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Monday, 6 February 2017

Slow Cooker Chicken Burrito Bowls

I was asked for some slow cooker recipes that weren’t stew, so here’s the first. These may look like they have a lot of ingredients, but I think you should have most of the stuff to hand – and they’re really easy to put together. You can zshuz (?!) them up at the end however you like – I like to add grated cheese, chopped onions with coriander and homemade guacamole, then make wraps! But you can just as easily eat straight from the bowl.

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Like many of my recipes, you can vary quantities, and ingredients to some extent, according to taste. And if you don’t have a slow cooker, you could do this in the oven in a lidded casserole. If you don’t have a can of corn, use frozen, or even peas. If you don’t have black beans, use kidney beans…it really doesn’t matter here if you switch things in and out.

This recipe makes 6 big portions.

Ingredients:

4 chicken breasts

1 can chopped tomatoes (or two jars of salsa)

230ml chicken stock

4tsp taco/fajita seasoning packet – I base mine on this recipe or chilli powder, cumin, salt

CHEAT: 2 packets microwave brown + wild rice (at £1 each, I don’t think they’re bad value)

can of black beans or 250g dried black beans

can of sweetcorn or small mug of frozen corn

peppers and red onions (optional) CHEAT:  I used sliced frozen peppers and slice frozen red onions

Method

If you’re using dried beans, rinse them well – I didn’t. It’s not a problem, but everything in the pot turns a purply brown if you don’t.

Put everything, apart from the rice, peppers and onions into the pot. Stir to combine and ensure chicken is covered. Turn onto low for 4 hours. Keep a check to ensure it doesn’t dry out and stick.

After 4 hours, the beans will probably still be hard and chewy on the inside…don’t worry.

Add frozen pepper and onions. Turn up to high for 2 hours.

Remove chicken and shred. Tip in rice. Stir together. Turn back to low for ten minutes to ensure rice is heated through.

This is a great ‘prep ahead’ meal. You can get everything out and bag it all up in one bag ready to tip in that morning. Easy! This recipe would also work really well in the Cook4Me although I’d definitely use tinned beans, not dried. I’d also only use half the stock. Since you’re using whole chicken breasts, I think about 15 minutes should do the trick, and you can always add more cooking time to get them to the shreddable stage!

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I served it with soured cream, grated cheese and salsa and gave everyone warmed wraps to make their own burritos. Once the OH discovered they were actually very healthy, with beans, tomatoes, corn, peppers, chicken and ‘good for you’ rice, his rating of the dish climbed to an 8/10. And none of the goodness disappears from the slow cooker either.

Monday, 30 January 2017

Family Meals–Cheat’s Cottage Pie

So, after asking you what you’d like to see on the blog, several people asked for quick, tasty family meals that don’t use too many ingredients. So I’m starting you off with my own ‘cheats’ version of a cottage pie. The cheat aspect is to use frozen, pre chopped veg. Now, now…don’t scoff. This is one type of food I’ve started relying on. Firstly, the taste. It’s just the same as the fresh. The price? Well, maybe twice the price as buying individual pieces of fresh veg. but there’s no waste as it simply sits there waiting for the next use. One thing I have found is that once defrosted, the veg does become watery. Because of this, I wouldn’t use it for drier dishes where you want a thick sauce, but for stews and stir-fries, the extra water just becomes a part of the sauce.

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Ingredients:

beef mince

frozen chopped onions

frozen chopped carrots

crushed garlic

stock cube (I just used a little corner of one as was making for the kiddies)

hp brown sauce

red wine (notice, this didn’t bother me – for the kiddies!)

Worcestershire sauce

pepper

water

frozen mashed potato – yes, I know, but it only has in it the stuff you’d put in at home I promise!

Stovetop Method:

1 - Brown mince, onions, garlic and carrots in a little olive oil

2 - Whilst browning, make your stock – combine a large glug of brown sauce, small glug of Worcestershire sauce, half glass or so or red wine, beef stock cube, ground pepper and enough water to just cover your mince – add a little. You can always top up the pan later if there’s not enough. I used around 300g mince and made about 300ml stock.

3 - Sprinkle the mince mix with a spoon of plain flour, mix in.

4 - Pour your stock mix over the top, stir and let bubble down until the mince and veg are cooked and the liquid is reduced so you have a thick gooey sauce.

5 - Pour into an ovenproof dish, top with frozen pellets of mash, Grate cheese over the top and bake as usual – about 35 minutes on 180 should do. You just need to cook the mash and brown the top really.

Cook4Me Method:

Manual mode – browning, 3 minutes.

See 1 and 2 above.

Once browned, see 3 and 4 above.

Manual mode – quick cook, 7 minutes.

Once finished, see 5 above

So, hopefully that’s one to get you started, even if you already make a version of this, try with the pre chopped frozen veg…it honestly is so much faster!

Friday, 27 January 2017

Tefal Cook4Me

 

I've been experimenting with my new Christmas present over the last few weeks and am pleased to say, I'm definitely getting the hang of it! I used it last week, and this week in fact, for a healthy and hearty bean stew, which cooked in just 7-10 minutes. I also made a new years chilli, (10 mins) chicken sambal curry (4 mins) and monkfish with peppers (6 mins).

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You may have guessed from these cooking times that my new toy is a pressure cooker. Yes, that's right, but not one of those 80s Prestige huge pans with a scary lid that went on the hob. No. An electric one. All shiny and new. A Tefal Cook 4 Me. And I may be a little bit in love. Yes, you still have all the prep. to do, and that adds more time. And you have to wait for it to preheat. But unlike my slow cooker, I can brown meats in the cooker itself, then go straight onto cooking in there, even tho it has to preheat again.

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There is, however, a time and a place for it. If you want a really rich, flavoursome, homemade ragu, this machine will not give you that. If you already have amazing flavours ready to go in the pot, for example, a Thai spiced paste, it's perfect. Equally, if you cook things like bolognaise from a jar, it would dramatically speed up your dinner times.
The machine has several recipes pre-programmed into it, so you turn it on, find the recipe and the little screen guides you through what to do when. It's normally a case of prepping the ingredients, browning meat then throwing it all in to cook. The app, which is only available in the U.K. at present, has many more recipes to use and you can just follow the recipe on there and use the manual mode on the machine brown and cook. There is a new Connect model just released over here, and the app is designed to run alongside that and send the recipe direct to your machine. But I can't really see the point. For a start, it's much more expensive. And there's no extra effort or difficulty involved in using the manual mode on the machine. In fact, it’s slightly easier as the browning mode on manual starts a timer so you know how long you’ve been browning for, although I usually go on the look of it.

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You can even use it to cook desserts, but I haven't braved those yet. I also don't think I've actually followed the recipes on the machine. For a start, I only use pastes for curries and everything else, like bolognaise, I make my own tomato sauce. I tend to make something I would usually make, find a similar cut of meat recipe on the machine and use that preset! So for my chicken sambal, I chop chicken, find the green Thai curry recipe as it also uses chopped chicken and coconut milk, brown meat and onions, tip my paste, coconut milk and green beans in, then use the preset time. For my chilli, I again used the chilli preset but used my own recipe. Occasionally with the chilli, the sauce is too thick for the machine to create the steam and pressure needed, so just give it a stir, try again, and add a bit more water if needed to help it on its way!

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Even if I use this machine once a week, it certainly does save time and was worth the money. When F asks when her dinner is ready, I can say ‘in about three minutes’, rather than telling her we just have to wait for the oven to heat up, etc. etc. It also means I can tip everything in and leave it rather than stand at the hob and try to stop CC emptying the cupboards at the same time as juggling a hot pan … never a good idea.

Tuesday, 10 January 2017

New Year, New Gadget!

Happy New Year to all…and yes, I’ll make the resolution again to cook and blog more, but don’t hold me to it!

Here’s hoping you all had a happy and healthy festive period and have since de-cluttered, found a fresh spring in our step and are ready to embrace January. If so, I have just the think to start the new year: a hearty but healthy bean and pasta stew / soup. I suppose it’s really a version of Italian bean or Peasant soup, made with whatever you have to hand and served on top of a slice of toasted, slightly stale country style bread. Ok, so it might not sound brilliant, but I promise it delivers on flavour.

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Ingredients:

streaky bacon (leave out if you want a vegetarian version)

onion

leeks

carrots

can of chopped tomatoes

can of borlotti beans

500ml chicken or vegetable stock

pasta for soup (little pasta!)

oregano / dried mixed herbs

sweet paprika

slice country style stalish bread

Method:

Chop the ingredients into bite sized chunks

Brown bacon, then fresh veg in a pan

Add tomatoes, stock, herbs, paprika and pasta

Cover and simmer until pasta is cooked

Meanwhile, toast the bread.

Once the soup stew is cooked, season well and pour on top of the bread.

Easy – and perfect to warm you up on those colder days. I even blitzed it for the baby as I used homemade, very low salt stock…and a bit of bacon does no harm every now and then!

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And as for the new gadget, it’s a Tefal Cook 4 Me…a sort of new-fangled one pot pressure cooker. I actually browned the ingredients in there, then threw everything else in and cooked for ten minutes. More on this amazing pot in a later post – I keep forgetting to take pictures of what I’ve cooked. Also this week, I’m looking forward to my last discounted Gousto delivery. Definitely getting back into this cooking malarkey!

Monday, 12 December 2016

Gousto–worth it?

I’ve been looking into all these new recipe box ideas recently and, in particular, the Gousto scheme, which I signed up for at Taste of London. I’d chosen this as there are options to choose your recipes from a selection, rather than just receive what is sent, and the fact that I got a great offer at the festival – first box half price, third free, so essentially. first three boxes for half price, making it just £1.88 per portion if you chose four meals for four people. Now, the Ella’s Kitchen baby food pouches are £1.40 each so this seemed a brilliant opportunity to give these a try.

Each week you choose from the selection of recipes. There are some tried, tested and rated recipes, and some brand new ones, meaning you’re not always cooking the same things every week. You can also put your subscription on hold and just log into order when you feel like it with no obligation to reactivate it. This seemed like a good idea to me so opted for this as soon as I signed up so I didn’t need to remember to cancel it, if you see what I mean!

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The box arrived, finally, at just after 6pm, which is absolutely no good if you want to use it for that evening’s tea, especially if you have little ones who’re hungry, even though the box sticker said delivery by 5pm. Therefore, I’d advise you plan an alternative meal for the delivery day. The meat and products do last past the 4 days worth of meals – my delivery was on the 1st and the date on the chicken breasts was not until the 8th, so it does give you flexibility as to when to have them during the week.

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Meats, fish and perishable items were stored in one half of the box in that lovely wool keep cool packaging, while veggies and other items were in the second half. Everything is pre portioned in sachets or bags which makes it really easy but does create an awful lot of plastic waste. Surely its not that important to have exactly 100g of carrot – one medium carrot would do the job, and be fine on it’s own in the box without the need to be wrapped in a plastic bag. Me and Effie had great fun un-bundling it all to see what we had, then decided to re-bundle it into meal kits as all the ingredients for all the meals come in one package, so you’ll need to sort out what foods belong to which recipe, which is made much easier by the inclusion of the recipe cards for each chosen meal.

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We chose a Persian Lamb Quinoa Pilaf, BBQ chicken, Haddock Linguine and Bacon Wrapped Chicken. Cooking times varied from 20 minutes to 45 and, I timed as I cooked each one, were fairly accurate. All the recipes were tasty and pushed me to try flavours and ingredients I wouldn’t usually choose. The ras el hanout added to the the Persian lamb was absolutely delicious, and we enjoyed the Gentleman’s relish as part of the BBQ chicken sauce too. It certainly stopped me from cooking the same things week in, week out and meant I didn’t have to buy a whole jar or spice just for one recipe, as is so often the case if cooking Indian, Asian and African dishes. It was also brilliant not having to even think about what we would be having for dinner. I simply got our pre-prepared bag out from the fridge and followed the instructions. Yes, you still have to chop and actually do the cooking, but it’s easy. Either follow the recipe cards or use the app, which is well designed and intuitive.

And there’s no waste. Not one bit.

Effie ate them all, as did CC – I just made sure I kept a smaller pan aside, or removed stuff before adding salt, for her, then mashed or blended into a rough, textured puree. I chose recipes for 4 people to include the children and because I have a husband who eats double portions. I was a little worried that 1 chicken breast was sent as a serving for two people, but each one was huge and fed us adequately, especially with other ingredients padding it out, such as the huge amount of coleslaw and potato wedges! I had enough Lamb Pilaf for two huge adult meals that night, plus we both had second helpings, and two lunch portions the next day.

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Will I be using this after my three half-price boxes? Probably not on a weekly basis: at full price (£60 for four meals for four people, £3.75 per portion) I feel that I can do similar much cheaper myself. But throw in the time taken to shop, the idea that you don’t throw anything away, the new recipes each week and the fact that you don’t have a three year old pot of ras el hanout in the cupboard, wondering what to do with it, I will certainly be using it on those busy weeks, especially when I return to work at the end of February.

And they sent me a big bag of free popcorn too!

If you want to try, simply click this link and get £25 off your first box…

https://www.gousto.co.uk/join?promo_code=HANNA188010 

Or go to the website and click the ‘have a special code?’ link under the menu button on the homepage and paste in this code: HANNAH188010

Thursday, 8 December 2016

Taste of London: The Festive Edition

I’ve coveted tickets for the Festive Edition of Taste for the last couple of years, but finally got my hands on some via a Big Green Egg Facebook competition this year – winning a pair to the Tobacco Dock extravaganza. And boy, was I excited!

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I packed up the children and the grandparents, ensuring Papi was driving, and took us off early on the Sunday morning for the 40 minutes drive to Wapping. I wanted to begin by taking my 5YO to the Beas of Bloomsbury gingerbread man decorating workshop in the Patissier’s Pantry, which was free, but you needed to book after arrival. Luckily, they managed to squeeze us on an end as it was already fully booked ten minutes after the doors had opened, and what fun we had!

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We then headed through the lower ground floor, sniffing out smoky aromas from the Big Green Eggs and choosing places to visit later on, before heading for the Great Gallery where we found 3 restaurants, many stalls, and plenty of seating. The LO enjoyed a Chicken Schnitzel Sub from Tom’s Kitchen, followed by Crispy Cod Cheeks from Tredwells. We had the Icon Dish of Smoked Rare Rump Cap from here too, which was delicious, our own portion of Cod Cheeks since monster had eaten the first plate, Adobo spare ribs and a Crispy Pork Belly Taco from Mole Taco Bar. All washed down with a couple of glasses of Prosecco, which was to be found everywhere!

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Next was a wander round the stalls, stopping particularly at Pan-n-Ice to order Oreo and Nutella ice cream rolls made in front of our eyes! I think the stall holder was a little fed up with having to demonstrate what it was all about without people actually ordering, so didn’t realise we really did want an ice cream from him. The grumpiness did fade in time!


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By the end of lunchtime, the whole building was buzzing. Live music, a dj, delicious smoky aromas all adding to the festive atmosphere. By far the tastiest morsel was something I grabbed on the way past … a Big Green Egg cooked Pork Belly Bun from Kurobuta. This really was just scrummy. My mouth’s watering just looking at the photograph again! I nearly went back for seconds but had lost the rest of my family by this stage so thought I should really catch up!

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To top if off, a hot mulled cider, oh yes, and a little chat with Marcus! A thoroughly enjoyable day…just fantastic. Thank you Big Green Egg. The perfect start to the Festive Season.

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Monday, 5 December 2016

ASK Italian, Chelmsford … A Review

What, with all these new chains opening up in Chelmsford, I can barely keep up! But one thing that will set a good restaurant apart from the others, since the food is is usually comparable, is the service. One of my main bug bears is the fact that there aren’t more independent places here, but when there are, it seems they struggle to get the service right too. Take for example A Canteen. It used to be a fab little place, perfect for a hungover weekend brunch. Then they expanded … too fast: huge premises, wildly long opening hours, three menus throughout the day at first, and new staff, who were awful. And the food went downhill too – with so large a choice, the chefs just couldn’t do it all, And the lack of communication between front of house and kitchen is still very poor.

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Anyway, I digress. At many of the new chains, I have also experienced poor service. From tables not being served at the same time, some people having finished before others were served and the excuse being, “Well, we are very busy”, to poor knowledge of product from the waiting staff. At the press night at ASK, however, the staff and service was excellent. Way above anything else in Chelmsford. Staff were trained at the Billericay and Colchester restaurants for several weeks beforehand and comprised a mixture of experienced and new, which just seemed to work. Now, I know it was the press night and everyone was on best behaviour, but from product knowledge, personal experience and professionalism, to asking if we wanted the remnants boxed to take away without us asking, they were really superb. Difficult to find staff this good in when the market is saturated with new restaurants. We even received an email to say my partner had left his rucksack and that they had it safe for us to collect!

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And the food wasn’t too bad either! I’ve never been to an Ask before and was pleasantly surprised. The new mixed antipasti board was delicious, the tomatoes served at room temperature rather than straight from the fridge, so they actually had taste, and the mozzarella was soft, squishy and simply delicious. I chose a pizza with mixed salami which was exactly as expected…crisp and tasty, as was the super thin garlic bread we chose to accompany it. The OH decided on a meatball pasta, which was ok. A little more sauce would have gone down a treat as it was a bit dry, but came with a lovely side salad instead of having to order this separate and he ate it all.

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But the real star of the show was the Etna Dessert – I'll let the picture speak for itself, but if you go, you must leave a pudding space for this!

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The interior is the right side of industrial with open piping in the roof space but nicely finished wood and metal surroundings. There are a combination of booths and tables and plenty of space to fit buggies…always useful for a girly lunch!

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Here’s what ASK had to say about the opening …

“The new restaurant features seating for 140 guests, with capacity for an additional 60 covers outside in the warmer months, overlooking the river Chelmer. The imposing glass frontage floods the restaurant with light during the daytime and showcases a very impressive hand built wooden staircase.

Serving a range of dishes from starters such as Butterfly King Prawns, Antipasti boards and Dough Balls to mains including stone baked pizzas, pasta and salads, busy Chelmsford shoppers will be spoilt for choice at ASK Italian. One of the highlights has to be the very ‘instagrammable’ Chocolate Etna dessert where hot toffee sauce is poured over a dark chocolate cup at your table to reveal a hidden scoop of vanilla gelato on top of a hot chocolate fondant.”

We’ll see how they cope over the festive period, but if you fancy it, all 3 ASK Italian Christmas menu options are available to view online here

Classico – 3 courses for £18.95

Festivo – 3 courses for £22.95 or 2 courses for £14.95 (Mon-Fri until 5pm)

Super Festivo – 3 courses for £24.95

I’ll be visiting again next time I’m in town for lunch…here’s hoping the service is just as good!

Disclaimer: Our meal was complementary for review purposes. All opinions given are my own, honest and truthful.

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