Saffron chicken and Herb Salad

Another epic salad from Ottolenghi’s Jerusalem cookbook, this fresh plate of loveliness really hit the spot for lunch today. Wednesday’s are just meetings, meetings, meetings, and fitting in eating is a real challenge.

I think the title of this dish is a bit misleading. I think I’d rebrand it as ‘Roast chicken breast with an orange, honey and saffron glaze – served with a fennel and herb salad’. OK – maybe that is too long winded, but at least it is clearer!

In reality the chicken breast is simply roasted in the oven, and an orange glaze is poured over it when it is ready. The salad is not really just a herb salad, more a fennel salad with some herbs; definitely more fennel than anything else!

The orange sauce is the only thing that takes any time with this dish. Once that is on you can get everything else done with ease. Preheat the oven, season some chicken, roast it, rest it, break it into bits. Slice some fennel, add some mint, coriander, chilli, lemon juice and olive oil – and that’s done too.

The orange sauce is a segmented orange (take out all the pips) with some honey, as much saffron as you can spare, and a small amount of water – which you boil then simmer for an hour until it is all ‘glazey’.

Once the chicken has rested, pour over the glaze then toss it all together and eat. Really really easy.

This is a keeper and I think ANY white meat or fish or even Tofu might work with this sauce and salad. I liked it so much I will probably make it again later with the other parts of the chicken and perhaps serve it with another side.

Salt and Pepper Tofu – Two Ways – sort of…

These two dishes are essentially the same – just subtly different. Both are salt and pepper tofu, just the accompaniments differ. But why so much tofu?!

Even before lockdown we planned all our meals at least a week in advance. We had bought three packs of tofu to cook meals from the ‘itsu 20 minute cookbook’ – my favourite of the ‘really really quick’ meals books I own.

Due to skipping a couple of meals and the ‘leg of lamb that lasted 4 days’ saga we skipped the tofu meals in favour of food that was closer to expiry. Obviously you can’t do this forever – tofu has a lifespan too – and we ended up with out of date tofu!

Whilst watching Australian Masterchef Season 12 (it’s on – watch it – it is sooooo good) one of the competitors made a tofu dish where they served it cold, pressed, uncooked, raw basically. I wasn’t impressed – so I decided to come up with something myself.

All I have done here is press the tofu for an hour, toss it in white pepper, sea salt and cornflour and fried it until a little bit crispy. Using white pepper allows for a more subtle peppery flavour – black pepper can be overpowering if you use too much!

The one on the left is fried in left over pork fat (from a dish I made the other day) and the one on the left if fried in olive oil. The pork fat one was much more crispy – but obviously far less vegetarian.

The one on the left has pickled red onion (slice and leave in white wine vinegar), sushi rice, steamed broccoli, cucumber and red chilli – and a little herby sauce (left over from another meal).

The one of the right is just boiled new potatoes, hard boiled egg, cucumber, radishes, braised red cabbage, more pickled red onion – and a Satay sauce from the Gado Gado recipe from Ottolenghi’s Plenty cookbook. The meal is almost the Gado Gado recipe but it is supposed to have green beans, bean sprouts, croutons and crispy onions – which I didn’t have to hand. I will try it again when I next plan some meals. The addition of the crunchy stuff will definitely make this a better meal.

The Satay sauce took forever to make – and I’ll talk about this another time. Suffice to say it took at least 90 minutes to make, is very very nice – and was more spicy than I expected.

One more pack of tofu left! Let us see what we are having later today!

Spicy beetroot, leek and walnut salad

Yesterday, I suggested that the Healthy Burgers and Green Salad we had would have been better with this dish. The garlic in the green salad kind of beat the burgers into submission. This on the other hand was the perfect accompaniment. There’s a lot more effort into making them, but it is worth it in the end.

I somehow managed to forget to have my breakfast shake so burgers and salad for lunch seemed like a good plan.

I’d roasted the beetroot in foil the night before. Nice little trick, if you aren’t in a rush, is don’t roast them for 90 mins in the oven (that’s a lot of oven energy for some beetroots) – roast them for 40 mins – turn the oven off and just leave them til the oven is cold. They’ll still cook, and you’ll cut down on your energy bills. After all you’re eating the beetroot cold anyway – and you have to wait for them to be cold before you can peel the skin off. Works a treat for me – seems less messy too, as most people are impatient and start peeling before they are actually cold – and the juice just gets everywhere!

The leeks are simmered until they are tender, refreshed, then cut into chunks – and while that it going on you make a dressing of walnuts, chilli-flakes, garlic, oil, tamarind water (if you have it – I’ve used a small amount of fish sauce before, or an anchovy – something Umami will do it), and cider vinegar.

When you’re ready pop it all on a bed of rocket and sprinkle some pomegranate seeds over the top, and a drizzle of olive oil.

One thing I don’t like about whole pomegranates is you never know how plump and colourful the seeds will be (in this picture they are really pale). You can buy the seeds already popped in a plastic pot but I don’t like the plastic waste. I’d rather the wormery had the husk than worry about whether the plastic will get recycled!

This was a far more balanced accompaniment to the turkey burgers. And filled a nice little spot in my tummy until dinner time. Right – back to work! Adios!

Pan-fried mackerel with golden beetroot and orange salsa & Basmati & wild rice with chickpeas, currants & herbs

Nice snappy title! fish, salad and rice probably would have done.

We rarely have fish. In fairness before lockdown we barely had meat either. But doing the vegetarian and vegan thing is a harder work when you struggle for availability of items and also need to keep them ‘alive’ and fresh for 2-3 weeks.

So for lockdown we aren’t trying too hard to be vegetarian. There are bigger things to worry about; so meat and fish are back on the table. This is the first fish dish I’ve cooked this year (I think).

Both dishes (the rice dish is a completely separate dish) are from Ottolenghi’s Jerusalem cookbook. This is a great book indeed and I never tire of cooking from it.

The mackerel is marinated in harissa, cumin and salt. I used rose harissa as we seem to have 3 jars of it. While it infuses into the fish, boil some beetroots (golden ones), then when the are cold, dice them with oranges, lemons, olives, herbs and chilli flakes – and a good glug of oil.

When the salad is ready, get a pan REALLY hot and add the mackerel for less than a minute (it says longer but I disagree), take the pan off the heat, then serve it with the salad. We added the rice as it didn’t feel like a complete meal.

The rice is pretty epic. Just rice is never a good side. This rice has Wild rice (which takes forever to cook) basmati rice, and chickpeas, as well as curry powder, onions and lots of herbs. Oh and currants – the currants make this dish. The recipe asks you to cook the wild rice first then the basmati separately, but I cheated somewhat, guessed when the wild rice had 12 mins to go and chucked the basmati in with it. Obviously this could have been a fail but it worked out fine.

This rice would be perfect for any dish I think – or BBQ if we ever get outside with friends again!

Freya wasn’t a fan of the beetroot and citrus salad. I lapped it up – thought the two things went really well together. The mackerel was a triumph too. The rice I will make over and over!

We still have many meals on the list before our 10th May Ocado delivery. Watch this space for more yummy stuff!

Radish, Cucumber and Red Onion Salad with Mint and Orange Blossom Dressing


Now here is a salad that you just have to make.

Also from Persiana by Sabrina Ghayour this salad is incredibly simple and amazingly tasty.

All you do is thinly slice a load of radishes, a whole cucumber and some red onion and dress it with a dressing made from olive oil, honey, lemon juice, orange blossom water, mint, and seasoning.

Just mix it all up and add some toasted pine nuts. Serve it straight away.

If you leave it too long the acid in the dressing will draw moisture from the cucumber and it will get wet very quickly.

This is one of the best salads that I’ve had for a while and it accompanied the Saffron and Lemon Chicken beautifully.

Smokin’ Super-bean, Egg and Tuna Salad

Saturday 13th was the eighth leg of our Year and Day Monopoly Board Pub Crawl challenge.

For those of you not familiar with the concept, before you get married there is a tradition of a Stag and a Hen event; where the men all go and do something for their last day of freedom and the women all do the same. Over the years these two events have tended to get merged into one and everyone just goes out together prior to the wedding and has a good old party – usually very much geared towards the consumption of large amounts of alcohol.

If you live in London, are very much inclined to more than just few drinks in the evening, and love a challenge, then Monopoly Board Pub Crawl is the thing to try. Many try. Many fail.

We decided to put our own spin on this event by having a drink (often more) in every pub in every street on the Monopoly Board – instead of the traditional one drink in one pub on each street. We also decided to do one colour of the board per weekend and spread these out over the year – instead of the traditional all 26 streets in one day rule.

Anyway, yesterday we were round to the Yellow part of the board and we had a great time. We also had a fly over from the Red Arrows – although they were perhaps celebrating Trooping the Colour rather than our wedding jolly!

With Browns, Light Blues, Light Purples, Oranges, Reds, Two Stations and now the Yellows complete all that is left is the Greens, the Dark Purples and Two stations and we’ve completed the whole thing!

When we are done we plan to choose our favourite pub from each street and attempt the event in the traditional style – 26 pubs in 12 hours.

Anyway, nothing to do with food !

We had this salad on Friday and it is packed with fibre and protein. There’s nothing to it really. It’s just very tasty and far better and cheaper than anything you’ll get from the pick and mix salad bar in a supermarket.

Simple mix tinned, flageolet, kidney and black eyed beans in a bowl with tinned tuna, tinned sweetcorn, a red onion, a tomato, lemon juice, olive oil, mint, basil, garlic, a green chilli, smoked paprika, and sugar in a bowl and leave for a while to let the flavours develop.

Serve with some sliced spring onions scattered on top and a quartered hard boiled egg on the side.

Personally I think the egg is unnecessary in this dish. You could easily leave it out. It was very filling as it was.

This was really simple and really yummy. And ready in no time at all. All you need is a knife and a tin opener. I didn’t even need that as all my tins were ring pulls!

Very Low Calorie Chicken Caesar 

Last night was dancing night. Rock n Roll at Hedsor Social Club with a live band – Greggie G and his Crazy Gang. It was great to catch up with all our friends that we usually see on a Tuesday when we have a dance lesson with Jumping Jim and V.

If you fancy giving it a go, come along. It’s great.

Before we went out I just had time to knock up two very easy and very tasty salads – this was one.

Most Caesar’s are pretty high in calories and fat but this one from The Superfood Diet was very healthy indeed.

It only has one cooked element; the chicken breast. I just roasted it in the oven for 29 minutes and let it cool down before slicing it

While you’re waiting for the chicken you make a dressing of Greek yoghurt, a small amount of full fat mayonnaise, honey, curry powder, coriander, mint and dill.

All those fresh herbs and a but of curry powder really wake up low fat dishes – which can otherwise really taste dull.

When the chicken is done simply combine some mixed leaves, the chicken, some pitted green olives and half a bell pepper with the dressing and mix well. Finally serve with pistachios.

This comes out at about 150 calories a serving compared to a regular Caesar which tends to push 900 calories. Granted there was no bacon but I didn’t think the dish needed it. And pistachios are far cooler than croutons any day!

This salad was amazing. It was too big in fact. Really tasty and bags of flavour. I loved it.

It’s always nice to be complimented on your weight loss too. Our friends at Hedsor all said we’d lost tonnes of weight. So good like this really works!

Carrot, Walnut and Quinoa Salad

 I had planned on making three dishes tonight but after the amazing Tabbouleh I decided to forget about one of them and just put this really simple carrot salad together.

This is probably the best carrot salad that I’ve ever eaten. What makes it super amazing is the walnuts and the red chilli. Phenomenal.

This salad is also from The Superfood Diet by Gurpareet Bains. New book – two out of two great recipes.

I’d already held back a small amount of cooked Quinoa from the Tabbouleh; and again that is the only cooked element. Putting it together you add walnuts, a red chilli, a shallot, fresh coriander and garlic to mirin, white wine vinegar, and walnut oil. To this mix add your grated carrot and your cooked Quinoa.

I grated half the carrot recommended in the recipe – not out of laziness – I just thought the picture in the book looked too carroty. I wanted to see the Quinoa and the chillies and for it to look more interesting. I think this was a great move.

You serve the dish with some poppy seeds sprinkled over the top. I didn’t have any so I used nigella seeds instead.

Like the Tabbouleh this dish definitely benefits from an hour in the fridge for the flavours to develop. This salad will be seen again at this weekend’s BBQ – weather permitting!

Chicken Fatteh

First rule of cooking. Check how long something will take to cook before you start making it. That was my mistake last night – but hey it was good – it was just a late dinner. 

This feast of a recipe is from A Bird In The Hand by Diana Henry. The second dish I’ve made from the book.  I did say all her recipes were simple. This one is simple too – it’s just time consuming as there are many elements to the dish. I think it took me two hours to bring this to the table – but when I did it looked very inviting and comforting.

There are many components to this dish:

  • a tomato sauce
  • the chicken
  • a chicken stock reduction
  • the rice
  • crispy pitta breads
  • spiced aubergines
  • a garlic yoghurt
  • a dressing of nuts and pomegranate seeds

Each component takes a bit of time – and I’m sure with a bigger kitchen and more oven and hob space I could have done many of the elements concurrently. Sadly our tiny galley kitchen on the boat and a small oven/microwave combo can’t really cope and things have to be done one at a time.

This didn’t really matter – we weren’t that hungry and we were ploughing our way through this seasons Australian Masterchef. This season is currently showing in Australia – and I have the means to acquire the episodes. I guess you’ll have to wait if you’re in the UK. It’s very inspiring. Makes me want to move to Australia and get on the show – and use such amazing produce. They have things you just don’t get in the UK like Pigface, Marron and Abalone! They also have the weather – how could you turn that down!

Anyway, as I said before, each of these components are pretty easy to make, just time consuming.

The tomato sauce just needs to cook down to make it really rich and sweet – cut that corner and you’ll spoil the dish. Most people don’t cook tomato sauces for long enough and the full flavour of the tomatoes doesn’t come out. I think mine was cooking down uncovered for 40 minutes.

The chicken is rolled in olive oil, cumin, cinnamon and cloves and oven roasted for 80-90 minutes – but once it’s in it’s in and you can forget about it. When it’s ready you take it out of the oven and leave it to rest under some foil for 30 minutes. By serving time it is so tender it just falls off the bone. I used thighs and drumsticks. I think the darker meat is the better solution here. I imagine 90 minutes of roasting on a breast would really make it dry.

When the chicken is done you scrape the pan down with some water and reduce it to half its volume to get a really nice chicken gravy

The basmati rice is added to some onions that you have previously fried to golden with some butter, more cumin and more cinnamon. You then cook it in chicken stock until it is light and fluffy. The rice was perfectly cooked when it was ready and beautifully fragrant and subtly spicy.

The crispy pitta breads were simply brushed in melted butter and baked in the oven until they were crispy.

The aubergines were fried golden in olive oil with cumin and chilli flakes pressed into the surface. When they are ready you squeeze lemon juice over them. These were great – they’d be great on their own for sure.

The yoghurt was simply greek yoghurt with garlic stirred through and the topping was pine nuts and pomegranate seeds.

You assemble the whole dish in layers of rice, tomato sauce, chicken, coriander and parsley, the gravy, the yogurt and the bread and just keep building it up until it’s all in the serving dish. Finally top with the nuts and seeds.

It was huge. I think I should have realised that it served 8-10 people before I made it! Fortunately I was reserved and only served up two portions.

The rest – well that’s dinner for a few days for sure. But that’s one meal of leftovers I really look forward to eating again.

Would I change anything – probably not. But you could easily leave out the chicken and make this as a salad for a BBQ. You could also probably substitute the chicken for feta or halloumi and make it vegetarian and just run either of those through the salad when you are building up your layers.

This dish is definitely a keeper – I’ll be sure to make this again.

Mexican Griddled Chicken, Sweet Potato and Avocado Salad with Chipotle Mayo

This amazingly tasty dish comes from Diana Henry’s – A Bird In the Hand.  Her style of cooking and the simplicity of her recipes should be a winner for most people that don’t want to slave over meals.

I really like this book.  There was isn’t a thing in it I wouldn’t eat and it is far superior to every other chicken book I’ve ever seen. She also published A Change of Appetite – which I’ve cooked from many times.

This dish combines sweet potatoes, quinoa, avocado and a chipotle Mayo that is to die for – and of course the chicken. The sweet potatoes are phenomenal – they are roasted and then griddle fried with chilli flakes and cumin seeds pressed into them. Amazingly smoky!

It took a while to make and in hindsight I should have marinated the chicken for a lot longer than I did. I only left it an hour but I think the four hours recommended in the book is more reasonable. Even overnight might be better given how basic the marinade is; it only has lime juice, garlic, a small amount of ground cumin and oil.

This could so easily become a vegetarian salad by swapping out the chicken for Halloumi or maybe even just leaving it out. It would be a great companion to a BBQ.

There are many components to this dish but they are all very achievable; perhaps the Mayo will be a challenge for anyone that doesn’t have a stick blender as to need to add the oil gradually so that the Mayo emulsified. Mine split a little – but i didn’t affect the taste.

The only thing I changed in this recipe was leaving the chicken thighs whole with the bone in. This was more through oversight than choice. When I make it again – I which I will – I’ll remove the bone and slice the chicken into the salad. It’ll be a more enjoyable eat this way I think.

I might even consider preparing the chicken with a ras el hanout marinade as I think a punchier chicken might bring more to the dish.