Friday, 27 March 2015

Tarragon Chicken Pasta Bake - Baby food for Grown Ups

It's not crumble, it's pasta bake for grown ups. 
I think I must have eaten maybe three pasta bakes in my life and I don't know why it's not more. Pure comforting stodge, an often cheesy creamy carb fest that's gone crispy on the top. A random Nigella recipe popped up on my Facebook feed the other day for an insanely simple pasta recipe involving ham, creme fraiche and peas, the easiest supper ever with room to make it more grown up if you should so wish. The other night I set out to cook tarragon chicken risotto, which is a post Sunday roast special in our house. Except I didn't have any risotto rice* or parmesan. Or onions. Nightmare. I found a secret stash of arborio rice when cleaning out my cupboard the next day, you should do it some time, you find all sorts of things!!!!! After about 15 minutes deliberating whether or not to go to the shop (which would have taken four minutes) I took up the ready steady cook challenge and made do. And that's how this recipe came along. 

Feeds two with leftovers for drunken midnight feasts.

Preheat the oven to 180c. Cook enough pasta for 2, use a short pasta like penne or fusilli. Gent fry a finely chopped onion (I used two manky spring onions as it's all I had) in  a splash of olive oil or melted butter and add a minced clove of garlic after five minutes. Add a heaped teaspoon of dried tarragon (if you have fresh, great, just add it a bit later, when you add the chicken) and a splash of white wine. Let it bubble for a couple of minutes (but don't let it all evaporate) and add a couple of handfuls of shredded left over roast chicken and season well. Stir in a tbsp of creme fraiche and baby leaf spinach if you have it (this is a super flexible recipe). Grate in a handful of parmesan or cheddar. Drain your pasta which should be cooked by now and mix the chicken mixture with it. Take either individual ceramic dishes or one big one and divide the mix between them. Top with breadcrumbs mixed with the chopped zest of half a lemon, a bit more grated cheese and salt and pepper. Bung it in the oven and it's ready when golden.

Devour with your chosen green, chicory for me, peas for The Husband (I can't stand peas) and then collapse in a carb coma about ten minutes later when you realise how much bigger your eyes are than your fat pasta filled stomach. 

*In desperation I even googled 'Can you make risotto with pudding rice?' The resounding answer was a definite no. 

Tuesday, 24 February 2015

Pork Chop For Wurzels Fans

No pink bits here
I haven't blogged for ages, and my Dad noticed and took the trouble to tell me that I hadn't done anything since the pizza post in September, so I thought I'd better pull my finger out. Especially since I have been cooking lots recently. I got a puppy and got married, both pretty time consuming past times, but now the wedding is over and I can turn by back on my puppy for more than 0.158 seconds before something terrible happens, I'm back, cooking more, and will try and blog more often. For selfish reasons really, it's easier to google a recipe on my blog than find the recipe book or remember how to make something. But I hope you can make good use of it too. 

This recipe, pork chops braised in cider, is somewhat perfect for the chilly weather we've been having recently (HELLO! IT IS FEBRUARY!) and is far easier than cooking a pork chop quickly, to perfection. Done quickly and perfectly it is a delight to behold, but all too easy to over-cook to the texture of a flip flop, or under-cook, in search of juicyness and serve up raw. We have an on-going hilaaarious joke in my house that I can't cook a pork chop, EVERY time I cook one for the Husband (that still feels so weird) there are pink raw bits and he won't listen to me when I tell him that all the fancy restaurants cook it slightly pink these days, I just get cries of 'But it's bleeeding'. Whatever.

Anyway, no danger of that here, the pork is slowly braised to forkable (is that a word?) softness, with a gorgeous cider sauce, just the right balance of sweet and tangy.

Feeds 2. Season two pork chops and brown really well in a little olive oil in a  casserole dish that fits them fairly snugly. Remove the chops, set aside, and soften a small sliced onion, adding more oil if you need it. Don't burn. Add a chopped clove of garlic after 5 minutes and after that has had a minute to cook put the pork back in and pour in approx 200ml of cider. I use Wild Wood, best cider ever, but it sometimes makes me scrimp on the cider in the recipe because I like to drink most of it. Add a good splash of water, give it a stir, and simmer on a low heat with lid on for about 45 minutes, turning the chops over half way. At this point the pork should be really soft, if not cook a little longer. If you have too much sauce then just quickly bubble on a higher heat for a bit. Add a big blob of creme fraiche and check seasoning, sprinkling with a little chopped parsley to lift it a bit. Perfect with mash, or wet polenta as pictured (easier than mash and no peeling, wooo!).

By this point you will almost definitely be slightly marinaded in cider as you had to do something productive while the pork cooked right?