Wednesday, 27 April 2011

Quick chicken fajitas

A lovely tasty meal that is quite quick to prepare and is really tasty.

Take a large frying pan and put in a good glug of olive oil. Add a couple of tablespoons of mixed spice and one large chicken breast per person cut into thin strips.

Fry until they are browned and then add the vegetables- strips of pepper, spring onions, courgettes are what I used this time but as always you can adapt to taste/ what you have in.

Add these to the pan and again fry quickly keeping everything crisp and colourful. Add then some chopped jalopeno peppers, sundried tomatoes and chives.

A good shake of worcestershire sauce and some chopped garlic. Give everything a good season.

Finally add a quick splash of white wine. Meanwhile warm some flour tortilla wraps. Once done place onto plates and add the chicken and vegetables together with a dollop of natural yoghurt, some tomato salsa and some grated cheese.

Roll up and serve with a large glass of rose wine!

Delicious.... Kids love these as well and you can adapt the flavourings and seasoning depending on how spicy people like it. You can alternatively put everything on the table and let people make their own- great for a casual dinner with friends.

Til soon....

Monday, 25 April 2011

Getting through the glut of Easter goodies- Chocolate slabs!

Once the fun of the easter egg hunt is over there is a tendancy for the remaining chocolate to look a little sad and disappointing and it doesn't get eaten and stays hidden in the cupboard until Halloween! Small eggs get chipped and broken, there is just a handful of sweets from the centre of eggs, there are bits of broken chocolate eggs scattered in various boxes. On their own it can feel it is best to just throw these bits and pieces away but they can be changed into a fun and attractive treat- chocolate slabs. It can even be recycled into presents for others since they look really good and can be whatever flavours you think your chosen recipient would like. You can buy these from various chocolate houses but they are relatively simple to do yourself.

First of all line a baking sheet with baking paper and then get together pieces of chocolate of the same type and melt gently (either over a pan of boiling water or in the microwave)

Then dollop onto the baking paper in quite a thick circle. First I did milk...

Then I did white...

Then dark...

I had pretty much even amounts of each type but you can just use up whatever types you have. Once you have melted the chocolate use a pallet knife to smooth the various chocolates together into a rectangular shape.

You can leave the chocolate like this or drag a toothpick through the melted chocolate in both directions to give a marbled effect.

This then can be decorated however you wish- broken bits of mini eggs, pieces of smashed creme eggs, smashed biscuits, pieces of fudges, marshmellows, caramel, sugar sprinkles etc. The recipe for caramel that I used for the matzo crunch can be used here- dropped randomly across the melted chocolate.

This time I used hard caramel drizzled across the whole of the chocolate since I was giving it to my parents who wouldn't have been into the whole sweet decorations (also my girls haven't quite got bored of their hunt stash yet!)

To do this cover the base of a thick based pan with sugar and place over the heat.

Stir with a wooden spoon- it will start to clump initially

Then the sugar will start dissolving and caramelising and this is creating the lovely hard caramel. Leave to bubble and the caramel will go a lovely dark golden colour.

Once it has got to the above colour you have a couple of choices- you can either pour it across a separate sheet of baking paper and allow to set and then break it into brittle pieces to scatter across the chocolate. Or you can do as I did this time and drizzle it directly over the melted chocolate.

It will harden very quickly. Be really careful dealing with the caramel since it is will EXTREMELY hot. Once it has hardened you can neaten up the edges by breaking off the pieces that have creaped over the edge.

Leave to harden.

It can then either be left whole or broken into rough pieces. It can be stored in an airtight container for a week or two.

Adults and kids alike love them. It really does turn some odd bits and pieces into an impressive chocolate delight.

Here is another one that used up marshmellows (some whole and some melted), mini eggs and fudge pieces:

Fantastically over the top and fun! Much better than a few broken eggs and sweets!

Til soon....

Sunday, 24 April 2011

An eggscellent hunt!

The sun shone (but the chocolate didn't melt) and the children and adults had an absolute ball. For the first year we organised a neighbourhood Easter Egg Hunt (kids aged from 20 months to 5 years) and we all had a great time.

Everyone was asked to bring along some mini eggs for the hunt and a painted boiled egg.

In the run up I did some preparations with our girls. First all I bought a chocolate egg mould and made some eggs to add to the collection. We did all different types but this batch I first melted white chocolate to line the bottom of the moulds and sprinkled on some tiny fudge pieces.

This was then allowed to set a little before being topped with melted milk chocolate.

And finally these were topped with mini marshmellows.

As I say this was just one batch and we let our imagination run wild with different toppings and chocolate combinations- fudge, caramel, marshmellows, white chocolate buttons etc. Some of the egg halves were also glued together once set with some melted chocolate to make whole eggs.

The finished eggs were really cute and gave a bit more of a personal touch to the hunt.

This is a photo of just one of the batches of eggs. It was very difficult to resist eating a few in the run up to today!

The other thing that we needed was boiled eggs for the egg rolling competition. This year we tried natural dying. I put six raw eggs into a saucepan of cold water and added the papery brown skins of about 10 onions (only the outer skins that you normally throw away!)

Then bring to the boil and reduce to a simmer for about 30 minutes to make sure they are properly hard boiled (don't worry- you are not eating them- you just want them hard and evenly dyed!)

After about half an hour check the colour of the eggs- they should be a dark rustic red. Then turn off the heat and leave to cool. These can then be left overnight in the liquid to intensify the colour. In the morning, remove the eggs from the liquid and place to dry (in empty egg boxes is the easiest!) Once they are dry then give them a wipe over with vegetable oil to give a nice shine.

Finally give to the children to decorate how they wish (I think a Miss Middleton egg snuck in there!!)

To add to the eggs we had a large bag of shop bought eggs that were pre-wrapped.

We ran around 10 minutes before the hunt scattering hundreds of eggs. Then 7 children and half an hour later we had a lot of ladened baskets! We had also scattered lots of paper tokens with eggs on them and the child with the most egg won another batch of eggs! We managed to wrestle the chocolates off the children before they went mad on sugar by then doing the egg rolling competition. This was a great end to the morning's activities.

Great fun, a lovely neighbourhood activity and something we'll definitely repeat next year.

Til soon....

Saturday, 23 April 2011

Beef and vegetable satay stir fry

On a busy weekend I like to be able to do quick tasty dishes that don't take up the whole evening. The following "recipe" is one that I always adapt- depending on what I have in I will adapt it. The following is how I made it this evening but as I say all the time- this is just a suggestion and you can adapt it to your own tastes. Use chicken instead or just more vegetables.

The most important thing on dishes like this is being organised and quick cooking. People who don't like vegetables are often converted when they eat properly cooked, crispy quick-cooked vegetables. I really detest slushy vegetables that have stewed for ages. They also loose all their nutrients. Before you begin to start cooking make sure you have all your vegetables chopped and ready, your beef in slices and your noodles to hand. Don't decide to make a 20 minute phone call once your stir fry is cooking- it will just become a sludge and not taste anywhere near as good. You want the stir fry to be crisp and retain all the colours and flavours.

Being by chopping up the vegetables that you are going to be using into even pieces that are approximately bite-size. Tonight I used spring onions, white onion, celery, carrot, courgette and brocolli.

Get a large pan of water on the boil for the noodles. Heat up a couple of tablespoons of toasted sesame oil (you can use vegetable oil if you don't have this but I like the added nutty taste) and about the same amount of soy sauce in a large wok or frying pan. You need to do this over a medium-high heat and quickly fry the vegetables for a couple of minutes. Add a couple of chopped cloves of garlic and half a red chilli for some kick (if you prefer it stronger add in some more)

After this time add slices of beef steak- approximately the same sizes as the vegetable pieces. If you were using chicken it would be best to fry this first before the vegetables and then add them for the last few minutes so that it is cooked through. Thin steak slices shouldn't need long so should go in after the vegetables have had a few minutes to cook.

Cook for a couple more minutes. During this time once the water is boiling then turn it off and put in one nest of fine noodles per person. This should go into water that is no longer boiling. Put the lid on the pan and leave for a couple of minutes- this will be sufficient to cook the noodles but again they won't be soggy and starchy but perfectly cooked.

Whilst the noodles are cooking add a couple of tablespoons of smooth peanut butter to the beef and vegetables, a good splash of red wine (about 100ml depending on how liquid you would like the sauce) and give everything a good stir before cooking for a couple of minutes.

Once the noodles are ready then add about 100ml single cream and stir through. Season to taste.

Drain the noodles and divide between bowls and then top with the stir fry.

Quick, easy and so long as you don't start cooking until about 6 minutes before you want to eat, delicious everytime!

Til soon....

Friday, 22 April 2011

Creamy chicken curry

Even in this lovely weather we still enjoy having a curry and I like the following recipe since I usually have all the ingredients in and so can make it last minute.

25g Plain flour
3 tsp Garam masala

500g Chicken breasts chunks
2 tbsp Vegetable oil

1 Onion, sliced
1 red pepper and 1 green pepper sliced

1 tsp Cumin seeds
5 Cardamon pods
1 tsp coriander seeds
1 tsp fennel seeds
½ tsp mustard seeds
2-3 Bay leaves
400g chopped tomatoes
2 chopped garlic cloves

1 tsp Turmeric
0.5 tsp fenugreek powder
1 tsp lemon juice
1 heaped tsp chopped red chilli
3-4 tbsp single cream
250g Natural yogurt

Mix together the flour and 2 tsp garam masala with some salt and pepper in a bag. Put the chicken in this mixture in the bag and shake to coat. 

If you can leave it overnight to marinade so much the better. Then remove the chicken onto a plate shaking off any excess.

Put the cumin seeds, cardamon pod, coriander seeds, fennel seeds and mustard seeds into a dry pan and fry for a couple of minutes, keeping the pan moving so that the spices toast rather than burn.

Tip them into your pestle and mortar and grind to a powder. 

Heat 1 tbsp oil and half the butter in a large frying pan and fry the chicken, in batches if necessary, for 2 minutes on each side. 

Add a little more oil if necessary then add the onions and peppers and sauté over a gentle heat for 5 minutes, until soft. 

Add the crushed spice mix and bay leaves and cook for 1–2 minutes. 

Add the garlic, turmeric, fenugreek and remaining garam masala and stir through.

Then add the chopped tomatoes and cook for around 10 minutes until the mixture becomes thick. 

Add the chilli and lemon juice and simmer for 15 minutes until everything is cooked through. Pour in the single cream and cook for another minute. 

Turn off heat and stir through yoghurt.

While curry is cooking make the rice cooked with 1 tbsp turmeric and 1 tbsp cinnamon in the cooking water.

Once the rice is cooked stir through a tsp lemon juice and serve into bowls. Pour over the curry.

Delicious and so much better than anything you can make from a ready-made sauce.

Til soon...

Above recipe listed on The #Curry Guide.