Chicken & Mushroom Risotto

Making a risotto is scary right? Wrong! Risottos really aren’t that tricky to make. Like most people, I was nervous before trying one for the first time, but it was really quite simple. One of my favourites to knock up is a chicken and mushroom risotto.

Start by cutting up chicken breasts – one per person – and cook them off, before setting aside. Melt some butter in a deep frying pan – a generous amount – and add one large, finely chopped onion – red or white, your choice. Allow the onion to sweat, along with a couple of crushed garlic cloves, until they start to soften. Now, add some chopped mushrooms and bacon and allow them to start cooking too.

To the veggies, add your risotto rice, the pack will indicate how much per person and mix around. Let that cook until it starts to turn translucent, before adding around a glass of white wine. When that’s started to cook down, add some chicken stock. I made around a litre, but only put in a quarter to start with. Keep stirring the rice and add more stock as it’s absorbed into the mix.

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After around 15minutes, return the chicken to the pan, adding any extra stock as required and after another 5minutes, providing the rice is cooked through, take the pan off the heat, throw in some grated parmesan and allow that to melt into the dish. It should look creamy and ready to serve.

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Dish up and sprinkle some extra parmesan and black pepper on the top.

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Potato & Bacon Bake

I was looking for a different idea for potatoes, so thought I’d see if I could do a ‘potato bake’.

I started by finely slicing potatoes and onions and cooking them in boiling water, complete with a dissolved chicken stock pot for around 5 minutes.

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Then, I placed the par-cooked veg into a baking dish, along with some chopped up bacon scattered throughout and some generous blobs of cream cheese (I used a supermarket own brand). Once the dish was nicely packed, I ladled over some of the cooking water from the saucepan to about a quart of an inch below the rim.

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Pop some more cream cheese on the top and cover with foil.

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Place in a pre-heated oven at 200C for 20minutes, after which, remove the foil and return the dish to the oven for a further 20minutes, to allow the top layer of potatoes to crisp up.

Dish up with a slotted spoon, so you don’t get too much of the liquid on the plate and serve with whatever you fancy – on this occasion, we had chicken kievs (I was feeling lazy!)

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The potatoes went down very well with Hubby, who went back for seconds, so they must have passed the test!

Seasonal Fruit Crumble

The blackberries around here are really coming on beautifully. My fiancé and I love foraging – possibly me more than him! – and so far, we’ve picked over 12lb of juicy blackberries.

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Last week, I was also given some lovely rhubarb from a friend’s garden and my father-in-law-to-be, gave me some strawberries. He’s a potato farmer near Peterborough and sells a range of produce every weekend in the Notcutts Layby, Oundle Road. Check him out on Facebook and pop along for your veggies if you’re nearby 😊

I was in the mood for something comforting, so I thought I’d knock up a crumble. It’s so simple to do:

Pop your fruit in a saucepan, you need a good 1-1.5lb minimum. Add a splash of water and pop on a low heat to start stewing. Let it cook until the fruit starts to soften, this is when I add some sugar, cinnamon and ginger. Not too much and taste as you go, so you get the flavour you like.

Pour the fruit – carefully, it’s hot – into a well-greased dish. For the crumble, I follow Delia’s basic crumble mix. You may like to do a double batch, if like us, you like a lot of crumble 😊 This is my go-to crumble recipe and it’s never failed me.

To work the crumble into its breadcrumb form, I cannot recommend getting a pastry cutter enough. I used one for the first time the other day and it saved time and joint ache! They’re pretty inexpensive and to me, are a wonder.

When the crumble is done, gentle pour evenly over your fruit and pop the whole thing on another baking tray – in case of bubbling over – and place in the oven at 180C for around half an hour, or until the crumble is golden and the fruit really bubbling.

Serve with cream, custard or ice cream and enjoy.

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Big Breakfast Omelette

My fiancé loves an omelette to set him up for the day, especially what I call the Big Breakfast Omelette.

Start by heating a frying pan and melt a bit of butter. Slice half an onion – we prefer red – and add that to the melted butter, along with a few cherry tomatoes. Season with pepper. I don’t use salt as the bacon will be salty enough.

Give these a little time to soften and then add some chopped mushroom and bacon of your choice. You could also add some sausage slices.

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Once everything has started to cook nicely, whisk four eggs in a bowl and add to the pan. Let the egg sit still for a good minute or so, until you start seeing bubbles on the surface.

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Gently pull the edges back with a fish slice and allow the raw egg from the top of the omelette to run down underneath.

You may like to add a little grated cheese at this point and also some chopped spring onions. If you like your omelette well done, you could pop it under the grill, just to firm up the top. If not, fold it in half in the pan, don’t worry if it breaks, we’re not on TV(!) and allow the heat to just cook the middle a little longer, before transferring to a plate.

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For me, I prefer something a little lighter and my filling of choice is smoked salmon – I just by the trimmings from the supermarket, which are a fraction of the cost of the posh stuff.

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Garlic Chilli Prawns

We’re still trying to ‘eat right’ as our wedding fast approaches, but there are only so many days a week I can eat chicken breast! In the search for something different, I invested in some jumbo, raw prawns, which I turned into a tasty garlic, chilli prawn dish.

I started by adding some oil to a frying pan and allowing that to warm up, before adding 5 small cloves of garlic, crushed – if you really like garlic, add some more! To the garlic, I added two finely chopped chillis – not too fiery for me, but again, cook to your taste – the seeds were left in and some paprika sprinkled over the top.

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Allow these to come together for a couple of minutes and then add some small pieces of chorizo if you have it, don’t panic if you don’t. Cook until it starts to release some of its juices and then throw in some freshly chopped tomatoes.

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Now it’s time to throw in your lovely prawns, along with the juice of one lemon. When the prawns start to turn pink, add some chopped mushrooms.

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To serve, we had pasta, but you could have crusty bread or a salad.

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Quick Chicken & Apricot

As much as I love chicken, every now and then I can groan at the thought of another dinner, with chicken breast as the base. But, it’s healthy, blah, blah, blah!

Attempting to do something different, I raided the cupboards for inspiration and found a tin of apricots.

To start this dish, I gently sweated off some chopped onions in a deep frying pan, before adding in diced chicken breast and allowing it to brown. Then, it was in with some sliced mushrooms and a chicken stock pot. I also tipped in a tin of apricots, juice and all.

To make the sauce, I wanted a sweet chilli sauce, only I didn’t have any! So, I thought how I could improvise and used tomato ketchup and chilli flakes, with a pinch of dried thyme. To help thicken the sauce, I made a cornflour slurry and stirred that in.

A couple of minutes before the dish was ready, I added a handful of spinach and allowed that to wilt, before serving with couscous.

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Chicken & Mango Curry

Now, I’m not usually one to blow my own trumpet, but before I start with this recipe, I would like to say that my fiancé has said this is ‘the best curry he’s ever tasted’!! Not that I’m chuffed with that or anything 😊

This is a simple curry, it does take about an hour to make, but it’s really worth it.

Start by chopping two chicken breasts into bite sized pieces and toss them in a little ground turmeric, ground cumin and a tiny bit of salt. (Do one chicken breast per person, so it’s easily stretchable for more serving).

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Heat a large and deep non-stick frying pan with some coconut oil on a medium-low heat. Finely chop either two small onions or one large onion – red or white, it doesn’t matter. Sprinkle a little ground turmeric and cumin on the onions and give them a good stir to coat. Now take a thumb-sized piece of fresh ginger and peel – I find the best method is with a teaspoon, honestly, it works really well. Finely chop and add about a fifth to the frying pan, mixing it in. Put the rest in a large bowl or jug.

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Pop the chicken and spices into the frying pan and give a good stir. Take a large, fresh mango and cut into rough cubes – I favour the hedgehog method for getting into my mangoes. Add the flesh and as much juice as you can to the jug with the ginger and blitz with a handheld blender. Now add in two small pots of korma paste (I used Pataks), two chicken stock pots, some more ground turmeric and cumin, garlic powder and a can of coconut milk. I use full fat, but if you’d like to use light, I’m sure it would be fine 😉 Blitz the lot together until you have a smooth texture and add to the frying pan, again stirring.

Allow this all to bubble together for a while and add some ground almonds to thicken the mix – omit if you are serving to anyone with a nut allergy. Grind in some fresh, black pepper and add a little ground coriander. Mix again. Cut up another mango and add the flesh to the curry.

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Now is a good time to put some rice on to boil. Whichever you prefer. I also throw a few mushrooms in the water to cook at the same time. Keep tasting the curry and add anything you feel is missing. When the rice is cooked, the curry should be ready to serve. Enjoy with poppadoms, naan bread and any other Indian extras you like.

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I haven’t tried it, but I’m sure you could substitute the chicken for prawns or a veggie alternative.