionally the Sunday roast is served on Sunday but this week we threw caution to the wind and decided to have a midweek roast.

It did take a little bit more preparation then usual as this time I was determined to make Yorkshire Puddings from scratch. I do feel guilty that I never attempted this before – relying instead on a ready mix where all you need to add is some water and an egg.

Thinking about it, it all seemed a bit ambitious for a midweek meal but I was willing to give it a try. When I started researching recipes I went immediately to one of my favourite chefs; James Martin. If anyone was going to have a delicious and easy to follow Yorkshire Pudding recipe it would be him, and I was right! The recipe I found is for Yorkshire Pudding With Onion Gravy (hurrah an additional treat!). However I was wondering what I was getting myself into! I tried making onion gravy once before which ended badly. Not only was it time consuming but after all that effort it ended up being horribly bitter (I am still not sure what I did wrong).

The main issue with the Yorkshire batter is that it needs to rest – preferably overnight. We had only decided on this meal the night before so after my husband went to work the next day I set about making the batter so it would have at least 10 hours to rest. As I went to get the ingredients I realized that I didn’t have the plain flour, whole milk or beef dripping that the recipe called for. It was a really wet blustery day and the thought of a one hour round trip walk to the shops did not appeal to me. So I did what any kitchen witch would do – I went with what I had, which was self raising flour, olive oil and semi skimmed milk.

Once the batter was in the fridge, I really didn’t have that much to prepare until later on. I took the organic beef joint out the fridge about an hour before we were going to start cooking it so that it could come up to room temperature. I peeled some potatoes and got them ready for parboiling and sliced 2 red onions in preparation for the gravy. I opened a bottle of red wine and had a glass – just to make sure it was ok to use in the gravy (it was).

When we were ready to start cooking my husband rubbed a mixture of olive oil, sea salt and English mustard over the joint. He then seared it on all sides in a hot pan. We added it to our roasting dish with a few cloves of garlic and some fresh lemon thyme. While that was cooking we poured some olive oil in some muffin tins and when it began to smoke we added the Yorkshire batter. After the beef had cooked for 15 minutes we added the parboiled potatoes and a knob of butter to coat them (this is NOT fat free cooking!).

We like our beef medium rare and as the joint was small it didn’t take too long to cook. We took it out to let it rest, placed the roast potatoes in a warmed dish in the oven and used the roasting pan to prepare the onion gravy. I added butter (told you this isn’t fat free!) and then red onions and some minced garlic. While allowing them to soften I had another glass of wine just to make sure it was still ok (it was) and then added a good glug of it to the pan. It helped me scrape up all the lovely browned bits from the beef and potatoes that were still on the pan. Once I added the beef stock to the gravy, my husband began to serve up.

The Yorkshires were golden, fluffy and thanks to the self raising flour, some of the biggest I have ever seen. The beef was done perfectly and the roast potatoes were crispy on the outside and fluffy on the inside. I spooned the onion gravy liberally over the plate; after tasting it first of course! It wasn’t bitter at all. It was rich, tangy and complimented everything beautifully. As for the Yorkshires – WOW – from this day forward I will always make them from scratch. They were exactly like the ones I remember my Mum making. Light, fluffy and unmistakeably made with love and care! You really can taste the difference between home made and pre-prepared.

The midweek roast dinner was a huge success and something we will do again. If you have never tried making your own Yorkshire puddings then do give it a try – it is absolutely worth it. As for the onion gravy, this is a great recipe for lovely deep rich gravy that will have you mopping up your plate!

Enjoy!

To see this wonderful James Martin’s recipe on the BBC Food website please click here.

Roast Beef, Home made Yorkshire Puddings and Onion Gravy

Roast Beef, Homemade Yorkshire Puddings and Onion Gravy

A Very Trying Week But We’re Finally Feline Fine...

The past 10 days has been a very trying time for my husband and I. We noticed our beloved moggy Nutmeg was drinking much more water then usual. We also thought she was sleeping more then normal and wasn’t her usual busy body self.

I took her to the Vets where they did some tests and after a few days it was confirmed that she has diabetes. Over the next few days I brought her back for more tests and to be shown how to inject her with insulin. At this point I want to give a big shout out to the wonderful veterinarian who has made time for all my many questions, who has helped ease my worries and anxieties and who patiently showed me how to handle the medication. The vet visits are only just beginning as we need to get her stabilized but after 2 days on insulin she is already showing huge improvements.

Diabetes has affected many members of my family so although I wasn’t overly thrilled with the news about Nutmeg, I did take some comfort in the fact that it is something I know a bit about. I won’t lie and say that I didn’t cry or have moments of complete despair and fear, but once I calmed down and spoke to my mom and sister (who by the way has been successfully managing her diabetes for over 30 years), I felt much more positive. There are many great websites with lots of information on the subject of feline diabetes as well as supportive forums where you can go when it all gets a bit too overwhelming. At this point I would also like to thank the lovely Jules who has been working with me on this site, as soon as she heard about Nutmeg she sent me the following link to this very helpful website. Another site I found has a great forum and I have been getting some good pointers there.

It is still early days with Nutmeg but I am feeling much more hopeful about things. She is such a special little girl and we immediately fell in love with her the moment our local Cats Protection League brought her into our lives. Not a day goes by that I don’t thank the Universe for sending her our way. If you notice your animal companion acting strangely then please don’t wait – go the vets immediately.

Things to look out for are:

• Excessive thirst.
• Excessive urination. They may urinate outside of their litter box.
• Weight loss. Going off their food.
• Extreme lethargy.
• Eating more than normal.
• Any behaviour that seems out of character.

Well during this time I must confess that cooking and eating were not really top of my list of priorities. This was a mistake as by not eating properly I wasn’t able to handle stress effectively. I know that in order to properly care for Nutmeg I need to properly look after myself. Tonight was the first night we actually felt like eating a meal. We hadn’t been shopping for ages so the cupboards and fridge were pretty barren.

Fortunately we had some turkey mince in the freezer which I defrosted. I then put it in a pot with a few other ingredients I found and made a very warming and comforting chilli. In honour of everything we have been through these past few days I have called this recipe Luna’s Finally Feline Fine Chilli. So here it is:

Luna’s Finally Feline Fine Chilli

Ingredients

1 package of turkey mince (500 grams)
½ Spanish onion chopped finely
1 drizzle of maple syrup.
2 Tablespoons of olive oil.
4 cloves of garlic.
1 pinch of salt.
½ teaspoon of oregano.
½ teaspoon of thyme.
½ teaspoon of chilli flakes.
1 pinch of Nutmeg (the spice not the moggy!)
1 ½ cups of vegetable stock.
1 can organic plum tomatoes.
1 can organic cannellini beans, rinsed.
Parmesan cheese.

Directions

Sautee the chopped up onion in olive oil and maple syrup, until soft and translucent.

Add the turkey mince and mix in with the onions until the mince is completely cooked.

Add the garlic. You can mince the cloves but I like to chop them in chunkier pieces. You also don’t have to use as many cloves but as we were feeling run down we thought we would give ourselves a boost of garlic power!

Once garlic is mixed in add the herbs, salt and pinch of nutmeg. Mix well.

Add the vegetable stock and allow it to simmer for 15 minutes.

Then add the can of tomatoes and mix in well, adding the beans at the end.

Allow everything to simmer and stir occasionally. I let mine bubble away for 45 minutes.

Grate some parmesan cheese over top.

Serve with steamed rice or crusty bread and enjoy!

Luna's Finally Feline Fine Chilli

Luna's Finally Feline Fine Chilli

A little pinch of Nutmeg.

I also just wanted to say that if you are considering welcoming an animal companion into your home please do think about adopting from a local shelter.

Please Sir, I Want Some More……..Porridge....

This past summer my husband and I had the pleasure of taking my sister on holiday to Edinburgh for a few days. It is a city we have been visiting for many years (usually for the famous fringe festival in August). I adore Scotland and for me, Edinburgh really is one of the most magical and beautiful cities in the world – yes even in the rain, although my sister might disagree with the rain part.

We stayed in a well located hostel and to our delight we noticed a small café just opposite. It looked relatively new and we didn’t remember it from any of our previous trips. For the life of me I can’t remember the name of the café but we could see it through the window of our room. In the mornings we would hover by the window watching eagerly for signs of the café opening its doors.

So what exactly made this café so special? Well aside from a cosy and friendly atmosphere, they served porridge. Now there are many restaurants and cafes serving porridge in Edinburgh but this was by far the best any of us had ever tasted. The consistency was perfectly smooth, rich and creamy. But the real crowning glory of this porridge was the addition of crème fraiche and fruit jam on top. It was absolutely amazing and we couldn’t get enough of it. We ate there everyday and always had the porridge. Not only was it delicious but it prepared us for a full day of drizzly weather conditions and fringe theatre.

I had always loved porridge as a child and I confess to actually eating Quaker Porridge Oats straight out of the little packets my mom used to buy. Maple and brown sugar being my all time favourite flavour! My great grandmother also used to make me porridge and I loved the way she prepared it. She would let it simmer away on the hob and as she served it up she would put some buttered saltine crackers on top with a little splash of milk. It was always a perfect bowl of comforting goodness.

Porridge is a funny thing and people can be very particular about how it’s made. I prefer mine to be made with full fat milk and no water. This makes for a very smooth rich creamy porridge, similar to the café’s. For some though it can be a little too intense so using half milk and half water is better. Of course there is nothing wrong with just using water, but the consistency is much thinner. Personally I feel the addition of milk makes the porridge a real treat and find it help keeps me fuller for longer.

There are all sorts of wonderful ingredients you can add to porridge to make it a healthy but decadent breakfast.

• Buttered and crumbled saltine crackers (my great grandmother’s way).
• Maple syrup with chopped nuts (walnuts and pecans are delicious).
• Brown sugar with cinnamon (you can also add raisins or dried apples and apricots).
• Assorted fresh fruit and berries (bananas, blueberries, strawberries, peach and apple. You can get a little more exotic and add mango or papaya and some desiccated coconut)
• Crème fraiche with a fruit jam (raspberry is especially tasty).

I won’t go on about the many health benefits of oats but they really are one of the best foods you can eat to start your day. They are good for your digestive health, they can help prevent heart disease and lower cholesterol levels, their slow release in the body can help control blood sugar levels and keep you feeling fuller for longer. You can use oats in many different ways but having porridge is one of the most delicious and magical!

Porridge with Creme Fraiche and Raspberry Jam

Can Leftovers Be Exciting? The Beauty of a Hodge P...

When my sister and I were teenagers we used to dread hearing our mom say, ‘tonight, we’re having a hodge podge meal.’ I still don’t know what it was about those words that struck fear into our hearts, because the meals were always wonderful. Thinking back I guess the idea of using leftovers to prepare a main meal seemed unexciting and bland.

Of course I now love preparing my own hodge podge meals and tonight that’s exactly what I did. What’s so wonderful about using leftovers is that you can get really creative finding ways to make them extra special. It’s even better if you’re able to combine them with some fresh ingredients.

We had some roast turkey left over from Sunday and 2 rashers of smoked back bacon that didn’t get used for our weekend fry up. I combined those with some cabbage and a chopped shallot and served it over mashed potatoes. Not only did it help clear out the fridge it was also filling, tasty and comforting – a true hodge podge meal!

Here is my recipe for Hodge Podge Turkey, Bacon, Cabbage and Shallots on Mashed Potatoes.

Ingredients;

2 rashers of smoked back bacon cut into squares.

Approximately 1 cup of chopped roast chicken or turkey.

1 medium shallot finely chopped.

½ small savoy cabbage chopped into strips.

¼ cup of chicken or vegetable stock.

1 Tablespoon of olive oil.

Method;

Fry the bacon rashers and shallot in the olive oil until bacon is cooked through and shallot is soft.

Add the turkey or chicken chunks and mix well to heat through. About 5-6 minutes.

Add the cabbage and give all the ingredients a good stir in the pan.

Add the chicken or vegetable stock (this helps soften the cabbage) and let everything simmer for 10 – 15 minutes until the stock has been absorbed.

Serve at once on mashed potatoes and enjoy!

Puffed Cauliflower Cheese....

This is an absolutely amazing cauliflower cheese recipe! It works well as a main course but it also makes a great side dish. The real treat with this dish is the whipped egg whites which create a beautiful puffy texture and the bread crumbs on top which give it some added crunch.

While this might be slightly more labour intensive then other cauliflower cheese recipes it is absolutely worth it.

Tonight I made some minor adjustments to the recipe. The cauliflower I had was quite small so I also included a few boiled new potatoes in the mix. The result was a big bowl of comfort.

Give this recipe a try – you won’t be disappointed!