A few weeks ago, I found a truly wonderful little cookbook, bursting with 365 mouth-watering recipes ― one for every day of the year. After flicking through its many pages to see which culinary concoctions would inspire severe hunger pangs, I honed in on the rich dish proffered for Bonfire Night: chicken mole poblano. I had never ever HEARD of chicken mole poblano before, but the picture made it look incredible, and the presence of peanut butter and dark chocolate in the ingredients list made it irresistible.
To make chicken mole poblano, you’ll need:
3 tbsp olive oil
4 chicken breasts
1 white onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1 red chilli, chopped
1 tbsp toasted sesame seeds, plus extra to garnish
1 tbsp chopped or flaked almonds
½ tsp cinnamon
½ tsp cumin
½ tsp cloves
3 tomatoes, peeled and chopped
2 tbsp raisins
350 ml chicken stock
1 tbsp peanut butter
25g/1oz grated plain chocolate, plus extra to garnish
Salt and pepper
To make the magic happen:
After heating your oil in a large frying pan, add your chicken breasts and brown on all sides before removing with a slotted spoon and setting aside
In the same pan, add the chopped onion, garlic and chilli and fry for around 5 minutes
Once softened, throw in your sesame seeds, almonds and spices and cook for about 2 minutes, followed by your tomatoes, raisins, stock, peanut butter and chocolate
Stir well, season, and leave to simmer for 5 minutes
After 5 minutes, transfer the mixture to a food processor and blitz until smooth, then return to the pan
Add the browned chicken breasts to the sauce and bring to the boil, then turn the heat down, cover, and leave to simmer for one hour. Use a skewer to check that the chicken is cooked all the way through
Garnish with a few of the toasted sesame seeds and grated chocolate, and serve with a plate full of noodles in peanut sauce
Enjoy with a refreshing glass of white wine, or a crisp Thai or Chinese beer.
Top tip: make your meat mixture the day before, then leave in the fridge overnight so that all of the lovely flavours fully permeate the meat ― making the sauce even richer
Ok technically, this isn’t shepherd’s pie at all. It’s cottage pie. But I started calling it shepherd’s pie before I found out the difference between what constitutes a shepherd’s what constitutes a cottage; and, well, I’m stubborn. So shepherd’s pie it is.
Once upon a time, my entire meal repertoire consisted of either veggie dishes, Quorn dishes, or chicken dishes. I didn’t like beef, and I certainly didn’t like mince. Well, it turns out that in actual fact, I liked both; and once I’d been brave enough (yes, this does qualify as an act of bravery) to buy some mince steak, unwrap this thing that was nothing like chicken, and add a shed load of flavours to mask the non-chicken like smell, I discovered that I made a pretty mean shepherd’s (cottage) pie. In fact, it was the nicest meal I’d ever made, and to this day remains my signature dish of choice.
I still don’t like shepherd’s (cottage) pie made by anyone else, because I find there are never enough flavours, and not nearly enough booze. In this version, the sauce is incredibly rich and satisfying. As a rule, the meat mixture from your shepherd’s (cottage) pie should be rich enough to double up as the sauce for spag bol ― with the addition of herbs and a little bacon.
So if you fancy making a pie that packs a real punch, follow the simple steps below ― and don’t scrimp on the wine!
For the meat
2 white onions
2 garlic gloves
1 pack of lean minced steak
2 glasses of full bodied red wine (if you wouldn’t drink it, don’t cook with it)
A very large dousing of Worcester sauce
2 tbsp tomato puree
One beef stock pot
2 tbsp gravy granules
For the mash
About six medium-large potatoes
A good glug of milk and cream
A large knob of real butter
A very large grating of cheddar cheese
More Worcester sauce
Making the magic happen
Heat your oil in a large pan and add the chopped onion and garlic. Fry on a medium heat until golden
Add the minced steak and turn up the heat slightly. Fry until brown then sprinkle in your Worcester sauce, pour in your wine, and stir well
Squeeze in your tomato puree and stir in, followed by your beef stock pot and gravy granules, then add a glug of hot water and mix well
There should be quite a lot of liquid now. Bring to the boil then reduce to a gentle simmer. Cover your pan and leave to simmer for around 2 hours, then transfer into your pie dish and leave in the fridge overnight
The next day, take the pie dish out of the fridge and preheat your oven to 230C
Make your mash by boiling the potatoes in salted water, simmering for about 25 minutes (or until all of your spuds are soft but not mushy), and mashing well
In a separate pan, heat your milk, cream and butter until melted. Add to the mash in batches, combining each one before adding the next. When your potato is smooth and creamy, stir in two handfuls of grated cheese, mix, then spoon on top of the meat mixture (it should still be firm from the fridge, making it easier to add to the potato)
Top with another generous sprinkling of cheddar, Worcester sauce, and salt and pepper
Bake for around 30 minutes, or until the top is browed and bubbling
Serve with homemade Yorkshire puds, sugar snap peas, and a whole heap of thick gravy
It’s no secret that I love pizza. If I could only eat one food for the rest of my life, pizza would be it. Now I know that’s not particularly adventurous, but I never, ever get bored of it. I do however recognise that it’s not the healthiest of foods, so with spring on the horizon, I decided to have a go of making my own sort-of-healthy-because-it’s-not-doughy pizza.
Instead of baking up a batch of dough, I used tortilla wraps which become incredibly crispy in the oven; and because they’re so thin, the topping is centre of attention ― the way nature (and the Italian gods) intended. I am thin crust all the way, and this is about as thin as it gets.
I’m not giving you exact quantities because it depends how many you’re making and how much topping you like (and also because I made it up as I went along without measuring), so use your common sense to adjust accordingly.
To recreate the magic, you’ll need:
Tortilla wraps or flat breads
Grated cheddar cheese
Chorizo (or whatever meat/veggie option you prefer)
Freshly torn basil leaves
Making the magic happen:
Preheat oven to 200C
Chop a clove of garlic with one red chilli (or some dried chilli flakes). Fry in a pan with a little olive oil
Add a squeeze of tomato puree (about 1-2 tbsp), followed by a glug of red wine and a little water
Mix well then spread across your tortillas
Cover them with a grating of cheddar cheese (or some torn mozzarella) and whatever meat or veg you’ve plumped for. If using chorizo (like me), fry it before adding to the pizza
Pop in the oven for a few minutes, keeping an eye on your tortilla pizzas so they don’t burn
Take them out and put the tray on a hot hob to make sure the bottom is nice and crisp; then finish off with a few torn basil leaves
Enjoy with a cold glass of Prosecco – the Italian way.
Let me start by saying EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEK! Ok, now that’s out of my system…
Pancake Day is, quite simply, one of the best days in the whole entire year (next only to Christmas and my birthday). If I had my way, I would be sitting at home right now with a GIANT STACK of pancakes, working my way through every flavour combination imaginable. And then I’d go back to fresh lemon and lashings of sugar because I’m a traditionalist, and it’s the best.
I am however tempted to try savoury pancakes with ham, cheese and mustard; and maybe even step up the game by giving Crêpes Suzette a whirl. But what I really want to know is, what are YOU making?
As much as I love cake, pizza and all things bad, even I have to admit that there is perhaps room for a few healthy dishes now that spring is peeking playfully on the horizon, beckoning us on to a time where we’ll all wear far less layers and expose far more flesh.
Personally, I don’t think you can beat a bowl of homemade soup for comfort, warmth, and mega healthy points (depending on what you put into it of course).
I spotted a recipe on BBC Good Food (oh how I love that site) and adapted it slightly (more garlic, hotter chilli, chicken stock in place of vegetable stock, and whipped crème instead of crème fraîche as it’s the only thing I had in the fridge).
It’s healthy (if you leave out the crème), incredibly tasty, and will bring you that warm sense of satisfaction that only comes from having made something entirely from scratch.
So whip up a batch and enjoy!
1 butternut squash
2 tbsp olive oil
Knob of butter
2 garlic cloves
2 red chillies
850ml hot chicken stock
Crème fraîche or crème (optional)
Make the magic happen:
Preheat your oven to 200C
Peel and deseed your squash, then cut into 4cm cubes. Throw the cubes in a roasting tin, toss in olive oil, and roast for about 30 minutes (or until soft and golden), turning them once
Chop you onion, garlic and chilli, then throw into a large non-stick pan with the hot olive oil and melted butter.
Cover the pan and cook on a low heat until the onions are soft ― 15-20 minutes should do the trick
When your squash is soft and completely cooked through, pour into a large bowl with kitchen roll to absorb any excess oil, then add it to the onion mix, along with the hot stock and crème (if you want it a little richer)
Whizz everything together with a hand blender until completely smooth, then taste (I added a sprinkling of ginger and lots of salt and freshly ground black pepper at this point)
The recipe calls for polish puff pasty, but I made my own shortcrust instead.
For the pastry:
6oz plain flour
For the filling:
250ml pouring cream
50g grated Parmesan
150g ham, roughly chopped (I used ham hock as the flavour is big and punchy)
120g pitted olives, chopped (I went for a combination of green and black)
A few sprigs of thyme or rosemary, chopped very finely (the recipe states thyme, but we have rosemary growing in the garden and the flavour worked incredibly well)
Make the magic happen
1. Butter a round 24cm tin (preferably one with a wobbly bottom), and preheat your oven to 180C
2. Make your pastry by sifting flour into a large bowl and rubbing in your butter until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. At that point, add one beaten egg and work together with your hands until you’ve made a soft dough (if it’s too dry, pour in a little water)
3. Turn out onto a floured board and roll out until about half a centimetre thick, then transfer to your greased tin and press down to fill the bottom and sides. Blind bake for around 10 minutes. If you don’t have ceramic beans (like me), lay some teaspoons across the pastry base
4. To make the filling (this part is easy peasy), whip your eggs in another large bowl, then add the pouring cream, chopped ham, olives, and finely chopped herbs. Sprinkle in a generous helping of pepper (if you use ham hock you probably won’t need salt)
5. Mix together before pouring into your pastry case, the bake for around 35 minutes, or until the top is set and golden
6. Allow to cool to room temperature, then enjoy with a fresh salad