Chickpea curry

X is for eXtra spicy chickpea curry

This week’s recipe take’s it inspiration from India and delivers some real spice flavours as well as a big chilli hit! It uses a really healthy ingredient as it’s base, chickpeas, which are low in fat, high in fibre, protein and are even one of your 5-a-day. The inspiration came from Anjum Anand, so if you’re intrigued by Indian food and want to learn to cook it authentically, check her out.

As this week is X, I’ve used eXtra chilli in the recipe and in the chicken I served with this, but if you’re not a heat fan, feel free to reduce the chilli quantity. There are so many other spices in this dish that you won’t miss the chilli hit if it’s not your thing.

I’ve served my curry with chilli-basted chicken, but if you want to make the recipe completely vegetarian, chickpeas go really well with wholemeal pitta breads and a slather of butter.

Chickpea curry - spices Chickpea curry - spices Chickpeas

Preparation time: 10 minutes

Cooking time: 25 minutes

Ingredients:

Chickpea curry - ingredients

  • 1 thumb sized piece of fresh ginger (peeled);
  • 4 cloves garlic;
  • 2 large tomatoes;
  • 5 tbsp vegetable oil;
  • 4 cloves;
  • 5 (green) cardamom pods;
  • 1 cinnamon stick;
  • 2 tsp cumin seeds;
  • 4 tsps finely chopped fresh chillies (including seeds);
  • 1 medium onion – finely chopped;
  • ½ tsp turmeric
  • 1 tbsp ground coriander;
  • ¼ tsp chilli powder;
  • 2 cans (400g) chickpeas – drained and rinsed;
  • 1 ¼ tsp garam masala;
  • 1 tsp tamarind paste;
  • handful of freshly chopped coriander;
  • 1 large skin-less chicken breast

Recipe:

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 180°C. Add a tablespoon of oil to half of the chopped chillies and rub over the chicken breast, then place in a small baking dish. Put in the oven and leave to bake for 40 minutes whilst you’re completing the rest of the recipe.
  2. Put the garlic, tomatoes (chopped into quarters) and ginger into a mini-blender with a tablespoon of water and blitz into a paste.
  3. In a large frying pan, heat the oil over a high heat. Once the surface begins to the shimmer it will be hot enough (this does not take that long, so keen an eye on it!) Add the cloves, cardamon pods, cinnamon and half the cumin seeds and allow them to sizzle away for a couple of minutes and allow their aromas to fill the kitchen.  Add the chopped chillies, onions and leave to fry until the onion starts to go brown.
  4. Then add the blitzed tomato paste, turmeric, ground coriander, chilli powder and a pinch of salt. Reduce the heat to medium and leave to cook for 4-5 minutes.
  5. Tip in the chickpeas, 500ml of water, garam masala, tamarind paste and remaining cumin seeds. Allow to come to a boil and leave to simmer away for 15 minutes until the liquid has halved in volume.
  6. Once the chicken is cooked (give a small stab to make sure the juices run clear), serve the chickpea curry with it and a sprinkling of chopped, fresh coriander.

Chickpea curry

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Paella

P is for Paella

Before I even start this blog entry, I’m going to apologise to any Spanish people reading this. This recipe is not a traditional paella and even more heinous is the fact it contains…chorizo – one of my favourite foods – but something that no Spanish person would ever consider adding to a traditional paella! So please excuse a Brit for combining some of has favourite Spanish flavours into one dish. The recipe title may be better described as a spanish inspired surf-and-turf risotto….but then I probably risk insulting the Italian’s risotto, so let’s just crack on.

The recipe here serves two greedy portions, and could easily feed three with a few accompaniments (ciabatta with balsamic and extra virgin olive oil, a few designer rocket leaves etc.)

Paella - chorizo, bacon and onion

Preparation time: 10 minutes

Cooking time: 30 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 2 chicken breasts
  • 100g chorizo cut into chunks – not finely sliced
  • 180g paella rice (Arborio rice – the one used in risottos will also work if you can’t get paella rice)
  • 4 rashers of streaky bacon – cut into small pieces
  • 10 king prawns
  • 1 onion – finely chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic – finely chopped
  • 800ml chicken stock
  • 1 pinch of saffron
  • 1 tsp smoked paprika
  • 200g frozen peas
  • Olive oil
  • Salt
  • Pepper

Recipe:

  1. Cut the chicken breasts up into small pieces and fry in a little olive oil over a medium heat until cooked and starting to get a golden touch.
  2. Take the chicken out the frying pan and set aside. Then add the onion, garlic, chorizo and bacon and fry until the onions have softened. You will not need to add any oil, as the chorizo will start to ooze its oils after a couple of minutes and the bacon has more than enough fat in it. You may need to turn the heat down after a couple of minutes so the chorizo doesn’t crisp too much but the onion is just cooked enough and has absorbed some of those vibrant, orange colours and flavours.
  3. Whilst the onions and pork is cooking, add the saffron to the chicken stock and allow to infuse for a few moments, before adding 3/4 of the liquid to another large shallow pan with paella rice and smoked paprika. It should take about 20 minutes to cook over a low-medium heat.
  4. With 10 minutes left to go, most of the liquid should have been absorbed and the paella rice should be soft with a golden yellow colour. Add the remaining stock with the prawns and frozen peas. Turn up to a medium heat.
  5. In the final 5 minutes, stir in the cooked chicken, chorizo, bacon, onion and garlic and wait for the last of the stock to be incorporated, then it’s ready to serve!

Paella

Fajitas - chicken mixture

F is for my fuss-free Fajitas

This week i had friends round, one of whom will not mind me describing her as a wee bit fussy. My fuss-free fajitas were definitely the answer: an easy-to-prepare, do-it-yourself meal with minimal effort after a day at work.

Ingredients
1 chicken breast per person
1 pepper (red, orange or yellow) per person
Cayenne pepper
Smoked paprika
Salt
Pepper
Lettuce (cos) – finely sliced
Cheddar – grated
Sour cream
For the guacamole:
3 Avocados
1 tomato
2 tbsp Double cream
1 small red chilli
1 tbsp Lime juice
1 small handful of fresh coriander
Fajitas - guacamole
Recipe
For the guacamole:
Add 2 avocados, the tomato, double cream, small red chilli (de-seeded), coriander and lime juice to the blender and mix until a paste. For the final avocado, chop into small pieces and mix into the guacamole
For the chicken:
  1. Cut the chicken breasts up into 1cm strips and fry on a medium heat, turning until all pink colours have vanished.
  2. Add the cayenne pepper, smoked paprika, salt and pepper and stir until all the chicken is coated
  3. Add the peppers and leave on low-medium heat for 5-10 minutes until everything is softened
Fajitas - chicken mixture
Fajitas - chopped peppers
Lay out the tortillas in a warm oven for 3-4minutes, then serve everything in the centre of the table and let everyone help themselves.
Fajitas - served

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.