Chicken Jambalaya




My urge to cook is a little sporadic at the moment; it all depends very much on my mood, my frame of mind. The boys have been enjoying a couple of fish finger, waffle and baked bean type meals, they don’t complain but to me this has often been a sign of failure on my part. I am working with my therapist to give myself a break and not deliver such harsh verdicts on my parenting, and as I work more to do what I know I can achieve, instead of what I feel I should be doing, these tan coloured plates of food are actually starting to be liberating. Cooking, like many of my creative outlets, become chore like under the cloud of depression and whilst a little bit of what I usually like is important, cooking can often just become something I resent. This is just awful, no catastrophic, as I’ve always LOVED cooking. However by giving myself a break, what I find happens, is that some days I will have a really desire to cook something. Often, as with this recipe, something will pop into my head, a meal from the past, an old favourite maybe, and with that it becomes a mission for me to create it.

A lot of what I want at the moment is comforting and not to difficult to prepare, that’s this dish in a nutshell.  One pot of chicken and rice flavoured with chorizo, tomatoes, garlic and thyme and a pinch of cayenne pepper for warmth. Chuck in some vegetables and you really do have a well rounded meal all in one place, no need for accompaniments. So just before I give you the recipe for this delicious meal I’m going to do something I like to call (from this point on) Ingredients Chat

chickIngIngredients Chat

 It struck me that I always have a little bit of something to say about the recipe ingredients so I thought I’d create this section with some of my recipes, here we go..

Leeks I often use leeks in recipes instead of onions because they soften much quicker to a consistency that my children, and me, are happy to eat. I suppose at this point I will have to confess to my own love, hate relationship with onions. As a child they were the food of my nightmares and it has really only been my interest in cooking and my understanding of their position as a base ingredient that has led me to enjoy them cooked in certain ways.  I still cannot eat them raw and find large crunchy chunks disagreeable. So leeks for me often offer a suitable alternative.

 Vegetables in General.  I often swap vegetables in recipes for ones I know my family will eat. As long as they are not the main event, can’t really swap broccoli out of a broccoli soup, I think it’s fine to do so, especially if it just makes your life a little easier. In this version I added a little cubed butternut squash, left over from a curry I made, and sat lonely in the fridge. My children are not overly keen but there wasn’t much and I made it big enough to be eaten around. It paid off though; Stig actually ate it and said he liked it, I think the flavour of the smoky chorizo helped.

Thyme because I’m a little lazy, I don’t like to pick off thyme leaves unless completely necessary. So I would rather cut off a few stalks, chuck them in and pick out anything that looks like a twig before I serve it.


The Recipe 

serves four
200g of cubed chorizo
8 chicken pieces, drumsticks and or thighs, taken out of the fridge half an hour before cooking.
1 large leek, sliced
300g of long grain rice
1/4 tsp of cayenne pepper
bunch of thyme
2 dried bay leaves
2 garlic cloves, sliced
700ml of chicken stock
1 carton of passatta
handful of green beans, topped tailed and chopped into inch long pieces.
half a butternut squash cubed
a (approx 120g) cup of peas

1. In  a casserole pot that can go on the hob or a large heavy based frying pan, brown the chicken pieces in batches, put to one side and keep warm.

2. In the same pan, cook the chorizo for a couple of minutes, the red oils of the chorizo will start to flow, and  then remove with a slotted spoon, place to one side.

3. Cook the leek, until transparent and soft  and then add the rice, cayenne pepper, thyme, bay leaves, garlic cloves, and stir for a minute.

4. Then add the stock, passatta, beans and butternut squash and return the chicken and chorizo to the pot, before bringing to a low boil.

5. Reduce the heat to a simmer, and uncovered, allow to cook for 20-25 minutes, stirring occasionally.

6. By this point most of the liquid should have been absorbed and the rice should be tender. If this is not the case cook a little longer or add a little water to help cook the rice.

7. Finally add the peas and cook for 5 minutes, at this point you may need to stir regularly to ensure the rice doesn’t stick.

8. Now you can serve.




Burger Making

burgersWe made burgers, actually no we did a burger making experiment.

I bought two types of mince meat, beef and turkey. I got out a variety of ingredients, seasonings and some cheeses. Then I gave the kids a bowl each and we made burgers.

Ok we did discuss it all a little, like which flavours went well together. I found they understand best when we talked about food by countries. So Italian burgers had basil or oregano in them and maybe some Parmesan or mozzarella. The Spanish burgers were seasoned with paprika and a little cumin the Indian ones with Patak’s Tikka paste, bit of a staple in our house hold. This way I ensured we didn’t end up with inedible burgers, you know the ones with a bit of everything in.

We mixed a bit of mince with the flavours we selected then patted them into little discs using our hands. We made our patties small, a bite size so we could try lots of different ones. I cooked them on trays in the oven to start with, about 10 minutes, to ensure they kept their shape and then finished them under the grill to give colour.

Served with bread and salad, the kids loved them and we all got to choose our favourites from our wide selection.027

Wild Garlic

wildGarlicA couple of weeks ago the boy Stig and I went foraging for food. Down the lane and onto a woodland path and we found the delicacy we were searching for, in fact we inhaled it’s sweet and pungent aroma before we set eyes on it. Since we’ve lived in this lovely spot I’ve been aware that Wild Garlic grows here, I’ve enjoyed the scent on many a walk but I’ve never before collected it and then cooked with it. Spurred on by an article in my favourite magazine The Simple Things, not seen or read it?find it, it’s wonderful,all about this abundant wild ingredient we decide this year would be different.

027Basket, secateurs and the joy of an adventure in hand off we set. Stig is always very enthusiastic about these type of adventures, ones where it’s just him and I and he’s doing something new and exciting. He was right in there cutting all the leaves, climbing the banks to get away from those that may have been relieved on by dogs or affected by birds! We soon had a plentiful basket and off home we toddled.021

I invested in my first ever Kiln jar for this recipe, wild garlic pesto, hoping that a big jar of wonderfulness would sit in our fridge for a while. The recipe again was inspired by the magazine, but as I often do, I made small adjustments.

 Wild Garlic Pesto,

200g pine nuts
200g wild garlic
100g grated Parmesan
200ml extra virgin olive oil
Salt & Pepper for seasoning

  1. Dry roast the nuts until they brown slightly.
  2. Wash the garlic and remove long stems.
  3. Add garlic and nuts in food processor and pulse
  4. Add Parmesan and Olive Oil and pulse until a pesto like consistency, a rough paste.
  5. Season and pulse briefly.
  6. Transfer to a sterilised  jar and cover pesto with a glug of olive oil.
  7. Pop in the fridge and use in an assortment of ways.


You can mix with pasta or stir a blob in with your vegetables, serve with fish or add to a salad dressing or maybe try out these…


Spaghetti with Paprika Prawns


I’m slightly obsessed with paprika. There I said it. I’m not ashamed though because there is actually so much to love about this Moorish spice. I’m not talking about a jar of Tesco’s own version either; I am a little snobbish when it comes to paprika. Since discovering the world of Moorish cooking in amongst the pages of my first Moro cookbook, I fell head over heels in love with their food that spans regions of Spain to the coast of Africa. Their recommended version of paprika was La Chinata, a smoked Spanish paprika which comes as sweet (dulce) or hot (picante).

I scoured the shops for it, unsuccessfully at first; such a specialised ingredient was not easy to come by in the early noughties. When I found it and then cooked with I felt like I’d discovered a secret ingredient, something that would change the flavour of my cookery world from there on in. I also loved, loved the little tin in which this wonder was and still is packaged, there is style in its red facade and circular tin lid. As you prise it off with the end of a teaspoon, the earthy, smoky, aroma exudes and you are transported to world of lounging cushions, low tables and Moroccan lanterns, well I am, you might have your own Moorish fantasies.

There are lots of wonderful dishes in which you can use this spice, if you delve into the world of Spanish cookery then it is a staple. We use it in Stig’s paella recipe or mashed with butter and rubbed over a chicken maybe add to a lamb casserole for a Moroccan hint. Thankfully my children have taken to paprika too so I am able to spice up our family meals with a dash here and there.

So I got to thinking, I love paprika and I love pasta and I love an easy family meal, so I mixed it all up and came up with this recipe, Spaghetti with Paprika Prawns. I use wholemeal spaghetti, I’m not a big fan of wholemeal pasta shapes, always seem a bit chewy, but I think the nuttiness you get from the spaghetti adds to the texture and flavour of certain dishes , this being one of them. Also I add a teaspoon of sugar because you are not cooking the tomato sauce over a long period which would usually brings sweetness to the sauce, in this quick meal I help it along a little. Look in your local deli for good quality paprika or in the section for posh and exotic ingredients in your local supermarket, there are lots of different ones available now, I use the sweet version here. Enjoy..


Spaghetti with Paprika Prawns


Serves 4

400g wholemeal spaghetti
Olive oil
1 finely chopped clove of garlic/ 1 tsp of lazy garlic
500g of passata
Large heap teaspoon of good quality paprika, add more to taste if you wish.
1 tsp sugar
Optional chilli powder to taste
300g of raw peeled prawns
Salt and pepper to season.
Freshly  grated parmesan for serving.

  1. Place spaghetti into pan of boiling water and allow to cook as instructed on the packet.
  2. Heat oil in large frying pan on hob and gently fry garlic for 2 minutes.
  3. Add the passata and bring to a gentle simmer.
  4. Stir in the paprika and the sugar and optional chilli.
  5. Allow to cook and simmer for 5 minutes and taste, add more paprika or chilli powder if required.
  6. Cook for a further 2 to 3 minutes.
  7. Add prawns and cook through for 3 minutes or until opaque. Season as required.
  8. Drain the spaghetti and add to the sauce, mix together.
  9. Serve with plenty of freshly grated parmesan.


Link up your recipe of the week

Best Beef


In a weekend when hearts had been broken and lost ground needed to be regained I was glad we were eating a fillet of beef for Sunday dinner. It had been decided long before the fall out that it would be this week’s Sunday best and it was a relief when I later remembered it was on the menu.  It always feels opulent and excessive due to the many gold coins you exchange for this small piece of meat. However we were feeling a little flush so the decision was taken and by Sunday something that would cause no frowns or dismissal was definitely required. Even the self defined pescetarian Tink had agreed to this beef.


As I mixed the marinade on Sunday morning, I was aware that it was a job I lost to Saturday, to overbearing sadness, and my heart was lightened by the intoxicating scent of ginger, garlic, mustard and herbs. It was a step towards normality that I relished. We did cheat this time and added to our opulent meal with a trip to Waitrose for easy accompaniments, the fillet deserves Waitrose we feel. Three different types of potatoes, Yorkshires, creamy cabbage, peas and bacon and of course gravy.

My favourite time we ate this meal was two Christmases ago when my Dad was staying with us for the festive season. I prepared the beef on Christmas Eve and left it to marinade until Boxing Day. On Boxing Day we wrapped up and went out to climb a mountain. It was a blustery cold day and we were out for a good couple of hours. After a stop off at the pub we returned and I placed a dish of already prepared creamy dauphinoise potatoes in the oven, followed by best beef and later served with green beans. I think the fact that we all felt full of fresh air and a little tired and given the meal was delightfully easy and then tasted so delicious, plus the lovely glass of red and the blazing fire, it just seemed like perfection in the moment.

I also have to say that it’s a bit of secret recipe passed to me from my father-in-law, who had it given to him by someone else, who got it from goodness knows who or where, so guard it with your life.


Best Beef

This recipe is for a 3lb piece of beef but we usually have smaller for 4 of us about 800g, just adjust cooking time as required.

3lb piece of beef fillet

3 tbsp Dijon mustard
1 tbsp dark soy sauce
1 clove of garlic crushed
1 tsp herb de Provence
1tsp steak/beef seasoning
2 tsp fresh grated ginger
1 tsp olive oil

1. mix all the ingredients for the marinade together in a bowl.
2. coat the meat in the paste, cover and leave for at least 12 hours.
3. Roast for 40mins at 200C / Gas mark 6 or for appropriate time for your piece of meat.
4. Leave to rest for 10 minute before carving and add juices to gravy.
5. Serve and enjoy.