Thursday, 26 January 2012

Ruth's Jumanji chicken (or delicious chicken and broccoli bake)

There is a time when you just think enough is enough. Amazingly, it is only possible to work for so long before your tear ducts dry up from the sobbing that accompanies quotation learning, and formulae memorising, and your fingers begin to go into spasm from the death grip you had on your pen. 

That time came last Saturday evening, and this meal was the result. The recipe had been sitting on my desk for at least two weeks, and the ingredients in the fridge for a couple of days before I finally pulled my finger out and got in the kitchen. As a result of the extremely slow speed at which I work, this took an hour to get from chopping board to table. 

Just as an aside, I think that my photography skills are somewhat lacking but hopefully with practice ... 



chicken breasts (roughly one per person) - diced or cut up into strips
broccoli (chopped up roughly) - enough to lay the bottom of casserole dish
cream of chicken soup (depends on size of dish - took two cans for mine - needs to be enough to cover broccoli and chicken once it's layered in the dish)
1 tbsp mayonnaise - never changes
1 - 2 tbsp curry powder 
1 tsp lemon juice (optional)
ready salted crisps - enough for crispy topping
grated cheddar cheese - also for topping
1 crushed garlic clove and butter for greasing

Doesn't even take ten steps! Success!
1. Stir fry chicken.
2. Steam/cook broccoli - 3 and 1/2 minutes in the microwave did the job for me
3. Rub garlic and butter round your dish
4. Layer broccoli and chicken in dish
5. Mix soup, curry powder, mayonnaise (and lemon juice) together
6. Pour mixture over chicken and broccoli 
7. Crush crisps to form a top crust over mixture and top with grated cheese
8. Cook in the oven at about 180.C - 200.C until the cheese is melted and brown and topping      is crunchy
9. Leave to sit for a couple of minutes and then serve. 

Honestly, it's delish! 

Saturday, 21 January 2012

Meaty cheesy pasta bake

Due to the time-constraining effects of prelim revision, this quick and easy dish was feasted on by us last week but is only now finding its rightful place on the blog. According to the official Delia recipe it is technically supposed to have bacon and leeks but as it was a last minute decision, there was a serious lack of wintery vegetation in the fridge. As a result, this two meat pasta was created. Yes, that’s right – two types of meat!

On another note, napkin folding may soon become a new hobby...

Originally from one of the many Delia books in the house.

Serves 8 (or 4 for 2 nights – handy!)

500g pasta (personally I like using penne, but other pastas like macaroni or fusili would would just as well)
6 or 8 slices of bacon
1 smoked sausage (cabanossi from Lidl works really well)
50g butter (either unsalted or salted will do, but I used unsalted due to the saltiness added by the sausage)
50g plain flour
200g cheddar cheese with extra for topping
850ml milk
3 tbsp double cream
some nutmeg (which I didn’t bother with)
roughly 50g ready salted crisps

Melt the butter in a pan, and mix in the flour. Add the milk to this mixture gradually until the sauce thickens. Then add the cheese, grated, to the sauce until it’s melted through.
While the sauce is thickening, cut up the bacon and chop the sausage and fry them together.
Boil the pasta for 10 minutes and then put it straight in the dish.
Mix the meat through and pour the sauce over.
Lastly, add the smashed-up crisps and sprinkle cheese over the top and pop it in the oven at approximately 180.C – it should take about half an hour to forty-five minutes until the cheese is crispy on top (should really be a bit darker than in the photo, but we were running to a deadline...) 

Tuesday, 3 January 2012

Vanilla cupcakes with orange

As a result of a multi-family cupcake baking contest, tonight's task was created. The initial plan was for lemon cupcakes, but that plan was dismissed before it had fully formed due to two things: 1) there were no lemons in the house and 2) there wasn't even enough lemon juice in the squeezy bottle to make a difference.

The fall-black plan was to use the afore-mentioned pitiful amount of squeezy lemon juice to make some lemon icing but once again, there was simply not enough.

Fortunately a new plan quickly took shape - simple but delicious vanilla cupcakes with orange flavoured (and potentially also coloured) icing. Furthermore, in order to allow for the varying degrees of 'icing acceptance' in my family, I used both normal icing and buttercream. Sometimes it's better to just put up with the extra faff than to try to field the disappointment later!

These were taken from Kate Shirazi's cupcake book, "Cupcake Magic"

To make 12 cupcakes:
110g (4oz)self-raising flour, sifted
110g (4oz)caster sugar, sifted
110g (4oz) margarine - I used butter instead
1 tsp baking powder
2 large eggs - I used 3 medium eggs, but I think that it might have been a little too eggy
1 tsp vanilla extract

  1. Preheat the oven to 160.C (or 325.F) 
  2. Simply mix all of the ingredients until the mixture is light and fluffy. 
  3. Pop heaped teaspoons of the mixture into the cupcake cases and bake in the oven for approximately 20 minutes. 
  4. Once out of the oven, place on a wire rack to cool.
For the buttercream, (for 12 cupcakes) combine 225g of icing sugar with 100g of (unsalted) butter, until it's light and fluffy. Then just add orange extract (or orange juice and zest, if you want to be really fancy) and combine. At this point, I always like to add some food colouring (too much yellow turns it orange, funnily enough!) as you can't go wrong with a bit of colour! 

If buttercream is not your thing then just go for some normal icing - adding orange extract to taste, and a liberal amount of food colouring, although too much has the potential for some garish, wholly hideous, eye-assaulting excitement - suit yourself basically! 


Sunday, 1 January 2012

South Carolina style pulled pork

So much for starting out as I mean to go on - this recipe had a lot of promise, I thought, but on this, the 1st January 2012, it failed epically. Or rather I failed epically, and it didn't go quite as smoothly as I had perhaps hoped.

Despite calling on my dad at 9:30 this morning to as just how much ketchup constitutes "a large quantity" and whether the string around the pork shoulder should be left on and which way up the pork should actually be put in. In fairness, it was the first time that I had actually dealt with any real cut of meat other than mince or bacon - pathetic I know, but 'tis the way of it - although that does not allow for how poorly it actually turned out.

It went in the oven this morning, at 10:15 and didn't resurface until 7:30 but when it came out of the oven, some of the meat was still really pink - not raw but far too pink for my liking - and it didn't really seem to want to pull.  Before bringing it out of the oven, I turned up the temperature for about an hour, when I didn't think that it was cooking right through. However, served with soft, warm finger rolls, which on their own were nice, it was half-way decent. At least I hope it was!

All in all, I think that pulled pork is set for another attempt in the future - but not quite yet!

*Note: another two and a half hours in the oven at about 80.C and it is actually pulling! Perhaps a slightly higher temperature for the duration ...?

Here's what I was working from courtesy of Uncle D - it'd surely work for anyone who is less inept than me:
Get some pork shoulder and either put it in a smoker or a casserole dish.
Put in a large quantity of tomato ketchup, some American mustard and a spoonful of brown sugar.
Pour in beer or cider until covered.
Then, either smoke it low or put it in the over at its very lowest setting (around 70.C) and leave for as long as possible.

Would be nice served with a split roll or on some ciabatta.

And so it begins ... (12 for 2012)

The first day of the year and a challenge has been set. In order to expand my somewhat limited experience of cooking, I am to make at least 12 new recipes this year (although admittedly, I am aiming for at least a few more than that!)
There are no specific rules, although my norm of spaghetti carbonara is not allowed - it may end up being featured on here at some point in the future, in spite of the rules! - and anything is fair game. In order to start off as I mean to go on, today's adventure is South Carolina style pulled pork, courtesy of uncle D. Wish me luck ...