C is for Caribbean Chicken

This Caribbean Jerk Chicken recipe is a great dish to cook when you’ve got a good few mouths to feed. It takes a bit of preparation, but you can do this in advance. The coconut ‘rice n peas’ that I’ve served with it takes about 5 minutes of preparation, 5 minutes of cooking where you need to pay attention and then just leave to cook by itself whilst you chat to your guests.

Caribbean Jerk Chicken

Caribbean Jerk Chicken

Caribbean Jerk Chicken

Preparation time: 15 minutes + minimum 2 hours to marinate (can be prepared up to 24hours in advance).

Cooking time: 1 hour

Ingredients: 

  • 6 chicken breasts (without skin or bones)
  • 2 teaspoons ground allspice
  • 2 teaspoons dried thyme
  • 2 teaspoons cayenne pepper
  • 2 teaspoons ground ginger
  • 2 teaspoons ground nutmeg
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 1 ½ thumb sized piece of fresh ginger, chopped up
  • 2 tablespoons dark brown sugar
  • 60ml dark rum (and a dash extra for good measure)
  • 60ml lime juice
  • 60ml soy sauce
  • 120ml cider vinegar
  • 2 fresh red chiles, whole
  • 1 onion, peeled and quartered
Caribbean Jerk chicken - preparing the marinade

Caribbean Jerk chicken – preparing the marinade

Recipe:

  1. Put 3-4 small slashes into each chicken breast. This will allow the marinade to flavour to permeate the chicken.
  2. If you have a large food processor, get this out, else if you just have a hand blender find a container which wont have marinade flying out of (something tall).
  3. Put all the spices, garlic, fresh ginger, dark brown sugar, rum, lime juice, soy sauce, cider vinegar, chillies and onion in your container and blend until everything is a fine paste.
  4. Put the chicken breasts in a sealable container and pour the marinade over the top. Leave for 2 – 24hours.
  5. When you’re ready to cook, pre-heat the oven to 200°C
  6. In a tin-foil lined dish put the chicken and marinade. Cook for 30 minutes.
  7. After 30 minutes, prepare the ‘rice n peas’ recipe (below). Then take the chicken out the oven and pour out the majority of the watery marinade, then put back in the oven for another 30 minutes.
  8. The chicken should have a marinade crust on it and still be juicy in the middle.
Caribbean Jerk Chicken - marinated and ready for the oven

Caribbean Jerk Chicken – marinated and ready for the oven

Caribbean Jerk Chicken - just out the oven

Caribbean Jerk Chicken – just out the oven

Rice n peas

The peas are actually ‘gungo’ peas (also known as pigeon peas). If you can’t get hold of them, you can use red kidney beans or a mixed beans instead. I’ve also added sweetcorn as I’m a big fan of getting in as many of your 5-a-day as possible.

The stock can be made up using hot water and one vegetable stock cube or you can use pre-made stock, either will work equally well.

'Rice n peas' preparation

‘Rice n peas’ preparation

'Rice n peas' - preparation

‘Rice n peas’ – preparation

Preparation time: 10 minutes

Cooking time: 25 minutes

Ingredients: 

  • 1 can gungo peas (pigeon peas) or black-eyed beans if you can’t get hold of them.
  • 200g sweetcorn
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable or peanut oil
  • 1 onion, peeled and finely chopped
  • 1 red chile, de-seeded and finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled and finely chopped
  • 400g long grain rice
  • 1 can coconut milk
  • 2 1/2 cups chicken or vegetable broth
  • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme leaves
  • Large pinch of salt
  • A few turns of freshly ground pepper

Recipe:

  1. In a large pan, add the oil and fry the onion over a medium-high heat for 5 minutes until translucent and starting to get a bit of colour. The add the chopped chilli and garlic and fry for another couple of minutes.
  2. Pour in the rice and slick with all oil, onions, garlic and chilli.
  3. Pour over the vegetable stock, coconut milk, thyme, salt, pepper and gungo peas and bring to the boil. As soon as the rice is boiling, turn the heat down low, put a lid on and simmer for 15 minutes (by which time all the liquid should be absorbed)
  4. 5 minutes before the rice is ready, add the sweetcorn and put the lid back on, then the rice should be sticky and ready to eat.

Serve both together and it should be a pretty good combination.

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B is also for Beef Wellington

To salivate the taste buds this weekend in preparation for the previously blogged Brownies, I invited a couple of friends round for Sunday dinner, where we indulged (even if I do say so myself) in individual Beef Wellingtons with porcini mushroom sauce and roasted new potatoes.

The mushrooms can be prepared in advance, so if you’re cooking for others, you just need to fry the beef and then it’s a quick assembly job before leaving to cook in the oven.

Beef Wellington - prepped for the oven

Beef Wellington – prepped for the oven

Preparation time: 20 minutes

Cooking time: 45-50 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 500g puff pastry (and plain flour for dusting)
  • 4 x 180-200g fillets of beef
  • 20g dried porcini mushrooms
  • 500g chestnut mushrooms
  • 1 large onion (or 4 small shallots)
  • 300ml double cream
  • Thyme
  • Rosemary
  • Oil (anything flavourless in which to fry the meat)
  • Knob of butter
  • 1 egg
  • Olive oil
  • A good pinch of salt
  • A few twists of freshly ground pepper
Porcini mushrooms

Porcini mushrooms

Recipe:

These steps are for the mushroom mixture and can be prepared in advance:

  1. I prepare the pastry first, by cutting the block of defrosted puff pastry into 4 equal squares and then rolling out into equal-sized squares about 15cm x 15cm. Dust with a bit of flour and place on a tray and leave in the fridge.
  2. Place the porcinis in a small bowl and cover with boiling water. They take about 20 minutes to soften properly. Whilst they are softening, finely chop the onion (or shallots) and lightly fry in a large frying pan.
  3. Chop the chestnut mushrooms as small as you can and add to the onions. Sprinkle with a teaspoon of thyme.
  4. Drain the porcinis (keep the liquid as a stock for another dish later on), chop finely and add to the onions and other mushrooms.
  5. Add a big knob of butter and fry until nearly all the moisture has disappeared.
Mushrooms and onions

Mushrooms and onions

When you’re ready to cook the main dish, the following steps remain:

  1. An hour before you’re ready to eat, preheat the oven to 180°C. Cut up the new potatoes, put in a baking tray and sprinkle with salt, pepper, rosemary and thyme. Drizzle over 2-3 tablespoons of olive oil.
  2. Approximately 30 minutes later, turn the oven up to 200°C. Put a griddle pan on a high heat. Whilst it’s getting warm, get the beef fillets out their packaging and rub all over with the oil. You oil the meat rather than the pan to stop it smoking too much.
  3. Fry the beef for about 4 minutes on each side.
  4. Whilst the meat is cooking, take the pre-cut pastry out the fridge, and place a large spoonful of the (now cooled) mushroom mix in the middle of each square.
  5. Once the beef is cooked, put each fillet on top of the mushroom mix on each pastry square. Fold each corner of the pastry into the centre, then the next fold in the newly formed corners again to seal the package. Flip over and place on a baking tray.
  6. Lightly beat the egg and brush over each beef wellington package. Add some artistic slashes into the top of each Beef Wellington and put into the oven for 15-20minutes or until the pastry is golden brown.
Roasted new potatoes, lightly seasoned with salt, pepper, rosemary and thyme

Roasted new potatoes, lightly seasoned with salt, pepper, rosemary and thyme

Beef Wellington - frying the fillets

Beef Wellington – frying the fillets

Beef Wellington - assembly

Beef Wellington – assembly

Beef Wellington - prepped for the oven

Beef Wellington – prepped for the oven

Whilst the Beef Wellingtons are in the oven, reheat the remaining mushroom mix, and add the double cream. Leave to bubble away until the sauce is slightly thicker and it’s ready to serve alongside the Beef Wellingtons.

Once the Beef Wellingtons and roast potatoes are ready (which should be the same time), take the out of the oven and serve up with steamed green beans.

Beef Wellington with porcini sauce and roasted new potatoes

Beef Wellington with porcini sauce and roasted new potatoes

B is for Brownies

This week I’ve got two courses beginning with B lined up. It may not be traditional, but I’m starting with dessert this week. Here’s my basic recipe for the ever-popular chocolate Brownie. The recipe makes about 12-14 depending on the size of your baking tin and your portion size. Brownies are really easy to make, so a great one to try if you’re new to baking or if you want to make a quick tasty treat.

Brownies - ready to eat

Brownies – ready to eat

 

Preparation time: 15 minutes

Cooking time: 20 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 150g butter (unsalted) – cut into small cubes
  • 200g dark chocolate (I’d recommend 70% cocoa solids) broken into small pieces
  • 250g sugar
  • 100ml milk (both full- or semi-skimmed are fine)
  • 3 eggs
  • 100g plain flour

Recipe:

  1. Preheat your oven to 180°C. Grease a baking tin with butter.
  2. Create a bain marie by putting a bowl over a saucepan of just boiling water (turn the heat down once it’s boiling). Into this tip the butter and chocolate and leave to melt – this will take a few minutes.
  3. In the mean time beat the eggs in a separate bowl and weigh out the sugar, milk and flour.
  4. Once the chocolate and butter have melted,  beat in the sugar and milk. Leave to cool for a couple of minutes and then mix in the beaten eggs (if you mix the in whilst the mixture is too hot, it may curdle).
  5. Finally sieve in the flour and fold into the mixture.
  6. Pour into your greased baking tin and put in the middle of the oven for 15-20 minutes. You can test when the brownies are done by sticking in a knife. With a normal cake, it’s ready when the knife comes out clean, but with brownies you want a little bit of chocolate goo to stick to the end of the knife.
  7. When done, leave to cool for 10 minutes before attempting to cutting, serving and eating.
Brownies - melting chocolate and butter

Brownies – melting chocolate and butter

Brownies - melted chocolate and butter

Brownies – melted chocolate and butter

Brownies - fresh from the oven

Brownies – fresh from the oven

A is for Asparagus

Hello all,

So after some deliberation, for the letter ‘A’ I’ve chosen asparagus and cheddar tart with an apple & apricot salad. Asparagus is in season and I was lucky enough to find some fresh apricots in my local supermarket. Goats cheese or feta works equally well in this recipe in place of the cheddar (or a mix), so use whichever you’ve got in the fridge.

Asparagus

Asparagus

Preparation time: 10 minutes

Cooking time: 30 minutes

Ingredients

For the tart

  • 200g Asparagus
  • 4 eggs
  • 100ml single cream
  • 150g cheddar cheese – cut into 1cm squares
  • 1 x 250g block of shortcrust pastry
  • a handful of freshly chopped chives

For the salad

  • 1 apple (cut into thin sticks)
  • 2 fresh apricots (halved and then sliced)
  • 2 hearts of chicory
  • a handful of walnuts
  • 2 sticks of celery (finely sliced)
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • White wine vinegar

Recipe:

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 180°C.
  2. Flour a clean working surface and roll out the shortcrust pastry to just under half a centimetre thickness. Roll back over the rolling pin and gently place into into a round flan tin (ideally one with a loose bottom). The tin should be approx. 23cm in diameter, but if it’s a little smaller you’ll need to add a few more minutes more cooking time.
  3. Trim off any excess pastry, prick with a fork and set aside into the fridge, whilst you prepare the other ingredients.
  4. Trim the asparagus and steam for 4 minutes. The asparagus should still have plenty of bite as it will be cooked again in the tart.
  5. Drain the asparagus and pat dry.
  6. In a bowl whisk the eggs together with the cream and add the chives.
  7. Take the pastry out the fridge, arrange the asparagus inside the pastry and scatter over the pieces of cheddar. Pour over the egg mixture and place in the oven for 30minutes or until golden on top.
  8. Whilst the tart is doing its magic in the oven, there’s plenty of time to prepare the salad. Pull apart the chicory leaves and cut the larger ones in half.
  9. Add the sliced apple, apricots, celery and the walnuts. Dress with 1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil and 1/2 tablespoon of white wine vinegar and give the salad a good mix together.
  10. Once the tart is ready, take out the oven and leave to cool for 10minutes before slicing and serving.

Before making this recipe, I  misplaced my fluted flan tin, so I used a similar one, with slightly higher sides. This means that mine has that extra proportion of pastry – but as I’m a big fan of it, I’ll forgive myself.

Asparagus and cheddar tart

Asparagus and cheddar tart

I had leftover mini roasted potatoes and couldn’t let them go to waste obviously, so they’ve made their way into the photo below. They are totally optional, but as with most dishes, a side of roasties is a good enhancement.

Asparagus and cheddar tart with apple and apricot salad

Asparagus and cheddar tart with apple and apricot salad

Next week I’m onto B, and my initial thoughts are for beef wellington. Leave a comment if you’ve got any other ideas, please let me know. Else if you’ve got feedback for the blog so far (on the recipes, cutlery, somewhat dodgy photography skills or anything else), let me know.

Let the cooking begin

I’ve been consumed by food as long as I can remember. When I was growing up, I was lucky (is that the right word) enough to have a mum who had a background in horticulture and interest in eating healthily, which meant our back garden contained a veritable variety of fruit trees, bushes, grow-your-own vegetables, chickens and the occasional visiting deer. This was very unlike the neighbours’ neatly trimmed lawns where one hosted a summer BBQ and sipped Pimms – definitely no 2-legged egg-laying creatures to be found there.

I suppose this must be where my interest in food began, and having seen plants grow and be harvested, I was intrigued as to how that translated into food on the table. I was always encouraged to help cook at home, which has given me some confidence (but not necessarily skill) in attempting to cook for myself in my adult life.

Like most (young) professionals in London, I live a fast-paced life: I’m kept busy between a full-time job as a Project Manager and trying to develop a career, writing projects, training for a half marathon and attempting to still socialise enough that my friends don’t think I’ve become a recluse and miraculously have just enough money to get by. Basically that does not leave a lot of time to relax.

Luckily for me, relaxation comes in the form of cooking. After a long day at work and exhausted after another gym session cajoling my muscles into action, I set to work in the kitchen. Having trialled recipes and attempting to photograph food as a means to remember which ones have worked well and which haven’t over the past year, I thought it high time to actually do something constructive with this knowledge. Thus, this blog was born.

Now as someone who has been known to say that he has several mid-life crises ‘planned’, I fear I’m in the early stages of entering one even earlier than expected (for reasons I’d like to keep out of this blog for the time being). So, as a means to keep my sanity, I’ve devised a somewhat ludicrous culinary challenge: I am going to cook my way through the alphabet.

Every week over the next 26 weeks, I will blog about a meal where the key ingredient (and perhaps even supporting ingredients if I’m not feeling challenged enough) starts with the corresponding letter of the alphabet, beginning with A next week. I will try to make the dishes as tasty as possible, provide a few snaps and a recipe card so you can try it yourself if you believe what you see to be edible. Be warned, although I do try to incorporate my 5-a-day into my dishes, I’m not a ‘calorie counter’ – in my humble experience, this exercise seems to contradict increasing the flavour of a dish.

As it’s in season, Asparagus is key ingredient for the recipe I have yet to come up with for next week.

So, I’ll pour myself a wee glass of red and start the creative juices flowing. I’m happy to take recipe ideas/challenges for this week or for coming weeks – feel free to send them in.