Quick, Cheap and Delish Pate Recipe

chicken liver pate
chicken liver pate

Chicken Liver Pate

I don’t have a story to tell, just that this is a “save money” dish, costs far less to make than to buy and takes hardly any time at all.  And, if I say so myself, it is wonderful.  This is another “Billy the Chef” (my cousin) recipe, and very lovely it is too.  The quantities below would serve 4 for a starter.

Ingredients:

  • 500g / 18 ounces of Chicken Livers, chopped
  • 2 slices of Smoked Bacon, rinds removed and chopped into small pieces
  • 4 shallots, minced
  • 2 Tbsp Brandy (any old cheap rubbish will do, for Gawd’s sake don’t break out the good stuff for this)
  • Pinch of Herbs (I used Herbes de Provence, but Thyme works very well too)
  • Squeeze or Tablespoon of Tomato Puree (this adds depth of colour and helps keep its colour in the fridge, pate has a nasty habit of going grey…)
  • 125g Unsalted Butter
  • Salt and freshly ground Black Pepper to Taste

Method:

Dry fry the chopped bacon, ie with no oil in a large frying pan.  Add in the shallots and butter and fry gently until the shallots are very soft (only 5-8 mins).  Add in the chicken livers, tomato puree, herbs, seasoning–be careful not to oversalt due to the saltiness of the bacon–along with the brandy and cook at a medium heat for about 15-20 minutes giving the odd stir.  There is real satisfaction to be had in breaking down the livers with the back of a wooden spoon, not sure why this might be…?   Leave, covered, to cool, check the seasoning before blending in a processor to a smooth but grainy texture.  Place in a dish and chill in the fridge for a couple of hours or so before serving.  It will keep, covered, for a few days.  Don’t bother faffing around with clarified butter seals, that only extends its natural fridge life for a few days and only if you do not break in there and eat it first!

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Glorious Coq au Vin from a Jar…

Coq au Vin--The Finished Dish

Coq au Vin--The Finished Dish

I found the Coq au Vin paste below in Sainsbury, in the “special nice foods” section.  And at only £1.59….this appeals to me on lots of levels at the moment!  I thought no way, must be a mistake, full of rubbish, etc, etc. but not true, here are the stated ingredients:

coq au vin paste
coq au vin paste

Water, Shallot, Red Wine, Garlic Purée, Rapeseed Oil, Mixed Forest Mushrooms (Champignon Mushroom, Shiitake Mushroom, Black Fungus, Boletus Luteus), Sugar, Concentrated Lemon Juice, Black Pepper, Salt, Thyme, Parsley, Cornflour, Celery Seed, Bay Leaf. 

I gave it a whirl.  The cooking instructions are actually inside a peel off label, not that I saw this of course until later.  So, Hampshirecook’s Method was:

Brown some chicken drums and thighs.  Fry some shallots, bacon strips and garlic, add in some button mushrooms, then add in the paste and cook around.  Add in third of a bottle of red wine, and reduce down to half.  Add all that plus a 3/4 litre or a pint of chicken stock and a couple of carrots cut chunky into a casserole and in a medium hot oven for an hour with the lid on–or in my case, a bit of tinfoil since the lid smashed long ago.  Remove the chicken, place back in oven to keep warm while reducing the stock down in a pan on the stove to about half. 

It was GLORIOUS.

Served it with rice.  Wish I had had some parsley to scatter over but not beating myself over the head about it.

Why Bother?  I can make a passable Coq au Vin from scratch anyway, and it’s pretty simple to do, so why use a jar product?  Well, I could not afford to buy all those rich mushroom flavours, and in this product’s case, there is nothing to worry about in terms of processed food/e-numbers/weird preservatives.  So, will be stocking up on that one, thanks very much!

(NB I do not receive freebies or endorsements for any products or from any supermarkets mentioned in my blog because 1. no-one has ever asked me or sent me anything and 2. I might find that a bit compromising/limiting so I do not seek it.  Any comments are therefore genuine and if you trawl about my posts, I say nice things and not so nice things about my purchases and relationships with food retailers in about equal measure because that reflects my reality…)

Recipe: Chicken with Sundried Tomato Pesto and Parmesan

When is something a bona fide recipe and not just a meal idea?  Who knows, but on Wednesday Cordon Bleu was out the window, not the least because I had a 3  hour power cut, grrr. Anyhoo, here is what I made for dinner and it was really nice:

Ingredients: Chicken with Sundried Tomato Pesto and Parmesan (Serves 4 and takes around 30 minutes)

  • 4 x medium size Chicken fillets, boneless
  • Small jar of Sundried Tomato Pesto
  • Handful of fresh Basil, I used Greek Basil, it is a little more pungent and looks cute on my window sill
  • Tablespoon of Parmesan cheese
  • Ground black Pepper to season
  • I thought later you could throw in some sliced or stoned Olives, that would be lovely

Method:

Pre-heat the oven to 190 degrees Celsius, 375 degrees Farenheit.  Slash the chicken breasts with a couple of deep diagonal scores, then fully coat in the pesto sauce in an oven-proof dish, adding in torn basil leaves, or the tiny little Greek basil leaves whole.   Spoon the marinade into the scored areas and leave to soak in the flavours for half an hour (if you can spare the time) but not essential.   Season with black pepper and sprinkle over finely grated parmesan.  The dish probably does not need extra salt because the pesto sauce should provide enough.

Place in the oven for half an hour for regular sized chicken breasts, or less if your chicken is a bit on the thin side, more if it is some enormous hunk of supersized choock.  Boned chicken breasts will take longer, check this separately with the packaging.  Because of the red colour sauce, you will not be able to tell if the “chicken juices are running clear”, if you are concerned the best thing is to slice into a thick part of one of the breasts and check for any raw pinkiness, in which case return to the oven.

Serve with pasta, or as I did, with mini-roast potatoes and steamed green beans.  Fab dinner, even though I can hardly claim to have made it myself…the sauce is lovely to spoon all over the mini-roast potatoes.  We were too hungry to take pix, I’ll take a photo and post it up here next time I make this.  It wont be long.

Halloween Dead Man’s Fingers…We Might Have Overdone the Spooky Food

‘Twas Halloween.  I had a good idea…maybe.  Hub was sorting out a pile of old shirts for charity/the bins, so I cut off a sleeve from one, tucked it under a plate and made “Dead Man’s Fingers” with home-made Chicken goujons.

Chicken Goujons Halloween Style

Chicken Goujons Halloween Style

Home-Made Chicken Goujouns Recipe & Method:

These were simply boneless chicken fillets, bashed out under clingfilm with a rolling pin and cut in long strips, then coated with egg/flour/seasoned breadcrumbs and fried. They did look remarkably good, poking out of the cuff and for added drama, a blob of tommy sauce at the end…I sliced carrots into flower shapes for “Dead Man’s Money”.  We served a big bowl of home-made chips on the side.

The Dead Man’s hand was almost too scary though, what with all the lights down low, the zombie tea-lights I found in Sainsbury flickering away and the evil pumpkin grinning fiendishly at the end of the table. We should have twigged that our recent teenager had been freaking himself out anyway when he wanted to keep his costume party mask in the kitchen overnight and not in his bedroom…it had been “staring at him” you see.  Dad ended up eating half of the plate, told son he would give him a “hand” with it.  What a twit wit.

Easy Gravy with Chicken Giblets Recipe

Recipe: Gravy made with Chicken Giblet Stock 

Chicken Gravy

Supermarket chickens round my way are often sold without giblets, so I was delighted to see the giblet pack in this week’s Sunday chook.  Gravy made with giblet stock is a bit more work (judge for yourself below how much more work) but the taste is quite lovely, not as “chemical” as chicken stock cubes and far less salty.

Chicken Giblet Stock Ingredients (Makes 1 pt/approx. half a litre) 

 

Chicken Stock Ingredients

  • Contents of your chicken giblet pack (usually a peice of neck, some liver, possibly the heart too, though my chicken did not include the heart today.)
  • 1 Onion, quartered or halved
  • I large Carrot, cut in half and the halves sliced in two lengthways
  • Couple of sticks of Celery, cut in the same way as the carrots above (this is so that the vegetables are big enough that they do not go into mush when cooking, but have enough exposed surfaces so that all the flavour comes out into the stock.)
  • Small bunch Parsley
  • Sprig of Thyme if you have it
  • 1 Bay Leaf
  • Tsp Peppercorns
  • 1 1/4 litres or 2 pints cold Water

Method:

Place all the ingredients in a pan, bring to the boil and then simmer for one hour on a low heat.  Check after about 10 mins and skim off any grey scummy froth on the surface and discard: the grey scum is bitter-tasting so can change the stock quality quite dramatically. I let the broth naturally reduce without the lid on to about half the original volume.  Set aside to cool and then strain out the stock into a jug, discarding all the strained ingredients.  You can add more water if you need to, it can cook for longer too if that suits you, but about 2 hours is the outer limit.  I do not add salt because I might not want to have a salty stock depending on the eventual dish the stock is going to be used for.  The celery does add a saltiness anyway. 

Chicken Stock Made with Giblets

Gravy Ingredients:

  • Cooking juices from a Roast Chicken, taking as much fat out as possible.  I suck up the dark tasty juices using a turkey baster directly out of the roasting pan and then discard the remaining clear fat, adding the juices back into the original roast pan.  There is probably an easier way to do this!
  • Half a glass of white Wine
  • 2 Large Tsp Cornstarch or Bisto Mix (which is the same thing as cornflour but with a caramel colour to make it brown) made up with half a glass of cooled stock or cold water
  • Your chicken giblet stock

Method:

Heat the de-fatted roasting juices in a suitable pot or use the roasting pan if it has a heavy enough base over a medium heat on the hob.  Add in the white wine.  Scrape the pan base to get all the nice flavours mixed in, and simmer hard to reduce the white wine down to about half the original volume, this takes a couple of minutes.  Add in the chicken stock, as much as you want in final gravy volume, and bring again to a simmer.  Take off the heat and whisk in the cornstarch or Bisto, if the gravy is too thin, mix up a little more starch and repeat, too thick then dilute with remaining stock or with some water.  Brown shiny lumpy bits = not enough liquid, add in more liquid and whisk through, it should come back to a gravy consistency easily enough.  Simmer and serve!

Chicken Pie Casserole Recipe: Pie Crust Not Required

Chicken Pie Casserole Recipe

I have a cheek calling this a chicken pie recipe, it is really chicken in yummy gravy with veg and a pastry topping.  My apologies if you were determined to do something more complex.  My mum never made savoury pies with crusts attached, all her steak pies and chicken pies were made as casseroles and she cooked puff pastry squares in individual serving sizes separately.  And boy, do I so get why she did this, savoury pie crusts are a total pain, adds heaps more stress to the cooking experience and the result (see below for my last Friday efforts) does not look, serve as easily or taste as good as making the puff separately.

Chicken Pie Casserole Ingredients (Serves 4):

  • 4 medium-size Chicken Breasts, cut into irregular chunks of around 2 cm
  • Seasoned, Plain Flour, enough to generously coat the chicken
  • 2 Carrots, cut into rounds, I quite like them rustic and chunky, ie about 1/2 cm to 1 cm, you could dice of course 
  • 1 small head of Broccoli, cut into small florets
  • 1 medium Onion, diced
  • 1 clove of Garlic, minced
  • Teaspoon of dried Sage
  • Large Bay Leaf or 2 x small Bay Leaves
  • 600 ml good quality Chicken stock
  • Glass of White Wine
  • Olive oil and Butter for browning the chicken
  • A sheet of ready-made puff pastry, or about 200g

Method:

Warm a large frying pan and then add the oil and about 50g of butter.  Warming the pan first stops food sticking too much.  Toss the chicken chunks in seasoned flour with the sage added, make sure the chicken is well coated with flour.  Brown the chicken chunks in the frying pan until golden with some browny bits on the edges — this adds to the final flavour.

Meanwhile, in a large pan, saute the minced onion in olive oil until glossy in appearance and then add the garlic and carrots and sweat these for a couple of minutes.  Add in the stock and bay leaf, bring to the boil and then simmer.

Once the chicken is browned and taken out, deglaze the frying pan with the white wine, and stir like crazy to get all the stickiness off the pan.  Once this mixture has reduced and thickened a little, add this to the chicken stock broth with the chicken chunks.  Simmer over a medium heat for about 30-40 minutes, adding further stock and reducing the temperature if the gravy is reducing too much.

I add the broccoli florets a little later on in the cooking process, half-way in really, as I don’t like mushy broccers, but it’s personal taste.  In a proper pie, of course you don’t have that choice or control.

Once the chicken in gravy is cooking, line a baking tray with greaseproof paper and then oil this lightly too.  Cut out whatever shapes you fancy from your pasty, I have thought that you could do cute stars and moons for kids, but generally I just cut boring rectangles.  Cook according to the instructions, usually about 30 minutes so they should time to be ready when your casserole is ready.

I should explain the picture below: a bunch of people arrived at the door as I was fiddling with this, I realised I had pulled out too big a casserole dish and thought, oh sod it, it’ll be OK but the pastry kind of collapsed inside, silly me.  Still tasted good, and I think makes my point totally about not attempting to do this as an all in one pie.  You have been warned…

Collapsed Chicken Pie...

Collapsed Chicken Pie...

Monumental Mousse Meltdown

10am: No kids tonight so having friends over for dinner, a couple we have known for years.  I am already stressing out and wondering why we are just not going out to a nice restaurant instead.  Here is what we are having:

Pan Fried Scallops with a Warm Vinaigrette, Garnished with Mixed Salad Leaves

–O–

Chicken Breast Stuffed with Home-Made Pesto in a Proscuitto Wrapper, Served with Slow-Roast Tomatoes and Home Made Chunky Chips

–O–

Home-Made Bitter Chocolate Mousse

The menu looks more complex than it actually is, I reckon total prep time is about 1 hour (I have just made the chocolate mousse, took 20 mins and it’s chilling in the fridge, tomatoes have been in the oven since 8am, am a bit concerned about the mousse though as it is not looking quite as I thought it would).  The pesto is “one I made earlier” and so is coming out the freezer, so hand-cutting chips is the biggest time-consumer.

Recipe: Chicken Stuffed with Pesto and Wrapped in Parma Ham

Chicken Stuffed with Pest and Wrapped in Parma Ham

Chicken Stuffed with Pest and Wrapped in Parma Ham

The main dish is simple, and you could use ether fresh or jar pesto from the supermarket quite easily–there is no need to make your own.  I don’t do that making a pocket thingy on the front of the breast, most chicken breasts that I am sold in supermarkets have a natural pocket at the back and if you cut through from the smooth, front side you are likely to go right through the chicken and end up with a great big hole.  So, I deepen the natural trough at the back if necessary and put in a spoonful of pesto and roll and wrap up in a couple of overlapping sheets of parma ham/prosciutto.   My fillets were a little large, so I would either try to use smaller ones next time or cut them in half.  I folded in the tail end, and twisted the parma ham in a bow to hold it, but this was fiddly as my ham was very thin and very fragile.  It’s not that easy to do, but it does not have to be perfect and just rolling it up like a blanket is far simpler.  The only perfect pix of wrapping up bow-like I have seen use longer strips of thicker cut parma ham and I can’t buy those in Sainsbury!

Either bake for 25-30 mins in a medium-hot oven, 190-200 degrees Celsius or pan fry on both sides first, and then bake for about 15-20 minutes.

12:15 Oh Dear God Almighty, I just looked in the fridge and the mousse is a disaster.  Not just a bit heavy or a little bit grainy, it is an utter, unmitigated fecking disaster.  I have managed to make the world’s worst chocolate mousse, my husband is crying with laughter, he wants to serve it up anyway as a joke.  I checked the recipe I used with 4 different sources and it seemed in tune with other ones, but clearly something went HORRIBLY HORRIBLY WRONG:

It was not white and dark chocolate mousse

No, I wouldn't eat it either...

So now I have to go and buy a cake, which is what I bloody well should have done in the first place.  Who am I kidding, making an entire dinner pary from scratch?  Who am I kidding that cooking can be stress-free and relaxed if following simple instructions?  Who is the anonymous bloody blogger person that said, and I quote, “this is the easiest most delicious chocolate mousse recipe ever“?  Feckwit.  Numpty.  Espece d’Idiot & Bon fecking Appetit as they say in fecking French.

Note to self:  do not trust recipe sites that do not have any pix of anyone actually making the dishes.  Seems to be a helluva lot of re-cycling, and missing out steps and fiddling with quantities, maybe just to make sure the rip-off is not so obvious.  Or, one bad recipe just does the rounds over and over.  Devils and Charlatans, a pox on all your houses.

Relaxed, Easy Sunday Roast Chicken

The weekend food shop is a biggie this week as we are stuck at home saving money for our hols in August.  In total, that’s seven home-prepared meals from Friday night to Sunday night, including, of course, the big Sunday Roast.

It’s roast chicken this week, it takes minimal preparation, most people love roast chicken, and has the least number of ways in which things can go horribly wrong.  With this way of cooking a chicken below, even a standard supermarket bird can be tasty, tender and moist.  Preparing the chook takes less than five minutes and it does not involve any temperature adjusting, fussing or trussing on the cook’s part.

Ingredients for Relaxed Roast Chicken:

  • Fresh or completely defrosted whole Chicken (see weights further down), with any elastic trussing string, packs or loose giblets and kidneys from the cavity removed.  The kidneys, browny squidgy things, are sometimes lingering stuck on at the back of the cavity and you can scoop them away with a spoon or your fingers.
  • A fresh Lemon, cut into half or into quarters if very large
  • Two or three small Onions (Shallots), or half of a medium-sized onion, peeled and either halved or quartered depending on size
  • 1 large or 2 small cloves of Garlic, peeled and very lightly crushed with the back of a spoon
  • Couple of teaspoons of dried Mixed Herbs, Thyme or Herbes de Provence
  • Dessertspoon of Olive Oil, or use a couple of knobs of Butter if preferred
  • Salt and Pepper to taste

Method:

Pre-heat the oven, 20 minutes or so should do it.  Temperatures may already be printed on the packaging, but my general rule is roast chicken is cooked at Gas Mark 5, 190 degrees C or 375 degrees F.

If you have not pre-heated the oven, it is not a disaster, but the chicken may take an extra 15-20mins or more to cook through.  Do not wash your chicken first, as it potentially spreads germs right around the kitchen–here are GoodHousekeeping’s views and explanation on this.

Place the lemon halves or quarters inside the empty chicken cavity, along with the onion and garlic clove.  This adds steamy, fragrant moisture from the inside out when cooking, so that the meat does not dry out.  Place the chicken in a roasting pan.  Drizzle and rub olive oil or butter by hand over the outer skin.  Grind over some salt and pepper.  Sprinkle over the herbs.  That’s it, ready to cook!

Cooking Times for Roast Chicken:

There are a LOT of mixed up, wrongly converted timings and temperatures for cooking chicken on the web, one of which is potentially so dangerous I emailed the site.  It wasn’t even an amateur blog, which you could kinda forgive, it was one of those conglomerate recipe resources.  So, did they bother to reply?  What do you think?  There ought to be a law against it.  Or at least someone you can complain to.

There are also lots of variations on a basic roast out there too, this blog article in the Guardian newspaper tested many different recipes: cooking at a higher temperature first or not; pumping up the temperature towards the end; blah blah, covering the bird with foil; uncovering at a certain time etc, turning it on its side for half the time…  Of course all these ideas can produce nice results, but they are not strictly necessary and just mean more work and more of the cook’s attention. The simplest, easiest  and safest timing for the entire cooking period is this:

20 minutes per per 450g (or per lb) plus 15 to 20 minutes 

@ 190 degrees Celsius or 375 degrees Farenheit 

 

A 3lb (1.4kg) chicken will serve 2-3, and take 3 x 20 mins + 20 mins to cook

80 mins total = 1 hour 20mins

A 5lb (2.3kg) chicken will serve 5-6, and take 5 x 20 mins + 20 mins to cook

120 mins total = 2 hours

Or use the wrapper instructions.  These timings and temperatures have been used by me for years, and I have checked them against trusted published sources like Delia Smith, with supermarket recipe sites like Waitrose and I checked too with Tesco’s very handy roasting chart.  Finally, I looked at the UK government’s Food Standards Agency which is a really valuable resource.  So, while Hampshirecook might be just another amateur cooking blog, its going to be a jolly well-researched amateur blog.

The cooked bird also needs to rest for 10 minutes before carving and serving, with a kitchen foil cover to keep in the heat, so I add that on to my “target” dishing-up time.

Ovens vary, timers run slow/fast and on freezing cold days in an unheated kitchen it can take rather a long time for an oven to crank itself up to temperature.  I really do quick-check to make sure that the juices run clear from the thickest part of the leg before I decide its done.  There should be no pinkness at all.

On basting, it is not necessary to baste multiple times, basting at least once half-way through the cooking time can be enough.  Usually I aim for twice, but if too rushed to manage, it doesn’t matter.  I rotate the roasting pan around by a half-turn after basting to make double-sure the chicken gets an even cook.

Now that just leaves the veg, the gravy and the stuffing…

Happy weekend!