Chicken Breast with Mushrooms and Blue Cheese Sauce

This recipe arose due to the need to use up several bits and pieces in the Renegade stores – the cheese and cream being the main driving factors.
Oh the hardship ūüėČ
The resulting dish turned out to be very quick and easy to make, but felt like a real treat Рanother great midweek meal.

Chicken with mushrooms and blue cheese sauceServes 2

Ingredients
2 skinless chicken breasts
a sprinkling of olive oil
6-8 mushrooms, cleaned and sliced
2 knobs of butter
2 garlic cloves, crushed
75-100ml white wine
1 chicken stockpot/stock cube
2 dessert spoons (ish) of cr√®me fra√ģche – leave it out if you don’t have any
1 large tablespoon of cream cheese – I used chive flavoured Philadelphia
100-125ml double cream
125-150g gorgonzola, cubed Рor other blue cheese of your choice
2 teaspoons of fresh parsley, chopped
Freshly ground black pepper

Depending on the cheese you use, and how much of it, you may also need a couple of heaped teaspoons of cornflour, mixed to a runny paste with a little cold water, to thicken the sauce

Music

First you need to butterfly your chicken breasts.

Place your hand flat on top of the chicken – this holds it still and keeps your fingers out of the way at the same time.

Use a sharp pointed knife, and starting at the fat end of the breast, slice across the chicken, almost but not quite cutting it in half. It should still be joined at one edge and you should be able to open it up like a book – or a butterfly’s wings.

cover with cling flim and bash

Once you’ve done that, cover with cling film and bash with a rolling pin. ¬†Not too much – you want to tenderise and flatten it, not pulp and obliterate it.

Rub lightly with olive oil and cook on a preheated grill, turning once, for around 8-10 minutes or until cooked through.

mushrooms

Meanwhile, melt a knob of butter in a large pan and heat until it foams.

Add your sliced mushrooms in a single layer and cook, turning once, until both sides are beautifully browned.  Remove from pan but keep warm.

sauce ingredients

Make your sauce by melting a knob of butter in a pan over a medium heat then cooking the crushed garlic for a minute or so.

Add wine and stockpot/cube and heat until stockpot has melted.

Add cream cheese, cr√®me fra√ģche, cream and blue cheese and continue to heat, stirring frequently, until the cheese has melted. ¬†Do not allow to boil.

If necessary, thicken with a little cornflour paste.

Stir in chopped parsley and plenty of black pepper.

Chicken mushrooms and blue cheese sauce

Place cooked chicken breast onto a warmed plate, arrange sautéed mushrooms on top and pour over the blue cheese sauce.

Chicken breast with mushrooms and blue cheese sauce

Served with petit pois and green beans sautéed in herb butter, and oven baked sweet potato chips.

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BBQ Beef & Spit Roast Chickens

The SpitExciting times in the Renegade household this weekend – Petit Man, Mme. E and Medieval came round and we had our first test run of this bad boy, in preparation for Mum and Little M’s upcoming birthday f√™te.

Three Sunday roastsAlthough on the day we’ll be cooking a suckling pig, for the time being we contented ourselves with a couple of chickens and a slab of beef.

The chicken on the left had truffle pesto under the skin, and the one to the right a BBQ sauce that I’m working on.

Truffle pestoThe truffle pesto idea was an absolute winner Рit melted under the skin, basting the chicken as it rotated and cooked, creating a juicy, succulent chicken with salty, crispy skin.  Doing that again!

The BBQ sauce is still not quite right¬†quite right, but a¬†recipe’s slowly emerging from the trials. ¬†The first flavour burst is grand but something’s missing in the depth of the flavours…it doesn’t ‘continue’ in the mouth as it should (does that even make sense to anyone but me?!) ¬†I’ve a few ideas on how to improve this – adding a couple of ingredients, increasing one or two existing ones, preparing some of them differently – when I feel I’ve succeeded, I’ll post ūüôā

Crisp and tasty on the outsideMedieval created a rub for the beef, using white and black pepper, chipotle salt and juniper berries.

BBQ beefCooked to absolute perfection – without doubt this beef was the star of the show.

Served straight from the board when we descended like a wake of vultures, crowding around Medieval, gobbling up slice after slice as he carved, moaning with gustatory pleasure as we begged for more.

Beef in a bunAlso served in brioche buns (because that’s what we had in, but something sturdier and less sweet would have been better), with a sprig or two of watercress and the sweetest Sicilian cherry tomatoes on the side.

Dandelion seedClearly we should have tackled some weeding, but who could be bothered after all that meat? ūüėČ
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Spiced Pineapple Chicken

Yet another cold, wet, miserable evening (we’re having far too many of them, even for this rain-renowned neck of the woods), and I was found standing in the kitchen glaring at a pineapple.

Pineapple

Why was this unfortunate fruit on the receiving end of my evil eye? ¬†Well…hmmm… ¬†I suppose we should just get this little bit of Bohemian¬†crazy¬†out of the way first – the thing is, it came from a hot place and I was suffering sunshine envy. ¬†Ahem!

Moving swiftly on, and more to the point, I’d bought it on an impulse (very, very cheap) despite knowing that I have an inordinately difficult time persuading pineapples to take off their jackets and give me their fruit. ¬†At the point of purchase I always tell myself that the deliciousness within will be well worth the effort to obtain; however once at home a reluctance to face the task usually settles in and avoidance becomes the order of the days.

This particular pineapple was at the eat-me-now-or-lose-me-forever stage of ripeness, which meant there was no choice but to prepare myself, and the kitchen, for a hack and chop session with the spiky one.

Massacred pineappleQuite frankly I find it ridiculous that despite much research and trying of different techniques, I still have not managed to skilfully prepare a fresh pineapple. ¬†I waste far too much fruit, both in cutting off the skin and when gouging out all those tedious, bristled eyelets that get left hanging in there. ¬†I also seem to end up with juice flowing over¬†cutting board and work surface, running down arms, dripping off elbows, puddling into sticky foot anchors on the floor…it’s a mess!
Granted, the juice thing probably wouldn’t happen if I didn’t wait until one stage prior to rot before tackling it.

The obvious question is, given that I could easily buy a conveniently preprepared pineapple, why do I do it? ¬†Stubbornness, in part – I don’t want to admit defeat (imagine: “Of all the culinary challenges, what broke me was a pineapple.” ¬†How incredibly sad is that?! ūüėČ )

Another contributing factor is that fresh tastes so much better than tinned, although in a recipe¬†like this it probably makes little to no difference (let’s refer back to the stubbornness paragraph).

Then, of course, there’s the unwillingness to pay the extortionate price for fresh preprepared pineapple, even if it is saving me some hassle.

The choice is entirely yours as to whether you go with fresh or tinned pineapple – you’ll find no judgement from these quarters.

Spiced pineapple chicken with parathasThis dish has quite a long cooking time but doesn’t necessarily need much effort from you; however, do bear in mind that depending on your skills set, preparation time¬†may be affected by aforementioned choice ūüėČ

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Sweet and Spicy Chicken, Spinach and Mango Curry

I am extremely fortunate to be the frequent recipient of food gifts such as samosas and curries, made by one of the ladies in my team when she, her sisters and her mother get together for one of their traditional batch cooking sessions.  Lucky, lucky me!

SaagThe other day she presented me with a huge portion of freshly made saag (spiced spinach).

MangoesThat¬†morning I’d noted that as we had two very ripe mangoes, dinner really ought to include them. ¬†I had no further plans.

When I got home, clutching my saag booty, I discovered Barn had decided he fancied chicken, so had taken some breast fillets out of the freezer.  He had no further plans.Curry with riceAfter a bit of dithering, and having started out with a vague idea of mango chicken with saag on the side, this delicious curry was the meal that eventually evolved.

If you’re not lucky enough to have been gifted saag, and you can’t buy any locally, substitute with 2-3 ‘bricks’ of frozen spinach, defrosted and with water squeezed out. ¬†Use an extra clove of garlic in the main recipe and add the following spices to the cooked onions:

2 teaspoons ground coriander
¬Ĺ teaspoon turmeric
¬ľ to ¬Ĺ teaspoons cayenne pepper

It won’t be quite the same but you’ll be going in the right direction!

Cucumber dipThanks to the absolute authenticity of the saag, this dish was quite fiery, so at the last minute I threw together a cucumber dip to have on the side.

With no plain yoghurt or fresh mint in the house a proper raita was out of the question; we made do with diced cucumber and soured cream, generously seasoned with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. ¬†I say ‘made do’…it was gorgeous and worked perfectly to allow the sweetness of the mango to come through, just before the spices kicked in.

To serve two very hungry people

Ingredients
2 chicken breast fillets, cut into chunks
A large portion of saag (curried spinach)
A couple of dessert spoons of ghee or a good splash of oil
1-2 garlic cloves, crushed
1-2 onions, sliced
1 red bell pepper, sliced
1-2 courgettes, cut into chunks
1 chicken stockpot
2 ripe mangoes, peeled and chunked
Juice and zest of 1 lime
A 2-3cm of fresh ginger root, grated
A couple of red chillies (how much you use depends on the heat of your saag and, of course, personal taste)
A handful of fresh coriander
Salt and pepper
To serve: steamed rice and optional cucumber dip
Music

Ginger, lime and garlic

CorianderPut mango chunks, lime juice and zest, ginger, chillies, coriander, salt and pepper into food processor and blend until smooth.  Set to one side.

Sliced onions

Heat oil or ghee in a heavy based saucepan and cook onions over a low to medium heat, until soft but not brown.GarlicAdd crushed garlic.

If you’re using the spinach/spices substitute for the saag, now is the time to add those extra spices (ground coriander, turmeric and cayenne).

Cook over a low heat for a couple of minutes, stirring all the time.

Jasmine ricePsst! ¬†This is probably about the right time to get your rice into the steamer ūüôā

Red bell pepper

CourgettesBack to the pan with the onions…

Turn up the heat a little and chuck in the peppers and courgettes.  Cook for about 5 minutes.

Add chicken and cook for another few minutes, stirring and turning..

Chicken stockpot

Chicken and veg in mango saucePour mango sauce over chicken and vegetables, add chicken stockpot and simmer, with the lid off, for around 15 minutes or until sauce is becoming thick and sticky.

SaagTurn down heat, add saag, or spinach, stir well to combine, and simmer with lid on for around 15 minutes. ¬†Keep an eye on things to make sure it doesn’t start to catch on¬†the bottom of the pan.

Curry - platedServe with fragrant steamed rice and cooling cucumber dip.

Burp loudly when finished eating (unless in polite company, or you are the polite company, in which case, don’t).
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Spiced Chicken Kebabs with Mango Salsa

We awoke early this morning to a stunningly beautiful, hot, sunny day – a rare enough occasion in these parts to instantly elevate the day’s status to ‘awesome’.

Days like this tend to trigger serious house and garden maintenance activity from both Barn and me Рdust motes dancing in sun rays are only romantic in films and photographs, and prostrating oneself for sun worship amidst towering grasses and triffidesque weeds is not altogether appealing.

Today, by some unspoken agreement, and in a manner¬†quite atypical of¬†the Renegade household, we went with the ‘traditional’ breakdown of tasks: while he was outside, hacking around, always alert for the possibility of¬†discovering lost tribes in the depths of the wilderness, I was hurtling around the house, corralling possessions back to their designated areas, collecting laundry from behind the bathroom door, and terrorising¬†dust bunnies with the hoover.

In no time at all the house was guest presentable and the garden is now, if not tamed, at least¬†subdued. ¬†It’s amazing how quickly things can get done when the sun is doffing its hat and waggling its hot little fingers at you.

The view from the garden swing seat
The view from the garden swing seat

I think the smell of cut grass and the heat of the sun joined forces with the temptingly ripe mango to influence the dinner menu on Day 2 of the Cupboard Challenge.

Serves two
Plan ahead as this requires marinading time!

Chicken Kebab Ingredients
400g chicken breast, cut into chunks
1 courgette, cut into chunks
1-2 onions, cut into chunks

It would have been better with lime, but lemon was what we had...
It would have been better with lime, but lemon was what we had…

Marinade
1 Scotch Bonnet chilli, finely chopped
2 spring onions, sliced
Zest and juice of half a lemon
Approx. 2 dessert spoons dark brown sugar (I used muscovado)
A good couple of glugs of olive oil
Approx. 4 tablespoons tamari (or soy sauce if not bothered about gluten)
2 teaspoons black peppercorns
1 teaspoon cinnamon
2 teaspoons cayenne pepper
1-2 teaspoons fresh thyme
A good grating of fresh nutmeg

Although there's garlic in this picture, I didn't use it in the end, deciding the flavour would be too strong.
Although there’s garlic in this picture, I didn’t use it in the end, deciding the flavour would be too strong.

Mango Salsa Ingredients
1 ripe mango, diced
2 spring onions, sliced
zest and juice of half a lemon (again, lime would have been better)
Half Scotch Bonnet chilli, finely chopped
A handful of fresh coriander, roughly chopped
Sea salt and fresh black pepper
Music

Chicken in marinade

Get the kebabs under way by putting all the marinade ingredients into a shallow dish and mixing well.  Add chicken chunks and smoosh around with your hands to ensure all the pieces are well coated. Cover with cling film and leave in the fridge for a minimum of 4 hours (I think 6 hours would be even better).

Mango salsa

Next up, put all the salsa ingredients into a bowl, stir well, cover and refrigerate for around 4-6 hours (depending how long your chicken’s getting).

While the chicken’s¬†marinading and the salsa’s melding, go and read a trashy novel (or your personal equivalent). ¬†If possible, sit in sunshine.

Courgettes and onions

Chickn and veg on skewers

When the marinading time’s up, or you’re ravenous and just can’t wait any longer, thread alternating chunks of chicken, courgette and onion onto skewers.

Chicken kebabs

Grill, or barbecue, turning frequently, making sure the chicken is thoroughly cooked.  Baste with marinade during cooking to keep the chicken moist and intensify flavour.

Spicy chicken kebabs, mango salsa and potato wedgesServe with oven crisped potato wedges, peppery watercress and the luscious mango salsa.  Or serve with other things, as you wish.

This whole meal tasted amazing; however, visually it would have benefited from additional colour. ¬†If I’d had any I’d have added sweet red pepper, either diced in the salsa or chunked for the kebabs. ¬†In the absence of red peppers, perhaps I should have used tomatoes?

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The food week that was – 23/03/15

This was yet another shitty week in the day job so it’s a really good thing¬†I’d made myself food accountable in last week’s meals post, otherwise we’d have almost definitely bowed to laziness and another week of dire dinners.

As it was we managed a passable imitation of being responsible adults, putting together mostly decent meals, at approximately expected/accepted meal times.
Spud and beansMonday: Having declared that this week would be full of culinary thrills, we started the week with a really basic meal of baked spuds, cheese and beans.   A sprinkling of chives gave a gentle oniony flavour lift, a touch of colour, and a nod towards actually making an effort.

Camembert, leeks and bacon Tuesday: I was half way through making a leek, bacon and Stilton quiche when I found a mini Camembert lolling at the side of the cheese box.  A quick consult with Barn to check he was open to some food experimentation, and the leek and bacon Camembert melt was born.

Cut CamembertMini Camembert cheese, studded with garlic, surrounded by sautéed leeks and bacon, and baked on a shortcrust pastry base.  Served with roasted carrots and parsnips, and wilted spinach.

There’s a lot I would change about this – use puff pastry instead of shortcrust, use less bacon, make them individual – but as an off the cuff experiment it worked out ok. ¬†Loved the way the melted cheese spilled out, creating a sauce for the veggies.

Malaysian beef curryWednesday: Making mid-week better with a hot and spicy Malaysian beef curry on jasmine rice.

Butternut squash risottoThursday: Creamy risotto with roast butternut squash and black olives, finished with a drizzle of lemon infused olive oil and a generous sprinkling of chopped, fresh basil.  On the side, watercress, tomato and cucumber salad, topped with toasted sunflower seeds and dressed with balsamic vinegar.

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The food week that was – 02/03/15

I’m sure you know the story of King Alfred the Great – the guy¬†who allegedly let the cakes burn because he was preoccupied with thoughts about his beleaguered kingdom? ¬†Well, I bet you’ve never heard the story of Barn, the guy¬†who let the pies burn because he was preoccupied with thoughts about his¬†kingdom?

Alfred had fair justification for his absent minded approach to baked goods; the fellow’s very life was in danger and he was on the run – sleeping in ditches and begging for food – whilst also trying to save his lands from actual marauding Vikings. ¬†There was every reason for culinary timing to be low on his list of priorities. ¬†For Barn? ¬†Not so much.

He¬†was sitting comfortably, on a sofa in his living room, tasked with nothing more than listening out for the oven timer then informing me of said occurrence. ¬†The only kingdom he had any concerns about was the virtual one in Kingdom of Camelot (oh yeh, I’ll name it and shame ya! ūüėė ), and the only ‘life’ in danger was that of a pixelated soldier. ¬†Apparently he didn’t hear or smell a thing as the oven alarm shrieked for its fully allowed time slot, and our dinner gave itself to the funeral pyre, clutching its last vestiges of flavour, mourning its uncelebrated heyday.

Naturally he was referred to as Burning Barn for the rest of the evening. ¬†No opportunity, no matter how small or tenuous, was passed over when it came to teasing and tormenting him. ¬†Petit Man is a great ‘bouncing’ partner for this particular form of verbal entertainment (Mum and Medieval are also superb co-jousters, but sadly they weren’t around for this one); we amused ourselves mightily,¬†stumbling upon forcing¬†references to Barn¬†the Great Pie Torturer from¬†every TV advert, programme and innocuous conversation :twisted:.

Chicken chorizo pot piesMonday:¬†So…what we had Monday was potentially-awesome-but-kinda-burned chicken and chorizo pot pies, served with hideously burned roast cauliflower and some steamed veg.

The chicken was poached in cider, then the cider stock reduced and used with cream to make a sauce for the chicken, fried chorizo and leeks. ¬†A happy little layer survived the torrid oven affair and was sufficiently good to put the recipe¬†on the ‘definitely try it again’ list.

Fridge bottom soupTuesday:¬†Fridge bottom soup. ¬†Sounds vile doesn’t it? ¬†I know I should call it ‘leek and courgette’, or ‘cream of veg’ or somesuch, but it was what it says…soup made with stuff that needed using up from the drawer at the bottom of the fridge.

Sautéed soffrito (finely diced onion, carrot and celery in the ratio 2:1:1 Рan excellent starting point for many sauces, stews etc. Рmake huge batches with a food processor and keep portions in the freezer); chopped leeks and courgettes added & browned.  Two crushed garlic cloves, fresh thyme and parsley, dried oregano chucked in and swished around for a while.  Chicken stock added (enough to cover veg plus a bit more) and simmered for about 15 minutes.  Blitzed in the food processor, added soured cream, a little double cream, and chives.  Reheated, adjusted seasoning, added an extra swirl of cream and more fresh herbs to finish.  Served with warm g/f cheesy puffs made with extra mature cheddar and English mustard.  It tasted insanely good.

Chicken pear and stilton saladWednesday dinner: Warm salad of grilled chicken breast and sweet ripe pears, with creamy blue Stilton and crunchy caramelised walnuts; served with baked tomatoes on a bed of crisp, fresh watercress and baby spinach leaves, dressed with wholegrain mustard and balsamic vinaigrette.

Barn made the leftovers into a sandwich for his lunch at work the next day.  I believe he was hoping for a reaction something akin to one of these:

What he got was this:

K: What’ve you got there?

Barn: Olive ciabatta, with watercress, pears and…

K: Pears?!

Barn: Yeh, and blue cheese…

K: Mouldy cheese?!

Barn:¬†¬†…and chicken.

Pause, while each chews their chosen lunch and K contemplates Barn’s sandwich

K, dubiously: Well, I suppose the chicken would be ok.

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The food week that was – 16/02/15

It’s been another busy week in the day job arena¬†for the entire Renegade household¬†so most meals were made based on existing stocks and¬†following¬†the line of least resistance. ¬†We also¬†took a fair degree of inspiration from other bloggers this week – thank you for helping keep tummies full, taste buds tantalised and faces smiling.
Veg chilliMonday:¬†Chilli-non-carne made using left overs from Medieval’s birthday meal: the remnants of both sweetcorn and tomato salsas, jalape√Īos, fire roasted chillies, chilli ketchup and a whole heap of diced onion and peppers went in, along with tinned tomatoes, kidney, black-eyed and haricot beans, mushrooms and a little vegetable stock. ¬†Left doing its thang in the slow cooker all day, it came out with the flavours beautifully melded and with the perfect degree of ‘kick’.

Dressed with plenty of grated Monteray Jack, a good dollop of soured cream and freshly chopped chives this chilli was a very welcomed (if short stayed) visitor to our table.

Pork in cider sauce collageTuesday: What do you make for dinner when you have some fabulous pork steaks and a rather nice bottle of cider?  Obviously, you make pork in cider sauce.

Nice and easy – pork, sliced apple (no need to peel), onions, vegetable stock, cider and seasoning,¬†braised in the oven. ¬†While that’s happening – prepare and steam veg (in this case new season potatoes, carrots and purple sprouting broccoli). ¬†Remove pork and keep warm – add a large teaspoon of wholegrain mustard to the cooked cider mix¬†then blitz in the blender/food processor. ¬†Transfer to small pan, add double cream until you think it’s enough (sorry…it’s how I cook!!), warm gently, adjust seasoning, pour over pork and serve.

I nearly always forget to do it, but the finished dish is more visually appealing if you keep some of the onion and apple pieces in chunks, adding them back into the sauce after blitzing the rest. ¬†Either way…this is a lick your plate clean kind of sauce!

Banana Bread and Butter Pudding collage

Wednesday: There was only me to consider for dinner as Barn was out gym-ing (sing it with me to the tune of Bob Marley – “We’re gym-ing, we’re gym-ing…”) and would therefore fend for himself later, and Petit Man was out for the night doing I-care-not-to-think-what with his girlfriend.

I chose to have a version of bread and butter pudding. ¬†That’s it, that’s all I had. ¬†Apart from the chocolate ice-cream on top. ¬†It pleased the kid inside me who once declared, “When I’m a grown up I’m going to eat a whole pudding all to myself!” ¬†It confirmed (as if it were¬†needed) to my adult self that there is a good reason we don’t let kids eat a whole pudding all to themselves.

It all started because The Sweet and Savory Bite published this recipe for Amaretto Bread Pudding. ¬†Now I’m not blaming the lovely Lizzy for what then ensued, nor am I saying her delicious and rather stylish pudding bears any relation to the gooey nursery food that I produced…I’m just sayin’ that her post was a catalyst… Until reading that post, I’d not thought about traditional English bread and butter pudding in years; once the memory had been awakened I could not get it to go back to sleep.

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