Tuesday, 24 February 2015

Chicken mulligatawny soup

I've always been a fan of an Anglo-Indian creation...coronation chicken, tikka masala, mulligatawny soup. This soup is a popular choice in the tinned soup market...right up there with minestrone, oxtail and dare I say it, cream of tomato. But I suppose I'd class it in the same league as Royal Game soup (by the well known brand, Baxters). The more discerning choice, for the sophisticated soup admirer. The fresh soup brands in cartons like to display an large array of "sophisticated soups", Tuscan bean, chipotle pulled pork, carrot and coriander and mulligatawny are often available.
Before I ramble about tinned soup and other products....(I could go on), the point I'm trying to make is we seem to be fond of this hearty textured, earthy spiced "meal in itself" broth-come-stew. 

Rather like a minestrone with the addition of a few Asian ingredients - ginger, coriander and turmeric. This is a brilliant way to use up "stuff", whether it be half a nearly dried up onion, or sprouting potato, a slightly soft pepper (that you chopped a bit off for a salad yesterday). The options here are unlimited, and that's the beauty if this dish, use up whatever you have. The spices and key fresh ingredients are what bring it all together. 

Yes..you know me, I've trawled through recipe books and the internet for the perfect recipe, from Madha Jaffrey to the Hairy Bikers. I had in my mind how I wanted it to taste. Occasionally I'll pop into the Sainsburys café and have their chicken mulligatawny, it has the right spice level, texture and depth of flavour I was looking to recreate. Most recipes I looked at had similar spice blends and the basis of most soups - the holy trinity, Mirepiox...good old onion, celery and carrot (by the way, without fail, I always have these in my fridge).

Having had a lovely roast chicken on Sunday I wanted to do something a bit different with the leftovers. A warm spiced seasonal soup seemed the perfect idea. And this means lots of leftovers for lunches and like most stews the flavours intensify and amalgamate, you can freeze this even. 

Here's the recipe
A good lug of olive oil
1 finely chopped onion 
1 stick celery finely chopped
1 carrot, peeled and chopped
1 medium sized potato, peeled and diced
2 cloves garlic, crushed
A thumb sized pieced of ginger, finely grated
1 yellow pepper, diced
1 red chilli, deseeded and finely chopped
Finely chopped stalks of a fresh bunch of coriander
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp turmeric
1 tsp medium curry powder (I used Sharwoods)
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
2 oz red lentils 
2 pints chicken stock
1 tbsp mango chutney
A good pinch of salt and grinding of pepper
1 tin of chopped tomatoes 
Chicken stripped of carcass  
A handful of fresh coriander 
A dollop of natural yoghurt 

Wednesday, 18 February 2015

Half term pizzas

Making homemade pizzas with the kids has to be one of the simplest ways to get them being creative with food (not to mention subtly persuading them to try different flavours). And apart from the preference of toppings most of the ingredients are store cupboard/fridge essentials. 

There are loads of recipes for pizza bases available, but since being given this recipe from a good friend I've never diverted away from it. It's dead easy to knock up, just a few ingredients. And you don't have to worry too much about kneading or proving for a long time. It's the sort of dough you can prepare, do the washing up, have a quick cuppa and it's ready to go. Also the nice thing is you don't have to keep it in a warm area, in the bowl you mix it in the worktop is fine or even the fridge. This recipe makes enough for 4 larger pizzas (adult size) or 6 small pizzas (kids size). 

500g strong white bread flour
2-3 tsp salt
1 tsp sugar
15g (3 tsp) fast action dried yeast
360ml water
50ml olive oil

Combine all the ingredients together in a large bowl, I tend to go straight in with the hands. Tip out onto a floured surface, and knead till smooth, this doesn't take long. Place back into the bowl and cover with cling film. Around 15-30 mins resting time should be fine. Can even be refrigerated and used the next day, a longer resting time makes for a really light dough but it's not essential. Kids don't have much patience when it comes to waiting around for dough to rest! (And you may not have enough time to make it well in advance).

My basic topping ingredients are - 
Passata/pizza topping from a jar (yes a jar!!)
Grated mozzarella 
Dried oregano
Freshly milled black pepper
Fresh torn basil leaves
A drizzle of extra virgin olive oil

Once you have the basic ingredients you can divert/alternate, use your imagination..

I like to place toppings on a plate for kids to choose what they like, perhaps to make a face?! 

Some of my favourites are - 
Pineapple (yes pineapple!)

Some that the kids may not appreciate -
Goats cheese
Parma ham or Serrano 

Take a handful of dough and flatten on a floured board, a rolling pin helps to make it really thin, you want it as crisp as possible. Place on a tray (I like to use one with holes, helps to crisp up even more). 

Let the kids loose on the toppings then place in a really hot oven 220 degrees for 10 mins. 

You'll want to be making these again, once you've tried fresh homemade pizzas you'll not want one of those bought overpriced ones again. And just to state, these cost a mere fraction of the price, a perfect low effort nutritious meal. And the kids are involved...ticks every box in my book!!!! 

Monday, 16 February 2015

Quick tomato, bacon and balsamic pasta

Stuck for a quick tea for the kids over half term? This easy peasy pasta dish is as quick and tasty as they come. And can be knocked up in the time it takes to boil a pan of water for the pasta. 
I know what you're thinking, just get a jar of sauce from the supermarket, what can be simpler than that? But trust me, my version will be far tastier, fresh and only uses a handful of key ingredients, some being store cupboard staples. Salt and sugar levels are controlled with the kids. I was astounded at how much sugar they put in those jars...several tablespoons per 100g!!!!...(as I saw on Eat well for less programme on BBC the other night). Therefore a lot cheaper and makes a superb budget meal for the week. 
Whenever I ask the kids what they want for dinner, they always reply "pasta!!!!!", so I'm always trying to think of different ideas, with few ingredients with as little effort as possible. This sauce would also freeze very well in portions for an even quicker standby tea (perhaps on the days of after school clubs). I'm often wanting another alternative as quick as beans on toast. 

A good lug of olive oil
3 bacon rashers smoked/unsmoked roughly chopped
1-2 garlic cloves crushed
A few shakes of dried of either or all oregano/marjoram/Italian herb seasoning
1 tin chopped tomatoes 
Freshly ground black pepper
A good pinch of sugar
2 tsp sundried tomato pesto
A few shakes/drizzle balsamic vinegar
1 tbsp double cream

Start off by sizzling the bits of bacon in a wide bottomed pan in olive oil on quite a high heat. Until it starts to crisp up and go slightly brown, add the herbs and garlic. Then add the tomatoes. 

Meanwhile in another large pan boil the water for the pasta, add a few handfuls of your favourite pasta shape (I like Spiralli or fusilli with this as sauce clings very well). 

The tomato sauce should've reduced slightly and become thicker and more concentrated. At this point add cream, pepper, sugar, pesto and balsamic vinegar. Check for seasoning and taste. 

Once pasta is cooked to al dente, with a slotted spoon transfer it to the thickened creamy tomato sauce. Inevitably some of the cooking pasta water will go in, this is exactly what you want, this will really help the sauce cling to the pasta and will be silky. A sprinkling of with your favourite cheese, I tend to use either a Parmesan or Padano with a little cheddar, et voilá.

By all means this sauce would also work really well with roasted vegetables (peppers, courgettes, aubergines) and a few capers thrown in. Equally with chilli, but go easy for the kids. Prawns, chicken or tuna...the world is your oyster. 

Just thought I'd share my super speedy pasta that's always a hit with the kids. Bon appetite!!!