Sunday, 31 March 2013

Oven Baked Chimichangas with Chicken

Chimichangas are traditionally deep-fried and vegetarian, so as per I decided to adapt the recipe from my bite-size Mexican to suit myself. 
Very simply, fried some onion and peppers (you get that sizzling fajita smell! ) then chucked in some cubed chicken and freshly chopped chillies. Then throw in some chopped tomatoes (I used freshly chopped cherry tomatoes but you can use tinned), some oregano and let it simmer for 10-15 mins until the chicken is cooked. Take off the heat and stir in some grated cheddar and feta (or mozzarella according to the recipe). I would have added fresh coriander here if I had any, but otherwise just divide your mixture into four tortillas, wrap them up and secure with a toothpick. Bake for 10-15 minutes and serve sprinkled with spring onions. Simples.

Tuesday, 26 March 2013

The 5:2 Cookbook 100 Recipes for Fasting [Book Review]

Thank you to Octopus Publishing for sending me the 5:2 Cookbook by Angela Dowden to review.

Being paperback it's hard to read whilst following a recipe and I do prefer pictures (being a food stylist!) but for £7.99 you get a whole range of recipes as well as a guide to the 5:2 diet, with plenty of information and advice on how to follow it, tailor it to suit yourself, and a very positive and healthy attitude for sticking to a lifestyle choice rather than a weight-loss fad.

Good recipes though, giving the number of calories per dish as required on the two days of the week when you are fasting.
Also fast day meal planners which help and which you can change to suit yourself, depending on whether you have breakfast or lunch or supper or a combination of each. It is divided into 100, 200 and 300 calorie meals (and snacks up to 50 and up to 100 calories) which you can mix and match to create your own 500 calorie-a-day food plan.

I have somewhat of a muffin-top which I would like to dispose of, but I also think that following this plan, rather than a 'diet', is much more sustainable. You will 'starve' yourself for a day but you know you will be able to eat whatever you want the next day, so it's not as unattainable as the usual 'I'm never drinking again' or 'I'm giving up sugar' or any of those diets where you decide you will never have chocolate again, so it is much easier to keep up as a lifestyle choice. I know several friends who are following it rigourously and claim to feel healthier. And have lost weight. Even if you are not trying to lose any weight, you can still feel the benefits by doing one day a week.

So choose your day. Stick to it. Just for one day. Then do it again a week later. It's not that hard! And with a book like this with some recipes that you can actually enjoy, it can happen. You will feel so virtuous. I will report back with de-muffin-top-development. I can feel it going already.

Here are two recipes, reproduced with kind permission from Octopus Publishing

Thai-style fish kebabs

Serves 4
Prep 15 mins, plus marinating
Cook 10 mins
195 calories per serving

grated rind and juice of 2 limes
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
2 tbps finely sliced fresh root ginger
2 chillies, finely chopped
2 lemongrass stalks, finely chopped
handful of coriander leaves, finely chopped
1 glass red wine
2 tbsp sesame oil


500-750 g firm white fish, such as swordfish, monkfish, cod or haddock, cut into large cubes
1 courgette, cut into 8 pieces
1 onion, quartered and layers separated
8 mushrooms
 vegetable oil for brushing


Mix together the ingredients for the marinade in a large non-metallic bowl. Add the fish, courgette, onion and mushrooms and coat well. Cover and leave to marinate in the fridge for at least an hour.

Brush the rack of the grill pan lightly with vegetable oil to prevent sticking. Thread 4 skewers alternately with fish, mushrooms, courgettes and onion.  Brush with oil and cook under a preheated hot grill for about 10 minutes, turning the skewers frequently until cooked through. Serve hot.

This was a quick and very tasty dish, which can be adapted to various different types of fish. If you haven't had your full quota of calories for your fast day, you can even have a little rice with it... Delicious! The perfect end to a hungry busy day.

Chicken Fillets with Soy Glaze

Serves 4
Prep 10 mins, plus marinating
Cook 30 mins
300 calories per serving


4 chicken breasts
4 tbsp dark soy sauce
2 tbsp light muscovado sugar
2 garlic cloves, crushed
2 tbsp white wine vinegar
100 ml freshly squeezed orange juice


Lay the chicken fillets on a chopping board and slice each in half horizontally. Place in a large shallow ovenproof dish in which the fillets fit snugly.

Mix together the soy sauce, sugar, garlic, vinegar, orange juice and pepper and pour the mixture over the chicken. Cover and leave to marinate in the fridge until ready to cook.

Bake in a preheated oven 180c (gas 4) for 30 mins until the chicken is cooked through. Serve the chicken with the cooking juices spooned over..

Saturday, 23 March 2013

Old Dehli-Style Chicken Curry

Saturday night is curry night! And also fridge-raider night in this case. Chicken from the freezer, tins of chopped tomatoes, some leftover yoghurt and a cupboard full of spices... a root through some old recipe tear-offs I came across something pulled from a newspaper from years ago, no idea which one, it was just stuck there looking at me and had all the ingredients I had to hand. It's called Old Dehli-Style Chicken Curry, but having never (yet) been to Dehli, either old or new, I have no idea what it should be like, but hey, let's give it a try...

Marinade some chicken breast cubes in ginger, garlic, salt and chilli powder, with the juice of half a lemon for about 20 minutes. Mix some garam masala with greek yoghurt and add this to the marinade, for another 20 minutes or so. Heat the oven to about 220 C (gas 6) and lay the chicken pieces in a tray in a single layer and cook for about 10 minutes - they don't need to be fully cooked. Take them out and leave aside for now. 
In a wok, place a tin of chopped tomatoes and some passata with some crushed garlic, ginger, 2 or 3 green cardamoms, 2 or 3 cloves, a bay leaf and a splash of water. Bring to the boil and simmer until the tomatoes have broken down. Here you can blend and strain if you like, but I didn't...
Bring up to the boil again and add quite a bit of chilli powder and simmer until it begins to thicken. Whisk in two small knobs of butter and then after a few minutes add in the baked chicken with the marinade. Simmer this for 5 minutes or so. Next add in some finely chopped ginger and about 100 ml of cream. Simmer this for as long as it takes the kids to get to sleep - you will see some spots of fat appear on the surface. When you're almost ready to eat, and your rice is cooked, add in salt,  two teaspoons of ground fenugreek, and another tablespoon of  garam masala and the end of a jar of mango chutney
Sprinkle with chopped coriander (it doesn't matter if it's a few days old, just use it up!)

Serve with lager...

Hot, and nearly curry-house authentic. Try it. 

Old Dehli-Style Chicken Curry

Tuesday, 19 March 2013

Cake Pop Workshop at The Make Lounge with Rhubarb&Rose

April at Rhubarb&Rose teaches a Cake Pop workshop at the Make Lounge in Islington, about once a month before she heads off on her travels to South America. Her blog showcases her beautiful creations with superb photography and tantalizing treats to inspire your own cake pop fest.

The cake pop is made from chocolate sponge and buttercream icing (80:20 ratio), moulded into ball shapes (or sausage for the sheep, or indented for the apple). Then chilled for at least two hours in the fridge. April had prepared all this beforehand so we didn't have to wait for two hours during the class. She also had the candy melts melted and ready, mixed with a tablespoon or so of vegetable oil. We were shown how to dip the stick in the candy melt, then into the cake ball about halfway through, then to dip in the candy melt and cover it entirely, followed by gently tapping off the excess all the way round, until smooth. Then they are left to set while we prepare the various decorations. Using a variety of sprinkles, fondant icing shaped by modelling or with shaped plungers, or indeed handmade free-style decorations, we created a variety of wonderfully cute and pretty edible cake pops.

For instructions and inspiration, take a look at Rhubarb&Rose for tutorials, or book in for a workshop (the price includes a glass or two of wine!). I had such a great evening and learned how to make smooth and ever-so-cute cake pops - we got to make 6 pops as demonstrated by April and one free-style one - mine got eaten I'm afraid, so no photo.
A piggy, a sheep, and a Disney apple
A marble, flowers by plungers, and sprinkles

Snow White's apple - shaped before dipping

Marble effect - made by dipping then drizzling
Piggy and sausage-shaped Timmy
And a little bow...

March Supper Club

This month's theme was Greek-Moroccan fusion. I made that up. I couldn't decide on which one to go for. So I did a mixture. And it worked really well!

Stuffed Olives, Herbed Pitta and Homemade Tzatziki

We started the evening off with some stuffed olives, with pitta which I coated in oregano, garlic and olive oil and baked in the oven wrapped in greaseproof paper which had been run briefly under the tap - a Jamie Oliver tip!
This I served with homemade tzatziki - my sister's recipe, which has half a grated cucumber with the juice squeezed out, two teaspoons of mint jelly, two finely chopped garlic cloves and about 300g of Greek yoghurt. I also squeezed in the juice of half a lemon.

Harissa Chicken with Rice Salad
Fig and Mozzarella Salad
Pan-fried Asparagus with Shallots

This dish I have made before: Harissa Chicken

Fig and Mozzarella Salad with a balsamic and apricot jam dressing
Asparagus with shallots

Lemon, Lime and Ginger Tart

A showstopper dessert to be sure. Utterly delicious - I found the recipe for this in the Metro, by Chloe Scott and I couldn't wait to try it - it's light, yet decadent and the zesty flavours make it a perfect end to the evening.

Tuesday, 12 March 2013

Paddy's Day Cake Pops

Sunday the 17th of March is St Patrick's Day. The day everything turns green. Even in London baby. So if you're hungry, you can make some soda bread, or if you want to serve something a little less traditionally Irish, you can try some green cake pops!

Cake pops made using Victoria Sponge and Vanilla Buttercream, with Green and White Wilton Candy Melts (from Sugarshack).

Disclaimer: I will be going to a cake pop class next week, so I promise to improve my cake pop technique.
Disclaimer: Making cake pops (even green ones) under the influence of alcohol make it by default a  traditionally Irish recipe.
Disclaimer: I am Irish. And under the influence of alcohol. Great craic.

Sunday, 10 March 2013

50th Birthday Spurs Cake

A birthday cake to serve 50 people for a 50th birthday. For a Tottenham Hotspur fan. Could you guess...?

Six Victoria Sponges (Annie Bell recipe) [square, obviously] chopped into a football jersey shape.

3 layers.

Between each layer I covered it in vanilla buttercream and strawberry jam. Then, taking heed of Delia's advice on her new online cookery school, I brushed away all the crumbs... who would have thought of doing that!

Then white ready-to-roll fondant to cover the entire cake.
I modeled the letters, numbers and the logos out of navy blue (not purple!) fondant icing, using a template for the cockerel that I made from greaseproof paper, and then the white detail from the white fondant.
A bit more fondant for the collar, and shoulder stripes, and I think it'll do.

Smothered in buttercream

Spread liberally with Strawberry

Ready to go...

Monday, 4 March 2013

Piri Piri Nachos

A delicious quick starter, a light supper if you have next-to-nothing in, or a vegetarian snack.

2-4 tortillas
Grated cheese, mozzarella or cheddar is fine
Finely chopped shallots
Diced cherry tomatoes
Piri Piri peppers (Fragata) - I used three per tortilla, but you can adjust to your taste.

Place the tortillas on a baking tray.

Sprinkle over the grated cheese, then scatter over the shallots, cherry tomatoes, and piri piri peppers.

Cook in the oven at gas mark 6 for about 7 minutes until the cheese has melted.

Cut each tortilla into 8 wedges with a pizza cutter and serve with soured cream and chopped coriander.

Piri Piri Nachos with soured cream

Ready to bake

Piri Piri Nachos
Quick and scrummy!

Sunday, 3 March 2013

Chicken Burritos

This recipe is adapted from my little bite-sized Mexican book - it's so simple and needs so few ingredients I'm quite surprised I haven't made it sooner! There is a good kick to it, and you can make it as spicy or not as you wish.

3-4 chicken breasts
olive oil
350 ml beef or chicken stock
250 ml tomato passata
grated rind of 1 orange
1 tsp dried chilli flakes
4 tortillas
soured cream, to serve
1 avocado, stoned, peeled and sliced, to garnish

Heat the oil in a pan, and gently brown the chicken breasts, then set aside.
Make the sauce by adding the meat stock to the pan, then the passata, orange rind and most of the dried chilli flakes. Bring to the boil, reduce the heat, add back in the chicken breasts, and then leave to simmer for about half an hour until the sauce is reduced and thickened, and the chickenis cooked.
Remove the chicken from the pan, and shred them with two forks, then add them back into the sauce. 
Cook the tortillas, either in the microwave for 45 seconds or in the oven, as instructed. Then divide the chicken mixture between the tortillas and roll them up. Serve the burritos with soured cream and sliced avocado, sprinkled with any remaining chilli, and a salad with lime juice and coriander.

Chicken Burritos