Chicken Cacciatore: with Meditteranean roasted veg + rustic, skin on potatoes

19 Apr Chicken cacciatore, veg, herbs, parsley and rustic potatoes with butter beans

Chicken Cacciatore

Moist, succulent and juicy chicken breast – doused in rich, peppery and olive tainted plum tomato sauce…baked till golden and bubbling, surrounded by firm, plump butter beans – delicately sprinkled with grated cheddar and served with nothing but the finest skin on wedges of the season; & herby Mediterranean veg. Fresh, fruity, colourful and tasty.

Chicken cacciatore, veg, herbs, parsley and rustic potatoes with butter beans

Chicken cacciatore, veg, herbs, parsley and rustic potatoes with butter beans

Warm and filling

Familiar yet different. Home tastes and the mountains of Italy on a British summer evening…

Dinner is served. And the sun is shining – at dinner time.

I used to be quite skeptic of the BBC good food website. Thinking it was just mass printed, recipe book style generic ingredients and instructions. But having seen the vast range of complex yet appealing and itty bitty dishes, entwined with traditional favorites…they know take up the majorityof my sidebar ‘to do’ list… This recipe itself was actually adapted from:

http://www.bbcgoodfood.com/recipes/4251/chicken-cacciatore

It also took less than an hour so cook up, it would have been less…but Iwasn’t clumsy or anything and most certainly didn’t slash my finger with a knife whilst getting happy chopping onions thus delaying the time….so yeah, take care on this, and enjoy the recipe!

Ingredients

CHICKEN:

  • 4 chicken breasts
  • Olive oil
  • Milk
  • Salt to taste

SAUCE:

  • 1 x can of plum tomatoes
  • 1x can of butter beans
  • 1 green pepper
  • 1 red pepper
  • 1 x red onion
  • 1 tsp parsley
  • Black pepper to taste
  • 2 Garlic gloves
  • 1 small white onion
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • ½ tsp smoked paprika
  • ½ tsp thyme
  • ½ tsp chives
  • Fresh basil and mascarpone (optional)

 

 

  1. Heat the oven to 190C/fan 170C/gas 5. Fry 1 finely chopped onion and 2 crushed garlic cloves in  olive oil until softened but not colored  Add tomatoes and beans, season, then simmer for 10-15 minutes or until thick and glossy. Take off the heat and stir in 4 tbsp mascarpone (optional) and half a handful of basil, roughly torn.
  2. Heat a little olive oil in a pan and fry 6 chicken breasts on both sides until golden. Add a splash of milk (Greeks moist chicken secret) and some salt. Transfer to a baking dish and pour over the sauce. Cook for 25-30 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through. Scatter over the remaining half handful of basil.
  3. As for the peppers and red onion, I just drizzled them in olive and dumped them in a baking dish, sprinkled with salt and paprika and baked them till brown and soft – timed to come out along with the chicken. Just a serving idea, makes the meal!

I served this with rustic baked potatoes and a little cheese for the fussy veggie phobic at the table.

This was dad’s after work reheat:

Roasted chicken cacciatore

The wondrous health benefits of Black Pepper

9 Feb Black peppercorns health benefits

The wondrous health benefits of Black Pepper 

What’s recently caught my attention recently, is the sheer quantity of black pepper that just I, soley as an individual seem to consume.

Egg? I mount it on per forkful. Chicken? A sprinkling will never do. In fact, egg mayo is usually the secondary ingredient in an egg mayo sandwich at my place when black peppers around for garnish…

I mean, it’s arguably the most handy and convenient spice there is. If you completely cock up a dish but inevitably have a dinner party waiting, hastily add a sprinkle of black pepper to make it more pleasantly edible, and allow the spice to visually appeal as if you have spent hours, stirring in spice concoctions over the stove. Simples ;)

Black pepper is that magic ingredient which spice haters love. It’s spicy but it’s not, it passes by you’re lips without a second thought, as you’re just so adapted to experiencing it in the base of all foods.

Does anyone actually observe how reliant we are on black pepper? We use it in everything, and we are consuming it by the masses little by little. It’s so cheap yet useful, one of those things I think i’ going to add to my list of which ‘Humans take for granted’

So anyway, I was pretty intrigued to find out if this miraculous, powdery, blackish substance held any significant health benefits…?

Here’s a Viva Las Peanuts style briefing about qualities of black pepper you did not know before + a mini historical insight.

Enjoy. 

Black peppercorns health benefits

Black peppercorns & health benefits

Black pepper, as one of the most ancient commodities of the spice trade has the longest history of export from South Asia dating back at least 4000 years (As does ginger!)
Originating in Kerala, black pepper spread to the rest of South and Southeast Asia where it became an important spice plant; and Peppercorns have since been eagerly sought by Europeans and westerners. 

….And the health list?

  • Okay so firstly, you may notice that, black pepper stimulates the taste buds in such a way that an alert is sent to the stomach to increase hydrochloric acid secretion, thereby improving digestion. – *How cool is it that… in this way… black Pepper has been linked to improved progress among Anorexia sufferers via stimulation of tastebuds?! (Over a prolonged period, but nevertheless!)
This hydrochloric acid is necessary for the digestion of proteins and other food components in the stomach. When the body’s production of hydrochloric acid is insufficient, food may sit in the stomach for an extended period of time, leading to heartburn or indigestion, or it may pass into the intestines, where it can be used as a food source for unfriendly gut bacteria, whose activities produce gas, irritation, and/or diarrhea or constipation. 

This can be traced back to Peppers mineral composition…

The basic peppercorn is of health benefiting & essential oils such as piperine, (an amine alkaloid, which gives strong spicy pungent character to the pepper) as well as numerous monoterpenes hydrocarbons such as sabinene, pinene, terpenene, limonene, mercene which gives aromatic property to the pepper

  • It is these active principles in the pepper which can increase gut motility as well as the digestion power by increasing gastro-intestinal enzyme secretions. Piperine has also been shown to increase absorption of selenium, B-complex vitamins, beta-carotene, as well as other nutrients from food eaten alongside it.
  • Peppercorns also contain tonnes of plant derived chemical compounds that are crucially known to have disease preventing and health promoting properties (and  have actually been used since ancient times for anti-inflammatory, carminative, anti-flatulent purposes) As well as minerals like potassium, calcium, zinc, manganese, iron, and magnesium. (Potassium is actually an important component of cell and body fluids that helps controlling heart rate and blood pressure) & Iron is essential for cellular respiration and blood cell production.
  • Plus, peppercorns are an excellent source of many vital B-complex groups of vitamins; and of many anti-oxidant vitamins such as vitamin-C and vitamin-A. Rich in flavonoid polyphenolic anti-oxidants like carotenes, cryptoxanthin, zea-xanthin and lycopene, black pepper helps the body remove harmful free radicals and help protect from cancers and diseases.

And some icing on the icing?

  •  Black Pepper just barricades Congestion. It literally just eats through it all and implodes through your sinuses. (Especially if you use ¼ of a pot for a couple of eggs) Trust me. But don’t do it without a wall of pre-built spice tolerance.
  • OH, and did you know…?  The next time you have a minor cut, sprinkle black pepper on it. It will help stop the bleeding. Even more? – It’s antibacterial properties will promote healing and kill germs.

Lets say no more.

Honey mushroom & onion egg noodles with spinach – Recipe

8 Feb Chinese egg noodles stir fry with spring onions, honey, mushrooms and spinach

Honey mushroom & onion egg noodles with spinach

I saw a post recently for ‘Honey soba noodles with mushroom and onion’

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Chinese egg noodles cooked in soy sauce and ginger. With mushrooms, spinach and spring onion.

Well, if you use ‘recently’ loosely, seeing as it’s made it’s way to the bottom of my favorites bar, and thus has probably been stewing around there for a good few months now. But anyhow, there’s a perfect time for everything…

So yeah, they looked mouth watering, and today, I rationally decided it was time to make use of the 7 packs of mushrooms we bought on reduction last week – making a twist on the original recipe I had in mind,..and actually changing it totally. I actually didn’t use any honey (we were out of the squeezy kind and the jar was just effort overload) . I went overboard on the chili and pepper (like really really overboard)so the meal ended with a few desperate slabs of butter to reduce inflammation of le tongue. But otherwise? This totally hit the spot, and smelled pretty impressive too, it looks like a fresh chinese takeaway! (£10 to any one who spots that in London!)

The spinach isn’t usually a regular part of such a dish, but once again, we have this large bag which is just never ending. Like it’s literally bottomless. Spinach anyone?!

You can add chicken, tofu, pork etc into this to. I just didn’t have any on hand, but it would have gone rather nicely!

Here’s the recipe, I hope you like it!

Serves 1

  • 125g/1 serving of dry egg noodles, cooked to packet instructions (I used Sharwoods – cook in 4 minutes!)
  • 1/2 a large white onion, sliced (I used a whole!)
  • 2 spring onions chopped, with green part.
  • Sliced button mushrooms (Quantity to preference)
  • 1/4 tsp dried ginger
  • 1.5 tsp dark soy sauce + extra if you desire
  • Dried chili, to taste
  • 1 tsp white wine vinegar
  • Sprinkle of dried parsley
  • Garlic for frying (1 -3 cloves depending on preference!)
  • Sesame oil for frying
  • 1 tsp of honey
  • Lots of black pepper
  • Sprinkle of white pepper
  • Pinch of salt
  • Handful of fresh spinach
  • Optional: Beansprouts
  1. Heat the oil in a large frying pan/a wok
  2. Add garlic, parsley and ginger, stir. Do not allow to burn
  3. Add all the onions, spring onions, mushrooms, spinach and chili. Cook until the onions and mushrooms are slightly browned/caramelized
  4. Add the cooked noodles bit by bit and mix thoroughly after each addition.
  5. Generously add soy sauce, pinch of salt and white pepper.
  6. Drizzle the honey over the stir fry
  7. Once the noodles are properly warmed and coated. Remove from heat and serve!
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Chinese egg noodles cooked in soy sauce and ginger. With mushrooms, spinach and spring onion.

A fresh, healthy quick and delicious meal thrown together in no time. Looks pretty good huh? Try it and leave your feedback, I’d love to hear! :) Good day all!

Peanut butter chocolate chunk cookies – Recipe

7 Feb Peanut butter chocolate chunk chip cookies. Soft and chewy!

Peanut butter chocolate chunk cookies – Vegan friendly (if used with egg substitute) + can be frozen as dough/baked for later.

Okay. On Tuesday the 5th February, I swore to myself that Wednesday the 8th, was going to be a day choc full of studying hard and not getting distracted.

One problem? I was on the internet. Scanning blogs and flicking over my favorites tab. What forgotten old wishful recipes were stored on here?

“HEY! Peanut butter chocolate chunk cookies!” 

These are the bestest, yummiest, softest peanut butter cookies I’ve ever had to munch on. They are gooey and soft. I used crunchy peanut butter (budgeting), but the original recipe called for smooth – they are dense but fluffy, filling… but oh so heavenly.

Only the day before I was grazing on some store bought peanut butter granola bars. After tasting these – I’ve come to the conclusion that stores just blow dry their bars in freeze dried peanuts. The texture of these is incomparable to nada! Try for yourself peoples!

Peanut butter chocolate chunk chip cookies. Soft and chewy!

Peanut butter chocolate chunk chip cookies. Soft and chewy!

Anyhow, within a few seconds, I concluded that I didn’t need an education and never would have to study if my morning was graced with freshly baked peanut butter cookies. So off to the store I ran to top up on cheap bittersweet chocolate and extra peanut butter (If you use a jar, you replace a jar. Then you never run out – simples)

The craving fuelled my run there and back. It was a beautiful sunny day actually, spring times kicking in here in London. About 3 months early, but thou shalt embrace…

The cookies were incredibly simple to make, flour-less, butter less and oil-free. Man…that jar was so tempting. I used the biggest spoon (within reason) hat I could find to scoop out out the oily goodness…do you have any idea how hard it was to resist this? I’m sorry I look like such a bare monkey. I had literally woken up, studied and ran to the store. No precautions taken on the appearance side of things here.

But seriously…

Anyway, being the smart ass I am, I decided to put the oven onto 200* to ‘warm’ up’ quicker. Awkward.

I forgot to turn it down. The cookies were supposed to be baked at 175 for 8 minutes. Exactly. Uh whoops. On the 6 minute mark I was rescuing the cookies and picking off any extra browned bits. (No problem though, if all else failed I could have just said they were wannabe chocolate chunks) But nevertheless, back in they went on 100 for an extra 5 minutes. And they came out just fine! Phew.

I also configured a list on how to make your life productive during baking times (The sheer irony at how unproductive this is, I do recognize..)

Things you can do in 8 minutes (I figured out useful ways to apply myself in 480 seconds)

  1. Unpack the dishwasher which your family left the house and left for you to do.
  2. Wash up. Play with the soap bubbles.
  3. Eat (Desperately scrape out the final slivers of) leftover peanut butter
  4. Lick the chopping plate so as not to waste the chocolate crumbs
  5. Blow all the excess sugar/baking soda off the table so mom think you’ve cleaned
  6. Open the oven door 348349 times to over protectively check on the cookies
  7. Stand in the middle of the kitchen with your eyes closed inhaling the smell, and going into a meditative state. But remembering to take the cookies out at 8 minutes on the dot.

So, you want the recipe for these sweet moist babies?! Keep scrolling, not far to go.

I talk too much.

This recipe made me 8 cookies. They don’t look that large, but they were incredibly filling – I would highly recommend that you cut the size of each cookie ball to make more manageable portions, especially as when going back for seconds…the mind only counts in simplistic ‘number of cookies eaten’ terms! But yeah, they taste amazing with milk/hot tea, and are like a mini meal on their own…

Preheat oven to 175*C

  • 1 cup of peanut butter (Avoid using homemade, the texture will produce a flat, limp cookie)
  • 1 cup of brown sugar
  • 1 tbsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 large egg
  • Chocolate chips + chunks (Chunks should be the dominant type!)
  1. Mix all the dry ingredients together, add the egg. Whisk in with a fork.
  2. Freeze for 15 minutes/refrigerate for 2 hours prior to baking. This is especially important if you’re in a hot area. Warm cookie dough = flat cookies. (I’ll pretend that I didn’t skip this step due to impatience and kidding myself it’s okay because it snowed 2 weeks ago)
  3. Take out of freezer, roll into cookie dough balls and place on baking sheets. Space them apart generously. (Brown cookie dough sheets are better for a soft chewy cookie)
  4. Cook for 8 minutes. 8-10 depending on your oven. But keep checking on them. They’re done when they start going golden brown
  5. Leave to cool for an extra 2 minutes in the turned off oven (This helps the inside cook a little extra)
  6. Then place on a wire rack if you have one, and wait about 30 minutes before you can move them without any disintegration.

And voila!

Peanut butter chocolate chip chunky cookies

Peanut butter chocolate chip chunky cookies

Hope you enjoy, please leave your feedback and comments! Have a good week :)

Prezzo, Mayfair

6 Feb

Prezzo – MAYFAIRprezzo_meals

Pronounced Pretzo? Or prezzzzzz-oh?

I’m guilty of using the former, but everyone else seems to know Pretzo by the latter. Which of them is correct? I haven’t the slightest clue, but for the sake of VLP’s…We’ll call this my first Prezzo review.

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Prezzo Mayfair, London – Doesn’t it look classic?

In April 2012 some very nice people gifted our family (Namely my dad) with a Tastecard. For those of you who aren’t familiar with Tastecard, it’s basically a card that gives you 50% off or 2 FOR 1 in selected UK chain restaurants. I.E Prezzo, Pizza Express, ASK etc. (www.tastecard.co.uk)

So, since around October 2012 my best friend and I have totally exploited this card and have been all around London tasting Pizzas and cheesecake and fudge cakes. *Drool*

I like to say that this card was an excuse to eat dessert, and it’s practically free…until it was pointed out to me that…I’d get dessert anyway. Dessert first, always. Does anyone else read up on menu’s before they visit a restaurant?

I’m pretty guilty of reading the dessert menu first and ruling out the restaurant before I’ve even glimpsed the main. Is that the norm? No? Yes? Oh well, it’s a fool proof way to secure a good post meal cheesecake anyway ;)

We’re in love with Prezzo. We can’t put our finger on whether it’s the food or the lovely contemporary restaurants, but either way, we always leave on a double course filled tummy, having saved half the cost of the bill. Sweet. Oh, I also always leave with about 9232 new pictures on my phone of cheesecakes and pizza taken at 1-360 degree angles. Then I come home and show my parents how amazing it was. But they still haven’t visited! And they remain firm lovers of Pizza express. Hm.

This is a review of Prezzo, Mayfair. Usually we go to Haymarket (Lovely staff, and BONUS – one of the young blokes is always extra generous with the chocolate fudge cake sauce, but he’s not always there…!) But Mayfair was good, real good. Take a look and see?

My pizza picture was taken on a different date to the picture of my friend’s pasta, but it was the same branch :)

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Vegetarian cheeseless pizza (I hate cheese!) Mayfair, London

Here’s a beautiful cheese less vegetarian fluffy Prezzo pizza! (I’m sorry, a pet peeve – I hate cheese! Pizzas all about tomatoey bread ;)!) Doused with extra virgin chilli oil of course – to my friends absolute horror. (Don’t get me started on why I think olive oil is a super food!;)) The base in Mayfair was way fluffier and tasted fresher than that in Haymarket. It also seems bigger and less dry? The veggie portion was much bigger in Mayfair too

Whilst my friend ordered some pasta thingy…she always tries something new, I can never keep up.

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Whatever it is always gets the thumbs up though! I think I see chicken and bacon.

And for dessert (essentially free with Tastecard) was a honeycomb cheesecake. It was my first time tasting this…I can’t describe it..smooth? Soft? SILKY. Yes, silky. Delicious, sweet, creamy and heavenly. The portions could have been a tad larger though…they were nowhere near as big as the fudge cake we’ve previously got (post for another day), despite costing the same price, the fudge cake is also served with ice cream.

Prezzo honeycomb cheesecake, Mayfair

Prezzo honeycomb cheesecake, Mayfair

I wasn’t actually full after leaving though. Perhaps this was due to the lack of cheese/meat in my meal? Or the fact that my friend drank 5 glasses of water, 2 of which were mine and so I didn’t fill up with any water at all haha! I didn’t mind though, it meant there was room for something sweet when I got home – (Fig rolls and milk por supuesto! ;))

We followed this up with a visit to her dad’s office a couple of yards away and then a girls shopping trip in Oxford Street! We didn’t buy anything though (Mainly because the Primark changing room queue ran the length of the store?! We were just overly happy that our January A2 exams were over!

  1. So, where’s your favourite place to eat out?
  2. Anyone else read up on the menu before visiting?
  3. Quality or quantity for the price?
  4. And last but not least…What dessert do you have the reputation of compulsively ordering?!

Have a happy Wednesday friends! <3

 

Fudgy Brownie Divinity – Recipe

5 Feb WP_20130115_002

These Brownies were just THE FUDGIEST, DIVINEST CHOCOLATIEST AND DELICIOUSEST brownies EVER! (Yes I understand these words aren’t the social norm…yet! Try them for yourself and see what you can say?!)

I ate 4 in one go…(Trust me it was a lot) I swore I wouldn’t never eat brownies again…and made them again the next week. Absolutely yummy… a favorite with friends and family! And extra benefit of these brownies is they contain ZERO butter! All vegetable/canola oil, which helps retain moisture so they actually never expire! (But consider the egg ingredient when you save them under your bed for later;))

I prefer to up the cocoa and cut the sugar for a more dense and deep chocolate taste :) The white chocolate chips were just the icing on the icing. These brownies MUST be tried! They can also be vegan friendly if egg and milk substitutes are used. I bought these into school, and once word was spread I had managed to give away an entire 3 batches. Man, I should have been charging. They were popular. Consider your own verdict…

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I hope you enjoy this recipe and leave some feedback!!

Makes 1 9×9 in pan

  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1/3 cup cocoa powder
  • 1/4 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • As many chocolate chips/walnuts as you desire!
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease a 9×9 inch baking pan (I use greaseproof paper)
  2. In a medium bowl, mix together the oil, sugar, and vanilla. Beat in eggs. Combine flour, cocoa, baking powder, and salt; gradually stir into the egg mixture until well blended. Stir in walnuts, if desired. Spread the batter evenly into the prepared pan.
  3. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until the brownie begins to pull away from edges of pan. Let cool on a wire rack before cutting into squares.

I found that the brownies were worryingly fudgey and runny for about an hour after being removed. But they solidified afterwards! They taste AMAZING though, when fresh out of the oven and served with vanilla ice cream!! *Drool*

Depending on the power of your oven, check on the brownies every 2 minutes after the 20 min mark, you don’t want them to burn, but do not under cook else they will not cut!

I can swear by this recipe as being THE BEST EVER! How do you like your brownies?

Good day all!

Deliciously warming Red Lentil Curry – Recipe

5 Feb Red Lentil curry, chana masala, basmati rice & excess coriander.

This curry was absolutely amazing! The red lentils go quite soft when they’re cooking so its an almost ‘melt in your mouth’ but solid kinda textured. Tomatoey and soft, this is the ultimate warmer after a long day. And it takes less than 30 minutes! This recipe was originally adapted from HonestCooking.com http://honestcooking.com/2012/04/26/red-lentil-dahl-recipe-for-a-rainy-day/

I actually skipped out the honey and didn’t sweeten it at all but it was still divine. I don’t think I will ever get my head around grains – water cup ratios when cooking, and will always have google as my best friend at hand when necessary. But for red lentils, the approximation for a curry is 1 cup of lentils : 4 cups of water. Adding more later if necessary.

On this day I sat on the London bus going to my nanas house wondering if I should stick to something regular for dinner or re-attempt lentils. I was using my phone to google…”How to cook lentils” – for the 34393th time in a row. (The first attempt was chana dhal in a pan of salted water- NEVER try this, the shell hardens and the lentils will stubbornly refuse to cook for eternity. And you have no edible dinner) But this turned out fantastic. I even convincved my little brother that the lentils were a type of mashed baked bean. (He’s a veggiephobic) and he gobbled up the whole lot. One cup of dried lentils made 4 massive portions, 5 if you wanted or even 6 if you were sharing. I found myself eating out of the pan at the end of the meal. I hope you gain as much satisfaction out of this as I did!! Remember to only salt when the lentils are cooked. Enjoy!!

Red Lentil curry, chana masala, basmati rice & excess coriander.
Red Lentil curry, chana masala, basmati rice & excess coriander.
Ingredients
  • 1.25 cup red lentils
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, diced
  • 1 x 3cm piece ginger, peeled and diced
  • 3/4 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1 can peeled tomatoes
  • 2 cups hot water from the kettle
  • 1 teaspoon garam masala
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon honey
Instructions
  1. Wash lentils in running water, discarding debris. Drain.
  2. Heat up large fry pan until smoking hot and then add oil.
  3. Add onions, garlic and ginger and turn down to medium heat.
  4. Cook, stirring often, for few minutes until onion softens and then add turmeric, mixing in thoroughly.
  5. Continue cooking for a minute or so and then add lentils.
  6. Stir to combine and continue cooking for a minute before adding tomatoes, garam masala and water.
  7. Simmer over low heat for 15 minutes and then add salt and honey, mixing in thoroughly.
  8. Serve with basmati rice and coriander to garnish.
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