Monday, 9 February 2015

Fajita Spiced Mexican Chicken and Dips

Fajita spiced chicken breast with assorted Mexican dip combinations

Mexican themed food has become a lot more popular in recent years here in the UK. Although it's sometimes difficult for us to differentiate between genuine Mexican food and the TexMex dishes which are of course not quite so authentic, the flavours are of course what it is all about.

Although I have used a chicken crown in this recipe, you could instead use a whole chicken to serve more people.

Fresh free range chicken crown

Ingredients (Serves 2)

1 chicken crown
1 tablespoon Mexican fajita spice
1 large ripe haas avocado
1 medium strength red chilli
1 medium strength green chilli
Juice only of one lime
1 tablespoon freshly chopped coriander/cilantro
1 medium tomato
2 inch piece of cucumber
2 cloves of garlic
Extra virgin olive oil
Small tub (roughly 5 ounces) soured cream
2 thick slices of wholewheat farmhouse bread

Fajita spice is scattered over chicken crown


It is important for best effect that you plan this meal to allow the chicken at least a couple of hours' marinating time before it is cooked. Overnight in the fridge would also be OK if this makes it easier, though be sure to remove it from the fridge at least half an hour before it goes in to the oven.

Dry fajita spices are rubbed in to chicken crown

Put the chicken crown in a deep plate or flat bottomed bowl. Scatter with the fajita spice and use your hand to carefully ensure all areas of the chicken are evenly coated in the powder. Cover and leave for a couple of hours.

Avocado is stoned to make basic guacamole

The guacamole and salsa should be made as soon as the chicken is set aside to marinate. This gives the flavours time to infuse in these instances also.

Lime juice is added to guacamole flesh to prevent it oxidising and browning

Remove the stone from the avocado and spoon the flesh in to a bowl. Squeeze over the juice of half the lime.

Guacamole are carefully combined

Seed and dice the chillies. Add to the bowl along with half the chopped coriander, season with salt and pepper and stir well.

Seeding tomato and cucumber for making salsa

Seed and moderately finely dice the tomato and cucumber. Add to a separate bowl  along with the remaining coriander, one of the garlic cloves only - peeled and very finely diced - the remaining lime juice and around a tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil. Season with salt and pepper before stirring to combine.

Combining simple salsa ingredients

In order to cook the chicken, preheat your oven to 400F/200C/Gas Mark 6.  Weigh the chicken crown.

Lightly oil a roasting tray and rub some olive oil over the top of the chicken. Place the chicken in to the oven for twenty minutes per pound in weight and twenty extra minutes.

Fajita spiced chicken crown ready for roasting

When the chicken comes out of the oven, pierce it at the thickest part with a skewer to ensure the juices run clear. Set aside to rest for ten minutes.

Roasted and spiced chicken crown is left to rest

The two slices of bread should be lightly toasted on both sides until golden.

Thick slice taken from wholegrain farmhouse loaf

Sit the chicken crown on a chopping board and carefully slice off the two breast fillets.

First breast fillet is cut from chicken crown

Slice each fillet across the grain in to four or five thick pieces.

Chicken breast fillet is sliced across the grain

Peel and lightly crush the second garlic clove. Rub it over the top of each slice of hot toast before drizzling with extra virgin olive oil.

Toasted farrmhouse bread slice is plated

Plate the toast and carefully arrange the chicken breast slices on top.

Sliced chicken breast is laid on toast

Divide the guacamole, salsa and soured cream each between two ramekins and plate alongside the chicken on toast.

Tucking in to fajita spiced chicken breast with Mexican dips

Thursday, 29 January 2015

Thai Teriyaki and Sesame Chicken Soup

A Satisfying and Spicy Asian Themed Soup Experiment

Thai teriyaki and sesame chicken thigh soup

Do you like your soups thick, hearty and satisfying, as well as supremely tasty? What about a little bit of spiciness thrown in, especially on a cold winter's night? If so, I'm sure you will love this soup, which was very much an experimental idea I came up with last night. In fact, I enjoyed it so much, I actually ate the whole lot myself last night in about three stages, having originally intended freezing some of it for a later date.

Skinned chicken thigh fillets

When I am going to be cooking with filleted chicken thighs, I normally buy them and bone/skin them myself. Why? Incredibly, they are almost twice the price if I buy them ready filleted! That to me is a nonsense. In this instance, however, these ready skinned and filleted chicken thighs were on special offer in my local supermarket.

Ingredients (Serves Four)

8 filleted and skinned chicken thighs
2 tablespoons vegetable or sunflower oil
1 medium white onion
4 ounce (120g) pack of mixed sliced bell peppers
1 sachet (around 5 ounces) teriyaki and sesame stir fry sauce
1 red chilli pepper and 1 green chilli pepper (optional)
1 pint fresh chicken stock
Salt and pepper to taste

Diced chicken thigh meat


Chop the filleted chicken thighs in to approximately one inch pieces. Pour the vegetable/sunflower oil in to a large stew pot and bring up to a medium to high heat.

Thai stir frying sauce, onion and mixed bell pepper slices

Add the chicken pieces to the pot and stir fry for a couple of minutes to brown and seal all the pieces. Be sure to use a wooden spoon.

Browning chicken thigh meat in oil

When the chicken is sealed, add the bell pepper slices and the peeled and sliced onion. Stir fry for another minute or so, just to slightly soften the onion and peppers.

Peppers and onion are added to browned chicken thigh meat

The chilli peppers are entirely optional but I hope you will use them as they add a real extra little kick to the dish. These are of medium strength. I seeded them and very finely sliced them for inclusion.

Red and green chilli peppers

Add the chilli peppers (if using) to the pot and stir through.

Peppers and onions are stirred through chicken meat until softened

Pour the stir fry sauce in to the pot, followed by the chicken stock. Stir well and bring to a simmer - uncovered - for twenty-five to thirty minutes, until the chicken is both cooked and tender.

Stir fry sauce is added to chicken and vegetables

Taste the soup, season as necessary with salt and pepper and ladle in to bowls to serve.

Chicken stock is poured in to soup and brought to a simmer

Tuesday, 2 December 2014

Gammon Steak and Spicy Fried Egg Rolls

Griddled gammon steak and spiced fried egg bread rolls

I'm not to be honest sure where this idea came from, it's really just a combination of two different things I've made regularly in the past, incorporated in what is essentially a sandwich. Although I do enjoy griddled gammon steaks occasionally, I can't actually remember how many years it must be since I made these eggs. The good news is that the dish worked really well and I hope you'll consider giving it a try.

Eggs are broken in to ramekins and seasoned

Ingredients per Person

2 medium gammon steaks
Vegetable oil for frying
2 eggs
Generous pinch each of ground coriander, ground cumin and mild/medium chilli powder
Salt and pepper
2 soft bread rolls
3 or 4 rolled and shredded basil leaves to garnish

Frying pan is lightly oiled for frying eggs


The cooking time for this dish is minimal and pretty much hands on at all times so it is best to have everything ready before you begin. This means that you should break each egg carefully in to a small ramekin and season with the spices, salt and pepper. You should wipe a small, non-stick frying pan with vegetable oil, which will be used to fry the eggs.

Starting to griddle gammon steaks

You could of course simply fry the gammon steaks but griddling is not only quicker, it gives the steaks a far more attractive appearance. Begin by putting your dry pan on to reach a very high, smoking hot heat.

Gammon steaks are turned in griddle pan

Use a pastry brush to oil the gammon steaks before laying them in the pan to fry. You will be able to see from the side when they are half cooked and ready for turning with tongs but a couple of minutes each side serves as a useful guideline.

Starting to fry spiced eggs

Put the frying pan on to preheat to a medium to high heat while you lift the gammon steaks to a warmed plate to briefly rest. When the frying pan is heated, carefully pour in the eggs. After about twenty seconds or so - when they are clearly holding their shape - reduce the heat to low to medium.

Frying spiced eggs are turned in pan

When the egg white is set almost all the way up to the yolk, carefully turn the eggs over to finish cooking for a minute or so on their second side.

Griddled and rested gammon steaks are laid on bread rolls

Cut the rolls open and lay the gammon steaks on the bottom halves.

Spicy fried eggs are laid on gammon steaks

Lay on the eggs, garnish with the basil and close the tops over.

Basil garnishes spicy fried eggs

The egg yolks should be still moist but not overly runny, meaning the rolls are not too messy to eat.

Tucking in to gammon steak and spicy fried egg roll

Thursday, 20 November 2014

Fusilli Pasta with Sausages and Bruschetta

Cheesy fusilli pasta, tomato sauce and cocktail sausages with bruschetta

If spag bol and macaroni cheese are the limits of your experiences with pasta, there can be little doubt that you are missing out on many of the endless, tasty possibilities afforded by this incredibly versatile foodstuff. While plain pasta and nothing else would of course represent a pretty bland meal, the number of other ingredients that go with pasta to form quick, easy, often healthy meals is limited only by our own imaginations and levels of inventiveness. It can also be a great accompaniment for using up leftovers, as was the case here with the mini cocktail sausages. I hope you'll give this dish - or something like it - a try.

Measuring out fusilli pasta

Ingredients per Person

1 coffee mug of dried fusilli pasta
10 mini cocktail sausages
Vegetable oil for frying
8 ounce can chopped tomatoes in tomato juice
2 garlic cloves - 1 peeled and grated for sauce, 1 peeled and crushed for bruschetta
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil plus extra for drizzling on bruschetta
Generous pinch dried oregano
Generous pinch dried basil
Black pepper
2 ounces cheddar cheese, coarsely grated
1 sun dried tomato ciabatta bread roll, halved horizontally
Rolled and sliced basil leaves to garnish

Fusilli pasta added to boiling, salted water

When cooking pasta, there is a common myth that adding olive oil to the water will stop the pasta sticking together. In fact, it does nothing of the sort - the oil simply floats on top of the water and represents nothing more than a waste of oil. In order to stop pasta sticking together, the key is to have plenty of water in the pan to dilute the starch. The water should also be very heavily salted. Add the pasta to rapidly boiling water, reduce the heat and simmer for ten minutes.

Frying mini cocktail sausages in oil

Gently fry the cocktail sausages in a little vegetable oil for seven or eight minutes until done, while the pasta is simmering.

Fusilli pasta is thoroughly drained

Drain the pasta through a colander or sieve and add temporarily to a small bowl or deep plate.

Drained fusilli pasta and cocktail sausages are set aside

Drain the cocktail sausages on kitchen paper and set aside with the pasta.

Grated garlic clove and olive oil

Pour the olive oil in to a saucepan and add the grated garlic. Fry very gently for thirty seconds or so.

Canned tomatoes and herbs are added to garlic infused oil

Pour the tomatoes in to the saucepan and season with the basil, oregano and black pepper. Bring to a simmer for about five minutes, stirring frequently.

Fusilli pasta and cocktail sausages are added to tomato sauce

Add the pasta and sausages to the sauce, carefully fold through and simmer for a couple of minutes until fully reheated. Put your grill/broiler on to preheat to maximum.

Fusili pasta and cocktail sausages in tomato sauce added to serving dish

Pour the pasta and sauce mix in to a suitable dish and scatter with the grated cheese.

Grated cheese scattered over tomato pasta and sausages

Put the dish under your grill to melt the cheese.

Sun dried tomato ciabatta roll

Lightly toast the cut ciabatta roll under the grill when you have removed and plated the pasta dish (be sure to lift the dish using oven gloves!)

Cheese melted over tomato pasta and sausages

Rub the cut sides of the toast with the crushed garlic clove, drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper.

Toasted ciabatta ready to be rubbed with garlic and oiled

Cut each slice of bread in half diagonally.

Sun dried tomato ciabatta bruschetta

Garnish the pasta with the chopped basil leaves.

Basil is scattered over the cheesy tomato fusilli and sausages

Plate the bruschetta with the pasta and tuck in.

Tucking in to fusilli pasta with sausages and bruschetta