Autumn is here and what’s not to love. Lovely sunny days, crisp fresh evenings, the gorgeous colours all around us and this rich, warming Burgundy chicken casserole served with a dollop of buttery mash and a glass of red wine.
This rather delectable Chicken Casserole ticks all the boxes for a warm and comforting Autumnal meal. I could go on and on about the gorgeous aroma, the delicious sauce and the juicy, fall off the bone chicken but it’s probably much easier to just say that it’s been a firm family favourite for at least the past 20 years and never fails to please.
Well it’s taken me a while to get back into blogging again and I have done so on one condition – I had to join Slimming World.
You see, for every recipe on this blog, I make and test it three times. Now my hubby doesn’t eat desserts or cakes and I don’t want to be giving them to my kids every other day so ….. Well you guessed it. I was eating my fair share and giving the rest away to my hubby’s co-workers. Not the ideal way to live a healthy lifestyle.
So Slimming World it is for the foreseeable future and hopefully more healthy meals on the blog with the occasional treat (or two).
This recipe for a one pot chicken chilli is a delicious family dinner and so tasty. It is one of those meals that gets the juices flowing as it simmers away on the stove top. It is hard to resist and that comes from someone who had to resist while taking these photos.
I love using spices when I am watching the calories and one of my most pinned recipes is my chickpea and spinach curry so I thought this chicken chilli would be a good one to share with you.
I have stated that each portion is equivalent to 2 Syns and that is because I choose to use olive oil to fry the onions and peppers. I just find it easier than trying to use the low calorie spray. I do use it for browning the chicken though.
If you have more success with the Fry Light oil then you could leave out the olive oil and use the low cal spray and the chicken chilli would be completely Syn free.
TIPS FOR SUCCESS
1. The reason the preparation time is so long on this recipe is because I use chicken thighs which tend to have quite a bit of fat on them. I take the time to trim this all off but if you wanted to save some time you could use chicken breasts which are much leaner. You would however compromise on the taste and tenderness of the meat.
2. I would try and get as much colour on the chicken in the browning process because chicken thighs can look a bit dull and grey if you leave this process out.
3. I have stated 300ml of chicken stock (I use 1 stock cube) but this will depend on the pan you use, if you use gas or electricity and how fast your simmer rate is. If the sauce looks too dry towards the end of cooking time – add more water. If there is too much liquid – take the lid off and simmer for a couple more minutes until you get the correct consistency.
4. How spicy do you like it? This is a difficult one to put down in a recipe because there are so many different varieties of chillies out there. I use a medium strength chilli but if you’re not sure then try with one less and add more the next time you make it.
Driving home from school the other day, my 5 year old daughter asked me what I’d been up to that day. “I went into London,” was my response. That caught her attention. “Cool, did you go to the Aquarium?” “Uh, no, nothing that exciting,” I told her. “Oh, so did you just go and take some photos then?” “Well no it wasn’t even that exciting,” I said. “I went to listen to some people talk about chicken.” “What! Why would you do that?” I could have just ended the conversation at that point but I thought I would tell her anyway. “Well, they were explaining how to cook chicken properly so that people don’t get sick or worse, even die.” “Well that was a waste of time then because you’ve never killed anyone – have you?” And no I haven’t ever killed anyone or even given them food poisoning but I did find the talk very interesting and I did learn more about the correct way to handle chicken when preparing to cook it.
There is going to be a lot of information in the media this week about this very subject. It is after all, Food Safety Week and the emphasis is on making the public aware of Campylobacter which happens to be the most common cause of food poisoning in the UK. I’d never heard of it before but there are more cases of Campylobacter poisoning that Salmonella and E.coli put together. The symptoms of Campylobacter poisoning are abdominal pain, severe diarrhoea and sometimes vomiting but what can be really nasty is the possibility of reactive conditions like irritable bowel syndrome, reactive arthritis and Guillain-Barré syndrome. Of course not everybody will suffer to the same degree but I personally don’t want to ever be responsible for putting someone in that position.
Now I’m not one to be overly fussy about germs. Our house is clean but not sterile. We are generally a healthy family and I can say this because we have lived in our current house for 6 years and neither my husband nor my two children have ever had to visit our local doctor. I have always been aware of the risks of raw chicken and I think I do take more care when handling chicken than with any other raw meat. I have never been one to wash chicken before cooking it but I do know of people who do. We have had many debates about why you should and shouldn’t with each one of us as passionate about our reasons as the other. It would seem that at least 44% of people surveyed said they do wash chicken and their reasons vary from removing any bacteria to removing the slimy stuff or just because their Mother used to do it. The FSA and local authorities are now campaigning to raise awareness about the dangers of washing your chicken. One of the main ways to get and spread campylobacter is through cross-contamination and by washing your raw chicken you can actually spread the bacteria by splashing it onto hands, work surfaces, clothing and cooking equipment. As the talk progressed I was feeling very pleased with myself and gave myself a pat on the back for not ever having washed my chicken. After listening to both the FSA and a doctor from the Institute of Infection and Global Health we had a demonstration from Sue Ashworth who is a trained home economist. After Sue had cut open the packaging and removed the chicken she threw the packaging straight into the bin and made the comment that “of course you don’t want to rinse the packaging.” That was me brought down from my pedestal – I always rinse my packaging before binning it. I found myself sitting up straighter and paying more attention after that.
So what can we, as home cooks do to reduce the risk of cross-contamination?
1. When buying chicken, make sure the packaging is not damaged and the meat is sealed adequately.
2. Make sure your chicken is not put in with any fresh produce when packing your bags at the supermarket – just in case it does leak.
3. Keep the chicken as cold as possible on the way home from the supermarket.
4. Place it in the fridge as soon as you get home and preferably in the coldest part of the fridge which is the bottom shelf.
5. Try to leave the chicken in the original packaging and always place it in a separate container – again just in case it does leak.
6. If the chicken is frozen, give yourself ample time to defrost it in the fridge – not on your countertop.
7. Before preparing your chicken, fill your sink with hot soapy water. By doing this it means you don’t have to touch your taps to wash your hands.
8. Cut your packaging and remove your chicken either into your baking dish or on to your chopping board.
9. Throw any packaging straight in the bin.
10. Wash any utensils and your hands in the hot soapy water as you go.
11. If you test your chicken with a skewer and the chicken is not yet cooked, make sure you wash the skewer before using it again. This applies to a basting brush as well.
12. Follow the instructions for cooking times given on the packaging. There should be no pink meat visible and all juices should run clear when tested with a skewer or knife.
Remember – thorough cooking will kill any bacteria.
So there you have it. Most of us will instinctively follow good food hygiene but there may be just one or two things that we can improve on to help our families enjoy the food that we give them and above all to stay healthy.
Here is a quick recipe for barbecued chicken drumsticks – a perfect summer snack and an opener for another whole debate about barbecues and food safety :-)
What a week! The poor kids have had rain nearly every day of their school holiday. They have done well to get outside at every given opportunity but it’s not quite the same as if the sun were shining and the grass dry enough to play on without turning into a swamp. We did have one dry afternoon so I quickly made up a batch of these turkey burgers and some delicious Monkeygland sauce, packed them up in a bag and headed off to the village green with a selection of bats and balls and let the kids burn off some energy before tucking into these delicious burgers.
The burgers are low fat and make a nice change from the usual beef burgers. I nearly always use turkey mince if I’m making homemade burgers as it is both cheaper and healthier than beef. The key is to not overcook them, keeping them as moist as possible. Once you’ve added all the extras and some delicious sauce, you’ll hardly notice that they are not beef burgers. Now the sauce may sound a bit odd and I have no idea where the name came from as it has nothing to do with monkeys or glands. It is a typical South African sauce and is found on nearly every menu which has burgers on it. It is sweet and rich but with a nice kick from the chilli. Every South African is familiar with Mrs Ball’s Chutney so we would typically use this brand of chutney. It is available in most of the UK supermarkets and is definitely worth a try. The recipe makes more sauce than is needed for 6 burgers but it stores well in a sterilised jar and if kept in the refrigerator.
Well My Golden Pear has had a good start to the New Year. My January rating for Foodies 100 was high enough to push me into the top 500 blogs (just) which is a first for me and a great incentive to carry on. My blog is purely a hobby but I use it to push myself to try new and interesting recipes and most of all it gives me a great subject with which to practice and improve my photography. In January last year I set myself a goal to take part in some of the blogging challenges out there and I’m so glad I did. It is a great way to get involved in the food blogging community and I have tried and discovered so many new things as a result of some of the themes that have been set for us. I look forward to all the new and exciting themes for 2014.
Today’s recipe is not a new one to me but it is deliciously tasty and so easy and fits in perfectly with two of my favourite monthly challenges. Succulent chicken thighs are coated in a mixture of breadcrumbs, cheese, paprika and garlic and baked until golden and crispy. A grownup version of chicken nuggets, I guess. You don’t get much sauce with this dish so I normally serve with a mushroom sauce and veggies.