Tuesday, 27 December 2011

Butterflied Rosemary Roast Chicken and Root Vegetables

If you feel that you have spent quite enough time in the kitchen over Christmas and want to prepare some meals this week which are incredibly tasty but require the minimum amount of hands on cooking time, you may wish to give this chicken dish a go. Provided you are not still eating leftover turkey and sickened with fowl for the time being, this roast chicken has a beautifully festive appearance and flavour. You should perhaps, however, avoid preparing it this weekend, as chicken is considered a very unlucky foodstuff to eat at New Year. This is because chickens scratch backwards and this is seen to be regressive at a time which should be spent looking forward. Prepare it therefore during the week or wait until the year end celebrations are over.


1 4lb free range, organic chicken
3 or 4 medium potatoes
1 medium red onion
2 sprigs of fresh rosemary
Olive oil
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper


Put your oven on to preheat to 400F/200C. Peel the potatoes and chop them in to fairly large chunks. Peel and quarter the red onion. Lightly oil a roasting tray with olive oil and add the vegetables. Season with salt and black pepper.

Strip the leaves from the rosemary sprigs by simply pulling them in the opposite direction from which they are growing. Scatter them evenly over the potatoes and onion.

Prior to adding it to the roasting tray, the chicken is going to be opened up by removing the backbone. Ideally, a Chinese cleaver should be used for this purpose but a very sharp and sturdy knife will do the job.

Begin by sitting the chicken on a chopping board on its neck (thick) end, the breasts facing away from you. Particularly where you are unfamiliar with this procedure, you may want to begin by feeling down the backbone and where you are going to cut on either side of it. You will find it is about an inch in width.

Use your cleaver to cut down either side of the bone, steadying the chicken at the top with your free hand, well away from the blade. The backbone should then simply pull free and you will be able to open out the chicken as shown below.

Wash the chicken and pat it completely dry with kitchen paper. Lay it breasts side up on top of the vegetables.

Drizzle the chicken with plenty of olive oil and rub it in with your hands. Season well with pepper and particularly sea salt. Pop it in to your oven for about an hour and a quarter.

Take the chicken out of the oven and stick a skewer in to the thickest part of the thigh. If it is ready, the juices will be completely clear. If any trace of red or pink remains, cook for another fifteen minutes and test again. Cover the tray with foil and allow to rest for fifteen minutes before carving and serving on a bed of the vegetables.

Wednesday, 21 December 2011

Beef and Tomato One Pot Stew with Christmas Tree Pastry

Beef and tomato stew may not be a classic Christmas dish but it is incredibly simple to make and tasty. Garnished with a puff pastry Christmas tree and a scattering of freshly chopped parsley, it can make a delicious, attractive and seasonal meal option, if not necessarily for Christmas Day, perhaps for Christmas Eve or any other day over the festive period.

Ingredients per Person

1/2lb stewing beef or steak
1 pint fresh chicken stock
1 14oz can chopped tomatoes in tomato juice
1 green bell pepper
1/2 small red onion
1 tbsp vegetable oil
1 tsp dried chilli flakes
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
6oz puff pastry
Beaten egg for glazing pastry
Chopped parsley for garnish


It is important to firstly brown and seal the diced beef or steak. This beef was not particularly fatty so a little vegetable oil was firstly added to the pot. Add the beef, season with sea salt and pepper and brown over a high heat, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon.

The green bell pepper should be halved and the seeds and stalk removed before it is sliced in to strips of around a half inch thick. The half red onion should be thinly sliced. Add the pepper, onion and chilli flakes to the browned beef. Season and fry off for a further couple of minutes.

Pour the chicken stock and tomatoes in to the pot. Turn up the heat until the liquid begins to boil then reduce to achieve the gentlest possible simmer.

The stew will take two and a half to three hours, simmering uncovered, until the beef is beautifully tender. Stir occasionally and monitor the liquid level, topping up if and when necessary with a little boiling water.

Roll the pastry out to a rectangle about four by six inches and to a thickness of around a quarter inch. You could use a template of a Christmas tree - or any other design you choose - but freehand was used to cut this tree from the dough with a small, very sharp knife. Very lightly grease a baking tray and lay the Christmas tree in the centre. Glaze with beaten egg and bake in a preheated oven at 200C/400F for twenty to twenty-five minutes, until risen and golden.

Check the stew for seasoning and ladle or spoon in to a deep serving plate. Scatter with the chopped parsley garnish and lay the Christmas tree on top.

Tuesday, 20 December 2011

Chicken Legs Christmas Dinner for One with Traditional Trimmings

Chicken legs - or chicken leg and thigh portions - can essentially be viewed as a smaller, juicier alternative to turkey drumsticks for Christmas dinner. They can be purchased separately in many supermarkets and are fairly quick and easy to cook. Alternatively, why not buy a whole chicken, cut it up in to manageable portions and refrigerate or freeze what you don't immediately require for later use?

These chicken leg portions are from a small chicken so both have been used to make one portion. They were simply roasted in the oven, before being served with potato and parsnip mash, pan roasted baby potatoes, Brussels sprouts and a little bit of redcurrant jelly as an alternative to cranberry sauce.


2 chicken leg portions (leg and thigh, skin on)
5 baby new potatoes
1 medium baking potato
1 medium parsnip
3 Brussels sprouts (or as desired)
Vegetable oil
Sea salt, black pepper and white pepper
Tsp redcurrant jelly


It is necessary to cook and cool the baby new potatoes before they are pan roasted so this has to be your first step. Wash but don't peel them and add them to a small pot with some sea salt and enough cold water to comfortably cover them. Bring the water to a boil and simmer for thirty minutes. Drain the potatoes well, return them to the empty pot, cover and set aside to cool completely.

Preheat your oven to 400F/200C. Very lightly oil a roasting tray. Season the undersides of the chicken leg portions with sea salt and black pepper. Lay them skin side up on the tray. Season the skin sides well, particularly with salt. This helps the skins to crisp up during cooking. Bake for thirty to forty minutes, depending upon the size of your chicken legs (thirty minutes in this instance).

Peel the larger potato and the parsnip. Chop in to approximately one inch pieces. Add to a pot of cold, salted water and bring the water to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for twenty-five minutes.

Remove any dead leaves from the Brussels sprouts. They will require to be added to some simmering salted water for ten to twelve minutes.

When the baby potatoes are cool, the skin should easily peel off by hand. Pat the peeled potatoes dry in some kitchen paper and deep fry at a fairly high heat for five or six minutes, until beautifully golden brown and crisp on the outside. Drain on some fresh kitchen paper.

While the baby potatoes are roasting, remove the chicken legs from the oven and pierce the thigh at the thickest part with a metal skewer. Ensure the juices run clear. Cover the tray with foil and set aside to rest while the preparation of the remainder of the ingredients is completed.

Drain the potato and parsnip pieces through a colander and return them to the empty pot. Add about half an ounce of butter and season with some white pepper. Mash with a hand masher.

Lay the chicken legs on a heated serving plate and use an ice cream scoop to plate the mash in an attractive fashion. Drain the sprouts well and add them alongside, followed by the roasted potatoes. Spoon on the redcurrant jelly and serve and enjoy this delicious alternative take on a traditional Christmas dinner with trimmings.

Sunday, 18 December 2011

Christmas Chicken Breasts Poached in Apple Cider with Chestnuts

Chicken is an excellent choice for Christmas dinner or lunch, especially for those people who may not be big fans of turkey. Chicken can, however, present a similar problem to turkey when cooking for only one or two in that far too much will remain in the form of leftovers, unless an extremely small bird can be obtained. Today's recipe focuses on cooking chicken breasts with a Christmas twist, quoted in the quantities required to serve one person.


Two small chicken breasts (skin on)
6 chestnuts
1 medium carrot
1 Granny Smith apple
Half a medium white onion
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1/2 tsp dried rosemary
1/2 pint fresh chicken stock or broth
1/2 pint apple cider
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 tbsp vegetable oil
Chopped chives to garnish


Chestnuts roasting on an open fire are words contained in a popular Christmas song and also represent an extremely tasty way of cooking chestnuts. In this instance, however, the chestnuts are poached. SImply bring a pot of salted water to a boil and make a couple of small cuts in the chestnuts before adding them to the water and simmering for ten minutes. Drain the chestnuts and peel as soon as they are cool enough to handle. Do not let them cool too much or the shells will harden again and make the process nigh on impossible. Cover the chestnuts and set aside.

Put about a tablespoon of vegetable oil in a large frying pan and bring up to heat. Season the chicken breasts with salt and pepper and quickly seal on both sides and the edges. Remove to a plate.

Peel and roughly chop the carrot. Chop the onion in half again. Add them to the pan along with the herbs and stir fry for a couple of minutes.

Return the chicken breasts to the pan, skin side up.

Pour in the chicken stock and the cider. Peel and remove the core from the apple. Roughly chop and add it to the pan. The idea is for the apple to break down and thicken the stock. Turn up the heat until the liquid begins to simmer. Reduce the heat and place the lid on the pan for twenty minutes.

Remove the chicken breasts to a heated plate. Ensure the juices run clear and that they are fully cooked. Cover with foil to rest. Turn up the heat to bring the stock to a rapid boil and add the chestnuts. Reduce for ten minutes and check for seasoning.

Use a slotted spoon to transfer the solids to a serving plate. Slice each chicken breast at an angle in to three and arrange on top.

Spoon a little of the stock over the chicken breasts and garnish with the chopped chives.

If you're looking for aeasonal s beer to serve with this dish, why not try to get hold of some chestnut beer? If you live in the UK, you can get this particular brew from your local Morrisons store in the lead up to Christmas.

Saturday, 17 December 2011

Christmas Turkey Casserole with Sage, Onion and Brussels Sprouts

Christmas is but a week away and around the world, people will have their turkeys in their freezers, ready for defrosting in the middle of the week and cooking on the big day. What if you are spending Christmas alone, however, or perhaps only as part of a couple? A whole turkey is unlikely to be practical but turkey is still very much a menu option. This Christmas turkey casserole recipe is as easy as abc and is in the quantities required for one modest serving.


1 6oz turkey breast fillet
1/2 red bell pepper
1/2 medium white onion
5 Brussels sprouts
1 tsp dried sage
1 pint fresh chicken stock
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 tbsp vegetable oil for sealing turkey meat
Freshly chopped parsley to garnish


You may be wondering why I bought a 6oz piece of turkey breast instead of simply buying diced turkey. The reason is simply that experience has taught me, when I buy turkey meat already diced, it has been cut in to pieces which I deem to be too small. If you choose to buy the turkey already chopped, therefore, try to ensure it is in decent sized pieces of at least approximately one inch.

Put your oven on to preheat to 180C/350F. Chop the turkey breast fillet in to one inch pieces and gently seal in some warmed vegetable oil over a medium heat, stirring frequently with a wooden spoon, until evenly white and sealed. This should only take two or three minutes. Meanwhile, add the chicken stock to a separate pot and bring it up to a simmer. Half the onion half again and remove the seeds from the bell pepper, before slicing it in to strips of around half an inch. Remove any loose or damaged leaves from the Brussels sprouts.

Put the vegetables and the sealed turkey meat in to a deep casserole dish. Season with the dried sage, some sea salt and black pepper.

Pour in the chicken stock and put the lid on the casserole dish before placing it in to the oven for thirty minutes.

When the casserole comes out of the oven, I like to let it rest for ten to fifteen minutes prior to service but this is a matter of choice. It should then be added to a serving plate with a slotted spoon and the roughly chopped parsley added as a final garnish.

Wine is probably the alcoholic beverage of choice most often served with Christmas dinner. In this instance, however, I served this dish with a Christmas novelty beer picked up in my local supermarket. "Rudolph the Red Nosed White Horse," is a beer produced by the White Horse Brewery in Oxfordshire, only for the Chrsitmas market. It was actually very enjoyable and comes in at 4.8% ABV.

Saturday, 10 December 2011

Bell Pepper and Bacon Frittata

Frittata is essentially a substantial type of omelette of Italian origin, very similar to the Spanish dish, tortilla. This frittata is made with bell peppers, bacon and onion as its principal fillings but the different ingredients and combinations of ingredients which can be incorporated are all but endless. This frittata is designed to serve one person but they will frequently be made on a larger scale and sliced in to wedges like pizza, to be served either hot or cold.

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One of the greatest benefits of a dish like frittata is that - provided you have eggs - a tasty meal can be made from even the most meagre of other available ingredients. It was in precisely this way that today's recipe came about. On Thursday, a fierce storm blew in from the Atlantic across Scotland, with hurricane force winds uprooting trees, causing damage to property and sending all forms of debris flying haphazardly through the air. Although I normally visit the supermarket every day of the week for fresh ingredients for cooking, Thursday had me less than willing to venture out in to the storm. It was in this way that frittata became the order of the day.


3 large or 4 small eggs
3 rashers of bacon (back bacon is best)
1/2 red bell pepper
1/2 green bell pepper
1 small white onion or two shallots
Tbsp freshly chopped parsley
Sea salt and white pepper
Olive oil for frying


The bacon could be cut in to strips while raw and simply fried in the pan before the vegetables but I honestly believe the overall effect is much better where the bacon is precooked. This bacon was grilled for a couple of minutes each side and set aside on a plate while the remaining ingredients were prepared.

Remove any remaining stem or seeds from the bell pepper halves and cut them in to strips of about half an inch. The onion or shallots should be peeled and moderately finely sliced.

Put about a tablespoon of olive oil in a small, non-stick frying pan of about 8" in diameter. Bring it up to a moderate heat and add the vegetables. Cook for a couple of minutes over a medium heat, stirring them around with a spatula.

Cut the bacon rashers across the way in to half inch strips and add them to the pan with the parsley, continuing to stir around, just to heat through. Break the eggs in to a bowl and season with the salt and pepper. Beat to combine and pour carefully over the vegetable and bacon mix in the pan, trying to ensure an even covering.

Cook on a low to moderate heat for about seven to eight minutes, until you can see that the eggs are almost but not quite completely set. At this stage, place your pan under an extremely hot overhead grill for a couple of minutes to fully set the eggs and complete the cooking process.

Loosen the edges of the frittata with your spatula and slide it on to a serving plate.