Slow Cooker Fiesta Chicken

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Melt in your mouth chicken packed with loads of delicious flavours; this dish is quickly becoming a new favourite!

My sister has been trying to convince me to get a slow cooker for a long time. I was reluctant because in my head I thought it was cheating and taking out some of the fun of cooking. Obviously I was wrong! She bought me one for my birthday after finally giving in and saying I would give one a go – and now I love it!

The first thing I attempted to make were cinnamon rolls. They really didn’t turn out well at all! However this wasn’t the slow cooker’s fault but mine as the part of the recipe that specifically warned me to be very precise, I wasn’t. I decided to leave the desserts alone for a while and focus on savoury dishes.

I’d seen a few recipes using chicken and Mexican flavours so used them to create my own interpretation which I decided to call Fiesta Chicken! My main inspiration came from one of my favourite bloggers over at Skinny Taste. I tweaked her Crock Pot Santa Fe Chicken recipe.

This recipe is really flexible. Add more of what you want, less or none of what you don’t and make it your own. I happened to have some chicken thighs and a couple of breasts in the fridge so I decided to chuck them both in. I love chicken thighs as they have so much flavour but until recently I have always tended to buy breasts. Since I’ve got a chest freezer I now go a little crazy and buy thighs in bulk and have a mass de-boning session. Last week I de-boned approximately 80 thighs ready for BBQ’s. They are definitely me favourite cut of chicken but use whichever you fancy!

I used a combination of chilli powders that I have bought on my trips to Borough Market. Don’t let not having them put you off making this dish! Use whatever you have – chilli powders, cayenne pepper, paprika etc. and add more if you like a bit of heat. The quantities in the recipe below are more to add flavour than heat, so adjust as you wish. I added a tin of flame roasted mild green chillies which I bought from Tesco maybe a year ago. I’d seen a few American recipes where they included tinned tomatoes with mild green chillies, so when I saw the tin of chillies in the World Food’s aisle I bought them. This recipe was finally a reason to use them! You’ll notice I haven’t included them in the recipe though as since making this dish, I haven’t been able to find them anywhere. I’ve even searched online for them and it seems you need to order them from America which isn’t the cheapest option, so I decided it was better to miss them out, however sad this made me feel.

I was so impressed with how tasty this recipe was and it was such minimal effort. I did find that there was too much liquid when I made it so I have reduced the amount slightly. That is the only thing I have found with slow cookers, because you are cooking with the lid on, they keep all of their liquid and it doesn’t evaporate. If you want to try and thicken the dish without using cornflour (or as well as) just take the lid off for the last 30 mins cooking to help some of the water evaporate.

The recipe below made enough for 7 large portions – 6 of which I will use for dinner and then I split the last one into two smaller portions for lunches.

approx 500g chicken
2 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
½ tsp Mexican oregano
2 tsp chilli powder (I used a mixture of ancho, guajillo and chipotle)
1 tsp garlic powder
2 x 400g tins tomatoes
400g tin of black beans, drained and rinsed
340g tin sweetcorn, drained
1 pepper, sliced
300g chicken stock
3 spring onions, sliced
1 tbsp cornflour (if needed to thicken)

  1. Sprinkle the chicken with 1 tsp salt, ½ tsp pepper, oregano and the chilli powders

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  1. Add the tomatoes, black beans, sweetcorn, pepper, stock and spring onions to the slow cooker and stir to mix
  2. Lie the chicken on top of the ingredients and put the lid on the slow cooker

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  1. Cook for 10 hours on low or 6 hours on high
  2. 30 mins before serving, remove the chicken onto a board and shred using two forks. Return to the slow cooker and stir through

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  1. If there is too much liquid, in a glass mix the cornflour with just enough water to make a liquid and add this to the slow cooker and continue cooking for the 30 minutes
  2. Serve with rice sprinkled with grated cheese and spring onions

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Nutella Cupcakes

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If you’re a Nutella fan, you need to try these. They are full on Nutella goodness – especially with Nutella buttercream too!

I made these for my boyfriend’s sister and her now husband to try as they had asked me to make the cakes for their wedding. They had asked me to make some Nutella cupcakes for them to try so I went to trusty Pinterest and found this recipe on Love Life and Sugar. She is a massive Nutella fan too so she loved the Nutella cupcakes with Nutella buttercream but they didn’t decide to go with them for the wedding because they were definitely not for the just the mild Nutella fan.

217g all purpose flour
207g sugar
¼ tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 tsp baking powder
168g salted butter, room temperature
160g Nutella
3 egg whites
1 tsp vanilla extract
120ml sour cream
120ml milk

  1. Preheat the oven to 180°C and line a cupcake tin with cupcake cases
  2. Mix together the flour, sugar, bicarbonate of soda and baking powder in a large mixing bowl
  3. Add butter, Nutella, egg whites, vanilla, sour cream and milk and mix on medium speed until all ingredients are combined and the mixture is smooth
  4. Add the mix to the cupcake cases filling them approximately half way

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  1. Bake for 19-21 minutes or until a toothpick comes out with only a few crumbs

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  1. Remove cupcakes from oven and allow to cool for 10 minutes or so before allowing them to cool completely on a wire rack

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When cooled, frost the cupcakes. I’d recommend either vanilla buttercream or if you’re a real Nutella fanatic like myself, Nutella Buttercream.

 

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Vegetable Curry

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Not the most attractive of dishes, but what it lacks in beauty it makes up for in taste! Deliciously comforting curry packed with loads of vegetables makes this a tasty and healthy all in one dinner.

This recipe is so flexible and really lends itself to being adapted to what you like and how spicy you like it. It is a perfect meal to make when you have a few vegetables left over in your fridge that may not be at their peak freshness but you want to use them in a dish. You can use whatever vegetables you like, but for me the staples are potatoes, courgettes and cauliflower. My Mum used to make this for us and those were the vegetables she always used.

When I was making this curry for the first time in years,  I sent my sister a photo of my it bubbling away and her response was “it looks a bit boring, have you only got potatoes, courgettes and cauliflower in it?!”. Before she said that, I hadn’t even thought abut adding more vegetables as I was recreating what my Mum had always made us. So after my sister’s comment, I chucked other vegetables in and it was delicious. Since then I have added whatever I have had left in the fridge which means it is slightly different each time.

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As I hadn’t made this curry in years, when I did make it, it was the first time I had made it for Rien. I wasn’t holding out too much hope for him to be too enthusiastic about it as he is always a bit unsure about new meals to him. He really liked it but just had one suggestion that would make it even better – chicken. I should have seen it coming as he the sort of person that thinks every meal should include meat. So the next time I made it, I added a couple of chicken breasts at the stage where I added the vegetables and tinned tomatoes. As the curry cooks for quite a while, some of the chicken broke up and almost became part of the sauce which I thought was really tasty. Although adding chicken completely changes it from being a vegetarian curry, it is really tasty and it’s still packed with lots of vegetables so it’s healthier than a typical chicken tikka masala!

Another great thing about this recipe is you make a big batch and freeze it. I freeze it in dinner sized portions for a quick week night dinner; but also individual lunch sized portions perfect for me to defrost and take in to heat at work.

I always serve this curry with mango chutney because I think it is one of the most delicious condiments ever made. As you have the potatoes, you don’t need rice but I like to serve it with some poppadoms to add a crisp texture to the deliciously comforting and soft vegetables in the curry.

2 tsp sunflower/vegetable oil
1 large onion, diced

3 – 4 tbsp curry paste
3 cloves of garlic, minced
3 – 4 large potatoes, peeled and diced
3 courgettes, sliced
1 cauliflower, separated into medium florets
1 pepper, chopped
250g green beans
2 x 400g tins of tomatoes
1 tbsp tomato puree
800ml vegetable stock
1 ½ tsp salt

1 tsp pepper
Chopped fresh coriander to garnish (if wanted)

 

  1. Add the oil to a large pan over a medium heat. Once the oil has warmed, add the onion and garlic and allow to sweat for a couple of minutes stirring occasionally to make sure it doesn’t burn

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  1. Add the curry paste to taste and stir to coat the onions

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  1. Add all of the vegetables and stir again to coat them in the curry paste. Add the tomato puree, tinned tomatoes, vegetable stock and salt and pepper

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  1. Let the stock come to the boil and then reduce the temperature to medium and allow to gently bubble away uncovered for 1 – 1½ hours or until all of the vegetables are soft and the stock has reduced and thickened

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  1. Serve sprinkled with coriander, or not if you’re like me and don’t like it!

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Chorizo & Potato Quesadillas

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This recipe is one my sister, Ally,  constructed after a trip to Wahaca in London where she had a similar dish. She then used the flavours to make her own version which is delicious!

For Mother’s Day, my sister Ally and I decided to make a Mexican Feast as a more personal touch than taking her out for a meal. When I say we made a feast, I wasn’t exaggerating!  We made these Quesadillas, Nachos, Chilli, Carnitas, Chicken Tinga as well as Quacamole, Salsa and Mexican Sweetcorn Salad. We had enough leftovers for everyone to take goodies home.

Ally and I spent the majority of the day at my house making all of these delicious dishes. It was quite a tiring day and we definitely earned our beer; but we also had a great time in the kitchen together.

The quesadillas have become a favourite dish in my house. Although I don’t add the onions, I do add peppers and sweetcorn. My sister usually adds these when she makes them at home, but we didn’t for the Mexican Feast to keep them simple. One of the great things about this recipe is you can adapt it to what you like.

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The first time I made them without Ally, I ended up making enough quesadillas to feed a family of six or more! This is because as my sister made up the recipe, her method was ‘a bit of this and a bit of that’ so I had to work out quantities of ingredients. However  benefit of making too many is I found out they are absolutely delicious cold the next day. I chose to not re-heat them because I was at work and using the microwave would have made them sort of soggy I thought. Although when cold they obviously didn’t have the crisp tortilla like when they were freshly cooked, the filling’s flavours seemed to intensify and become even more delicious.

The quantities below make enough quesadillas for 3-4 people (depending on how hungry they are!) 

600g potatoes, peeled and diced
1 onion, diced

130g chorizo, diced
2 cloves of garlic, minced

1 x 198g tin of sweetcorn, drained
1 pepper, diced

150g cheese, grated
½ tsp chili powder (I use a combination of different chili powders)
salt & pepper to taste

1-2 tsp sunflower oil 
6 large tortillas 

  1. Peel and dice the potatoes and boil them until cooked through in salted water
  2. Add the chorizo to a frying pan over a medium heat. Keep stirring to allow the oils from the chorizo to be released and then add the onions

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  1. Allow the onions to soften for a couple of minutes and then add the potatoes and pepper. Cook for a few minutes adding the oil if it begins to stick

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  1. After a couple of minutes, add the sweetcorn, chili powder, salt and pepper and stir through. Leave to cook stirring occasionally for 2-3 minutes before turning out into a bowl

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  1. Place one large tortilla in a clean frying pan over a medium heat. Scatter the tortilla with some of the grated cheese before topping with a thin layer of the potato filling. Spread the filling to the edges of the tortilla before scattering with more grated cheese

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  1. Place another tortilla on top and press down to squidge the filling right to the edges. By now the bottom tortilla should be browned and slightly crispy. Carefully flip the tortilla over so the bottom becomes the top. How you choose to do this is up to you! I get a large spatula and flip but you can always tip it out onto a plate and then flip it and slip it back into the pan
  2. Once flipped, allow the tortilla to cook for 1-2 minutes until browned and crispy and you can see the cheese has melted inside
  3. Turn out onto a board and cut into eighths. Serve with lots of soured cream

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Skinny Lemon & Poppy Seed Cake

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This tasty zesty cake is perfect as an afternoon treat, especially as it is a healthy version too!

I’d wanted to make a lemon and poppy seed cake for a while because I liked the look of the cake dotted with tiny black poppy seeds. I haven’t made as many cakes recently because I’m trying to eat more healthily and if I make cake, then I have no self control and I end up eating the cake.  I then found this recipe for a skinny lemon and poppy seed cake on Pinterest so no longer had any excuse not to give it a go! Even though it was a healthier cake, I managed to give most of it away to my family so I didn’t end up eating it all.

When I was making this cake, I was dubious. It looked thick as I was mixing the ingredients and then once it was baked it looked quite dense so I did fear the worst. I’m pleased to say it wasn’t dense or dry and was very tasty. My Mum liked it but she wasn’t massively keen on the poppy seeds as she said they got stuck in her teeth. I didn’t find this surprising as she doesn’t like jam where the fruit has the seeds in as she says the same happens then. So if you’re a little bit fussy like my Mum, this maybe won’t be your favourite cake but I do recommend giving it a go otherwise.

For the cake
1½ cups whole wheat flour
2 tsp baking powder
¼ tsp fine salt
¾ cup caster sugar
1 lemon, zest finely grated
½ cup low fat Greek yogurt
¼ cup semi-skimmed milk 
¼ cup olive oil
½ tsp vanilla extract
2 large egg whites
1 large egg
1 tbsp poppy seeds

  1. Preheat the oven to 180°C and line a 2lb loaf tin
  2. Mix together the flour, baking powder and salt in a bowl
  3. In another bowl, mix together the sugar, lemon, yogurt, milk, olive oil, vanilla, egg and egg whites and poppy seeds until combined
  4. Add the flour mix to the wet mix and stir until just combined. Pour into the prepared tin and bake for 45-50 minutes or until a cocktail stick comes out clean

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  1. Let the cake cool in the tin for a few minutes before turning it out onto a wire rack to cool completely

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For the glaze
1½ cups icing sugar
2 tbsp lemon juice
2 tbsp milk

  1. Once the cake is completely cooled, make the glaze by whisking together the icing sugar, lemon juice and milk. Pour the glaze all over the cake

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Curly’s Cooking’s Second Year Round-up

Another year of blogging has passed with lots more yummy recipes! I still consider myself to be a novice blogger so to have had over 25,000 views in the past year is pretty amazing to me! I have also had more people commenting on posts which is always nice to speak to people visiting my blog instead of just seeing them as a statistic.

As with last year, I have decided to write a post rounding up some of my favourite recipes from the past year.

Pasteis de Nata

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This isn’t just one of my favourite recipes from the last year, but one of my favourite recipes ever. I absolutely love these little tarts. The rich buttery pastry contains thick, vanilla infused deliciously creamy custard. I would have these for breakfast (or any meal) any day if I could!

Chicken Tinga Tostadas

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A very simple way of describing this recipe is the most delicious fajita filling I have ever had. Now don’t get me wrong, it is not simply a fajita filling, but it is everything I want from a Mexican chicken dish and more. Where the comparison to fajitas comes in is because we rarely serve this recipe as tostadas they aren’t as readily available as normal tortilla wraps (and you can get a lot more Chicken Tinga in a bigger wrap!).

Rainbow Layer Cake 

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This Rainbow Layer Cake is such a fun cake and not as complicated as it looks. If you buy the Wilton cake tins and use good gel colours then this cake is really quite simple but looks amazing.

 

These are just some of my favourite recipes, I’d love to hear if you have any faourites, or even if there are any recipes you would like to see on my blog.

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Skinny Chicken Fajita Pasta

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Deliciously creamy pasta perfect for people who like lots of flavour but are looking to keep dishes a bit healthier. This recipe is really tasty and works out at under 450 calories per portion.

I came across this recipe when someone shared it on Facebook. I ended up going to the blog and finding lots of tasty and healthy dishes so I really recommend you have a look at Skinny Taste for this recipe and loads more.

As with most recipes, I have made a few tweaks because I’m fussy! I was originally drawn to how easy and simple it sounded and that it was low in calories was a massive plus. I did initially think adding cream cheese was slightly odd but it adds a lovely creamy taste but without all of the calories. The original recipe includes mushrooms, onions and tomatoes but these weren’t for me. Feel free to add these or any other vegetables you would like. They also used Cajun seasoning, but I changed this to Fajita seasoning as it is something I always have in the house and really like the flavour.

I was so impressed by how tasty this recipe was and can see it becoming a regular meal in our house. I made the full amount as listed below which meant I had leftovers for lunch the next day. I’d gone and heated it up and was so excited by the recipe I was showing people I work with what it looked like. I’d been saying how much I was looking forward to it…and then I dropped it on the floor. I just stood there looking at my lovely lunch all over the floor. Gutted doesn’t even start to describe how I felt! What made it worse was that I had already knocked my cereal all over my desk in the morning. I’m not usually this clumsy, but I was having a really bad food day 🙁

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230g pasta – linguine or tagliatelle work well
2 chicken breasts
2 tbsp Fajita seasoning (add more or less depending on your taste)
1 tbsp olive oil
2 peppers (any colours you like)
3 cloves of garlic, minced
250ml chicken stock
80ml semi-skimmed milk (use skimmed if you would prefer)
1 tbsp plain flour
3 tbsp light cream cheese
¼ tsp salt
Pepper to taste

  1. Slice the peppers into thin strips. Whiz together the milk, cream cheese and flour in a small food processor and set aside

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  1. Cut the chicken in to very thin strips and season generously with the fajita mix

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  1. In a large pan of salted water, cook the pasta as per the packet’s instructions
  2. Heat a large frying pan with the cooking spray and cook the chicken on a medium high heat until the chicken is browned and cooked through (roughly 5 mins). Remove the chicken and set aside

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  1. Reduce the heat to medium and add the olive oil. Add the peppers and garlic and cook for 3-4 minutes stirring occasionally. Season with salt and pepper

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  1. Reduce the heat to medium-low and add the chicken stock and cream cheese mix. Stir through and allow to cook for a couple of minutes

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  1. Return the chicken to the pan and add the drained pasta. Stir thoroughly and cook for a minute or so before serving

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Beef & Guinness Stew

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A deliciously comforting and warming beef stew; perfect for a cold evening.

Like with a lot of recipes, I found this and then forgot about it. This one was from Delicious Magazine and it looked like the perfect warming winter stew so when I heard that my Nan was coming to stay, I thought this would be right up her street. My Nan is what I imagine most people’s Nan’s to be like – a fan of traditional British food. A curry is something alien and far too exotic for her, bless her.

So Mum and Dad were going to come over on Monday evening and bring Nan with them. She hadn’t seen our new house so it would be a chance to show her and to also cook her a nice meal. We didn’t have people over for dinner very often in our flat because we didn’t have a dining room table so it was a bit awkward to invite people over and ask them to eat with their plate on their lap! Since we’ve been in our house we have had lots of people over and it has to be one of my favourite things about the house. I didn’t realise how a dining table would make such a difference!

As it was a Monday they were coming, and a stew by nature isn’t the quickest of meals; I made it on the Sunday night and reheated it on the Monday. It tasted absolutely delicious, such deep and delicious flavours enhanced by the Guinness. It did become a little drier when I was reheating it so I added a bit more beef stock to create more gravy again, so if you reheat it you may need to do this too.

I’m sure if you have a slow cooker, this would work really well. I don’t have a slow cooker (I have nearly everything else it seems!) but my sister is threatening to buy me one so if she does I might become less clueless about them!

As you can see, there aren’t any photos of it actually plated up because keeping Rien waiting while I take photos of his dinner is one thing, but making my parent’s and Nan wait is another! Stew isn’t one of the most photogenic meals anyway- it’s all in the taste!

4 tbsp olive oil
1 large onion, finely chopped
150g streaky bacon, finely chopped
1.2kg shin of beef, cut into chunks 
3 tbsp plain flour
600ml Guinness
500ml beef stock
1 bouquet garni (I used thyme, rosemary, 3 bay leaves – the original recipe used parsley instead of rosemary)

  1. Heat 1 tsp of the oil in a large pan or casserole dish over a medium heat and add the onions. Fry for 2-3 minutes until soft. Add the bacon and fry for a further 4-5 minutes making sure you stir occasionally. Remove the onions and bacon from the pan and set aside

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  1. Dust the beef in the seasoned flour. Heat the rest of the oil in the pan over a high heat and fry the beef in batches, for 3-4 minutes until browned all over

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  1. Reduce the heat to medium, return all of the beef, onions and bacon to the pan. Add the Guinness, stock and herbs as well as plenty of salt and pepper. Bring to the boil

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  1. Once it has come to the boil, reduce to a simmer and cook partially covered for 2½ hours until the meat is tender. Serve with mashed potatoes and vegetables

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Feta Stuffed Peppers

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Delicious, tasty and super easy these Feta Stuffed Peppers make an excellent light lunch or starter.

I found this recipe in my friend’s Weight Watchers recipe book which is always a good sign that it is going to be healthy! I really love the flavour of peppers when they are roasted as it brings out their sweetness so thought I would give this recipe a try. They did mention added chilli flakes, but I didn’t fancy this so I left them out but feel free to add them if you want a bit of a kick!

I didn’t have any fresh basil so I sprinkled on some frozen basil. I don’t seem to be very good at keeping plants alive so don’t tend to buy the little herb plants you see in the shop and I find that the fresh cut basil doesn’t last very long. So instead I bought a pot of frozen basil which is always there when I need it. Obviously fresh basil will be the most flavoursome and the frozen basil won’t be ideal for everything but it worked well in this recipe.

Each pepper (two halves) is less than 250 calories so it makes a perfect light lunch or you could use half a pepper as a starter.

2 red peppers, halved and de-seeded
16 cherry tomatoes
2 cloves of garlic, minced
100g feta cheese, crumbled
Fresh basil
Spray oil
Pepper

  1. Spray a baking tray with oil. Put the four pepper halves on the tray and divide the ingredients between them

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  1. Spray again with oil and put in the oven for 40-45 minutes
  2. Serve with a green salad

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Chicken Tikka

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This is the most delicious home-made Chicken Tikka I have ever eaten!

I’m not very adventurous when it comes to Indian food as I don’t like coconut, coriander or too much spice. This means that whenever we go to an Indian restaurant I always and I mean always order a chicken tikka masala.

Quite a few years ago, my brother in law found this recipe online at www.makingcurry.co.uk – unfortunately the website doesn’t appear to exist anymore so I can’t link to it. He made this recipe for us and it was absolutely delicious. The recipe does also come with a sauce, which turns it into Chicken Tikka Masala which fantastic, but I haven’t included it at this stage as it is includes more cream etc which means it makes it higher in calories.

Some people may think this recipe is a little bit of a faff as it does take quite a while and has a few different steps. However most of the prep is putting everything in a bowl in the fridge and forgetting about it for a couple of days! That sounds perfect to me! I recommend using food prep gloves when it comes to threading the chicken onto the skewers as this doesn’t leave you with orange tinted hands, but this is completely up to you.

Up until now I have made this recipe using double cream which makes it decadent and deliciously creamy. We all know double cream is delicious, but definitely not healthy. So I decided to leave it out and use more of the natural yogurt in its place. I was pleasantly surprised, I didn’t miss the cream at all!

My favourite way of eating this is cold with simply lettuce, cucumber and a bit of mango chutney. It is also fantastic in a wrap with salad. Last time I made this, I split it into three large portions and it was just under 300 calories. So you definitely still can enjoy delicious Chicken Tikka but still be healthy!

700g skinned chicken breasts, cubed
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp salt
1 tsp sugar
75g non-fat natural yogurt
100ml double cream (or 100ml of non-fat natural yogurt)
1 tbsp ginger puree
1 tbsp garlic puree
2 tbsp Tandoori Masala powder
½ tsp tumeric
½ garam masala
½ chilli powder
3 tbsp coriander leaves, finely chopped
40g butter, melted

  1. Put the cubed chicken into a large bowl. Add all of the ingredients, except the butter and mix until combined. Cover the bowl with cling film and leave to marinate in the fridge for 2-60 hours – the longer the better!

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  1. Preheat the grill to high and line the grill pan with lightly oiled foil
  2. Brush 4 metal skewers with the melted butter and thread the chicken pieces leaving a small gap between each piece

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  1. Place on the grill pan set approximately 7.5cm away from the element and cook for 2-3 minutes. Take out and brush with more melted butter until the edges are charred

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  1. Turn the skewers over, brush with more butter and cook for 3-4 minutes
  2. Ease the chicken from the skewers. The chicken can be eaten hot or cold

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