Category Archives: Dinners

Baked Sweet & Sour Chicken

Once you’ve made my Baked Sweet & Sour Chicken you will never use a jar again! It is simple, delicious and you’ve probably got most of the ingredients in your cupboard already.     

I’ve never been a fan of sweet and sour sauce from a jar. Apart from it tasting quite artificial in my opinion, I also don’t like the chunks of onion it has in it. But I do really like sweet and sour, and my favourite being sweet and sour Hong Kong style. I can’t claim that this is an authentic Chinese recipe, but it is what Chinese restaurants here call meat that is fried in a crisp batter and then added to sweet and sour sauce.

I couldn’t order a takeaway every time I fancied sweet and sour so I had to make it myself. I first started making my own sweet and sour back in my first year of uni. Zoe ; my foodie friend that you’ll know if you’re a regular to my blog, and I used to make a big batch of sweet and sour to freeze for quick a quick meal. 

We used a John Torode recipe which we made using pork. The recipe then called for some deep frying action which although made the pork lovely and crisp, this effort seemed a little pointless because it softens when you add it to the sauce later. John Torode appears to have a few recipes for sweet and sour, all of which involve this frying step. 

So for my adaptation, I decided to remove the frying step altogether. It was the most time consuming step of the recipe and added a lot more calories to the dish. Therefore I left this step out, swapped to chicken which I baked and also tweaked the sauce. And voilà, you have my Baked Sweet & Sour Chicken.  

Baking the chicken gives the chicken the crisp exterior but without the extra hassle and calories. I recommend adding the baked chicken just before you serve because this will help keep the chicken at its crispest. You can definitely freeze this dish, but bear in mind the chicken will loose it’s crispiness but still be tasty. 

 Once you have made my Baked Sweet & Sour Chicken, I don’t think you will reach for a jar of sauce again. You know what is going into this sauce, there are no nasty preservatives and it really doesn’t take much effort at all. You could even skip the baked chicken stage and just brown the chicken in the pan before adding the sauce ingredients if you want to make it even quicker. Obviously I like the crisp chicken so if you have the time I would still bake the chicken. 

I’ve used spring onions because I much prefer these, but if you want to dice up some normal white onion then please feel free to. 

Serves 2 (add more chicken and you could stretch to 4)

For the marinade
2 chicken breasts, diced

1 tbsp light soy sauce
2 tbsp shaoxing rice wine
1 garlic clove, minced
3cm piece of ginger, grated

50g cornflour 

For the sauce
2 tsp sunflower oil

2 gloves of garlic, minced
3cm piece of ginger, grated
2 large peppers
4 spring onions
2 tbsp ketchup
4 tbsp shaoxing rice wine
1 tsp sesame oil
2 tbsp light soy sauce
1 tbsp light brown sugar
300g pineapple chunks/ slices – keep the juice
2 tbsp pineapple juice
1 tbsp cornflour mixed with 1 tbsp pineapple juice

To garnish
Sprinkle of sesame seeds 
1 spring onion, chopped

  1. Dice the chicken breast into chunks and add to a bowl along with the rest of the marinade ingredients. Leave to marinade for 15 minutes

  1. After the chicken has marinated, drain it
  2. Preheat the oven to 180ºC fan (200ºC non fan) and line a baking tray with a silicon mat or baking paper
  3. Add the cornflour to a shallow dish and coat the chicken in the cornflour. Make sure each piece is completed coated, but tap off any excess cornflour. Place the chicken on the prepared baking tray

  1. Bake in the oven for 10 minutes before turning the chicken and cooking for another 10 minutes
  2. While the chicken is baking, make the sauce by chopping the peppers and spring onions and mincing the garlic and ginger
  3. Add the oil to a pan on a medium heat before adding the peppers, spring onions, garlic and ginger. Let soften for around 10 minutes before adding the rest of the ingredients 

  1. Cook on a medium heat until the sauce has thickened and turns glossy. If you prefer the sauce to be a bit thicker, mix the cornflour with one tablespoon of pineapple juice to help thicken the sauce

  1. Once the chicken has cooked and just before you are going to serve, add it to the sauce and stir through to make sure it is all coated in the sauce

  1. Serve with rice and top with a sprinkle of sesame seeds and spring onions
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Bibimbap

Bibimbap is not only a delicious Korean dish but it is also a pretty dish. The lovely colours and spicy heat make this a very special and really comforting dish.

Bibimbap is a fantastic Koreon dish which means ‘mixed rice’. Although every time I have seen this dish it has been beautifully presented, it is traditionally mixed up all together. I like the idea of taking time to make a dish look beautiful only to completely mix it up before you eat it. 

It was only last year that I tried Korean food for the first time. Oddly enough it was whilst Mr Curly and I were on a trip to Copenhagen. When we’re away, food plays a huge part in our trips. We had had a very busy day walking around the city in less than ideal weather so we didn’t want to stray too far from our hotel for dinner. We did what we usually do and started to look at TripAdvisor for restaurants with good reviews near us. 

One of the best rated restaurants happened to be a Korean restaurant which was only 2 streets away. Neither of us had tried Korean food before so decided it would be a good place to go. We decided on a few smaller dishes to share including Korean Fried Chicken and then also Bibimbap. For my husband who has a chicken obsession the Korean Fried Chicken was love at first sight. 

The Bibimbap was the dish that instantly impacted me though. It was served in a traditional hot stone dish which gave the rice a delicious crispness at the bottom. I have done a bit of research when trying to recreate my own recipe and I believe this type is called dolsot bibimbap after the stone bowl it is cooked in. 

Since then I have had other Bibimbap that hasn’t had the crisp rice on the bottom as it wasn’t cooked in the dolsot and it was still delicious. My Bibimbap doesn’t have the crisp rice as I didn’t happen to have a dosot, but I don’t think it reduces from the tastiness of the dish. 

I researched lots of different Bibimbap recipes before coming up with my own. There are some things I think you need to include and others you can adapt to your taste. Obviously you need rice to make this and it is traditionally made with beef. You do also need gochujang which is a Korean staple ingredient. It is a thick fermented soybean paste (stay with me) that is quite spicy. You will probably need to get this from your Asian supermarket but it is definitely essential. 

The sauce for this Bibimbap is quite spicy, especially if you taste it on its own. When it’s mixed in the dish I think it does mellow slightly. If you are worried about the level of spice, you could reduce the amount of gochujang slightly. But I really do recommend making this dish a little spicy if you can handle it!

I think you do really need to include a fried egg on top and some beansprouts, but feel free to add any combination of vegetables. Mushrooms, spinach and kim chi are other popular toppings. Personally, I don’t mind the extra effort of cooking them separately, but if you wanted to make this dish quicker then you could cook them all together. 

I think this dish is really comforting and so delicious. I wouldn’t usually associate spicy food with comfort, but believe me this really is. It isn’t a dish to be eaten with chop sticks, a spoon is definitely advised. Get comfy on the sofa with a big bowl of this and put a film on – instant comfort! 

For the meat
200g beef mince
1 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp sesame oil
½ tsp minced garlic

1 tsp sugar
 

For the sauce
1 tbsp gochujang paste
½ tsp sesame oil
½ tsp sugar
2 tbsp water
½ tbsp sesame seeds
½ tsp apple cider vinegar
½  tsp minced garlic

For the vegetables and toppings
1 medium carrot, peeled
1 courgette
Handful of beansprouts
1 tsp vegetable oil 
¼ tsp salt 
200g rice
2 eggs + 1 tbsp oil 
Sprinkle of sesame seeds 

  1. Add the beef mince to a bowl along with the rest of the marinade ingredients and allow to sit for at least 15 minutes whilst you prepare the rest
  2. Mix all of the sauce ingredients together in a bowl and set aside. You want it to be thin enough to be able to drizzle so add a touch more water if needed

  1. Cook the rice as per the packet instructions with a pinch of salt
  2. Julienne (cut into matchsticks) the carrot and courgette 

  1. Heat a small amount of the oil in a frying pan over a medium/low heat. Add the carrot and cook slowly until they have taken on some colour and softened. Season with a pinch of salt and set aside – you may want to keep them in a very low temperature oven on the bottom shelf to keep them warm once cooked

  1. Repeat with the courgette and beansprouts and set aside

 

  1. Using the same frying pan as you have cooked the vegetables in, on a high heat add the beef mince and cook for 5 minutes or until cooked through and starting to get crispy. Add a small amount of oil if needed 
  2. Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in another frying pan and cook the eggs 
  3. To serve, add the rice to the bottom of the bowl and flatten the top. Place the cooked vegetables and meat in a circular pattern keeping each ingredient separate 

  1. Add the fried egg to the top and drizzle with as much of the gochujang sauce as you want. Finish with a sprinkle of sesame seeds
  2. To eat, mix all of the ingredients together 
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Chicken & Ham Hock Filo Pie

My Chicken & Ham Hock Filo Pie is a lighter way to enjoy a pie, perfect for #BritishPieWeek. A delicious creamy filling packed with chicken and ham hock and topped with crisp filo pastry. 

Pies are a British Institution. As a nation we do love our pies and this can be seen by just how many variations of pies there are. There are so many different pies out there with lots of variations of fillings and pastry used. 

Technically I think a pie is defined as a pastry lined dish usually topped with pastry. I however think pies can also just be topped with pastry. Apologies if this offends you but I’m still going to refer to my dish as a pie even though it isn’t pastry lined!

I do love a pie, they are comforting and delicious. I don’t associate pies with healthy eating however as the pastry is usually quite calorific. The fillings can also be quite rich which isn’t always what you’re looking for. 

This is why I came up with my Chicken & Ham Hock Filo Pie as a lighter way to enjoy a pie. Using filo pastry as a pie topping isn’t a new idea, but it is far lower in calories than a lot of other types. Not only is it healthier, but it is also far lighter and less dense than shortcrust pastry, for example. This makes this pie perfect for enjoying in spring and even summer. 

This pie is a great way to use up leftover roast chicken to make a completely new meal. If you don’t have any leftover chicken, you can do what I did and cook a few chicken thighs. The ham hock can be easily substituted to what you have to hand too. I love ham hock but haven’t found any to cook myself yet. Most supermarkets these days sell packs of cooked ham hock in the cold meat section. If you didn’t want to use ham hock, you could chop up some ham or add some cooked bacon lardons. 

Although this pie has a lovely creamy sauce, it is actually less than 400 calories per portion. For a creamy pie, personally I think this is pretty good. You can serve this with whatever you like, but I served it with tenderstem broccoli and rainbow carrots I saw in M&S. I wish I could get these carrots in my local shop because they were so delicious and gave the dish some lovely colour. 

Serves 4 

1 tsp vegetable oil
1 large leek, sliced
3 tbsp plain flour

1 ½ tbsp olive oil
250ml chicken stock
250ml milk
1 tsp thyme
1 tbsp wholegrain mustard
½ tsp sea salt
Pinch of black pepper
¼ tsp mustard powder
150g cooked chicken, shredded
100g ham hock
5 sheets filo pastry
Spray oil 

  1. Add the vegetable oil to a frying pan of a medium heat and add the sliced leek. Stir for approximately 10 minutes until soft 

  1. Remove the leeks from the pan and set aside. In the same pan, add the olive oil and the flour. Stir to create a paste and cook for a minute 

  1. Slowly add the chicken stock whisking to make sure it is all absorbed before you add more

  1. Once all of the stock has been added, gradually pour in the milk and whisk to combine
  2. Add the thyme, wholegrain mustard, salt, pepper and mustard powder and simmer for a couple of minutes until the sauce thickens 
  3. After the sauce has thickened, add the cooked chicken, ham hock and leeks. Stir though to make sure everything is coated in the sauce

  1. Preheat the oven to 180ºC (fan or 200ºC  non fan assisted)
  2. Pour the pie filling into a dish 
  3. Unwrap the filo pastry and crumple each sheet on top of the pie filling – this doesn’t have to be neat

  1. Once the pie is completely covered with the filo pastry, spray thoroughly with oil and put in the oven for 30 minutes or until the pastry is golden brown

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Sweet Chili Sticky Chicken

My Sweet Chili Sticky Chicken is a reminder of my University days. This dish is quick, easy and deliciously sticky – what more could you want?

This recipe not only reminds me of my uni days, but it also reminds me of my lovely friend Zoe. She’s my foodie friend I mention a lot on my blog in recipes like my Almond & Apricot Flapjacks

Zoe and I met in our first week at uni as we were staying in the same halls. She lived in the flat across the hall from me which was convenient as we often cooked and ate dinner together most evenings. Zoe usually came across to my kitchen because it was more often then not empty. Occasionally one of my flatmates would come in and wonder why on earth we were cooking meals from scratch rather than eating plain pasta scattered with cheese like they were. 

I think we found the original recipe for this in a cookbook one of us had. Unfortunately I can’t remember which book, but the recipe would have been adapted over the years. I can also guarantee that Zoe and I make it differently to this day. That is what is so great about cooking and this recipe specifically because you can adapt it to your taste. If you’re making this recipe for children, you might want to add less sweet chili and replace it with ketchup. 

Zoe and I like to serve our Sweet Chili Sticky Chicken with jasmine rice which is sticker than long grain rice. This adds to the delicious stickiness of the whole recipe. For me, this always has to be eaten with sweetcorn. The sweetness of the sweetcorn really compliments the chicken. Usually when I make this, I cook the sweetcorn in the water with the rice for the last few minutes because I like to mix it altogether when eating it anyway. It also saves on washing up which was always a priority as a student!

One of the reasons we made this recipe so often (apart from it being tasty) was because it is naturally gluten free. Zoe is a Coeliac so it was always an added bonus when we could make and eat the same meal. Obviously you just need to check the soy sauce you’re using is gluten free because not all are. 

This recipe is really easy and even including the marinading it doesn’t take much time. This makes it the perfect weeknight meal for when you want something tasty but don’t want to spend a long time in the kitchen. 

Serves 2 

2 chicken breasts, diced
2 tbsp tomato ketchup
1 tsp garlic, finely chopped
½ tsp ginger, grated
2 tbsp light soy sauce
2 tbsp sweet chili sauce

1 tsp sunflower oil 

  1. Dice the chicken and add to a bowl along with all of the ingredients apart from the oil

  1. Cover and leave in the fridge for 15-30 mins

  1. Heat a large frying pan over a low – medium heat and add the sunflower oil
  2. Add the chicken to the pan and leave to slowly cook on one side before turning. If the pan starts to spit, turn it down 

  1. After about 10 minutes, the chicken should be cooked. Turn the heat up to high for 1 minute to let the sauce thicken slightly 
  2. Serve over sticky rice with sweetcorn and an extra drizzle of sweet chili sauce if you fancy it 

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Sausage, Mustard & Basil Pasta

My Sausage, Mustard & Basil Pasta is deliciously creamy and packed with tasty flavours with a subtle chile kick. A quick and yummy dish which is healthier than you may think. 

As I’ve mentioned before, one of my first cookbooks as a child was ‘Real Food’ by Nigel Slater. This Sausage, Mustard & Basil Pasta recipe is inspired by one of his recipes in the book. I used to make his recipe all the time and it is very tasty. However it does have one slight negative; double cream. Oh and wine. The cream and wine make the recipe indulgent and delicious, but aren’t the best if you are trying to reduce the calories. 

In a bid to make this recipe healthier, but not lose flavour; I have adapted it to use a cheeky healthier sauce. You will have seen this trick in my Skinny Creamy Chicken Sausage Pasta and Skinny Fajita Chicken Pasta recipes. The cream cheese mixture adds creaminess to the sauce without having all of the calories double cream has. You also don’t miss the wine because the stock helps remove all of the delicious sticky sausage off the bottom of the pan.

I was very happy with the end result and didn’t miss the cream and wine at all. That says a lot coming from me because double cream is one of my weaknesses. My Mum says I take after my Grandma with my love of cream because we could both drink it if that was socially acceptable (and obviously wasn’t quite so unhealthy!).

Mr Curly also gave this the thumbs up saying it had just the right level of spice for him, not too spicy but he could definitely taste the chile. Obviously chile flakes vary in heat so I would always recommend adding less and tasting the sauce before adding anymore. Also if you are making this Sausage, Mustard & Basil Pasta for children, depending on their heat tolerance I would maybe just add a pinch or leave it out altogether.

Nigel Slater did suggest using spicy Italian sausages in his original recipe, but I decided to use good quality pork sausages in mine. This is because it is harder to judge how spicy the sausages would actually be and you can’t reduce their heat. By using plain pork sausages, this gives you the flexibility to build up as much heat as you would like. 

You can use whatever pasta you like for this recipe. I must admit I did get lured in by the pretty Gigli pasta when I went to the supermarket. I really liked it’s frilly pattern which I thought made the dish look a little bit more special. Obviously this recipe will be just as delicious with any pasta shape. Wholemeal pasta is also a good recommendation, but this leads to another confession of mine. I don’t tend to buy wholemeal pasta often because I don’t think supermarkets offer a good enough range of pasta shapes! Yes I realise this sounds like a silly reason, but I like to use a variety of pasta shapes because penne every time you eat pasta would be a little boring in my opinion. 

Serves 4

450g pork sausages, de-skinned (6 sausages)
300g pasta
½ tsp sunflower oil 
3 tbsp low fat cream cheese
80ml milk
1 tbsp plain flour
250ml chicken stock
½ tsp sea salt
¼ tsp chile flakes
Pinch of black pepper
2 tsp wholegrain mustard
Bunch of basil, sliced
20g parmesan, grated 

  1. De-skin the sausages and break them into pieces using your hands. There is no need to roll them into balls
  2. Add the oil to a frying pan over a medium high heat. When hot add the sausage pieces. Cook for approximately 10 minutes until browned and cooked through
  3. Whilst your sausages are cooking, boil the pasta as per the packet instructions in salted boiling water. Once cooked, drain and set aside
  4. Once the sausages are cooked, remove them from the pan and set to once side

  1. In a mini blender/chopper mix together the low fat cream cheese, milk and flour
  2. Turn the frying pan back onto a low heat. Add the cream cheese mixture along with the chicken stock
  3. Whisk the sauce until all of the lumps have disappeared and the sauce is smooth. Keep whisking for a minute or so until it thickens 
  4. Add the mustard, chile flakes, salt and pepper and whisk through before adding the sausage back to the pan along with the sliced basil 

  1. Add the cooked pasta to the pan along with the grated parmesan. Stir through and serve

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Slow Cooker Beef & Ale Stew

If you’re looking for a comforting winter warmer, you definitely need to try my Slow Cooker Beef & Ale Stew. Melt in your mouth beef in a thick and rich gravy with deliciously sweet carrots – yum. 

This time of year really does lend itself to slow cooked dishes. When the weather is cold and miserable I like a lot of people want warm and comforting food. And surely it’s not just me that feels a bit lazy when the weather is a bit rubbish? That’s another reason why slow cooked meals are so great, once you have spent a few minutes assembling them at the start, you can then pretty much just forget about them. 

Beef is a great meat for long slow cooking because it gets deliciously tender. I also find gravy that is deeply flavoured to be one of the most comforting things to eat. Slow cooking is a relaxed way of letting the flavours develop over time where they can really intensify. I had to stop myself spooning all of this gravy straight from the slow cooker it was that tasty. 

You can cook this on high for 5-6 hours, but if you have the time, I would recommend letting it cook on low. This will make the beef even tastier. I put this on just before I went to bed and got up to the most amazing smell the next morning. If you want to eat it that day, you can just reheat it later. Alternatively you can freeze it for a really quick meal another day. 

My Mum used to make delicious gravy for us growing up and because she knew we all loved it so much she made sure there was plenty. At the end of the meal, if your potato hadn’t soaked up all of the gravy, we used to get a slice of white bread and use that to soak up the last of the yummy gravy. It was so good!

As this is cooking for such a long time, I like to leave the carrots quite chunky because I want them to keep their shape. You can cut them smaller if you like but they may disintegrate slightly. I think mushrooms would make a great addition to this stew but as with the carrots I would leave them quite chunky or add them half way through the cooking time. 

You can use whichever ale you like in this recipe. I used a dark ale that said it worked well with red meat, but I think any medium to dark ale would be great. You could also use Guinness which would be really tasty. If you do not want to use ale in this recipe, you could just add more beef stock. I would also consider adding a tablespoon of Bovril. This would help add a depth and richness to the gravy – I love the stuff! 

If you don’t have a slow cooker but want to give this stew a go do not panic – you can absolutely cook this in the oven! I haven’t tried it, but if I was, I would cook it for around 5-6 hours at 120ºC with a lid on and then for the last 30 minutes to an hour take the lid off. I would also add around 250ml more stock which would help ensure it doesn’t dry out. Obviously I wouldn’t recommend leaving this overnight, as you would need to check it every few hours and give it a stir. 

I like to eat this Slow Cooker Beef & Ale Stew with a baked potato or mashed potato. Or as I mentioned before, some bread is a great alternative to mop up all of that delicious gravy! 

Serves 4 using a 3.5L slow cooker

700g braising steak 
200g smoked bacon lardons
30g plain flour mixed with 1 tsp sea salt & ¼ tsp black pepper
550g carrots, sliced
1 stick of celery, sliced 
1 onion, diced
2 sprigs of rosemary
½ tbsp thyme leaves
2 tsp sea salt 
½ tsp black pepper
500ml dark ale
1 beef stock pot
1 tsp sunflower oil  

  1. Add the bacon lardons to your slow cooker if you can use it directly on the hob, alternatively add them to a pan. Cook them until crisp and set aside

  1. Mix the flour together with the salt and pepper. Depending on how much oil the bacon left, add a little more if needed
  2. Coat the beef lightly in the flour and then brown it in the slow cooker/pan in batches

  1. Once all of the beef has been browned, add it back to the slow cooker 
  2. Add the bacon and the rest of the ingredients to the slow cooker and stir to combine

  1. Cook on low for 8-9 hours. Remove the rosemary sprigs and serve

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Skinny Creamy Chicken Sausage Pasta

Creamy and delicious pasta but without the guilt. My Skinny Creamy Chicken Sausage Pasta is full of flavour and lower in calories than you would expect!

Pasta is a food many people love for its versatility and speed. It can be used to make so many tasty dishes. Some of the most delicious pasta dishes can be quite calorific which isn’t ideal if you are trying to eat more healthily. 

Growing up I didn’t really enjoy eating pasta. A lot of the time my Mum made it for us as a quick meal when we were children. A lot of the time this was pasta with a tomato based sauce which wasn’t my idea of a tasty meal. Then when I went to uni, unlike most of the people I knew, I still didn’t eat much pasta at all. 

Since then I have realised that there are so many really tasty dishes you make with pasta and these definitely don’t come out of a jar. I know jars of pasta sauce are really popular, but they tend to have quite a lot of sugar in them as well as not being the healthiest option. 

My Skinny Creamy Chicken Sausage Pasta is a great way of getting your pasta fix and even enjoying a delicious and creamy sauce, but with fewer calories. Would you believe me if I told you this recipe comes in at less than 450 calories per portion? For a pasta dish with a creamy sauce and meat, I think that is pretty good! And the really good thing about it is that it doesn’t taste ‘healthy’. It tastes like it is an indulgent, rich and creamy pasta dish. 

I have used HECK Chicken Italia Sausages for this recipe. I am a bit obsessed with HECK sausages and eat them frequently due to them being low in calories and great taste. This isn’t a HECK sponsored post, I just really like them. If you don’t want to use them, you can use another type of chicken sausage or leave them out completely. 

I used frozen basil in this recipe because my and fresh basil don’t seem to be friends. I like it, but it goes limp on me and dies. Because of this I don’t tend to buy it fresh very often because it doesn’t always last as long as I want it to. This is why frozen basil is a great freezer staple for me. It doesn’t pack as much flavour as fresh basil, but I think it is great to have. 

The secret of this being lower in calorie is really down to the sauce. You wouldn’t think cream a few tablespoons of cream cheese, some milk and flour could make a sauce this creamy, but they can! Parmesan is also a great calorie saver as it has far less calories than other cheeses such as cheddar. It also has a strong flavour so you need less to achieve a cheesy flavour. 

You can use any shape of dried or fresh pasta for this recipe, it really is up to you. Personally I like to use a pasta shape that will help catch the tasty creamy sauce, like conchiglie. Plus they look pretty too! 

For other healthy pasta dishes, check out my Ravoli LasagneSkinny Chicken Pasta Bake and  Skinny Chicken Fajita Pasta.

Serves 4

300g pasta
350g HECK Chicken Italia sausages, de-skinned
½ tsp sunflower oil 

3 tbsp low fat cream cheese
1 tbsp plain flour
80ml semi skimmed milk
250ml chicken stock
¼ tsp salt
½ tsp garlic powder
1 tbsp frozen or dried basil 
pinch of black pepper

20g parmesan, grated 

  1. Cook the pasta as per the packet’s instructions 
  2. Remove the casing from the sausages and split each sausage into roughly four pieces. Roll each piece between your palms to make little balls 
  3. Heat the oil in a frying pan on a medium high heat and add the sausage. Cook until crisp and brown on the outside and cooked through 
  4. Remove the sausage from the pan and set aside

  1. Mix the cream cheese, milk and flour together in a mini food processor 
  2. Turn the pan onto a low heat and add the cream cheese mix to the pan along with the stock and whisk to combine. It will look a little lumpy, but keep whisking and it will come together. Keep whisking until it thickens slightly 
  3. Add the salt, pepper, garlic powder and basil and stir through 

  1. Add the sausage back to the pan and add the drained pasta

  1. Stir through and allow everything to heat through for a couple of minutes
  2. Add the grated parmesan, stir through and serve 

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Hearty Slow Cooker Sausage Casserole

If you’re looking for comforting and rustic, my Hearty Slow Cooker Sausage Casserole is for you.  Easy to make and full of flavour this is a great Winter warmer. 

I love using my slow cooker, especially during the Winter. You can make so many delicious and comforting dishes with minimum effort. This is a good thing when the weather is miserable and all you want to do is snuggle up on the sofa with a blanket; and a bowl of Hearty Slow Cooker Sausage Casserole of course!

My inspiration for this Hearty Slow Cooker Sausage Casserole came loosely from a sausage cassoulet. I say loosely because I took the general idea of it and then made it my way. This recipe is very easy to tweak and make it how you would like also. 
 

I chose to remove the casing from the sausages because I wanted to cut the sausages up for a start. This is to make the sausages go further and to also remove the necessity of using a knife. This really is lazy comfort food so who wants to be using more cutlery than needed?! I also removed the casing because I wanted the sausages to absorb as much flavour of the dish as possible so I thought I’d remove any barriers to prevent this. 

Why baked beans you ask? Well why on earth not. I’ve mentioned in a previous post that my Dad used to add baked beans when he made cottage pie and it was oddly tasty. I wanted to add a bean to this recipe but I am not adventurous when it comes to beans. I am broadening my horizons and in the last year or so I have become a fan of black beans. Steady on, you may say but I will get there! My lack of confidence in beans was only half of the reason I used baked beans. I wanted their tomato sauce to enhance my casserole too. 

Another ingredient which enhances the casserole is red wine. Mr Curly and I aren’t big drinkers so I used a small bottle of red wine. If you do enjoy a glass of wine with your dinner and have a bottle open, add a medium sized glass to the casserole. Alternatively if you would rather not add wine at all, just add water instead. 

You can also add whatever vegetables you like. Parsnips or swede would add a sweetness which would work well. You could also add some mushrooms to add to the heartiness. Feel free to add whichever herbs you would like, or even use dried herbs if you don’t have fresh herbs. 

I like to serve this with some nice crusty bread which is very tasty dipped into the sauce. If you would prefer something a bit more substantial like Mr Curly, you could serve this Hearty Slow Cooker Casserole with pasta or even mashed potato. 

Serves 4 using a 3.5L slow cooker

6-8 good quality sausages, de-skinned
400g tin of chopped tomatoes
2 carrots, sliced
2 sticks of celery, sliced
1 onion, diced
2 gloves of garlic, diced
187ml red wine (small bottle) 
1 tbsp Worcester sauce
1 spring of rosemary
½ tbsp thyme leaves
1 tbsp tomato puree
1 ½ tsp sea salt
¼ black pepper
½ tsp dried sage
2 bay leaves
250ml chicken stock
420g tin baked beans
Spray oil
2 tbsp cornflour mixed with water (optional)

  1. Remove the casing from the sausages. I find the best way to do this is to gently cut a slit into the sausage and then peel the casing away from the meat 
  2. Split each sausage into three pieces and roll them between your hands to round the edges

  1. Brown the sausages in your slow cooker on the hob, if it allows. Or brown them in a pan and add them to the slow cooker

  1. Add the rest of the ingredients apart from the baked beans and stir to mix 

  1. Cook on high for 4-5 hours or low for 8-9 
  2. With an hour to go, add the baked beans and stir through. Remove the bay leaves and rosemary stalk 
  3. If you would like the stew to be a little thicker, mix the cornflour and water together and add to the slow cooker. Stir through and let cook for a few more minutes before serving

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Slow Cooker Pork & Mustard Stew

Tasty and tender pork slow cooked with mustard, herbs and cider – what’s not to like? My Slow Cooker Pork & Mustard Stew is perfect for a winter’s evening. 

I love pork. It is definitely my favourite meat and is incredibly versatile. If I’m in a restaurant and pork is an option, it is more than likely that is what I will be ordering. And don’t even get me started on belly pork!

Growing up, my Mum would make a pork casserole using thick slices of pork tenderloin which she would slow cook in the oven. This is my interpretation of her dish adapted to the slow cooker. 

You can use any cut of pork for this, I tend to use shoulder. You do want a small amount of fat so it doesn’t dry out when you are cooking it over a few hours. I like to brown the meat before adding it to the slow cooker because this means it keeps together when cooking. If you don’t brown the pork, it has a tendency to break up more which isn’t what I wanted for this recipe. 

Mustard and cider go perfectly with pork which is what makes this recipe so delicious. My Mum used to add onion and apples to hers, but I have left them out. I haven’t hidden the fact that I don’t like onions. I know they add flavour and when I think they are a benefit I do include them. With this recipe the leeks provide a similar flavour so I have left the onion out; but feel free to add an onion if you fancy it. 

I chose not to add apples because I thought they would just turn to mush after cooking for a few hours. You could always cut up some apples and add them towards the end of the cooking time; maybe for the last 30 minutes or so. You still get the delicious apple flavour from the cider so you won’t miss them. 

As with a lot of my slow cooker dishes, I tend to add a little bit extra liquid to ensure it doesn’t all cook off. This is especially handy if you are leaving your slow cooker on overnight so you won’t be there to check if it needs a bit more liquid. Because of this, you may want to thicken it slightly. You can either do this by taking the slow cooker lid off and allowing some of the liquid to evaporate. But if you don’t have as much time, add a small amount of cornflour mixed together with some water and stir that through the dish. Leave it for 5-10 minutes and your sauce will have thickened. 

I also add a bit more liquid because I freeze a lot of my dishes and they seem to always loose some liquid once they have defrosted. I’m sure someone could explain this, but I don’t know why it happens! So if I have a thinner sauce when I freeze the dish, my thinking is I will still have plenty of sauce when I defrost it and reheat it. I can then thicken it if needed. 

I think this Slow Cooker Pork & Mustard Stew goes really well served with a jacket potato and vegetables. However I tend to eat a large bowl of this with just vegetables. If you are eating it like that I would say this probably feeds two people whereas if you are serving it with potato it could be stretched to four people.  

Serves 2-4 using a 3.5L slow cooker

450g pork, diced
200g leeks, sliced
1 ½ tbsp wholegrain mustard
150ml water
Vegetable stock pot or stock cube
250ml cider
2 tsp sea salt
¼ tsp black pepper
½ tsp dried mustard powder
2 sprigs of thyme 
2 sprigs of rosemary
½ tsp mixed herbs 
Spray oil 
1 tbsp cornflour mixed with water (optional)

  1. Cut the pork into chunks. Brown the pork in batches in a pan or in your slow cooker on the hob (if your slow cooker allows this) using some spray oil

  1. Once all of the pork is browned, add it all back into the slow cooker. Add the remaining ingredients to the pork 

  1. Cook on high for 4-5 hours or low for 8-9 

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Herby Turkey Burgers

Herby Turkey Burgers that are so tasty you won’t believe they are only 200 calories! Don’t panic – these burgers may be low in calories but they are definitely not lacking in flavour.  It’s that time of year when people are brought back to reality with a bump after Christmas. The overindulging has to come to and end and you have to deal with the choices you made. Ok so maybe this is just me! 

January is the time of year that most people try to eat a bit more healthily. This isn’t just to loose weight, but I think a lot of people tend to eat more than usual over the festive period so when it comes to January, people crave healthier food. 

Healthy food doesn’t just mean salads. I made these Herby Turkey Burgers as a healthier version of my Beef Burgers, but didn’t realise just how healthy they would be. If I told you these burgers without the bun were only 200 calories would you believe me? If you use turkey breast mince that has 2% fat then these burgers come in at just 200 calories. Even if you use turkey thigh mince which has 7% fat, these still work out at just under 240 calories. I think thigh meat has more flavour and the extra fat helps keep the burgers moist. 

Turkey can be a little bit bland which is why I think you need to pack it with flavour. Herbs and garlic go really well with turkey and help bring out its flavour. I have used fresh herbs in this recipe, but if you don’t have any just substitute them with a teaspoon of the equivalent in dried herbs. 

If you are trying to reduce the carbs you eat, you can easily enjoy this burger without the bun. But if you do fancy a bun, I recommend toasting it slightly as it really does make a difference – there’s a reason why if you order a burger in a restaurant the bun will be lightly toasted!

I can be a bit of a pain when I come up with a new recipe because ask Mr Curly for feedback. The majority of the sweet treats I make I ask other people whether they think I’ve got it right or I need to make some tweaks. But when it comes to savoury dishes it is a bit harder and I usually rely on Mr Curly. I made these and jokingly said to him I wanted his review in at least ten works – ‘nice’ and ‘tasty’ don’t give me much to go off! 

His response was “I don’t really know how to rate them apart from they’re really tasty and I’d happily have them again. Better than your beef burgers maybe.” Well that might not mean much to you, but I know how much he loves the beef burgers I make so I knew that these Herby Turkey Burgers were a winner. 

Serves 4

450g turkey mince 
70g cream crackers (8 crackers), broken up
1 egg
1 tsp garlic, chopped
½ tbsp fresh rosemary, chopped
½ tbsp fresh thyme
½ tsp dried sage
1 tsp sea salt
Pinch of black pepper
Spray oil 

  1. Preheat the oven to 180ºC
  2. Add all of the ingredients to a large bowl and mix thoroughly – I find the best way to do this is with your hands 

  1. Divide the mix into four equal balls and shape them into burger patties
  2. Spray a baking tray with oil and place the burgers on it

  1. Cook in the oven for 20-25 minutes, turning half way; until they are browned and crisp on each side 

  1. If you are going to serve the burger in a roll, just before the burgers are ready to come out of the oven, toast the buns

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