Home made chicken nuggets

Home made chicken nuggets

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Chicken nuggets are pretty much the ultimate comfort food (and a pretty good thing to eat when you’re hungover. This recipe is also perfect for people with a fussy eater in the family as they’re perfectly normal looking chicken nuggets, although as D said they taste all the better for not being made from mechanically recovered chicken.

My Kiwi friend DC actually gave me instructions on me how to make these baked chicken nuggets; although I adapted it slightly so it was similar to my Dad’s panko breadcrumbed chicken salad.

To make chicken nuggets to serve 3-4 you will need:

4 chicken breasts

Approx 75g panko breadcrumbs

1-2 teaspoons Cajun spice mix

Salt and pepper

Plain flour

1 Beaten egg

Preheat the oven to 200°C. Cut your chicken breast into strips. Place your flour onto a place and arrange a separate bowl with the beaten egg and another filled with the breadcrumbs, spices and salt and pepper.

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Coat each piece of chicken in the flour, followed by the egg and breadcrumbs. Place each coated piece of chicken on a baking tray.

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Bake the chicken for 10-15 minutes until the chicken is golden and crisp and there is no pink when the chicken is cut into.

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Serve with the side of your choice. We’re particularly partial to sweet potato fries of potato wedges with this. However, if you do have any little ones in your household you can’t go wrong with some potato smiles, now can you?

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Chocolate cupcakes with raspberry mascarpone icing

Chocolate cupcakes with raspberry mascarpone icing

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Some things in life just go wonderfully together, avocado and salt, cheese and bread etc. One of my favourite flavour combinations of them all is chocolate and raspberry. The raspberry topping of these cakes is cool and creamy, without being overwhelmingly sour or sickly sweet. Plus, the pink icing is very beautiful and required absolutely no food colouring.

This recipe is another simple way of putting a smile on even the most serious of faces. (I personally like to cheer people up by making them biscuits or cupcakes and then holding them up to my face as eyes, it never fails).

Also, in the name of full disclosure, this recipe makes far too much icing, so I would recommend freezing any you have remaining.

To make a batch of 12 cupcakes you will need:

For the cakes

3 large eggs

170g caster sugar

170g butter

155g self raising flour

15g cocoa powder

For the icing

2 1/2 tablespoons icing sugar

250g mascarpone

About 150g raspberries (I used fresh, but frozen are fine, once defrosted)

2 Cadbury flakes or similar

Preheat the oven to 180°C, line a cupcake tin with cake cases.

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Using an electric whisk beat your eggs and sugar until they leave a trail of mixture over the surface. Sift in your flour and cocoa powder and fold in.Melt your butter and fold in, until your mix is smooth.

Separate the mixture between the 12 cupcake cases. Bake these for approximately 12 minutes until the cakes have risen and are firm. Leave to cool.

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While the cakes are cooling make your raspberry icing by whisking together the mascarpone, icing sugar and raspberries. The berries will soon disintegrate making everything a lovely colour. Using a butter knife cover your cakes, leaving a swirl of the icing.

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Crumble over your chocolate flake and serve. Due to the mascarpone in these, keep refrigerated if you want them to keep more than a couple of days.

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Spinach, goats cheese and pine nut cannelloni

Spinach, goats cheese and pine nut cannelloni

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If you want a recipe to cram about half a kilogram of spinach into your vegetable hating significant other, child or just somebody who is ridiculously picky about vegetables this might be a winner. Spinach has got so many wonderful anti inflammatory properties its nice that its so easily incorporated into a meal.

Anyway, I know pasta and gluten containing products have a bit of a bad reputation for being less healthy, or too heavy; but I did not find this recipe too stodgy. I remained nicely satisfied all evening. Which I think is the purpose of pasta, in moderation it fills you up and stops you creeping to the fridge for a mid evening snack. I admit I was pretty liberal with my cheese adding (I am a dyed in the wool cheese lover) but I used goats cheese and buffalo mozzarella which I find a bit easier to digest.

(As a side note if you do have coeliac disease or a wheat allergy and you do fancy trying this, I suggest you try layering the spinach and tomato with these lasagne sheets I looked up for you that are gluten free. I can be a gem sometimes)

Anyway, you might have noticed I do often cook with meat, but I am trying to incorporate more vegetarian meals into our diet. Unfortunately this is made slightly more difficult by the fact I am pretty intolerant to a lot of pulses (cry). I don’t particularly like my lentils to be served with a side of agonising stomach cramps etc. Anyway, back to the vegetarian meals; I feel if I can keep making vegetables more exciting I might be able to convince D of the merit of Meat Free Mondays….

To make enough cannelloni to feed 3 (or 2 if your male type person is feeling particularly peckish upon waking up from a night shift) you will need:

Approx 9 cannelloni tubes (you might need more or less depending upon how much filling you get)

About 400g frozen spinach (the water will evaporate)

1 glass white wine

fresh rosemary

1 small onion

1 large clove garlic

salt and pepper

vegetable oil

100g pine nuts

100g soft goats cheese

100g mozzarella

500g passata

Preheat your oven to 200°C. Peel and slice your onion and crush your garlic. Fry over a gentle heat until soft. Add your pine nuts and lightly toast before adding your rosemary, wine, spinach, salt and pepper.

Heat until all of the spinach has loosened and is cooked through. Add your goats cheese and stir until it is fully dispersed.

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Set aside the spinach to cool slightly. Using a teaspoon and your fingers stuff your uncooked cannelloni. If any Italian people want to correct me on how to do this in an authentic way please add a comment! Anyway I was obviously feeling pretty jaunty when I did my food shopping as you can see from the cannelloni I purchased.

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If you have any pine nuts leftover from your pasta stuffing endeavours never fear. Just set them aside for use as topping. (There’s no point wasting them).

Cover your pasta with cold passata. Dot over your mozzarella at random and sprinkle over your pine nuts and a little more rosemary. Season with more salt and pepper as desired. Bake for 20-25 minutes until the sauce is bubbling and the pasta is cooked.

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I can always tell when D particularly likes a meal as he is always up for seconds.

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This might take a little longer to make than most midweek meals but I can assure you the extra effort was well worth it.

Quick chia pudding

Quick chia pudding

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I do apologise, this is going to be another one of my wonderfully vague recipes. Although I would not call this a particularly quick recipe (who can argue something is quick when you soak it all night?); it will make your morning routine more simple. Not having to think beyond “should I grate in that apple or throw in a handful of sultanas” is sometimes the most complex thing I can determine when I get up for work.

Anyway chia pudding is convenient, really healthy and can really easily be adapted into a vegan recipe or made with things you really like.

To make chia pudding for 1 you will need:

Chia seeds

Milk of your choice (mine is coconut milk)

Yogurt (I used Alpro strawberry and rhubarb yogurt)

The topping of your choice (sliced banana, grated apple, etc etc)

Pour a small quantity of chia seeds into a cereal bowl so a thin layer covers the bottom. Cover this with about 2cm milk. Add 1 large spoonful of yogurt. Stir this so that all the seeds are as evenly dispersed as you can manage. Cover this and refrigerate overnight.

The next morning stir again. Add your toppings and serve. Enjoy your beautifully simple and delicious breakfast.

Haddock, saffron and pea risotto

Haddock, saffron and pea risotto

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This recipe is a real “fill your boots” sort of a recipe.I find risotto filling and having such a high protein ingredient such as fish makes it even more hearty. However, white fish is an incredibly lean source of protein and there is no cheese in this recipe so this makes for a very low fat meal for the days when you’re hungry but don’t want to compromise when it comes to healthy eating.

I also think this recipe is one of those great “store cupboard” recipes. I used frozen haddock and peas in this and the only reason I put chorizo in was because I had one in my fridge that needed using up (I’ll actually most likely not use chorizo in this recipe again as D is not a fan!).

Anyway; for 3-4 portions of risotto you will need:

1 onion

2 large(ish) fillets of frozen haddock (or other white fish)

1 clove garlic

1 10cm cooking chorizo (optional)

About 10g butter if not using chorizo

1 large handful of frozen peas

Vegetable stock

1 pinch saffron

200g risotto rice

Salt and pepper

1 glass of white wine

Peel and slice your onion and crush your garlic. If using the chorizo peel the skin off it and dice it. On a medium heat fry the chorizo, garlic and onion/butter garlic and onion until soft.

Add the risotto rice and fry for about 30 seconds. Cover this with the stock and wine. Add the peas, fish and the saffron and season with salt and pepper. Cook over a low heat. Add more stock as needed when the rice dries out.

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Once the rice is pretty much cooked reseason to taste with the salt and pepper.

I actually love the yellow colour the saffron gives this. It cheered me right up on a cold January day.

Chicken, gnocchi and sage soup

Chicken, gnocchi and sage soup

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I seem to be riding a total comfort food wave this January. I can’t help it when it’s cold outside I want a warm tummy filled with soup, or stew etc. With this soup there are 2 ways of making this – either you end up with a lot of leftover chicken, or you can use up a lot of leftover chicken. Its completely up to you. Its a great one for anyone who likes to cook economically (you’d be a fool not to really; everything tastes so much better).

Anyway to make this you will need:

For the slow cooked method to get leftover chicken

1 large chicken

2 large celery sticks

1 onion

1 clove garlic, crushed

Fresh ginger

Salt and pepper

1 carrot

1 pack freeze dried gnocchi

Cold water

Sage leaves

1 handful frozen peas

For the quicker method to use up cooked chicken

3 large handfuls cooked chicken

Approx 1l chicken stock

Ginger

1 carrot

1 celery stick

Salt and pepper

Fresh ginger

1 handful frozen peas

Sage leaves

1 pack freeze dried gnocchi

(Both recipes serve about 4 people)

If slow cooking your chicken; place the chicken in the slow cooker, to this add your (peeled and halved onion), 1 celery stick, the garlic, grate in the ginger and season with salt and pepper. Cover with cold water and cook on a low heat for 6-8 hours.

Once the chicken is cooked drain the juices into a large pan and allow the chicken to cool. Peel and thinly slice the carrot and thinly slice the celery and add this to the chicken stock soup base along with the peas. Heat your soup over a medium flame. Pull chicken (preferably the brown meat) from the chicken in small pieces and add to the soup (use about 3 large handfuls). Tear in the sage . Once the carrot and celery have softened reseason with salt and pepper and add the gnocchi. Once this is cooked serve.

Once the rest of the chicken is cold, pick this off the bones and keep for sandwiches, salads or curries.

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For the quicker method heat your stock over a medium heat. Grate in the ginger. Peel and slice the carrot and slice the celery. Add this to the stock along with the peas and chicken. Season with the salt, pepper and sage. When the vegetables are cooked add the gnocchi and serve once this floats on the surface of the liquid.

Chocolate chunk shortbread

Chocolate chunk shortbread

I believe enjoying food is about balance and sometimes maintaining balance is actually about enjoying a nice cup of tea and a biscuit. I made these shortbread hearts yesterday when I just fancied something baked at home. Including chilling time these took about an hour and half to make; not bad for a Tuesday night.

If you really are trying to maintain a healthy balance with food (which is actually my most stable way of keeping weight off) just bear in mind that these keep in a tin for several days. So really, you can enjoy a little treat every now and again.

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As I have mentioned in a previous post the basic recipe for shortbread is 3 parts flour to 2 parts butter to 1 part sugar. In this case though the chocolate makes this recipe a bit drier so I added a little extra milk and butter to the mix.

To make a batch of this shortbread you will need:

300g plain flour

220g butter, softened

100g caster sugar

1 tablespoon milk

150g milk chocolate, broken into chunks (I do this by smashing the chocolate against my kitchen worktop, then whacking it into shards with a rolling pin)

Put the flour, butter and sugar into a mixing bowl. Rub this together with your hands. When the mixture starts to come together add the chocolate chunks and finally the milk to bind the dough together. Wrap the dough in cling film and chill for at least an hour.

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Preheat the oven to 180°C and line 2 baking trays. Roll the dough out on a floured surface to about 1cm thick. Cut out your biscuit shapes. I used my heart cutter and D asked if this was a Valentine’s themed post – I suppose it could be a nice recipe for then. Place these on a baking tray. Bring together the dough that didn’t get cut out and roll out the  dough for more biscuits.

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Bake the biscuits for about 10 minutes until golden. They will firm up as they cool.

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These biscuits have proved very popular. I suggest you whip up a batch and then put your feet up to really enjoy them.

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