Thursday, 21 June 2012

Broccoli & Feta Potato bake

What a grim day! What happened to (the increasingly lesser spotted) Summer season? I'm certain that I haven't slept through it because I'm definitely not that well rested. Regrettably.

To banish the rainy day blues, I've been tucking into satisfying summer comfort food. This one pot meal is a great way to use up that tired looking bag of potatoes that's been hanging around for a bit too long. You could also use leftover boiled potatoes (skip the par-boiling if they've already been cooked or you'll end up with mush!) so it can be a super thrify meal too. I'm partial to a little ham or bacon thrown in but it's also delicious without if you're going meatless.

You might not have tried roasted broccoli before now but I think this will convert you. It brings out a sweet earthy flavour that shows off the little green trees at their best. Coupled with the mushrooms, you'll have a lovely rich mouthful. Don't forget a sprinkling of feta to cut through the warmth and give it a summery taste.
Broccoli & Feta Potato bake

Serves 4

300g new potatoes (or leftover cooked potatoes)
1 large head of broccoli
100g mushrooms, cleaned
handful of spring onions, sliced
50g ham or cooked bacon, roughly chopped (optional)
50g curly kale, storks removed and sliced
4 – 6 cloves of garlic, peeled
120g feta cheese, crumbled
2 tbsp (gluten free) soy sauce

- Preheat the oven to 180C. Add a drizzle of oil to a large roasting tray and pop into the oven to warm up.
- Boil the kettle while you half or (if they’re big ‘uns) thickly slice the potatoes.
- Prepare the broccoli. Cut bite-sized florets from the main stem, halving any trees that are too big. Cut the stem into chunks.
- Simmer the potatoes (if they need cooking) and broccoli stem for five minutes or until just tender. Throw in the spring onions so that they get a few moments in the hot water then drain the whole lot.
- Remove the roasting tray from the oven and add the potatoes, broccoli stems and spring onions – stand back as they may spit. Move them around in the hot oil so that they are nicely coated and start to colour in places.
- Add the broccoli florets, mushrooms and garlic to the roasting tin and then shove back into the oven for 30 minutes or until the broccoli starting to go a tawny golden colour and is cooked to your liking. I like it with a little bite left in it but this is up to you.
- Meanwhile, boil the kale for 4 minutes or microwave for around 3 minutes until just cooked.
- Remove the tin from the oven. Add the ham/bacon, kale and half of the feta before stirring and putting it back in the oven for 10 minutes.
- Serve generously heaped on plates and covered in the remaining feta cheese.

Wednesday, 13 June 2012

Summery chicken stew

The Boy and I have spent a glorious week touring the country to see friends and family. Naturally, our trips tend to revolve around food. We’ve barbecued near Bristol, sipped cider on the Cam (bringing a little bit of Somerset to Cambridge!) and noshed on marshmallows on a narrow boat.

Summer signals a flurry of activity for most people – time to make hay while the sun shines. If it’s raining – or if you’re busy dashing about doing a myriad of things simultaneously – you might like to come in after a long day to a bowl of stew.

This creamy chicken stew is light and fresh enough to suit a warm (if damp) summers day. As with all of my recipes, it’s easy and rather forgiving; you can leave it bubbling away on the stove (or in the oven – a similar amount of time at 180C should do the trick) while you go about your business. And, as long as you take care to ensure that it doesn’t boil dry, it won’t be ruined if you accidentally forget about it while you’re taking on the world.

This is a great recipe to have up your sleeve as a versatile and tasty dish. Although I’ve suggested kale, carrots and peas, you could throw in any vegetables that are in season and need using up. Asparagus works well if chucked in at the same time as the kale. In fact, you needed use kale – finely sliced cabbage, greens or spinach would work equally as well. An ideal one-pot supper to cut down on washing up without compromising on taste!

With all of the vegetables and light stock, this is a deliciously healthy meal. I would recommend using Quark instead of cream. It might sound like a Star Trek character but it’s actually a virtually fat free mild cheese that tastes lovely and creamy without being high in calories.

Summer Chicken Stew
Serves 4 – 6

6 chicken thighs, skin on
3 shallots or small onions, sliced
4 cloves garlic, sliced
4 carrots, sliced
½ chilli, deseeded and finely chopped
50g dried apricots, chopped
700ml chicken stock/water
300ml white wine/cider
50g curly kale, stalks removed and sliced
1 tbsp dried tarragon
100g quark or 100ml single cream
50g peas, ideally fresh from the pod but frozen is fine

- Add a drizzle of oil to a pan large enough to take all of the chicken pieces and vegetables with plenty of space over a high heat. Brown the chicken in batches, placing them skin side down for a few minutes and once golden brown, turn over. Remove from the pan.
- Brown the onion for ten minutes until golden brown and soft. Remove and set aside.
- Deglaze the pan with wine/cider; pour in the liquid and scrape the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon or spatula to remove all of the cooked on flavour.
- Add the chicken and onions to the pan with the garlic, carrots, chilli, tarragon and apricots then cover with stock/water. Top up with boiling water if needed until everything is covered.
- Put a lid on the pan and turn the head down to a gentle simmer. Cook for 30 – 40 minutes until the carrots are tender and the chicken is cooked through.
- Remove from the heat and skin off a cup of the cooking liquor. Set aside to cool while you stir in the kale so that it is submerged in the liquid. The residual heat will cool it nicely.
- Meanwhile, whisk the quark or cream into the cooking liquor until smooth and lump-free. Add this back into the pan, along with the peas and stir through.
- Serve with jacket potatoes, boiled jersey royals or rice.

Friday, 1 June 2012

Low Fat Berry Banana Muffins

As the long weekend approaches, you might be on the lookout for delicious recipes. If we can’t rely on the weather, we might as well ensure that we have tasty things to eat. Whether you’re in need of something for a Jubilee street party or searching of a healthy breakfast treat, this easy muffin recipe is versatile and a great way to get a portion of fruit.

This recipe is low in fat and isn’t as sweet as the processed versions that you’ll find in coffee shops and supermarkets. It’s a great way to use up those forlorn overripe bananas too! The bananas help to keep the muffins nicely moist but don’t provide an overwhelming banana flavour which means that you can chop and change the flavour combinations.

I filled mine with cheap frozen mixed berries from the supermarket but you can add any that you fancy. Go for classic blueberry muffins or add half cherries and half almonds for a summery, seasonal twist.

I think I’ll be packing a few for a weekend bike ride for a little slow release energy!

Berry-nana muffins
Yields 12 muffins

150g whole grain flour
150g self-raising flour
1tsp bicarbonate of soda
100g light muscovado sugar
50g porridge oats, with a little more for garnishing
2 medium bananas, peeled and mashed
300ml low fat yoghurt
5 tbsp sunflower oil
2 egg whites
300g fresh or frozen berries

- Preheat the oven to 180c.
- Line a 12 hole muffin tin with paper muffin cases or squares of greaseproof paper (mine were approximately 10cm x 10cm).
- Mix the flours, bicarbonate of soda, sugar and oats together.
- In a separate bowl, combine the mashed banana, yoghurt, oil and egg.
- Make a well in the dry ingredients and pour in the liquid mixture. Stir quickly but gently to bring everything together. Don’t panic if the batter looks a little lumpy.
- Gently fold in the berries and divide between the muffin cases, sprinkling each one with a little oats.
- Bake for 18 – 20 minutes until golden brown.

Looking for a way to use up those unwanted egg yolks? Why not make mayonnaise for your weekend barbecues and sandwiches?
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