Check yourself this Movember

14 November may be a little late to start growing a moustache to raise money for Movember. Its also probably futile for approximately half of the population. However, Movember is an extremely worthy cause. The charity aims to prevent early death in younger males by 25% by 2030 by raising money for testicular cancer, prostate cancer and mental health and suicide prevention.

img_2281

The lovely people at Heck Sausages contacted me to ask me to write a post about their Check campaign where proceeds from each pack of their Chicken Italia Chipolatas goes towards the charity. As well as tasting brilliant (and being low fat and gluten free to boot) the staff at Heck started to raise money as one of their staff members Jamie has recently undergone treatment for testicular cancer. Read the full story here. Heck have also renamed themselves Check for the entire month of November to raise awareness for self checking of men. They also aim to raise around £25000 for the charity so don’t forget that the more sausages you eat the more money that goes to charity (talk about win win).

img_2282

Frankly, men are dreadful at self checking and even worse at speaking to the GP. Depending on where you live between a third and a half of men would not know what to look out for when checking their testicles and a similar proportion of women wouldn’t know how to check their partners testicles. Even more scarily 85% of men would be embarrassed to speak to their GP if they did notice a problem.

img_2285

 

Information about checking yourself or somebody your partner can be found here. Its worth being mindful that early diagnosis and treatment increases survival rates of testicular cancer and also prevents loss of both testicles in males.

I actually have an MSc in Cancer Biology and Therapy and one of the facts that will always stick with me is that despite cancer being more diagnosed in women worldwide, the survival rate in men is so much poorer. Men often won’t see their doctor until its too late, which I suppose ties in with suicide rates also being higher in men. Movember is a charity that aims to raise awareness of such issues and on top of that helps fund research into male related cancers. More effective male cancer treatment increases the quality of life of men of your boyfriend’s age, or your brother’s age or one of your friends. On top of that attempting to reduce the stigma of men talking about their feelings and speaking up about mental health issues also improves lives and helps people who are truly suffering see a light at the end of the tunnel.

While I identify as a feminist and I can speak for days about women’s rights and political issues I am also extremely vocal about equality and men’s quality of life. We should all try to support Movember and encourage more men to check themselves and seek help when needed whether it be through raising money for the charity by cultivating a moustache, donating to the charity or even eating rather a lot of sausages for a worthy cause.

For more information about the work Movember is doing please browse their website. It is absolutely fascinating looking at all the causes they are contributing to.

For more information about Heck sausages including stockists please visit their website.

Hello Fresh week 2

So last week I discussed my initial thoughts on Hello Fresh so I thought I would give a final run down. I was a tiny bit irked last week that the box this week came with 3 cans of food. Not that I have an aversion to canned goods – its a cheaper way of eating fruit and vegetables in some cases. I think it was partly because I am pretty intolerant to certain pulses and left them out of one of the recipes entirely. Still, everything tasted great and I will consider future purchases when we’re busier or need cooking inspiration.

I must admit we both adored the quick roast dinner recipe; the gravy was just lovely and sweetened both our Mondays a treat.

I think possibly the nicest thing about these recipes is that they are so stress free. I think they’re so easy to follow and suit a variety of abilities. Also I actually did these boxes without checking what was in them and I found we actually tried new things without the bias that way.

So the pros of Hello Fresh (and similar boxes):

  1. All of the ingredients (except oil and salt and pepper) are provided in the exact quantity required.
  2. Recipes are easy to follow, even for beginners. Nothing takes too long to cook.
  3. They encourage healthy eating. The meals are pretty low calorie, they’re keep you fuller for longer and have lean protein and contain fruit and vegetables.
  4. The food is delicious and encourages customers to try new recipes.
  5. They come in a range of sizes so suit different family sizes.
  6. The packaging is well designed.
  7. They discourage food waste.
  8. It has to be said – good portion sizes. There were a couple of times when I thought “surely this won’t feed us both”. But yes, the classic box for 2 provides a decent meal for a hungry 6ft3 man and his girlfriend.
  9. I actually learned some useful tips from the recipe card.
  10. The food is all pretty local.

The cons are:

  1. I do think, even with the offer these aren’t cheap for what they are if you’re generally a clever shopper. We still had to do a partial food shop – although by the second week I didn’t end up buying as much so it might depend on your lifestyle.
  2. The portion sizes are generally ok but some are a bit nuts. A pasta dish I made was supposed to serve 2 but we both had it for tea/dinner and then lunch the following day. Also we got sent a massive broccoli and it was all supposed to go in one dish. I enjoy my vegetables but I felt that was a bit excessive.
  3. Having to dispose of some of the packaging can be tricky. We know people moving house who are taking the boxes and have a friend who needs packaging material but depending on your local council’s approach to recycling this could be a pain.
  4. Currently they can’t cater for all dietary requirements. Although the box also comes in a vegetarian option and can offer some dietary requirements its not suitable for all allergy sufferers or vegans.

And finally, I do think its worth stating if you do sign up you can pause delivery if you don’t fancy the weekly box on offer or you fancy repeating some recipes you’re sent. We actually both really enjoyed the meals we cooked and I look forward to getting the occasional box. However I love cooking and I did miss the spontaneity of meals, but it felt pretty reassuring on nights I had to work late knowing there was a nutritious meal waiting for me.

IMG_1356

Home made chicken nuggets

IMG_0905

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.

IMG_0899

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

IMG_0900

IMG_0902

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.

IMG_0903

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?

Chicken, gnocchi and sage soup

IMG_0867

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.

DSC_0323

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.

Chicken and ham filo pie

There’s nothing more comforting on a colder day than a homemade pie. There’s just something about the hearty filling and crisp pastry which makes it a favourite in our household (and across Yorkshire). Filo pastry makes this slightly lighter and less calorific than your average pie without compromising on the pie. I had to bat D’s hands away when I was photographing this as he kept stealing pieces of filo pastry to eat. Chicken pies are also a great way to use up leftover cooked chicken and to use cheaper bits of meal, I tend to use boneless chicken thighs in pies are the meat doesn’t dry out during cooking.

To make a filo pie you will need:

Approx 6 sheets of filo pastry

20g butter

6-8 filleted chicken thighs, cut into small pieces

1-2 handfuls leftover chicken (optional)

A large handful of cooked ham

1 onion, diced

2 leeks, sliced

1 clove garlic, crushed

Half a head of brocoli

200ml chicken stock

1/2 glass white wine

2 sprigs rosemary

Salt and pepper

1 large teaspoon low fat crème fraîche

Fry your onion, garlic and leeks on a medium heat until soft. Add your chicken, salt and pepper and cook for about 5 minutes until the chicken starts to look pretty much cooked. Add the ham, stock, wine and rosemary and cook for a further 10 minutes on a low to medium heat. Cut your brocoli into small pieces and cook for about 2 minutes (too much longer and it will be squishy in the pie). Take the filling off the heat and stir through the crème fraîche.

DSC_0112

DSC_0114

During this time preheat your oven to 180°C. Put your pie filling into a pie dish. To top your pie brush a thin layer of butter over your filo pastry, then scrunch up the pastry so that it partially covers the pie. Repeat until the whole pie is covered.

DSC_0117

DSC_0118

Bake for about 15 to 20 minutes. Here is my pie baking in my brand new oven! (Major household appliance excitement!)

DSC_0119

Once the pastry looks crispy and golden remove from the oven and serve. This pie is extremely pretty and doesn’t take too long. Perfect for those nights when you want to make a bit of effort, but you also sort of want to sit in your slippers watching tv.

DSC_0121

DSC_0122

What’s your favourite kind of pie?

Harissa roast chicken with pecorino topped salad

Cooking a whole chicken is way more economical that buying lots of packs of chicken portions and generally you can get more from it that you think; especially if you consider making chicken stock from the bones. That said, having the same roast chicken recipe and serving it the same way could potentially get a bit dull so its nice to have variations on a theme. The harissa coating on this chicken adds just this, the crispy, salty, spicy coating is delicious and when served with a salad is lovely on a warm day.

For the roast chicken you will need

A whole chicken (free range costs a bit more, but its way more ethical and tastes better)

Harissa paste (make your own if you wish, but I used shop bought)

Olive oil

Runny honey

1 lemon

Salt crystals and black pepper

2 garlic cloves

For the salad you will need

2 large handfuls spinach

2 large handfuls of vine tomatoes

1 large red pepper

Olive oil

Pecorino

Salt and pepper

(We also had garlic bread with this but I only heated it up, next time I will make my own).

Preheat your oven to 190°C. While the oven is preheating sort out your chicken – remove any string, cut away the excess skin at the top and bottom, remove any giblets. Half your lemon and shove this into the chicken’s rear end. Crush your garlic and add to the chicken’s bum (I feel very eloquent writing this). Squirt some honey up there then add the remaining lemon half and garlic. Spoon over your harissa paste (I used about 1 tablespoon of it), drizzle over a small amount of olive oil (about 1 teaspoon’s worth) and rub this mixture all over your chicken. Sprinkle some salt crystals all over the chicken and add a sprinkling of pepper. Put this in the oven and roast the chicken for 20 minutes per lb of chicken plus an additional 20 minutes (I use a converter to convert metric to imperial for this). Before the last 20 minutes of cooking liberally spoon over any juice to add to the decliousness and make the chicken all shiny and crispy.

DSC_0622DSC_0623

The salad is simple, half the tomatoes, and cut up the pepper and toss them together in a bowl. Drizzle some olive oil over the salad and season with salt and pepper. Use a grater to shave pecorino over the salad and serve.

DSC_0625When you take the chicken out of the oven leave it for 15-20 minutes before carving to retain the juiciness of the meat. During this time you can heat up any sides (like I said above we had this with garlic bread, but pasta salad or cous cous would work equally well).

DSC_0626The leftovers for this work beautifully in salads, with cold in sandwiches, or in any curries or risottos you wish to make.

Chicken baked with lemon and thyme

This recipe is an absolute dream when you want something tasty and fresh but you don’t have a lot of time or the inclination to cook. In fact, it’s so good you could serve this as a lazy main course for a dinner party no problem. I like to serve this with tagliatelle or really good bread and use the lemony butter you get left as a sauce. This recipe has been so well received by everyone who has tried it; I made it for my family around Christmas and I regularly make it at home. As another positive note, the cold chicken leftovers work beautifully in a salad; limiting your food waste is always a good thing for the environment and your finances.

DSC_0537

To make this you will need:

1 chicken breast per person

Approx. 20g butter (slightly more if you’re making a bigger batch)

A good handful of thyme

1 or 2 garlic cloves (depending on your garlic preferences)

Paprika

Olive oil

1 lemon

Salt and pepper

 

Preheat your oven to 200°C. Trim your chicken breasts as desired and place on a roasting tray (mine was a bit big for the amount of chicken). Sprinkle over the paprika so that it your chicken is covered with a light dusting of it. Then sprinkle over your salt and pepper. Crush your garlic and distribute this evenly over your baking tray. Cut your lemon into 8 pieces and do likewise. Add dots of butter over your chicken and drizzle with your olive oil. Top the whole thing with your thyme and put it all in the oven for about 20 – 25 minutes (when your chicken is cooked through basically).

DSC_0533

In many ways this is one of the best chicken recipes. In winter it is perfect served with hot food and in summer it would work well served with salads.