Hubby is the king of sandwiches (or, as he likes to call them, sammiches…). I suspect this is an American thing – I’ve yet to see anyone in an American show or film make a sandwich with less than what looks like the entire contents of their fridge! He also has a bit of a condiment fetish (understatement!) which means it’s rare for him not to have some flavour or other lurking in the fridge that is a must for the sandwich he’s making. Not that I’m complaining! Not when his sandwiches look, and taste, like this!
I will admit to being a little sceptical (understatement again!) when he said he was putting grapes in a sandwich, but they totally work with the chicken and their sweetness is a lovely compliment to the slightly smoky roasted pecans.
The other thing I love about this sandwich filling is that it’s not the laden with mayo version. Thanks to a clever substitution using 0% greek yoghurt this is actually a relatively healthy sandwich filling, honest!
And if you’re a packed lunch person then this is a great night-before make 🙂
Chicken Salad Sandwich
A fully loaded sandwich filling with sweet grapes and roasted pecans, made healthier by subbing greek yoghurt into the dressing.
Start by preheating your oven to 180C (160C if fan-assisted).
Poach the chicken first (if you're making to eat straight away then allow at least an hour for this). You can poach in white wine, white wine or cider vinegar, lemon juice etc. Top up with water to cover and then bring to a low boil. Boil, uncovered, for 15 minutes and then remove heat. Cover and set aside for 40 minutes.
While the chicken is doing its thing, spread the pecans out on a baking tray in one flat layer and pop in the oven for 7 minutes.
When the pecans are roasted, remove them from the tray and give them a few minutes to cool. Once cool, roughly chop (or place in a bag and lightly smash with a rolling pin), keeping the pieces big.
When the chicken has had its 40 minutes, lift out of the poaching liquid and dice into medium-sized cubes.
In a mixing bowl, mix the greek yoghurt, dijon mustard, and honey. You can add a teaspoon of salad cream here for a rounder flavour, but it's completely optional.
Add the diced chicken to the yoghurt mixture, season with salt and pepper and stir until well coated. Now add the halved grapes and the roasted pecans. Give everything a good mix and refrigerate for a few hours, or ideally overnight. This will allow the yoghurt to soak into the chicken and the flavours to mingle and settle.
Serve on a nice bread with some leaf lettuce and a few slices of tomato.
In my neverending quest for lunches that don’t involve something dull stuck between two bits of bread I came across this recipe by The Cozy Apron on Pinterest, and immediately fell in like with it.
Persuading Hubby to try this was a doddle. He loves coconut almost as much as he loves variety so asking him to have a go at something new really didn’t require much persuasion at all…
That and there’s something fun about having finger food for lunch. Hubbyquite likes to raid the deli counter in summer and have a picnic, even if that’s indoors which given the usual state of Scottish summers is usually the case. But as it’s not summer yet (or even remotely close) we decided to indulge in some hot finger food, courtesy of this recipe which we tweaked just a wee bit.
The original recipe also had a honey-mango-mayo dip but it didn’t really work for us. I suspect that might have been down in part to the overpowering honey that Hubby had used, but I’m not comfortable recommending something I didn’t actually like so instead let me suggest a honey-mustard dip or maybe a sweet Thai chilli dipping sauce, or mix the Thai with some mayo. Or even have them just as they are because really, the flavour of the goujons themselves was fantastic what with the quite lovely savoury and sweet coconut coating.
If you’re harbouring any doubts, or looking at these and thinking nasty nuggets from the yellow arch, you couldn’t be further from the truth! Although these are deep fried they’re not even remotely greasy, and the chicken inside was perfectly done and properly tender. We had ours for lunch but they’d be just as good as a starter or a badly behaved snack 🙂
Crunchy Coconuty Chicken Goujons
Grown up chicken "nuggets", coated in coconut and insanely moreish
Into a medium-sized shallow bowl (we used a pasta bowl) put flour, a couple of pinches of salt, pepper, 1/2 tsp each of onion and garlic granules and a pinch of cayenne pepper and give it all a good mix. Into another medium-sized shallow bowl crack the eggs and beat. Spread the shredded coconut onto a dinner plate. Set all three side by side and in this order.
Fill the saucepan to half-way with vegetable oil and heat slowly up to 175C/350F.
Coat and cook!
While the oil is heating, cut each chicken breast into 4 strips, then cut those in half to give you 8 strips per breast of roughly equal size.
Place them into a bowl before adding 1/2 tsp each of curry powder, onion and garlic granules, another pinch or two of cayenne pepper, and then season with salt and pepper before tossing the strips so that they’re coated in the seasoning.
Take one strip at a time and roll in the seasoned flour you prepped earlier until the strip is coated well. Next, dip it into the beaten eggs, and finally press into the shredded coconut until both sides are coated thoroughly. Set aside onto a clean plate and then repeat with until all the strips have been coated.
When the oil is at 175C/350F add 4-5 strips of coated chicken to the oil and allow to fry for 1.5-2 minutes or until they are a deep golden colour. Remove and place onto kitchen roll to blot the excess oil, seasoning with salt and pepper while they’re still hot. Repeat until all the strips have been fried, taking care to check the heat between batches and reheat back up to 175C/350F if it’s dropped before adding more chicken – it’s the key to keeping the goujons from being greasy.
Dish up with the chives sprinkled over the top, something to dip on the side, and go to your tropical place 🙂
I may have mentioned this before (!) but I suck at summer food, and I suck at lunchtime inspirations. They are my nemesis… or should that be nemisi? Regardless, I have finally, found something that ticks both the summer food and the lunch food boxes, and is so easy to make that it isn’t technically ‘cooking’, more like ‘mixing’ 🙂 Couscous! Did I mention that it’s ridiculously easy, like so-easy-its-a-crime-to-buy-it-ready-made, and takes next to no time to throw together? Both big plusses in my book, especially in this very un-Scottish heatwave when who in their right mind would want to spend any more time in a hot kitchen than they need to?
As well as being a great lunchtime option (it’s an awesome side to quiche) I’ve found that couscous makes a nice alternative to rice in the Summer when you’re having something that isn’t heavy on the sauce, like a bit of pan fried cod with lemon and garlic butter or some leftover roast chicken all torn up and tossed in a wee bit of tzatziki. Or wrap it up with hummus and some greenery for some portable noms!
So this is my base recipe, once these ingredients are in place anything goes really, like chargrilled veggies (courgettes and aubergines especially lend themselves well to this), or sunblush tomatoes instead of fresh, or coriander as your herb of choice, or plump raisins soaked in pomegranate molasses, toasted pine nuts or slivered almonds, go fruity and use orange zest and juice instead of lemon, pretty much whatever takes your fancy. No two versions need ever be quite the same, which isn’t a bad thing 🙂
A back to basics couscous that is packed full of lovely summer flavours.
3 inch long piece of cucumber, skinned and finely diced
fresh mint or parsley, chopped
olive or rapeseed oil
In a medium sized mixing bowl mix the couscous and stock, cover with clingfilm and leave for about 15 minutes. Add a couple of glugs of olive oil and fluff with a fork – the olive oil will keep the couscous from clumping together. Add everything else and mix well. Chuck it back in the fridge, covered, to let all the flavours infuse and blend, and that is it!
It doesn’t hurt to refresh it with a wee bit more olive/rapeseed oil before you’re going to tuck in, but otherwise keep it covered in the fridge and it should last you 2-3 days. And on the off chance that there’s still some left and in danger of going to waste, mix it with some flour and egg and fry yourself up some couscous cakes 🙂
I’m always complaining that I lack inspiration for lunches. Weekdays are worse because it has to be packable for Hubby, but even for weekends I struggle to come up with something that requires a wee bit more effort that doesn’t end up feeling like a dinner meal. Which is why I generally try to conspire to be in charge of suppers at the weekend 😉 and leave the lunches to Hubby, who always has better ideas for it than me anyway. Like this! It’s such a perfect summer lunch – the puff pastry base makes it much much lighter than a pizza, the abundance of tomatoes makes it really fresh, and there’s no slaving over a flame in this heat (yes, even in Scotland!) as you just pop the whole thing in the oven.
We’ve tried this with big fat vine tomatoes and with little sweet cherry tomatoes, and it’s good either way or using a mix of both. And as we’re right in the middle of the British tomato season you can literally have your pick of them 🙂
We’re really lucky in that we have access to some fabulous tommies either from our local, Real Foods on Broughton Street, or if we pop up to the Edinburgh Farmer’s Market on a Saturday the amazing selection from the peeps at Clyde Valley Tomatoes.
As well as struggling for lunchtime ideas I also suck at ‘Summer’ food, which is why the blog has been a wee bit quiet recently… But I’ve been trying a few new things out though so will hopefully be back to posting a little more regularly!
Easy Summery Tomatoey Tart
A Summery alternative to pizza, loaded with sweet seasonal tomatoes.
chilli infused rapeseed oil (we used Supernature’s) (optional)
Preheat the oven to 220C/430F. Line your baking tray with baking parchment before drizzling some olive oil over it and smearing it over the parchment with your fingers (or some kitchen roll) until the oil is fairly evenly spread. Unfurl the puff pastry sheet and centre it on the parchment. Score a 1 inch/2.5cm border around the edge of the pastry without cutting all the way through. Leave at room temperature for 10 minutes, or per the instructions on the box, which give you more than enough time to slice up the tomatoes and…
…make up the sauce, by combining the tomato puree, ketchup, garlic, balsamic, sugar, salt and pepper, and Magi (if using) and mix well – you’re wanting the sauce to have a paste-like consistency. Spread the sauce all over the pastry, taking care to keep it all within the border (otherwise the border won’t rise up).
Drain the mozzarella, tear it into small chunks and then scatter evenly over the sauce. Scatter the diced red onions over the cheese. Tear the parma ham (we found thirds worked well) and dot these all over the sauce. Finally, lay a generous spread of tomato slices on top and then season the lot with salt and pepper.
Brush the border of the pastry with milk to glaze and then pop into the preheated oven for 18-20 minutes or until the pastry border has risen up and is a lovely golden brown. Before serving, scatter some torn up basil over the tart. Hubby says to get the best flavour from fresh basil, tear them from the stems and lightly clap the leaves between your hands a few times to release the oils, and then tear into smaller pieces. Alternatively, frozen pre-chopped basil works really well too – I don’t know about you but there’s always way too much basil in a packet for me to actually ever finish so being able to grab a handful out of the freezer makes me not twitch about food waste!
Finally, drizzle all over with a bit of olive or rapeseed oil before slicing and serving. We are big fans of Supernature’s lovely chilli infused rapeseed oil which compliments all those lovely tomatoes while adding a subtle kick to the whole thing.
Anyone who knows me well knows that I’m properly fussy when it comes to fish. I like the expensive stuff (like lobsters, and big prawns, and scallops) or the meaty stuff (monkfish, I’m looking at you!) but can’t do anything that actually smells or tastes fishy, or hasn’t actually been cooked (smoked salmon is my nemesis…). But I’ve got a couple of months of dental work lined up so I’m on a quest to find “easy” things to eat, and fish is one of the most obvious candidates. Only I don’t eat it often, and have probably only ever cooked it from scratch once. Ever. So yeah. This was going to be tough! But I saw this recipe in Olive magazine and remembered various people raving about fish tacos so figured it was worth a shot. OM(G!) NOM NOM!!!!
Seriously, what is not to love about this recipe! Lovely fresh homemade salsa that is a total doddle, and despite frying the fish it was properly light and flakey with just that wee bit of spicey crunch from the seasoned flour coating. And eating it all felt all kinds of virtuously healthy!
This is yet another crazily imbalanced taste to effort ratio recipe – the salsa takes longest (ha!) and if you can do that in the afternoon then all you’re left to do in the evening is the fish, and that really does take next to no time. Honest. Given how terrified I was at the thought of cooking fish this was a good recipe to start with. And when the weather gets warmer this will be the perfect light supper to rustle up quickly, more so if you cheat and buy ready made salsa 😉
Lightly battered bites of spicey fish, topped with fresh zingy salsa, all wrapped up in a warm tortilla.
300g sustainable firm white fish, cut into bite-sized pieces
Stuff you’ll need for the salsa…
3 ripe tomatoes
1/2 small red onion, very finely chopped
1 small avocado, diced
1/2 lime, zest and juice
handful coriander, chopped
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tbsp pickled jalapenos, chopped (optional)
Stuff you’ll need to finish it…
Tortilla wraps (4-6 depending on how stuffed you like your wraps)
1 lime, quartered
If you can, make this a couple of hours ahead of time as it will give the salsa time to develop.
The best salsa, according to Hubby, is made by skinning and gutting your tomatoes first, so… fill a deep bowl with boiling water, and the sink with enough cold water to cover your tomatoes. Cut a wee cross at the top and bottom of each tomato and then one by one plunge into the boiling water first for about 30 seconds, fish out with a slotted spoon and drop into the cold water in the sink. The skins should now peel off really easily. Once you’ve peeled them, quarter, and then pull/scoop out the seeds and liquid and discard. Dice up what’s left and pop into a bowl, and then mix in all the rest of the ingredients and give it a good stir about. Place in the fridge until you’re ready to eat – the lime juice will keep the avocado from turning colour so make this as ahead of time as you like.
Mix the flour and cornflour with the spices and season really well (seriously, do not be shy with the salt here!) and put on a flat plate.
Crack your egg into a shallow bowl and beat.
Heat a large saucepan with 2cm of oil. When you can brown a cube of bread in 30 seconds then its ready.
Toss all the fish in the beaten egg until it’s well coated, and then toss it in the seasoned flour until, again, it’s well coated (I slapped on the CSI vinyl gloves and got stuck right in!). Fry for 2-3 minutes until the pieces have turned crisp and golden – depending on the size of your saucepan you may need to do this in two batches - and then “fish” out (sorry!!) and drain on kitchen paper.
Try a bit when it’s cooled down enough and salt if required.
Warm some tortillas up, pop three or four bits of fish down the middle, spoon over the salsa, squeeze a bit of lime all over, wrap it up and eat it up!
As well as my addiction to foodie mags I love me a good Saturday morning foodie show and start most weekends in the very fine company of James Martin and assorted chums. Like Simon Hopkinson, for instance, who’s recipe this is (or strictly speaking his mum’s) and the sight of it being made was enough of a lure to buy the cookbook that went along with the show! Somehow, I managed to sweet talk/con Hubby (*definitely con – Hubby) into making it this weekend (I think I called dibs on making the soup and left him with the pie…) and I have to say, it tasted just as good as I thought it would.
The slow cooking onions were soft and so sweet, which went perfectly with the sharp oozy cheese they were layered between, and the pastry literally crumble-melts in your mouth. We ate it still warm with a big bowl of homemade soup, feeling particularly productive as a result, but I suspect it will taste even better still when Hubby has it at work tomorrow for lunch 🙂
Simon Hopkinson’s recipe uses Lancashire cheese only, but Hubby and I found it a little crumbly and quite salty so we swapped out half the amount required for a lovely Mull of Kintyre cheddar instead and it worked a charm, which is what we’ve listed in the ingredients bit. If you’re a big fan of Lancs cheese though I’d go with Simon Hopkinson and just use 100% of that.
Cheese & Onion Pie
Sweet slow cooked onions go perfectly with sharp cheese in this Lancastrian pie.
salt and plenty of freshly ground pepper (white is recommended over black)
125-150g Lancashire cheese, coarsely grated
125-150g Scottish cheddar cheese, coarsely grated
a little milk to seal and glaze the pastry
Other stuff you’ll need…
loose-bottomed tart tin (approx 20cm wide x 4cm deep)
Make the pastry first:
Cut the butter and lard into small chunks and place in a large bowl with the flour and the salt. Gently rub the fat into the flour using your fingertips until it all looks and feels like very coarse breadcrumbs. If you’ve reached this point and it doesn’t look like breadcrumbs, but like dough, the best thing you can do is start again and make sure the fats are a room temp, as above, as you won’t be able to incorporate the water very well otherwise. That said, if you do have a breadcrumb-like texture, then mix in the water to bind the mixture together before kneading the dough until the water is well amalgamated. Don’t be afraid to go with the full 3 tablespoons if you think it needs it. Dust it with flour and pop it into a plastic bag, and place in the fridge for at least 30 minutes. You’ll want to take it out of the fridge 15 minutes before you’re ready to roll it, to give it time to come back up closer to room temperature.
While your dough is chilling, put the oven on to 180C/350F/gas mark 4 and pop the baking sheet in to preheat as well – this will help cook the base of the pie more evenly.
Make the filling:
Melt the butter in a large roomy pan before adding the onions. Turn the heat down low and allow the onions to gently wilt and stew for about 10 minutes, you don’t want them to colour. Once the 10 minutes is up season and add the water, then leave it to keep cooking still over that gentle heat with an occasional stir until almost all the liquid has cooked off. Tip the cooked onions onto a plate, spreading them out to help them cool, and set aside.
Make the pie:
Lightly butter your tart tin, and set aside.
Retrieve your pastry from the fridge and tear about 2/3rds of it off. Roll this out until it’s moderately thin, and then line the base and sides of the tin with it. Use a fork to gently prick the base of the pastry all over in a random and moderate spread, then cover the base with half the onions and then half the grated cheese, and then repeat with the remaining halves.
Roll out the remaining 1/3rd of the pastry to a similar thickness (or thinness!) as before, making sure it’s wide enough to cover the tin, and then gently lay it on top of the filling. Brush the edges of the pastry where the edges of the pie case and lid meet with milk to seal the lid before pressing the edges together gently to seal. Trim off any excess overhang, and then brush the surface of the pie with milk.
Before you pop it in the oven, use the point of a sharp knife to make 3 small incisions into the centre of the pie. Lightly drag the point of the knife across the surface of the pie, not enough to cut through it just enough to mark it, to creat a lattice pattern. Lastly gently press the tines of a fork around the edge of the crust to help seal the pie.
Put the pie on your preheated baking sheet and bake on the middle shelf of the oven for 40-50 minutes, until the pie is golden and you can see a wee bubble of cheese and onion juices coming up through those holes you made in the middle.
Once your pie is out of the oven, leave it for at least 20-30 minutes before trying to remove it from the tin. It also helps to run a butter knife gently all the way around the edge of the tin, and then place the pie on top of something like a can before slowly easing the side of the tin down and off.
Cut into wedges, and enjoy while its still warm or at room temperature.
A few notes from Hubby
Make sure that your fats, the lard and butter, are at room temperature before you start. This will ensure that they’re much easier to work through the flour without a lot of kneading involved. Over-mixing will toughen the dough and just result in problems later.
On the onions; I, being a fussy sceptic who loves his seasonings, added two of my ‘secret ingredients’, in a few dashes of Maggi Liquid Seasoning and a spoonfull of Chicken Powder (think fluffed chicken stock cube), and the flavour most certainly did not suffer as a result. Also, the recipe says ‘teacupful of water’ – I took a normal tea/coffee mug and had it about half-full, and this worked a treat.