Saturday, 23 October 2010

Chicken parcels

The basic idea behind this recipe is that the chicken cooks in its own steam so is very tender and juicy, and the flavourings both infuse the chicken itself and mix with the juices to make a small amount of sauce. The photo shows Thai green curry chicken but the flavour combinations are endless - see the notes below. Great for serving up everyone's favourites while catering to different tastes!

Makes: As many servings as you wish, just use a chicken breast per person
Takes: 5 minutes + 30 minutes cooking time


1 chicken breast
Any flavourings you wish, see below

  1. Preheat the oven to 200oC/fan oven 180oC.
  2. Cut a piece of foil about 12" square and lightly oil or butter the centre of it. Place the chicken breast onto the foil and add the other ingredients.
  3. Bring the edges of the foil together and scrunch to seal, trapping air inside the parcel to allow the chicken to steam. Place the parcel into a roasting tin and cook for 30 minutes.
  4. Transfer the parcel to a plate, add potatoes or rice and vegetables, and allow each diner to open his or her own parcel - being careful of the steam! The juices that collect can be poured over the chicken and rice or potatoes as a sauce.
There are so many variations on this theme. A really simple flavour would be lemon juice and fresh herbs - sprinkle a tablespoon or so of lemon juice over the chicken then add some chopped parsley, for example. The photo above shows Thai green curry chicken, which I made by spreading the chicken breast with Thai green curry paste then adding 2 tablespoons of coconut milk and some chopped coriander. You can use a little tomato puree and some grated cheese for 'pizza' chicken, or try butter, finely chopped garlic and sliced mushrooms. Or keep it very simple by adding a little chicken stock to each parcel.

Just one word of warning - you may need to allow longer if cooking several of these at once. Check by carefully opening one of the parcels and sticking a sharp knife into the thickest part of the breast to check that the inside is no longer pink and the juices are clear.

You can also cook fillets of fish this way, though they would only need about 20 minutes in the oven.

Wednesday, 20 October 2010

Yorkshire puddings

Great with a Sunday roast - a big favourite in our house!

Makes: 12 puddings
Takes: 5 minutes + 20 minutes cooking time


2 1/2 oz plain flour
pinch of salt
1 egg
3 fl oz milk
2 fl oz water

  1. Preheat the oven to 220oC.
  2. Sift the flour and salt into a mixing bowl and make a 'well' in the centre.
  3. Break the egg into the well and start mixing it with a whisk, gradually incorporating some of the flour.
  4. As the mixture gets thick, pour in a little milk and water and continue to mix, bringing in more of the flour and adding more liquid alternately till all the ingredients are combined.
  5. Lightly oil a 12-cup cake tin (I use spray oil) and put into the oven to get it hot. Ladle batter into each cup and cook for 20-25 minutes, till well-risen and golden brown.
If you prefer, you can cook one large Yorkshire pudding - allow at least half an hour to cook. Or you can make toad-in-the-hole by frying or grilling some sausages to brown them, placing them in the bottom of the hot tin and pouring the batter over before cooking. Or cut the sausages into small pieces, place a piece in each cup of the cake tin and add batter for mini toads!

Friday, 8 October 2010

Cheat's carbonara

Very easy, and much lower in fat than the traditional creamy version. Use turkey rashers if you want to reduce the fat further, or Quorn to make it vegetarian - or add extra vegetables if you wish. I add mushrooms but you can skip them if you prefer. Tastes good with or without the works!

Makes: as many portions as you want, just increase the quantities accordingly
Takes: 15 minutes

Ingredients (per person)

1 serving of spaghetti
spray oil
2 rashers bacon
a few button or closed cup mushrooms (optional)
50g extra low-fat cream cheese (such as Philadelphia)
freshly ground black pepper

  1. Cook the spaghetti according to the instructions on the packet. Drain, reserving some of the cooking liquid.
  2. Spritz a non-stick pan with spray oil and heat. Trim the fat from the bacon and cut it into small pieces, then trim and slice the mushrooms. Fry both over a medium heat till golden brown.
  3. Stir in the cream cheese and add a little of the cooking liquid to thin the sauce - you want a coating consistency.
  4. Add the spaghetti to the pan and toss to coat with the sauce. Season to taste.
If you want to add any other vegetables, cut them into bite-sized pieces and fry gently in spray oil till softened, then add to the pan at the end of step 2.