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Monday, 22 April 2013

Food: Dinner Party

We were having two of our good friends over for dinner, Andy and Fi, over the weekend. This meant that I had to slightly relax the ultra healthy food that I've been cooking up recently. I'm sure they would have appreciated it all the same, but dinner parties are supposed to be relatively decadent. As the weather has been so lovely the last couple of days, finally, I wanted to make a more summery dish. I was initially going to make roast chicken but I decided to use the chicken instead to make Martin's favourite dish, chicken and saffron rice. I'd cooked up a large quinoa salad at lunch time, so I added some of that as a side and also a quick carrot and orange salad that I had rustled up. 

For dessert I scanned BBC Good Food for some ideas. BBC Good Food is one of the best food websites around. The number of user reviews means that you're pretty much guaranteed that the recipe will work, it's is been highly rated. I decided to make a reduced fat lemon tart. I'm usually not keen on reduced fat desserts because you can tell that they're the diet version due to lack of flavour or an unusual texture compared with the full fat version. However, because this particular recipe had 38 five star reviews, I thought I'd give it a go, and, with just over 180 calories per portion, how can you go wrong?

I had a bit of a disaster initially, as I stupidly didn't measure the size of my tin, so I didn't make enough pastry. I tried, in vain, to roll it out between two pieces of cling film to make it thinner. But no, the pastry wasn't having any of it and I ended up making a second, larger batch. This time it worked perfectly. However, on blind baking, I sampled a little excess pastry and realised I'd forgotten to add icing sugar. Doh. I was not happy! Having already made a previous attempt, I gave up at this point and just carried on with recipe. Luckily I'd made my pastry nice and thin, and the highly lemony filling more than disguised this error. The end result was a beautifully crisp pastry tart with a soft, moreish, oh so lemony, filling.

Chicken and Saffron Rice

It's hard to describe what this dish is like as it involves such an unusual combination of flavours such as paprika, golden syrup, saffron, tomato ketchup, risotto rice and chicken. But honestly, please take my word for it that it's delicious and give it a go! It's effectively a chicken and rice bake. 

chicken and saffron rice

Serves 4 

2 chicken breasts, cut into bitesized piece
1 carrot, grated
1 onion, finely chopped
5 cloves of garlic
1 large pinch saffron
200g risotto rice
650ml chicken/vegetable stock (a stock cube is fine)
2 tsp paprika
1 tsp caraway seeds
20 cherry tomatoes
5 juniper berries
1 bay leaf
1 tbsp tomato ketchup
1 tbsp golden syrup
salt and pepper
olive oil

1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees celsius.
2. Begin by marinading your chicken pieces in the tomato ketchup, golden syrup, caraway seeds, juniper berries and paprika, salt and pepper. Leave for 30 minutes.
3. Place the chicken in a large oven proof dish, cover and place in the oven for 20 minutes.
4. Meanwhile, sweat the grated carrot, tomatoes and onion in a little olive oil for 10 minutes until softened.
4. Add the carrot, tomatoes and onion to the chicken, cover and return to the oven for a further 20 minutes.
5. Finally, add the risotto rice, bay leaf, garlic, stock and saffron to the dish and cook, uncovered, for forty minutes. Check the dish every 10 minutes or so and give it a stir. Make sure the rice isn't sticking to the bottom of the dish. If it's looking too dry, add a splash of water, although the end result should be quite dry (see my picture). It's done when the rice is just cooked.

Quinoa salad 

Serves 4
1 cup quinoa
1 carrot
1 courgette
1 broccoli head
3 tbsp fresh mint, chopped
1/2 tin of cooked black eyed peas
salt and pepper
olive oil
1/2 lemon

1. Cook your quinoa according to these instructions. 
2. Place the broccoli into a large pan of boiling water and allow to boil for 2 minutes. Drain and place in a large bowl of cold water to stop any further cooking. Drain again.
3. Add 1 tablespoon of olive oil to a griddle/frying pan on a low heat. Add the slices of garlic and sautee gently for 5 minutes. Increase the heat and add the broccoli florets, stir frying for a couple more minutes. Leave aside to cool slightly before slicing into manageable bite sizes pieces.
3. Preheat the oven to 200 degrees celsius. Slice your carrots and courgette lengthways, place on an oven proof tray and drizzle with olive oil. Bake and check occasionally that they're not burning and after half an hour, remove from the oven. 
4. When the quinoa has cooked, drain and leave to cool.
5. Finally assemble the dish, by mixing together the broccoli, carrot, courgette, black eyed peas (drained) and mint. Dress with a little olive oil and the juice of 1/2 lemon. 

Carrot and Orange Salad

3 carrots
2 tbsp orange juice
1 tbsp fresh mint, chopped
1 tsp white wine vinegar 
1 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
salt and peper

1. Grate the carrots and place in a large bowl.
2. Dress with the orange juice, white wine vinegar and olive oil. Sprinkle on the mint and season with salt and pepper. 

Lemon Tart

I'm definitely not great at making my food look beautiful. This tart tasted much better than it looked, honestly! I am trying to improve my presentation, but it takes patience, which is something I need to have lots more of. I tried to save it by making some chocolate dipped strawberries, I'm not sure if it worked...

Serves 10

For the pastry:
50g butter, cut into chunks (fridge cold)
140g plain flour
1 tbsp icing sugar
1 tbsp extra virgin rapeseed oil
1 medium egg yolk

For the filling:
3 medium eggs, plus 2 medium egg white
140g icing sugar, plus extra for dusting
2 tbsp finely grated lemon zest (about 4 lemons)
200ml half-fat creme fraiche

You will need a 23x2cm flan tin (loose bottomed)

1. Begin by making the pastry.
2. Rub the butter into the pastry in a large bowl until the mixture resembles fine bread crumbs (or use a food processor). Add the icing sugar and stir to combine.
3. Make a well and add the egg and rapeseed oil, plus a couple of tbsp of cold water. Use a round edged knife to bring the dough together into a bowl.
4. Roll out the dough until it's around 5mm thick. To prevent adding extra flour to your pastry, roll it out between two pieces of cling film. 
5. Line your pastry tin, leaving the excess pastry hanging over the sides. Prick the base all over with a fork.
6. Place the lined tin into the fridge for half an hour to allow the pastry to chill. Meanwhile preheat the oven to 190 degrees celsius.
7. Line the pastry with baking parchment and add baking beans (I didn't have any so I used loose change; works just as well as the metal conducts heat).
8. Place in the oven and cook for 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and trim the excess pastry using a knife. (Pastry shrinks in the oven, so by keeping the excess pastry hanging over the sides of the tin and trimming at this point, your end result will completely fill the tin).
9. Place the trimmed case back into the oven for another 10 minutes, then take out the baking beans and parchment and return to the oven for a further 5 minutes until the base is cooked and a golden colour. 
10. Now make the filling. Place the whole eggs and egg whites in a bowl and mix together throughly with a wooden spoon. Sift the icing sugar into a large bowl, then gradually beat in the eggs. Stir in the lemon zest and juice.
11. Beat the creme fraiche in a medium bowl until smooth, then slowly stir in the lemon mix until well blended. Transfer to a jug, then carefully pour two thirds into the warm pastry case. Place in the oven and then top up with the remaining third. This helps prevent spillage occurring.
12. Reduce the heat to 150 degrees celsius and bake for 25 minutes until barely set with a slight wobble in the middle. Cool for about an hour and then serve with a light dusting of icing sugar.

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