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.

Christmas Markets |Toasted Peacans

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It is the most beautiful time of the year and what better way to celebrate the birth of Jesus than with some German beer, expensive cheese and felt decorations: Christmas markets! Chris and I have got around a bit this year and have managed to get to four: Manchester, Birmingham, Cardiff and Bath. The highlight of any Christmas market for me is, of course, the food, and the stuff we found this year was worth braving the crowds for.

Our first market of the year was Manchester in the middle of November and it was absolutely rammed. We had a drink in a german-inspired wooden hut but my Christmas joy was somewhat quashed by having to walk very slowly and not get close to many stalls in the central part of the market. Slightly further out was much better and there was a good selection of street-food stands – I had a falafel and halloumi wrap (I shared a large one with Chris which unfortunately meant I couldn’t take a pic before he took a bite).

Second up the following weekend was Birmingham. This was also extremely busy and difficult to get around at any speed but very beautiful and with its own share of yummy food and drinks. I sought out some toasted and sugared pecans and bought 200g (which is quite a lot in pecan terms). I had had them last year in the Cardiff Markets and they were as amazing as I remembered. I kept the paper cone in my pocket and happily munched on them as we wondered around to find a space for a drink. I forced everyone to try them and even the non-nut fans liked them! They are warm, sweet and have that gorgeous toasty-nutty taste – honestly my most sincere recommendation. You’ve got to try them (and get 2 bags).

Our trip to Cardiff’s market was cut very short due to the fact it was pouring with rain. But we did nip out of the shopping centre to visit the only stall I’m interested in – the toasted nut stall! This was the one we discovered last year and I was very happy that they were back for 2019. I literally just ran out, bought my nuts and ate them in the shelter of the Dewi Sant. Maybe I’m obsessed but the trip was totally worth it.

By far the best market of the year was Bath – there’s a reason it’s so popular. We went on the last Sunday of the season and luckily it was not as busy as I was warned it might be. There were dozens of lovely stalls with locally produced food, art and other Christmasy things. I have recently decided that my ideal Christmas tree is one covered in sweet felt animal decorations so after one particular stall in the Bath Christmas Market was recommended to be my two separate people, I knew we had to take the trip. This little felt decoration stall was as precious as I hoped and we now have the cutest tree in Cardiff.

There were no toasted pecans on offer but we did enjoy a lot of free samples of cheese, spicy mayo, sausages and sipped on some delicious mulled wine as we explored. We headed to Kingsmead Square for lunch which had a range of street food stalls and an area to sit which is the ideal set up when you’ve got a group who can’t agree on what food genre to go for. I had a Persian chicken dish in a garlic and lemon sauce with rice and bread and it was very nice indeed. All it needed was a few toasted and sugared pecans and it would have been perfect.

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

Bueno and nutella milkshake | Coffi Co

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I discovered Coffi Co on pretend Christmas day last year. Chris and I were due to go back to see our families for actual Christmas day so we decided to both take a day off work a couple of weeks before and use it to celebrate with presents, too much food and The Holiday. Normally Christmas mornings in the Bush household involve Church and carols but as nowhere could accommodate that on a random Wednesday in mid-December, we settled on the secular alternative – a nippy walk. Given that we live between a retail park and dual carriageway, most of the walk wasn’t particularly lovely but we ended up at Cardiff Bay and the first coffee shop we found was Coffi Co.

Coffi Co in the bay is in such a great location as it sticks out over the water so there are great views of the sea and passing boats on three sides. The other thing I loved about it was their selection of interesting coffees and hot chocolates: Jaffa Cake mocha, Aero hot chocolate, cookies and cream cappuccino.  I’m pretty indifferent about coffee but if it’s a sweet, frothy coffee with whipped cream and a bit of Bueno sticking out of the top then I am on board.

My first post could have very easily been just been about my love for Kinder Buenos. I’m a big fan of anything that combines chocolate and nuts but there’s something about the light crispy shell and white creamy middle that really just blows every other chocolate bar out of the water.

Even though the Bueno latte was very nice, my favourite drink came a few months later at the Bayscape venue of Coffi Co. I was absolutely buzzed when I discovered that Coffi Co have a café just a few minutes’ walk from our flat and so on Valentine’s day after work, Chris and I went again. It was a really bright and sunny afternoon and despite the fact that it was still February and pretty cold, I bought a Bueno and Nutella milkshake, Chris got an iced latte, and we drank them outside by the water. I ate the stick of Bueno on top and then drank my milkshake in about 3 slurps. Creamy, nutty chocolatey and everything I love from the middle bit of a Bueno in a milkshake. I was expecting it to be a bit sickly but it was actually light and refreshing with plenty of ice. It had whipped cream and a dollop of Nutella on top which I attempted to tip into my mouth at the end. If money and calories didn’t matter, I would have gone and ordered three more on the spot.

Hi, I’m Mima

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If I have something delicious in a restaurant then I will almost certainly force a forkful of it upon whoever I’m with. That’s not a humble-brag about my generosity but should indicate why I wanted to start a blog about food – if I eat something nice I’ve just got to tell someone about it. My aim is to tell the story about my favourite food, both things I’ve made and things I’ve tried in restaurants and cafés.

Me in the summer with some orange juice, outside our student house.

Cooking and eating are some of my favourite things to do and I’m convinced that joy, sadness, celebration and boredom are always improved by eating something lovely. Any success, milestone or just a free weekend is my excuse to go out for food and try somewhere new or somewhere I know I love. I recently moved to Cardiff and that brings the exciting bonus of having loads of new restaurants and cafés to try. Half of the posts on here will be about my favourite food that I’ve found when eating out, whether it’s from a pub, street food van, restaurant chain or garden centre café. My purpose isn’t to criticise or review them but more to acknowledge and applaud good food.

Mackerel salad from Godrevy Cafe

The other half of the blog is going to be things that have come out of my kitchen. I like to use cookery books for inspiration but very rarely stick to recipes, mainly because I haven’t got the money or cupboard space to buy fiddly ingredients for just one dish. I cook almost every day and like experimenting with flavours and techniques, safe in the knowledge that whatever I try, nothing that bad is going to happen. Normally what I make is nice but sometimes it’s flipping great and it’s those recipes or ideas that I want to share.

Quiche making

Finally, I’d like to take this opportunity to introduce my fiancé and fellow foodie Chris. He’ll be the one across from me at a restaurant table in my pictures and in a few months will become my number one co-chef for life.

My fiancé Chris, about to tuck into a slab of quiche

That’s all the necessary introductions, let’s get on with the food. Bon appetit.