Chicken with Peppers and Onions

Chicken with peppers

I look through cook books and magazines checking out the new recipes or twists on classics and whilst I love some of the ideas and promise myself I will try this or that, what I really want is a simple idea for supper.  What to cook for supper.  How many times do you ask yourself that in a week?  Well presumably 7 but add to that some children’s teas or a supper party for friends and it become a highly repetitive question.  What I would rather not have however, is highly repetitive suppers – you know, chicken on Mondays, sausages on Tuesdays etc.

So we need more supper dishes.  Something stress free that won’t demand too much attention or time at the end of the day, won’t break the bank and is properly lip smacking delicious.

This then, ticks all those boxes.  A few ingredients bunged in a pan and roasted in the oven.  What a testimony to the sum being so much greater than the parts.  Crispy skin on the chicken, soft sweet peppers and onions with a winey sauce that is nothing short of divine.  This cooks itself whilst you pour yourself a glass of wine and get on with something else, or better still, with nothing at all.

Chicken with Peppers and Onions

I serve this with something green, usually wilted spinach or green beans and new or waxy potatoes, roasted in the oven at the same time as the chicken.  It’s a great, easy, weekday supper but also something I would happily serve to friends.  You can up the amount of chilli flakes if you like, I usually leave them out if the children are eating this with us.

2 medium onions, peeled and cut into sixths

1 large pepper, red, orange or yellow, cut into slices

2 cloves garlic finely chopped

1 desertspoon olive oil

2 chicken legs (or 4 chicken thighs in which case reduce the cooking time a little)

Salt and pepper

1/4 teaspoon dried chilli flakes (optional)

100ml white wine

Fresh parsley or oregano, a small handful chopped

Preheat the oven to 200.  Put the onion, pepper and garlic in a baking pan and turn in the olive oil.  Put the chicken legs on top, give it a good sprinkle of salt and pepper and the chilli flakes if using.  Cook in the oven for 30 minutes then pour in the wine and give it a further 15 minutes.  If your chicken legs are large you may need a little more time.  When the chicken is bronzed and cooked and the vegetables soft remove from the oven, sprinkle over the herbs.  Serves 2 but easily double or tripled.

Chicken with peppers 2

For some other fab supper ideas try Claypot Chicken (May 2013 and no, you don’t need a clay pot) which still reigns supreme in top spot.  Nipping at its heels though is Chicken with Harissa (October 2012)…. one of my very early recipes and one still without a photograph I’m afraid but well worth a try.

Girls’ Night In

Chilli

Some years ago, before marriage and children, a girl’s nights in seemed to be a fairly frequent occurrence and enormous fun.  Different in those days though when, to be frank, a couple of bottles of wine, a packet of cigarettes and a video (remember those) of Take That Live made for a belting evening with the girls.  You know who you are!

These days however, finding a free evening is a different ball game.  Children need ferrying from one after school activity to another and there is a husband to be fed.   The girlfriends from those heady, single gal days are now dotted around the World rather than living just down the road and the Take That video looks like a sad relic next to all the dvds.

So I was particularly pleased when a couple of Dorset friends suggested coming over for wine, movies, popcorn and ice cream.   We are going to kick off with frozen raspberry daiquiris, a grown up slush puppy.  I persuade myself that the lime juice and berries go some way towards off setting the rum and the fabulous bright zingy pink seems a suitably girly start.  Then chilli – perfect fork food to eat in front of a film, spicy and warming.  Rich with tomatoes, earthy cumin and a good blast of heat from the chilli and cayenne.  Alongside I will offer the essential sour cream, grated cheddar, extra chillies and home made tortilla chips.  For pudding I have good vanilla ice cream in the freezer and the wherewithal for either hot chocolate sauce or salted caramel sauce depending on our mood.

All that remains is to decide whether it will be a “no one puts Baby in the corner”, “Goose, you big stud” or “Kevin, I think I broke your shower” evening…..

Chilli and dvds

Chilli

There are probably hundred of recipes for Chilli but this is how I make it.  You can go the cubed beef or mince route – I use mince just because that is what I have always done and a little nostalgia is not a bad thing on a Girls’ night.   For the tortilla chips, I buy regular tortillas and cut them into 6 or 8, brush lightly with oil, sprinkle with a little salt and bake at 200 for about 5 minutes or until crisp.  They are just right with the chilli but you could serve rice too.  You can cook this ahead of time or the day before.

1 tablespoon oil

1 onion, chopped

1 yellow, red or orange pepper, sliced

4 cloves garlic, finely chopped

400g beef mince

2 heaped teaspoons cumin

1 teaspoon sea salt

1/4 – 1/2 cayenne pepper (I do a 1/4 if serving to children, 1/2+ for adults)

250ml red wine

1 tablespoon tomato puree

1 tablespoon tomato ketchup

1 tin chopped tomatoes

2 tins of kidney beans, drained and rinsed

Chopped parsley or coriander, whichever you prefer

Preheat the oven to 150.  Heat the oil in a large pan and soften the onions and pepper for about 10 minutes until soft.  Add the garlic followed by the mince and cook, stirring, until brown.   Add the cumin, salt, cayenne and a generous amount of black pepper, then the tomatoes, puree, ketchup and wine.  Give it a good stir, bring to a simmer, put on the lid and cook in the oven for an hour, add the kidney beans and cook for a further hour.  Check for seasoning, sprinkle over the parsley or coriander and serve with whichever accompaniments you choose.  Enough for 4 with rice.

 

 

Firecracker Red Cabbage and Sausages

Firecracker hot dog

It took me a while to come around to Guy Fawkes night as a child.  I found the whole Guy business both slightly mad and macabre.  Firstly because they always looked like a giant pair of tights stuffed with old clothes tied with baler twine and sporting a huge hat over the grinning face.  Rarely worth a penny I thought.  Macabre because I didn’t really like the idea of burning anyone although I did realise it was purely symbolic.  Childish anxieties I guess.

What would cheer me up however was the promise of something good to eat whilst standing around an enormous bonfire.  I can see it now on our village green, almost two storeys high, a huge beast of a fire shooting sparks into the night sky and belting out heat.  There was usually the promise of a toffee apple, good for nibbling the toffee off only to be left with a rather sticky green apple on a wobbly stick.  Or cinder toffee, crunchy, splintering and sticking your teeth together.  Always on offer were hot dogs, proper sausages rather than frankfurters with a good squirt of ketchup which inevitably found its way onto your woolly gloves.

Sadly our fireworks were rained off  this week but if they hadn’t been this is what we would have been eating as a relish with our hot dogs.   Sweet, tangy and with a good kick of chilli it is delicious in a bun with a good banger on top.   It would be just as at home served on the side with some sausages or perhaps with roast pork or maybe a ham.   Ideas, ideas….

Firecracker cabbage

Firecracker Red Cabbage

As I was making this I cast an eye over a jar of chilli jelly which you could very easily use in place of the redcurrant jelly and chilli flakes – the reason I didn’t was because they vary so much in their heat so difficult to suggest how much to use.   You could give it a try and taste as you go.  This amount of chilli means my children are happy with it, add more if you want.

1 teaspoon olive oil

1 small onion, chopped

1/2 red cabbage, quite finely chopped

Good pinch of salt

1/4 teaspoon chilli flakes

2 tablespoons redcurrant jelly

2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

Heat the oil in a large pan, add the onion and stir.  Add the red cabbage and give it a good stir and then add the remaining ingredients.  Cook gently for half an hour with a lid on and half an hour with the lid off to allow the liquid to bubble down to a syrup which will coat the cabbage.  Taste, it might need a little more salt or a spritz of balsamic.   Serve with sausages in buns or on plates, enough for 4.

 

 

 

 

 

Cosy Beef Stew and Parsley Dumplings

Anna May everyday Beef stew close

This summer has been fantastic, I have loved the sun, the heat and eating a lot of salads.  Whilst basking in all this however, there was a tiny bit of my happy in the knowledge that come September it might cool down a little and I would be able to light the fire and make some cosy autumn food.

Now, I realise I seem to have dived right into ‘freezing outside, possibly even snowing winter food’ but you know what I couldn’t resist.  It has been months since my last stew (I feel that should have been confession) and it was time for a fix.  Added to that my little boy asked earlier in the week when we would be having stew and dumplings.  Sooner than you think my little treasure I thought to myself.

Here it is and it is a beauty.  Very simple, 30 minutes work tops and then a few hours in the oven.  What you are rewarded with however, far exceeds that brief effort you put in.  Tender falling apart beef, soft carrots, crispy and fluffy dumplings with masses of glistening savoury gravy.  You can then sit around the table, enjoy this with some greens and perhaps raise a glass of good red wine to the fabulous summer of 2013.

Beef and Carrot Stew with Parsley Dumplings

1 kg braising beef, cubed

1 tablespoon oil

1 onion, chopped

7/8 medium carrots, peeled and halved lenthways

1 heaped tablespoon plain flour

500ml beef stock

200ml red wine

1 teaspoon redcurrant jelly

Sprig of thyme

A bayleaf

For the dumplings –

100g self raising flour

50g suet

A handful of parsley, finely chopped

5 tablespoons cold water

Pinch of salt

Preheat the oven to 150c.  Heat the oil in a large casserole (that has a lid) and brown the meat in batches and set aside.  Then fry the onion (you may need a little more oil) until softened.  Return the meat to the pan, sprinkle over the flour and stir it in well.  Pour over the stock and wine and redcurrant jelly, give it a mix then add the carrots, thyme and bay leaf.  Put into the oven for 3 hours.

Just before the time is up, mix the ingredients for the dumplings and form into little balls about the size of a walnut and turn the oven up to 180.  Remove the pan from the oven, quickly (and carefully) check the seasoning and then place the dumplings onto the surface of the stew.  Put the lid back on and return to the oven for 20 minutes, then remove the lid and cook for a further 20 minutes to crisp up the outside of the dumplings.  Enough for 4.

We followed this with a fabulous custard tart (I know, I know, bikini appropriate food clearly now forgotten) and it made me proud of British Food!

Anna May everyday Beef stew empty

 

Summer Lunch, home or away (Part 1)

Anna May everyday kebab lunch

So, here we go, the season for eating outside, barbecues and picnics is upon us.  If the  weather would oblige that is.  We need things to eat that work inside, cooked in the garden or taken on a picnic without having to completely revise the menu or shopping list if the weather turns against us.  Here’s what we have.

First, lovely juicy chicken kebabs which can be grilled or griddled at home or barbequed outside.  A bulghar wheat and roasted veg salad with a punchy dressing is easily transported in a tub and put into pitas, wraps or rolls along with chicken, some herby green sauce and garlicky  yogurt.  Then, a sticky ginger cake is easy to take out and about or can be transformed at home into a glorious rich pudding with the addition of a quick butterscotch sauce and vanilla ice cream.

Anna May everyday kebab plate

I would marinade the chicken on Friday when the nippers are at school (it is the work of minutes), make the cake and roast the vegetables for the salad then too.  On Saturday make the flatbreads if you are homebound and have time on your hands and children to entertain or buy wraps and get on out there.

The above is not a lot to transport but along with some chilled grapes and drinks for the children and icy cold wine for you makes an absolute feast.

Chicken Kebabs

4 Chicken breasts, skin off and cubed

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 lemons juiced

3 cloves garlic crushed

Sprig of rosemary and/or thyme

Pinch of chilli flakes (optional)

Give everything a good mix and put in a bag, I use those ziplock ones, or a bowl and cover with cling film.  Put it in the fridge for a couple of hours or overnight.  Thread onto skewers (remember to soak them if they are wood so they don’t catch fire) and then cook on your barbecue or under the grill until cooked through.  Season with salt then wrap in a flat bread or put in a pitta, add the sauces suggested below and tuck in.

To serve, flatbreads or pitta, garlicky yogurt (see Lamb Meatballs October 2012), rocket, fresh herbs (we like marjoram/oregano and mint), fresh herb sauce (recipe to follow) and chilli sauce, phew.

Anna May everyday Minty ginger cake

Here is the Ginger Cake out and about, I will post the recipe later in the week.

 

Claypot Chicken

Anna May everyday claypot ingredients2

You know that feeling at the end of the day – the one when all you are fit for is the sofa.  Ideally with a glass of wine in one hand and the other held out expectantly for a plate of food which someone else has cooked to be placed in it.  I regularly feel like that and I am sure I am not the only one.  Much as I love cooking and I do, I really do, there are times when I feel like I can’t be bothered.  Invariably at the tired end of the day, possibly after a difference of opinion with one of my children, the house refusing to clean itself or the dog taking himself on a long unscheduled walk and having to be found.

These are the evenings when you need this recipe – easy, quick and totally restoring,  Never mind my top 10 or top 5, this one is firmly on the podium in the top 3.

I must point out one thing, which you may have spotted already, it is not a looker.  As they say though, never judge a book by its cover and in culinary terms, this is that book.  I’ve tried prettying it up, sprinkling it with this or that but it doesn’t work.  Moreover it would be missing the point.  This recipe is beyond simple, uses very few ingredients and is cheap.  To zhuzz it up just for the sake of the photograph would be wrong.

I gave the recipe to one of my brothers ages ago and kept asking him if he had made it.  I guessed not because I hadn’t heard the rapturous applause.  Eventually (after some badgering from me I must admit) he cooked it for this wife – he says they  now have it once a week.  So do we, it really is that good.

So please take my word (and my brothers, and my husbands) for it and try this.

Anna May everyday claypot chicken

Claypot Chicken

1 tablespoon oil

1 onion, chopped

1 thumb of ginger, peeled and finely chopped

1 clove garlic, finely chopped

4 chicken thigh fillets, each cut into 6 pieces

1 tablespoon fish sauce

1 tablespoon soft brown sugar

4 tablespoons basmati rice

250ml chicken stock

Heat the oil in a medium saucepan and gently soften the onion.  Add the garlic and ginger and stir for a couple of minutes.  Put the rice, brown sugar and fish sauce into the pan, give it all a good stir followed by the chicken and the stock.  Simmer gently for about 12-15 minutes until the rice and chicken are cooked.  This is enough for two adults (although I think I could probably eat it all myself).  Serve with a drop or two of chilli sauce if you like.

 

 

Ham hock, parsley and lentil salad

Anna May everyday ham hock salad

I have to admit to a little scepticism about lentils in my youth and am ashamed to say thought they were only for those who might also knit their own sheep’s milk yogurt.  How wrong I was and I can remember the lentils that won my heart all those years ago.  Following a birthday treat to the theatre (Miss Saigon) we went to a French restaurant in the West End.  One of the starters was lentils with little bits of bacon and a creamy vinaigrette.  I don’t know why I was led to this choice but I was and it was heavenly.  Now my larder wouldn’t be without these useful pulses and while the Sausages and Lentils (April 2013) may be a little cold weather number, this salad is perfect whatever the season.

I confess I haven’t been simmering any hocks for my shredded ham.  If I had it would have been perfect for a pea and ham soup or risotto and you should keep the stock if you find yourself cooking said cut.  No, so determined am I that spring is imminent that I have put away such warming and comforting types of soup.  I bought this ham hock at Waitrose and it is very good.

This is a little more substantial than the summery lettuce salads which await us but has a suitable zip from the lemon and mustard in the dressing and verdant pep from the parsley which is more an ingredient than simply a garnish.

Ham hock, parsley and lentil salad

100g puy lentils

180-200g ham hock, shredded

20g flat leaf parsley, roughly chopped or torn

2 spring onions, chopped

Handful of rocket

Juice of half a lemon

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 teaspoon dijon mustard

Pinch of sugar

Cook the lentils in boiling water, they will take about 10-15 minutes but check as they do vary.  Once cooked drain and leave to cool.  In a medium size bowl mix the mustard, sugar and lemon juice and then add the olive oil slowly, taste and season.  Put the lentils, ham hock, spring onions, parsley and rocket into the bowl with the dressing and give it a good mix.  Turn onto a serving plate.  This would do 2 adults for lunch with some nice bread alongside.

Anna May everyday ham hock salad ingredients