Pesto Chicken Stew with Cheesy Dumplings

This is one of my favourite recipes from BBC Good Food which I have made multiple times, and it never fails to warm you up on a cold day – it’s the ultimate Autumnal comfort food.

What’s also great is that you make it all in one big pot and any leftovers can be frozen for another night (I have been known to cook this recipe for 8 people for just myself and freeze the rest!)

Due to the fact I have made this recipe various times, I have tried different additions along the way, the most successful of which I will include below! I hope you enjoy it 🙂

Ingredients (serves 8):

Dumplings:

  • 140g butter
  • 250g self-raising flour
  • 100g parmesan, grated
  • 50g pine nuts
  • 150ml cold water
  • 1 handful fresh basil leaves, finely chopped (my addition)

Stew:

  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 12-15 chicken thighs (with bone but no skin)
  • 200g smoked bacon lardons (I also like to use pancetta cubes as an alternative)
  • 1 large white onion, chopped
  • 4 celery sticks, chopped
  • 3 leeks, chopped
  • 4 tbsp plain flour
  • 200ml white wine (I find a light wine such as a sauvignon blanc works best)
  • 1 litre good quality chicken stock
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 200g frozen peas
  • 140g sundried tomatoes
  • 140g fresh pesto (green pesto)
  • Small bunch of basil, chopped

Method:

I like to start by making the dumplings first, as then they can chill in the fridge until needed. Place the flour in a large bowl, and chop the butter into small cubes and add to the flour. Then as if you were making a crumble topping, rub the flour and butter between your fingertips to resemble fine breadcrumbs.

Mix in the grated cheese and chopped basil and approximately 150ml of cold water, adding bit by bit whilst you mix with a cutlery knife until it all comes together to form a light dough, which is slightly sticky to the touch. Break off walnut sized pieces and roll into small balls and (after placing the pine nuts on a plate) roll in the pine nuts so they stick to the outside. Put all the dumplings on a cling filmed plate in the fridge.

Next, it’s time for the stew! Heat the oil in a large casserole dish and brown the chicken so all sides are golden. Due to the amount of the chicken I would advise doing this in a couple of batches, and setting aside in a separate bowl once browned. Once all the chicken is browned, leave to the side.

Next, add the bacon lardons (or pancetta cubes) to the casserole dish to crisp up, then add the onion, celery and leeks. Cook for about 10 minutes until the vegetables have softened. Stir in the flour and season with salt and pepper, cooking for another couple of minutes.

Stir in the wine and allow to reduce slightly, then stir in the stock. Return the chicken thighs to the pan along with the bay leaves; cover the casserole dish with a lid. Reduce the heat so that the stew is gently simmering, and then leave to simmer for about 1.5 hours, or until the chicken is tender.

(Remove the dumplings from the fridge during the last 30 minutes of the stew’s cooking time, to allow them to come back up to room temperature.)

Heat the oven to 200 / 180 degrees celsius if fan oven. Add the peas, sundried tomatoes, pesto and basil to the stew, stirring everything in. Place the dumplings on top of the stew and scatter a few more pine nuts on top if you wish. Place the dish in the oven and cook for about 25 minutes until the dumplings are golden and cooked through.

pesto chick stew

I like to serve this dish with home made crusty bread to mop up the lovely juices!

As mentioned above, any leftovers can be portioned off and frozen for another day. Enjoy! 😀

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Criterion Restaurant, London

Afternoon, Abi here.

After much deliberating over many yummy possibilities, I decided to take Will to Criterion for his birthday lunch! What swayed me in the end was the beautiful interior (that’s featured in quite a few films!) and history of the restaurant. Check it out here: http://www.criterionrestaurant.com/

Upon first stepping into the restaurant we were taken very good care of, the atmosphere was great, it didn’t feel like we were in the middle of a busy tourist filled London at all!

For my starter I decided to go for the beef carpaccio, which isn’t something I usually go for, but I was intrigued by the way it was described on the menu – coming with a parmesan basket that was filled with beetroot and rocket, with a balsamic glaze. It was as tasty as the below picture shows:

Criterion 3

I absolutely love duck, and there was a very appetising duck main on the menu which I had no trouble deciding on! It was accompanied by red pepper glaze, cranberry puree and kumquat jus, which sounds like a lot of different flavours on one plate, but it all tasted great when eaten together with the juicy pink duck breast.

Criterion 4

After these two decent sized portions my boyfriend and I decided to do the sensible thing and share a dessert, there was no way I was missing out on one! I have to say the dessert was definitely my favourite course, we chose the panna cotta, which came in little delicious cubes that melted in your mouth, with tiny pieces of crunchy shortbread, a rhubarb ice cream that was finished off with a basil sorbet and raspberrys and basil leaves dotting the plate.

Criterion 5

It was a slightly pricey place – for 2 courses each, a shared dessert and 2 glasses of wine the bill came to just over £100 – but it was definitely worth the money! As well as beautiful food, the service was wonderful and interior was amazing. A great place for good food on a special occasion.

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My love for lovetubs

I can’t actually express how much I adore lovetubs! I first discovered them when on a girly night in with my best friend, she excitedly said “I’ve got the best thing for pudding!” and that was that. I’ve been introducing them to people ever since, and bought Will his first lovetub a couple of weeks ago, he practically licked the tub clean! 😛

Even though it can be quite hard to find them, I can’t resist buying one whenever I see one. They seem to be becoming increasingly popular, with the new orange chocolate flavour, which is definitely my favourite!

They’ve also got new mini lovetubs as well as, which is great for when I’m on my own and haven’t got Will there to share one of the big ones with me 😉

Despite this I’m still surprised how many people haven’t actually heard of lovetubs, so if you ever get the chance to try one I suggest you do, then you can share in my heaven of gooey perfection in a pot! Check them out here: http://www.lovetub.co.uk/

love tubs

Decisions decisions….

Rack of Lamb with Pesto, Parmesan and Breadcrumb Crust

Spring has sprung! (sort of) And one of my favourite spring time meats is Lamb, even though they do look cute skipping around a field, they taste better in my belly! (sorry to any vegetarians/vegans…)

So here’s my recipe for a scrummy rack of lamb, along with  minty new potatoes and a side of shelled broad beans, peas, spring onions and pancetta, as well as a red wine jus for serving. Be warned, this is quite time consuming, especially when allowing 6-8 for the lamb to get all juicy and tasty in the marinade, but totally worth it!

(2 racks of lamb; 7-8 cutlets each -serves about 4, or 2 hungry adults :P)

Ingredients:

Pesto Crust:

  • 4 small bunches of fresh basil
  • 4 garlic cloves
  • 100g pine nuts
  • 100g parmesan (grated)
  • about 100ml extra virgin olive oil (add more if needed)
  • 30/40g breadcrumbs

Side:

  • 500g shelled broad beans
  • 500g peas
  • 12 slices pancetta, chopped
  • 500g spring onions, chopped

Red Wine Jus:

  • salt and pepper
  • dry red wine, good glug
  • 1 tbsp red currant jelly
  • 1 tbsp cornflour

Marinade:

  • 125ml light olive oil
  • 125ml dry white wine
  • 4 cloves crushed garlic
  • 1 tbsp fresh thyme, chopped
  • 1 tbsp rosemary, chopped

Method:

  • First of all you need to marinade your lamb. Whisk together all the ingredients for the marinade and put over the racks of lamb, which should be places in a deep roasting dish. Leave in the fridge for 6-8 hours, stir occasionally, and bring to room temperature one hour before cooking.
  • Second, make your pesto sauce – start by whizzing together the basil and garlic in a food processor  add the pine nuts and grated parmesan and whizz again, then have it running whilst you slowly add the olive oil to emulsify. Add salt and pepper to taste and then spoon into a jar adding a splash on olive oil on the top, refrigerate.
  • After this, combine the breadcrumbs with 2 tablespoons more of parmesan, and leave in a bowl for later.
  • Prepare your broad beans, blanch for 2 minutes and then run under cold water, this should allow you to easily slip their skins off.
  • Put a 500g-750g bag of baby new potatoes on to boil for about 20 minutes until tender, drain and sprinkle of chopped mint and butter, shake and leave somewhere to keep warm.
  • When it comes to cooking, seal the fatty sides of the racks of lamb in a little of the marinade juices. Once sealed and golden brown place in a roasting tin, fatty side up. Add your pesto sauce to the breadcrumb and parmesan mixture a teaspoon at a time until you have a thick paste consistency, then spoon this onto the fatty sealed sides of each rack of lamb, pressing down to make sure it sticks. Finish with an extra sprinkling of breadcrumbs and parmesan on top for extra crunch.
  • Cook for about 15 minutes at 190 degrees, and then rest on a wooden board for 5 minutes.
  • Whilst the lamb is cooking, brown off the chopped spring onions and pancetta in a large non stick frying pan, added a good grinding of pepper, once browned, add the peas (after cooking for 2 minutes) and the shelled broad peas and warm through.
  • For the red wine jus, add the red currant jelly, red wine, and cornflour (after mixed with a little cold water) to a saucepan and heat through. Once the lamb is cooked, add the juices from the roasting tray to this to add more flavour, season with salt and pepper, once slightly thicken and to your liking, sieve the jus into a warm jug.
rack-of-lamb-with-pesto-parmesan-an

Ready to cut and serve!

Phew! Hope you enjoy if you try, Abi x

Paprika Chicken Traybake

Hey all, Will here 🙂

This is a great prepare ahead tray bake recipe for those of you that like a bit of spice! 😉

Ingredients:

  • 4 boneless chicken breasts
  • 12 smoked pancetta slices
  • 1 fresh lemon
  • 20-30 cherry tomatoes
  • 4 tablespoons smoke paprika
  • 2 tablespoons mixed herbs (fresh if you have them!)
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • salt and pepper

Method:

  • Put the paprika, mixed herbs and a generous grinding of salt and pepper onto a plate.
  • Mix together, and roll each chicken breast until covered (add more if needed).
  • Wrap 3 slices of the smoked pancetta around each breast, securing with cocktail sticks if needed.
  • Place in a large roasting tray with the cherry tomatoes.
  • Cut the lemon into 4 and squeeze the juice over, placing the quarters in the tray as well.
  • Drizzle a good glug of olive oil over the top and give the tray a shake to make sure all ingredients have a covering.

Bake in a preheated over at 180-190 degrees for about 40 minutes. Move all around and turn chicken half way through cooking.

This goes really well with baby new potatoes and asparagus which have both been cooked with butter and lemon mmmmm 🙂

paprika-chicken-traybake

Mexican Street Food

As I think it’s already been mentioned, Will and I both absolutely LOVE Mexican food, so when an offer was on for a Mexican Street Food cookery class at Jamie Oliver’s ‘Recipease’ food and kitchen venues, I booked it straight away!

So we arrived on a Saturday afternoon at the Notting Hill venue, hungry and ready to cook! The venue was decorated in true Jamie fashion, and had a great fun vibe. As we are super keen, we were the first ones from the group to get there, so we got given a lovely drink whilst we waited for the rest of the group (10 of us in total) to arrive.

Ready, steady, cook!

Ready, steady, cook!

Once everyone was here we met our Chef for the day, a lovely Aussie lady, and told what we would be making, which included: chicken tortillas, corn fritters and Ceviche.

First off we prepared the chicken for the tortillas, putting this on to brown each side, once this was done we added the amazing sauce (juicy, spicy and tomatoey!) and let it simmer away until the end of the cooking time. When ready, this along with some sliced red onions and herbs, went into the floury tortillas to be rolled into little packages of joy! I absolutely LOVED this, so simple yet so tasty 😀

Second we prepared the ingredients for the Ceviche, the only thing we cooked was the prawns, other than that, the other fish (squid and cod) was chopped up and left to marinade in the acidity of lime juice – which I was a bit dubious about, but it worked really well! When at the end of our cooking time, this was presented in a tall glass with the fish and a tomato sauce mixed in together, and the cooked prawns placed over the edge. It was definitely Will’s favourite (he adores fish and seafood) and he polished off the majority!

Lastly we made our dough for the corn fritters! Neither Will or I had made corn fritters before, but it went surprisingly well! We were warned that there’s a fine line between under cooking and overcooking these, as you have to submerge them in oil to cook. We were told to watch carefully as they are ready as soon as they are nicely golden brown all over and rise to the surface of the pan, and I think we did pretty well for a first attempt! And because we are both OCD about presentation, we made sure we made 6 corn fritters out of the dough that were exactly the same size, which looked pretty nice laid across the wooden board with the garnish, if I do say so myself!

At the start I wasn’t sure how we would manage to cook all the various things in a class which was only one and a half hours long (as I hate being rushed!) but the set up worked really well, we were shown demos bit by bit, which we then went and did ourselves, until everything came together as a big Mexican platter of amazingness!

Our finished creation!

Our finished creation!

After we had demolished everything in the above picture, we went and wandered around the shop downstairs (which I wanted to buy everything from!) We did however get persuaded to buy some very yummy looking mulled wine syrup, as it was bitterly cold outside, so this was very appealing! We went back to Will’s flat content with full belly’s and the promise of mulled wine once we got in, yum!