One pot chicken wonder

I am so in love with this recipe. Making this one is like a mini adventure, with a brilliant delicious reward at the end.

It’s a tender, heart warming chicken dish, perfect for Sunday supper. Prep this one early afternoon so it’s ready to roll a few hours later with steaming vegetables and a mellow glass of red rioja.

Taken from the amazing Nom Nom Paleo Cookbook, this clever slow cook chicken recipe delivers you beautifully succulent chicken, with a rich and incredibly more-ish vegetable gravy. It’s ever so simple, delightfully healthy and is now a thumbs up dinner winner for kids and grown ups in our house.

One pot chicken wonder_1 (3)

I have adapted the Nom Nom recipe slightly. I found the gravy too thick on the original. It’s a forgiving dish to change, so have a go and tweak away if you need to.

My preferred ingredients to make this are as follows:

  • Nice family sized chicken – one that can fit in your slow cooker!
  • 2 tablespoons of coconut oil
  • 3 chopped leeks – white parts only
  • 6 cloves of garlic, peeled and chopped
  • 1 tablespoon of tomato paste
  • 1/2 a mug of chicken stock
  • A tablespoon of dried herbs – I use tarragon, rosemary and thyme
  • 1 teaspoon of fish sauce – trust me it works wonders here!
  • Pink salt and black pepper

And here is how to prepare the vegetables:

  1. Fry the leeks and garlic in the oil till soft, before adding the tomato paste and chicken stock. Allow to simmer for a further 4 or 5 minutes.
  2. Pop the soft vegetables in the bottom of your slow cooker and then move on to prepare the chicken.

Here’s how to prepare the chicken and finish the dish. It’s nice and easy:

  1. Season the chicken inside and out with your herbs, salt and pepper.
  2. Place the chicken breast down on top of the vegetables and sprinkle over the fish sauce.
  3. Put the lid on and leave on the low setting for around 4 hours. You need to check on things towards the end. A larger bird will take up to 5 hours.
  4. I turn my bird over for the last 30 minutes, just to ensure that all sides have been covered in the juices.
  5. When the bird is beautifully steamed and soft, take it out to rest for 15 minutes, before breaking off the meat.
  6. You need to ‘degrease’ the sauce. I do this by simply putting kitchen roll on top to soak up the fat.
  7. Once you are happy, simply blitz up the vegetables with a hand blender. Check the flavours and season if required. If you want a lighter sauce add a little bit boiling water to thin it out.
  8. Serve up with whatever works for you. Sweet potatoes and roasted broccoli makes perfect sense to me.

The ultimate beauty of this is the way the chicken stays so moist, cooking gently and soaking up the gorgeous garlicky flavours. Of course, there are so many other ways you could twist this towards your own favourite flavours.

Have a go and make it your own.

Happy Friday xx

One pot chicken wonder_3 (3)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Balsamic beef with crispy greens

Well here’s a turn up for the books. A full on meaty meat recipe on my blog. I would have bet money against this recipe making it on here six months ago.

The truth is I’ve made a few changes recently. I’m happy with my diet and feel very lucky to be in tune with my body, but I’ve decided to try something new . Over the past few weeks I have cut down the fructose even further, left out legumes and swapped in more proteins from meat. Yes meat, I didn’t expect myself to say that one!

Balsamic steak_2

Ask yourself how you feel?

Just as it’s important to look at our exercise patterns and check whether we’re varying things enough to give enough benefit and recovery, I think it’s just as valuable to do an audit on what we eat every now and then.  I think we should check that what we’re eating is working for us, giving us as much energy as possible and reacting well with our bodies. I’ve been asking myself how I feel and made these changes primarily to help with my energy levels.

So is it a paleo thing or a personal thing?

I have been hugely woken up from the insights on blogs, recipe books and friends with regard to paleo, primal blueprint and caveman style eating. The science behind the principals is so logical. Read a cute introduction to Paleo by Nom Nom. However there are also arguments to say that we have moved on since the caveman days, and that there are definitely risks to eating too much protein Here is a vegan debate against Paleo.

So all I can do, is carry on feeling my way through and lead this one for myself. For me it’s definitely a personal thing. I have a strong set of lifestyle principals and I like that I have found a way to eat and operate that works for me. I’ll just keep checking that I feel good and that I am enjoying life and the food I make.

So what’s the verdict?

Two weeks in and I feel amazing. I have thoroughly enjoyed the challenge of making different things and I cannot believe how much sharper I feel. Clamping down on fructose has meant the mid-afternoon slumps that had started sneaking in, have completely disappeared as my body has a stable blood sugar content. The single most exciting part of this though is that we’re naturally just starting to eat in sync again as a family. The food I am eating is the food my husband and children love to eat.

Balsamic steak_5

So, back to the recipe. I don’t think the pictures are quite as graceful for sure. So more beautiful recipes soon I promise. For a marinade for 2 people you will need:

  • 2 premium cuts of steak, I used fillet steak
  • 3 cloves of garlic sliced finely
  • 2 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon of dark balsamic vinegar
  • About 5 sprigs of thyme and 5 large chopped mint leaves
  • A little salt and pepper

For the green vegetables:

  • An oven tray of kale and broccoli
  • A drizzle of olive oil and gentle drizzle of white balsamic vinegar,
  • Generous sprinkle of pink salt

To bring it all together:

  1. In a flat bottomed ceramic dish place the steak and top with the marinade ingredients.
  2. Cover with foil and place in the fridge for 4 – 6 hours.
  3. When ready, pop the vegetables in a pre heated oven for 20 minutes at 180 degrees C.
  4. Heat a large frying pan or griddle and cook the steaks while the vegetables are cooking.
  5. Once the steak is to your preference let is rest for 5 minutes before serving.

A guide to cooking the perfect steak:

  • Blue: About 1½ mins each side
  • Rare: About 2¼ mins each side
  • Medium-rare: About 3¼ mins each side
  • Medium: About 4½ mins each side

Balsamic steak_8

Curried meatballs with cumin and cinnamon rice

I’ve not been very consistent with my posts this past few months. We’re winding into gear now. No really we are. We’ve got a timetable of post-school activities on the fridge. That is most definitely the green light, the go go go for routine and structure.

It doesn’t mean I’ve not been experimenting and trying out new recipes. In fact I’ve enjoyed not thinking too hard about it all and leaving the notepad and pen to one side for a while.

This week’s post features a fabulous Indian dish. I like the dry warmth of spices in this one, it’s lively but not powerful enough to take your breath away. In fact although spiced, this dish is rather fragrant and light.

Curried meatballs_1

It works well with both lamb and turkey. I’m just not a big meat eater personally and enjoy the lighter, leaner turkey version. To make enough for 4 people you will need:

For the meatballs:

  • 4 garlic cloves, chopped finely
  • 500g turkey mince or lamb mince
  • 1 teaspoon of garam masala
  • 1 teaspoon of hot chilli / regular chilli powder
  • 2 birds eye chillies, chopped finely
  • 1 large egg

For the rice:

  • A little coconut oil
  • 1 large white onion
  • 4 teaspoons of cumin seeds
  • 4 bay leaves
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 200 grams basmati rice (white or brown)
  • 450 ml water

Serve with:

  • A handful of fresh coriander
  • A good squeeze of lime
  • 1 ripe sliced mango, natural yoghurt with chopped mint

To make, you’ll need around 45 minutes in total.

  1. In a large bowl combine the meatball ingredients and season.
  2. Wet your hands, then shape between 12 and 20 meatballs depending on preferred size.
  3. Cover and place in fridge till you need, or at least for a few minutes to settle.
  4. On a medium heat fry the meatballs in a pan till completely sealed with a brown finish.
  5. Leave to one side until you’ve completed step 8. At this point place in oven for 20 minutes on 150 degrees Celsius.
  6. To make the rice fry the onion in a frying pan till really soft – give this at least 10 minutes.
  7. Add the cumin for 5 minutes before adding the bay leaves, cinnamon, water and rice.
  8. Bring to the boil, then drop the heat low and pop the lid on.
  9. Keep on the heat till the water is absorbed and the rice is steamed, soft and tender. This should take 20 minutes, but you need to test, potentially adding a little water too. Keep an eye on the process for the last 5 minutes.
  10. When the rice and meatballs are ready, remove the bay leaves and cinnamon. Plate up with a generous squeeze of lime, some sliced mango, plenty of fresh coriander and a dollop of minted yoghurt.

Curried meatballs_2

It’s making me hungry just typing this.

Try it – it’s truly delicious

x

Very versatile veggies

This is more of an idea than a recipe. It’s a great idea though. If it becomes routine, it will change the way you clear out all your leftover veggies, as well as help you fill those occasional creative spaces for mid week mealtimes.

Versatile Veggies_1

The idea is to use up all your vegetables in a simple rustic sauce, which can be used as the basis or accompaniment to lots of weekday meals. There are two tricks to this:

  1. Halve the end product – keep one half as a brilliant ratatouille and pulse the other to make a smooth ragu. Children LOVE this. It is jam packed with vegetables but with no evidence of ‘bits’. I have fooled my children with this one for some time now.
  2. Make more, way more than you need for one sitting. Portion up into freezer bags and label clearly. You can pull out as and when you need.

Versatile Veggies_2

Here are some of the ways you can use the sauces:

  • For the kids I use the ragu on its own as a sauce for gluten free pasta. You can finish it with crumbled soft cheese or grated parmesan.
  • Most commonly for the kids I use the smooth sauce to accompany meatballs or minced beef. Simply brown meatballs or mince and then add the ragu, simmering the sauce until the meat is tender. My children prefer both the texture and taste of this over any other sauce I make.
  • Liven up leftovers by pouring the sauce over shredded roast chicken. Serve with rice and corn on the cob.
  • The chunkier ratatouille is superb served really hot with a simple bowl of brown rice, yoghurt and a generous handful of chopped fresh herbs.
  • The ratatouille is also fantastic with fish. Place two piece of white fish in foil, sprinkle some halved olives and a squeeze of lemon, then cover in a generous helping of the ratatouille. Oven roast for 20 minutes and enjoy a fab meal for two.
  • Try a few spoonfuls on top of steamed asparagus. Sprinkle the dish with parmesan, grill for 2 minutes and serve with rocket leaves.

Versatile Veggies_4

To make this batch I used:

  • A tablespoon of coconut (or olive oil)
  • 4 garlic cloves
  • A large white onion
  • 3 red peppers
  • 1 large aubergine
  • 1 large courgette
  • A handful of small tomatoes
  • 3 large carrots
  • 2 tablespoons of tomato puree
  • 2 tablespoons of good quality balsamic vinegar
  • a teaspoon of oregano
  • 400ml of passata or chopped tomatoes
  • Low salt vegetable stock cube
  • Salt and pepper to season

To make:

  1. Chop the vegetables neatly into cubes.
  2. Fry the onions and garlic in the oil until soft before adding all the remaining vegetables.
  3. Add the herbs, puree, balsamic, passata and stock cube.
  4. Bring to the boil and then reduce the heat right down, pop on a lid and leave to simmer for a good 45 minutes or so. The dish is ready when the vegetables are soft and tender. Add more water if needed, gauge the liquid based on how thick you want the ratatouille.
  5. Blitz up half, then store what you need in airtight jars and freeze the rest in bags.

Versatile and very scrummy veggies.

Enjoy x

Turkey and spinach mini burgers

I’m currently trying out various new ideas and recipes on the whole family. The objective is to find some new ‘dinner winners’. Tasty and healthy food that we can all enjoy. The top recipes will be rolled into our family favourites and called upon when we need a trusted result.

Like a lot of families, we can be really fragmented in terms of the food and times that we eat. It’s not unusual during the week for us to have three different meals at three different times. I appreciate we can’t completely change that. However I am on a mini mission with my Project Dinner Winner to increase the common ground. The key things:

  1. The meals all have to be healthy and nutritious, made from unprocessed foods
  2. They have to be easy to make and ideally freezable too
  3. They have to taste great

So first up, these flavoursome little mini burgers. They’re incredibly tasty, jam packed with goodness and very simple to make.

The ‘big people’ version served with garlic roasted cauliflower, broccoli and chickpea:

Mini burger 2

The ‘little people’ version served with melted cheese and smiley face vegetables:

Mini burger 3

To make around 20 mini burgers (each around 75 calories) you will need:

  • 2 tablespoons of oil plus a little to brush before cooking
  • 1 medium onion
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 400g turkey
  • 1 grated carrot
  • 200g spinach
  • 120 g of gluten free/regular oats (or 100g breadcrumbs)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic

And here’s how:

  1. Fry the onion and garlic in the oil till translucent and soft.
  2. Add the vegetables, balsamic and oregano and reduce on the heat till the spinach has completed wilted down and most of the liquid has evaporated (this is important for the consistency of the burgers).
  3. Once cool use a hand blender or food mixed to blitz up the mixture so that there are no big chunks left.
  4. Then in a separate bowl mix together the oats, turkey, eggs.
  5. Combine both sets of ingredients in the mixing bowl with a spoon. The mixture will be pretty moist, not as firm as a classic burger, but stable enough to shape.
  6. Make individual balls (each approximately 25/30g) and gently pat into neat dinky burgers. You can make all the burgers and fridge/freeze the ones you don’t need at this stage, or just freeze the mixture you don’t need.
  7. Brush the ones you’re making with oil on both sides and gently fry until golden brown. Don’t blast them on too high a heat or they’ll char pretty quickly.
  8. Once browned, pop them in an oven at around 180 degrees c for about 15 further minutes.
  9. You can then add cheese and grill, or serve up with salad and roasted vegetables. Try adding some crunch to the plate as the burgers are soft in their texture.

The vegetables shown here were easy to make. Just chop cauliflower and broccoli into small florets and a garlic clove into slivers. Lay on a tray with a handful of chickpeas. Brush them all with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast till they start to change colour and the garlic has gone crispy. They add some good texture and a nice punch of garlic to the plate too. I’d definitely recommend having a go.

Mini burger 4

The tough critics here gave these mini burgers a clean plate thumbs up. I hope these work out well for others too.

Majestic Masala

This is a sublime curry. Defined by its subtle layering of spices, this dish is perfect for a Saturday night in. Even better when there’s enough left to develop, savoured as a heartwarming Monday supper.

Masala with lamb_4

Masala with chickpea and spinach_5

My husband first learnt this one on a cookery course with Prett Tejura back in England. (more on Prett’s cookery school). To achieve the carefully balanced layers it’s important to source good spices, measure the ingredients correctly and follow the method carefully.

We tend to make the sauce a day or so in advance. That’s not a must – but having tried both ways, I think there’s a greater depth of flavour when the curry is made in advance.

To make enough masala for 2 people (with lots of seconds for another day) or a generous meal for 4, you will need:

• 2 medium white onions finely chopped
• 4 tbsp sunflower oil (There are more notes about cooking oil at the bottom of this post)
• 5cm stick of cinnamon
• 8 cloves
• 1 tsp coriander powder
• 1 tsp cumin powder
• 2 tsp garam masala
• 1 tsp turmeric powder
• ½ tsp red chilli powder
• 3 tsp crushed garlic
• 2 tsp crushed fresh ginger
• 2 tsp chopped green chillies (the smaller ones pack a better punch)
• 1 can of chopped tomatoes
• 2 tsp salt (to your taste)
• Generous handful chopped coriander
• Meat or vegetables to add to the Masala sauce (see how we do it below)

Making the masala

1. Place the oil in a cooking pan and heat, add cloves and cinnamon until they sizzle.
2. Add the onions and cook until they turn golden on a medium heat, stirring occasionally. It’s important to take your time over this stage. It should take around 10 minutes for the onions to soften and cook.
3. Add the remaining dry spices. If the pan gets sticky just add a little water. Don’t rush, this is where the spices and onions gently mellow and infuse. It’s how the layering of flavours develop for the end dish.
4. Add the chopped tomatoes, garlic, ginger and green chillies. Add more green chilli if you prefer it hotter (we do add another teaspoon).
5. Simmer for 5-10 minutes with the lid on. The masala will be ready when the oil appears on the surface.

Finishing the dish

This is a classic example of how we do things two ways here. We make the curry sauce then divide in half.

Version 1 – We add (around 350g) chopped shoulder of lamb and a little water to the sauce, before slowly cooking for around an hour. Chicken would work well too, reducing cooking time also.

Masala with lamb

Version 2 (my dish) – I add chickpeas (soaked overnight and cooked in water), spinach and a little water to the other half, before heating for 20 minutes. This half is mine to enjoy with brown basmati.

Masala with chickpea and spinach

The optional (but pretty delicious) extras

Boiled brown basmati:
Make sure you wash your basmati thoroughly and cover in cold water for 30 minutes before you cook. Add boiling water and salt and cook without the rice soaking up all the water. It’s ready when you can squeeze the grains. Try adding a clove, a cinnamon stick and a wedge of lime to this rice to liven it up.

Minted yoghurt:
We just use simple natural yoghurt, then add chopped fresh mint and a squeeze of lime.

Mango chutney:
Have a look at my homemade clean eating mango chutney recipe. It’s fresh fruity flavour compliments, rather than overpowers the curry. It’s more natural than anything you can by in a jar.

mango_1

This Magestic Masala is a sumptous weekend treat.  I hope you get time to make this one soon.

Before I go, here’s a few words on cooking oils.

A mini guide to cooking oils

There is so much conflict on what oils are good/clean and what should be avoided. For every view in one direction, there’s a contradiction in the other. Here’s a little guide that might help you when choosing oils for cooking and salads.

First up, coconut oil

I use a lot of coconut oil on this blog. That isn’t a must, but it’s been highly advocated recently and I simply enjoying cooking with it.

Once coconut oil was a massive no no due to its high saturated fat content. However now there is recognition that some saturated fat is good for us. The composition of the medium fatty acids are broken down fast by our bodies and therefore rarely stored as fat, but burned off instead.

A guide to what oil and when

You need to consider what you’re making as to what oil you need. This means:

1. Consider the temperature you need it. High smoke point oils are best for cooking (olive oil is actually best used without heat or used at lower temperatures).

2. Consider the flavour. Please don’t use olive oil for Indian cooking. It’s derived from olives – not suitable for the delicate aromatic spices we lovingly add to our pan. Equally if using coconut oil, look for a mild flavour variety to avoid this overpowering your meal.

3. Source well. Typically the better the oil the less processing involved. You want to avoid any label that alludes to genetic engineering.

4. Use oil sparingly if at all. Don’t be afraid of just skipping the oil. Break the habit and try roasting vegetables on their own or having a salad without a dressing. I rarely use oil through the week – meaning a little sunflower oil on a Saturday night is no bad thing. Balance doesn’t just exist in one meal, it’s the whole 7 day week, the month, and onwards.

Specific oils

Great for cooking:
High smoke point oils – coconut oil, avocado oil and almond oil

Great for cold dishes:
Try cold pressed extra virgin olive oil, unrefined safflower oil, unrefined walnut oil and unrefined sunflower oil

Steer clear:
Avoid cooking with anything with hydrogenated in the label. This includes palm oil (highly processed) and vegetable oil. The process to make this is so unnatural and so far from vegetables as we know them.

The most important final word on oils:

MODERATION 

I hope this helps x