Tuesday, 28 April 2009

Rosemary and Sea Salt Chicken Nuggets

Those of you who have read Nigella Lawson's Feast will recognise this recipe as very similar to her 'Ritzy Chicken Nuggets' and that is because that is how this started out. But not being able to get my hands on packet of Ritz crackers without an hour round trip to the supermarket, I had to improvise and, is so often the case, necessity is the mother of invention. The main adjustment is that I use Rosemary and Sea Salt crackers in place of plain ones (or any other herby crackers). This adds a slightly more grown-up dimension to the chicken nuggets while still being suitable for children and I am always pleased with a recipe that I can give my son without feeling we had to compromise on the taste. I served this up alongside Nigella's New Orleans Coleslaw and a potato gratin. (Can anyone tell I'm reading my way through Nigella Express at the minute?) With expectant hope, it was slightly more summery than I have been serving in recent days. I will definately be serving up a large batch of these the next time I have a large gathering of people.

2 chicken breasts
1 x 284ml tub buttermilk
150g Rosemary and Sea Salt crackers (I used Jacobs)
125ml vegetable oil

1. Put the chicken breasts one at a time into a freezer bag so that they lie flat. Bash with a rolling pin until the chicken is quite thin, and then take it out and slice into about six to eight slices or goujons. Repeat with the other chicken breast.

2. Put the sliced goujons into a freezer bag with the buttermilk and leave in the fridge to marinate for up to 2 days.

3. When you are ready to cook them, heat the oil in a large frying pan. Put the crackers into a bag, seal the end, then bash them as above and, once they have broken down a little, roll them with a rolling pin still inside the bag.

4. Tip the crumbs into a wide shallow bowl, and then shake off the excess buttermilk from the nuggets and dip them in the crumbs. Coat them well before laying gently in the hot oil, and cooking for about 2 or 3 minutes a side until they are golden brown. Try to fry in two batches or you may have to change the oil.

5. Transfer to some kitchen towel on a plate to blot the excess oil. Pop them in a warm oven to keep warm while you do the next batch.

These adequately served me, my husband and my baby son and they freeze perfectly though I doubt there'll be any leftovers.

Wednesday, 22 April 2009

Hot Discovery

I am gravely aware of the lack of posting that has taken place recently but such is the result of over indulgence during the Easter period. All cooking recently has been rather simple or else stolen (by that I mean I have used others recipes unadulterated and, hence, do not feel justified to post about them as if they are my own). However, I would like to share one of my recent food discoveries.
I have made Quesadillas for years but having bought Nigella Lawson’s ‘Express’ over Easter I noticed she uses Jalapeno Chilli Peppers in them. They weren’t hard to find – I got them at the supermarket but I don’t buy ready-made sauces so I don’t often venture down that aisle. I love a ‘kick’ in my food and I always have chilli flakes in my spice cupboard and am forever throwing a pinch into various dishes. But these are a different way of instilling heat into a dish. They don’t so much infuse a dish with heat as chilli flakes do but rather give a heat explosion when you bite into one. They give a real fiery bite to quesadillas, chilli and pasta. They are bottled in vinegar, ready sliced, so itis as simple as opening the jar. You can see the brand I tried above but I am sure there are various brands and varieties which I will be looking out for in the future.

Wednesday, 15 April 2009

Easter Feasting

In the run up to Easter I planned a marathon of baking and cooking to provide for the various guests that would be coming through our doors. I just love the cooking and baking that each annual festivity demands if we are to meet its culinary traditions. Unfortunately, however, I am suffering for it now. By the time Easter Sunday night came round all my visitors had eaten sumptuously in their prior visits of the day and just passed themselves politely at my table by nibbling a few bites. Thus, I have been left with a hoard of sugar-laden delights to share with my husband. Needless to say, right now all I wish for is a slice of plain bread and butter.

Easter Sunday is the day when everyone is focused on the Lamb. (I opted for a leg of lamb and was lazy enough to get my butcher to bone it for me.) While the lamb was a success I was secretly most pleased with the stuffing. It was a moist, fruity stuffing which accompanied the lamb perfectly. It's been a while since I've cooked a leg of lamb and I had in my memory some vague recollection of a stuffing I made at the time consisting of apricots, dates and pinenuts. With this in mind, I set about to create a similar stuffing. I had attempted to make hot cross buns the day before, with less than perfect results, so being determined not to let them go to waste I decided I would use them in my stuffing. I can vaguely remember what it tasted like before so, while I am not sure if this is similar, I do know it was delicious.

Apricot, Date and Pinenut Stuffing (for Lamb)

2 stale hot cross buns
1 onion
handful of apricots
5/6 dates
1 rosemary sprig


1. Process each of the above ingredients individually in a food processor. As each ingredient is processed add it to a large bowl.

2. Mix all the ingredients together (the mixture should be damp).

3. Stuff your leg of lamb with the stuffing and put any extra in a small dish.

4. Cook the lamb according to your timings and the extra dish for 20-30mins uncovered in the same oven as your lamb.

Friday, 3 April 2009

Fennel Bread

Well, the bread making experiment continues and yesterday it was Fennel Bread. This was provoked by two things: (i) the desire I have to use up some close-to-expiry fennel seeds and (ii) the urge to try out a supposedly very simple bread recipe (http://www.artisanbreadinfive.com/ ). I must confess I was a sceptic about the bread recipe. You’re always told to treat bread dough with care, commonly, “Treat it as you would a woman…..” This recipe seemed too simple to be a success but a success it was! And the fennel was wonderfully aromatic. Now perhaps in a few years time when I have mastered the art of bread making at home I will look back and think this is a poor alternative to the loaf that comes from a perfectly kneaded , elastic dough but as yet I’m not that discerning. Warm, soft with a crispy crust, it was the perfect accompaniment to my baby version of spag bol and both daddy and my little one loved it!

Fennel Bread


One 7g sachet yeast
1 tbsp table salt
3 cups of room temp. water
6½ cups of plain flour
1 tbsp fennel seeds lightly crushed


1. In a large bowl mix all the ingredients together using a big wooden spoon (the mixture will be quite tacky). Cover with cling film and leave out for about two hours to rise (or store immediately in the fridge for a long rise).

2. Pre-heat oven to 230° and place a roasting dish (or some other metal dish that will hold a cup of water) in the bottom of the oven. Grease and then dust with flour two 2lb loaf tins.

3. Divide half the mixture into each tin (no kneading required). Make sure you keep dusting dough with flour while shaping so doesn't stick. Putting it into a loaf tin requires minimal shaping so I just floured my hands and the top of the dough before I took it out of the bowl.

4. Let it rest for about half hour or until it's a bit puffy. It won't double in size but it puffs up really well in the oven.

5. Dust the top with flour (and a few more fennel seeds if you wish) then slash the dough down the middle. Immediately place in the oven and as you do so throw a cup of hot water into the roasting dish in the bottom of your oven and quickly close the door.

6. Bake for about 50mins-1hr. Check by removing a loaf from its tin and knocking the bottom with your knuckles. If it sounds hollow it’s ready.