Chicken Cacciatore

Recipes

It was a very strange Easter for everyone this year. Normally the long weekend is the perfect chance to visit my family and catch up with friends in Cornwall but as we are currently in lockdown I had to make do with just the company of Chris, at home in Cardiff. We set up a mini Easter egg hunt for each other in the house, had eggs on toast for breakfast and joined our church for their online Easter Sunday service.

One of my favourite things about going back to Cornwall to see my family is (other than the fantastic company, obviously) the 10/10 roast dinner for Sunday lunch. One of my favourite food memories from my childhood is getting back from church on a Sunday and coming through the door to the smell of the roast lamb cooking in the oven. Mmmmmm.


However, since it was just the two of us this year and making a roast for two people is more effort than we were prepared for, we decided to make my absolute favourite cassarole – a Nigella inspired variation on a Chicken Cacciatore. We don’t have this very often as it uses quite a bit of meat so it is definetely a special occassion meal for me. What better way to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus than chicken *and* bacon?!


My mum makes this meal fairly regularly, originally from Nigella’s recipe for it and then from memory with alterations here and there and I make it now too with my own alterations. The basis remains the same – chicken stew with bacon, cooked in a tomato sauce flavoured with white wine and bay leaves. It might sound pretty standard but the flavours are next level.

Serves 6, alongside rice.

Ingredients:

3tbsp olive oil

500g chicken thighs

6 rashers of smoked bacon

1 large white onion

2 cloves of garlic

1 tin of chickpeas

800g chopped tomatoes (2 x 400g tins)

2 red peppers (or 1 courgette)

1 small jar of black olives (180g)

200ml white wine

1 chicken stock cube

5 bay leaves

1tsp sugar

Salt and pepper

Start by chopping the onion and putting it in a large casarole dish with plenty of olive oil. Put on a medium heat and add some chopped chicken thighs – to save getting chicken on a chopping board, we just used some kitchen scissors to chop the chicken up straight into the pan. Cook for a few minutes and then chop in the bacon rashers into lardons and add to the pan. Cook until chicken and bacon both appear cooked (the chicken needs to be sealed but will continue cooking when the liquid is added). Chop the peppers into chunks and add to the pan. (In our case, the supermarket were out of peppers so we ended up using a courgette instead.) Finely chop the garlic and add to the pan. If the ingredients start sticking to the pan, you can add more oil or a splash of water.


Next pour in the wine and contiue to stir so the juices on the bottom of the pan combine with the wine so begin to form the sauce. Crumble in the stock cube and stir thoroughly until dissolved. Drain and since the chickpeas and add to the pan along with the chopped tomatoes, olives, bay leaves and sugar. Cook for a few minutes whilst stirring and then turn onto a low heat and put the lid on.

Leave this to cook for around 20 minutes, stirring every now and again to ensure nothing is sticking to the bottom of the pan. Leaving it to cook for a long time is one of the things that makes this dish so good as the delicious flavours infuse and the chopped tomatoes develop into a rich sauce. Add salt and pepper to taste.


Serve on top of a good helping of rice with a cold beer or the rest of the bottle of wine! Bon appetite.

Vegan Mushroom Pie

Recipes

Everyone has that dish that they crack out when there are guests for dinner that they want to impress. I am naturally a people pleaser and for me there’s no greater satisfaction than to hear genuine yummy noises from around the table. My no.1 dish for this occasion is a variation on Jamie Oliver’s quick chicken and mushroom pie (first featured in Jamie’s 30 Minute meals). This pie comprises of a creamy chicken and mushroom filling with a ready rolled puff pastry lid and it’s as easy as it is delicious.

Chris and I took part in Veganuary this year and after that was over Chris decided he wants to be a vegan full-time. (He has since discovered that the vegan life is not for the faint-hearted and is allowing himself meat and dairy on special occasions, thank goodness). I didn’t want to be without this pie so created a vegan version and I would love to share it with you.  My favourite thing about this is it doesn’t taste ‘vegan’ at all and I’d happily to serve it to anyone and everyone.

My greatest discovery of veganuary this year was the new plant-based Elmlea. It has truly revolutionalised cooking without dairy as it’s possible to very easily get that wonderful creamy texture without having to faff around with cashews and blenders. It whips perfectly, works well poured over desserts and, for me, tastes exactly like normal cream. I use this plant-based ‘cream’ to replace the usual crème fraiche in the recipe and replace the chicken with flat mushrooms. Most ready-made pastry is already suitable for vegans so no changes are necessary there. The ingredients used to season in this recipe are very important in order to make up for the lack of meat so don’t leave any out!

This recipe serves 4 (with mash and veg) or 2 greedy people

Ingredients:

1 tbsp olive oil

1 large onion

3 cloves of garlic

1 punnet chestnut mushrooms

1 punnet flat field/Portobello mushrooms

150ml White wine

1tsp mustard

Veg stock cube

½ tsp dried thyme (or fresh if you have it)

Salt

Black pepper

1 tbsp cornflour

100ml Elmlea plant based cream

1 roll of ready-rolled puff pastry

1tbsp plant milk (for the ‘egg’ wash)

Start by chopping the onion and frying it in olive oil in a large pan. Finely chop the garlic and add it after a few minutes. Chop up the mushrooms into large pieces – half the chestnut mushrooms, chop the flat mushrooms into thick slices so they’re still decent sized chunks once they’ve cooked down. This will give the pie filling some good texture. Add the mushrooms to the pan and fry for a few minutes. If the veg starts sticking to the pan, add a splash of water.

At this point, sprinkle the cornflower over cooking vegetables and mix in thoroughly to remove any lumps. Mix the wine in gradually so it combines evenly with the flourly veg mixture. Add the mustard and stock cube and mix to ensure the stock cube has properly dissolved. Cook for a five more minutes so the alcohol evaporates. Add the thyme and salt and pepper to taste (plenty of pepper is advised) and then stir in the ‘cream’. Cook for a few more minutes.

Take off the heat and transfer the pie filling to a suitably-sized, oven-proof dish. Place the pastry over the top to form a lid and curl the pastry around the edges to make a crust (and to maximise the amount of pastry involved!). Brush over a light wash of plant based milk (I use oat as it doesn’t carry much flavour) so the pastry turns golden and shiny in the oven. Use a knife to make a couple of slits in the top of the pie to allow steam to escape.

Put in a preheated oven at 180 degrees celcius for 25-30 mins or until golden. Once cooked, serve immediately with roasted carrots and broccoli or mash and peas. Bon appetite.

Coronation Chickpea

Recipes

Coronation chickpea is my veggie version of my all-time favourite sandwich filling. Options are sometimes pretty limited when it comes to easy veggie lunches so when I’m bored of cheese or falafel, this is my go to. I’m lucky enough to work just a short walk from where I live so pop home in my lunch breaks and this recipe is so quick I can whip it up, and eat it, in less than 20 minutes. It’s sweet, a little bit spicy and makes the most satisfying lunch.

Ingredients:

1 can of chickpeas
A handful of sultanas
2 tbsp mayo (or low fat greek yoghurt if you want it lower calorie)
1 tbsp mango chutney
2 tsp medium curry powder
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp garam masala
½ Lime
Salt and pepper

Start by thoroughly rinsing the chickpeas. I have been known to individually peal a can of chickpeas and I would really recommend doing this if you have the time- it makes them smooth and the dish will feel that little bit more special. I recently had a very pleasant chickpea pealing session with Chris in my in-law’s garden with a G+T. It does double the prep time for this recipe though and is not essential but worth your consideration if you’re not in a rush.

Add them to a large bowl with the sultanas, mayo, and mango chutney. This dish is very easy to make vegan by just using vegan mayo. I tried this with vegan mayo the last time I made it and couldn’t tell the difference. You can also switch out some or all of the mayo for low fat Greek yoghurt to make it a little bit healthier without sacrificing any taste. Squeeze over half a lime and mix it all together.

Add the spices and seasoning and mix together until evenly combined. Add some chilli powder if you are that way inclined.

And that is literally it! I like to have mine in a toast sandwich with baby spinach and tomato or on top of a jacket potato.

The flavour of the spices will grow over time so it’s actually better the next day. 1 can’s worth will fill up 3 sandwiches and will last in the fridge for up to 5 days.

Smoked Cheese Smores

Recipes

I feel a bit embarrassed that my first original recipe on this blog is actually just sticking two ingredients together and that I’m taking credit for something that was mainly Chris’ idea but this little snack is genius and needs to be shared.

Smoked Cheese Smores, as they are lovingly known, are the perfect after work snack if you fancy something savoury but crisps won’t cut it. They are also ridiculously easy to put together.

All you need is a piece of smoked cheese and some cream crackers. I have previously been sceptical about the weird looking sausages of cheese but I’ve been converted and you’ve just got to trust me on this one. Once melted, this cheese provides a perfect gooey filling with a gorgeous smokey flavour.

Simply take a cream cracker and put on about 1cm thick slice of smoked cheese. Then put it in the microwave (on a plate) for about 10 seconds or until the cheese is mostly melted but still intact. Then just stick another cracker on top and enjoy the ooze! Wait a few seconds before putting it in your mouth if possible because this cheese is molten.

If you’re feeling adventurous you can add a squeeze of sriracha just before you add the lid for a slightly garlicy chilli kick. I have it just as it is and it’s always necessary to have *at least* two.

Bon appetite