Slimming World friendly Lemon & chilli chicken lettuce wraps

This light lunch is perfect for when you don’t want to use your HexB on bread or a wrap for a sandwich. 
You’ll need a chicken breast sliced as thinly as you can, sliced onion, chopped chilli, garlic and coriander. Lemon juice, salt, pepper, two large lettuce leaves (I used romaine), and a tablespoon of extra light mayo for 1/2 syn (I used Aldi Bramwells). 

Dry fry the chicken, onion, garlic and chilli until the chicken is browned and cooked through. Throw in most of  the coriander, a good squeeze of lemon juice and a good grind of salt and pepper. Spoon into the lettuce leaves, drizzle with the mayo and scatter the rest of the coriander leaves over the top. Ready in 5 minutes although I bet I ate them in less! Delicious! 

Surviving Christmas Dinner

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For many of us the thought of getting Christmas lunch to the table is a daunting one. The seemingly endless hours of preparation, the impending doom that is the threat of under cooked turkey, potatoes better suited to being fired out of a cannon than served on a dinner plate, and not forgetting the obligatory bitter, soggy sprouts.  It’s enough to make even the most au fait home cooks quake in our boots.

Rewind to Christmas 2003. I was a newlywed, 21-year-old girl who’d suddenly found herself  single-handedly cooking Christmas lunch for the in-laws at my parents house, who, incidentally weren’t there, as they were spending the holidays in New York with my sister who lived in Cape Cod at the time. I remember feeling pretty out of my depth about the whole thing, wanting to impress and, more importantly, not wanting to land my m-i-l in a&e with food poisoning on Christmas Day.  Thankfully, I’d had a practice run with my Dad who showed me what to do and when, writing down the methods and timings as we went. Thank goodness for Dad’s eh? Thirteen years later and I’ve built on my Dad’s way of doing things, adapting recipes to suit our tastes and learning a few new tricks here and there.

In this post I’m going to talk you through how I do Christmas Dinner. Firstly I want to make something quite clear…It is totally acceptable to take shortcuts.  It has taken me 13 years of marriage and a whole lot of soul-searching to actually get to the point where I am comfortable in saying that it is perfectly ok to use frozen parsnips and stock from a cube! It’s Christmas Day for goodness sake. You should be spending it with your loved ones, not chained to the kitchen. This is quite comprehensive, but don’t be put off, just pick and chose the bits that work for you.  Another tip is to invest in plenty of disposable foil trays.  It makes clear up so much easier!

Lets begin:

The Pescatarian: My Christmas dinner actually starts a couple of weeks prior to the big day where I set aside some time to bake. My husband is a pescatarian so I try to make him a decent alternative to the traditional turkey or goose.  Last year he loved my Vegetarian Christmas Dinner Pie so much he has requested it again. After baking I simply freeze them and take one out on Christmas Eve to defrost before putting it back in the oven for twenty minutes to reheat.  Perfect. That’s the veggie sorted.

Turkey Butter: I also often make Herby Butter to slather under the skin of the turkey before roasting to add flavour and help to keep the meat moist.  This too can be frozen and taken out a day or so before you want to adorn the bird with it. Finally, if you should wish to make your own stuffing (bearing in mind loads of supermarkets are now stocking their own wide variety of flavours) I can recommend Delia’s Pork & Chestnut Stuffing recipe, which can also be made in advance and frozen.

Stock: Now, I realise I’ve already said it’s fine to use pre-made stock, and it absolutely is, but should you be inclined to make your own here’s how I do it, and the benefit of doing it this way is that you can do it way in advance. Throughout the year I save up any chicken bones and freeze them in a ziplock bag.  Every time I cook a chicken I strip it and add the bones to the bag.  Once the bag is full I roast them in a hot oven for 30 mins, then throw them in the slow cooker with a couple of carrots, celery and leak, cover with boiling water and leave them to cook for about 48 hours, topping up the water when necessary. After a couple of days drain to remove the bones and vegetables and you’ll be left with the most amazing stock.  Leave to cool and then freeze in a ziplock bag.

Pigs in blankets: Again you can make these ahead, put them in foil trays, freeze and cook on the day. An even easier option of course would be to buy pre-prepared ones and freeze.

Seriously, if you have a freezer, use it to your advantage. You’ll thank it on Christmas Eve when you’re taking all the stuff out of it and have halved your prep time.

Right, lets move forward to Christmas Eve:

Firstly, if you haven’t already take all the goodies you’ve already prepped out of the freezer to defrost. Now allow yourself and hour and a half or so to get all the following done (allow longer for cooking the ham).

Ham: If you’re planning on serving ham with your Christmas Lunch I’d get it on in the morning. I swear by Nigella’s Ham in Cola recipe.  It really is delicious and like all of her recipes, pretty straightforward. You can either serve it cold or heat it up right before serving.

Roast Potatoes: Everyone loves a good roast spud, but who wants to be peeling a bag of maris pipers on Christmas morning?  Definitely not me. I prep mine on Christmas Eve following my Ultimate Roast Potato recipe. Instead of cooking them all the way through though, I put them in a hot oven for 40 minutes to get them going then remove, allow to cool and put in the fridge to finish off for another 45/50 minutes on Christmas Day.

Cauliflower Cheese: While the potatoes are getting their sizzle on in the oven make a start on the cauli.  I’ll be using my Whole Baked Cauliflower Cheese recipe, but should you wish to segment the cauli to make serving it up easier than just reduce the steaming time to about 5 minutes.

Carrots and Broccoli: I just tend to wash and prep these and put them in the steamer ready to go the following day.

Braised red cabbage: Again this is something a lot of supermarkets are now selling pre-prepared, but should you wish to make your own, I love this BBC recipe and you can easily reheat it the following day.

Sprouts: After washing and removing and tough outer leaves, I slice them in half, throw them in a roasting tray with a good glug of oil, some diced pancetta (or bacon) and a couple of cloves of garlic, season with salt and pepper and pop them in the fridge for the following day.

The Turkey: The main event! The star of the show! The one thing you really want to get right. If you’ve bought frozen make sure you allow plenty of time for it to defrost in the fridge.  Remove the giblets and save for the gravy. Gently slide your hand in between the meat and the skin.  It should come away fairly easily and you’ll be able to smear the herby butter in between the flesh and the skin, and on top of the skin on the legs.  Stuff the neck cavity with the pork and chestnut stuffing, but I tend to leave the cavity empty. Crisscross smoked streaky bacon on top. Cover with foil and put back in the fridge.

Christmas Morning:

Whack the oven up to full blast and pour yourself a bucks fizz, glass of prosecco or something stronger if you’re hardcore.

Turkey: Take it out of the fridge about an hour before you want to cook it to bring it back up to room temperature. Pop it in the oven then immediately turn the oven down to about 180oC. Baste it every 45 minutes or so with all those lovely juices. This year I’ll be getting an 8 or 9kg bird as we’re feeding a crowd, and it will probably take between 4 and a half and 5 hours to cook. I’ll probably put it in the oven at 8am, and expect it to be ready between 12.30pm and 1pm.  About half an hour before the allotted time remove the tin foil to allow the bacon to crisp up a bit. Once the juices run clear from the thickest part of the thigh it’s done. Remove from the oven, cover in with two layers of tin foil and place two clean tea towels on top.  It will happily rest here for an hour until everything else is cooked and you’re ready to serve and by that time the meat will be lovely.

Gravy: Once you’ve got the bird in the oven take your giblets, and a diced onion and saute in a pan with some oil. Add in the stock, some sage and a bay leaf, and simmer continuously for a couple of hours adding more stock or water as needed.  Add in the juices from the turkey once it has cooked, and thicken with cornflour. Taste and season accordingly.  Pass through a sieve to remove all the bits et voila, beautiful gravy.

Everything Else: When the turkey is cooked and is resting, it’s time to get on with everything else.

  • Put the part cooked potatoes on the top shelf and the parsnips just below.  I will be cheating on the parsnips and relying on good old Aunt Bessie because her parsnips are arguably the best I’ve tasted!
  • While they’re cooking slice the ham, put in a dish with a tablespoon of water and cover with foil.
  • After 20 mins toss the parsnips and potatoes and put them back in along with the cauliflower cheese, brussels sprouts, pigs in blankets and veggie pie if you’re doing it.
  • Cook for another 20 mins before adding the sliced ham and red cabbage to the bottom of the oven to warm up.
  • Add boiling water to the bottom of the steamer and steam the veggies for 8 minutes. Pour the water away but leave the lid on to prevent over cooking.  There’s nothing more disgusting than soggy broccoli.
  • Stick the plates in the microwave to warm along with the bread sauce (again I will be cheating on this year and buying it pre-made)
  • Put the turkey on a platter and surround it with the pigs in blankets and roasties.
  • Put the veg in serving dishes.
  • Get a helper to move it all out onto the table.
  • Top up your wine glass and…….

ENJOY!

Phew!  I’m exhausted just thinking about it! Of course the other option is doing what by BFF does every year and ordering it all in ready prepared on foil trays….now there’s a thought!

 

Foolproof Potato Rosti

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Soggy rosti. Rosti that falls apart. Worst of all: grey rosti! I’ve had them all. Finally I’ve figured out a foolproof way which seems to work a treat. Boil the potatoes in their skins first.

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Grate (the skins will come off as you grate them) and season well with whatever herbs/spices you fancy. I kept it simple work just salt, pepper and garlic.

Shape into little patties and they can be fried, as is traditional, or baked, which is what I did, until golden and crispy.

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I served ours on wilted spinach and leeks, with salmon, crispy skin, a poached egg and garlic and lemon mayo made from whisking a large egg yolk with half a teaspoon of dijon mustard, and drizzling in rapeseed oil a little at a time until you have a creamy mayonnaise consistency. I then added a crushed clove of garlic, lemon juice to taste and salt and pepper. Delicious!

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Oh so simple lunch

I love keeping chickens. Aside from their funny little personalities and curious habits I love the fresh eggs they give us (plus, at the rate we go through eggs it works out a lot cheaper to keep chickens than to buy them).

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Meet Sarah (aka the boss), top of the pecking order.

I often have eggs for lunch and one of my favourite ways to eat them is with smoked salmon and simple stir fried vegetables. Here was today’s lunch:

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Dry fried egg on a couple of slices of smoked salmon, stir fried mushrooms, tomatoes, chilli, spring onions and red peppers, drizzled with a cheeky bit of sweet chilli. Delicious, satisfying and oh so simple.

Quinoa Patties

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Whilst scrambling through the fridge after hitting the gym the other day, wanting something that satisfied my carb craving, packed a protein punch but that didn’t drag me off the wagon, I found a bag of cooked quinoa left over from the night before.

I chopped up some fresh spinach and spring onion and mixed with the quinoa which had already been seasoned with garlic, salt, pepper and stock, threw in a couple of beaten eggs and approximately a 1/4 cup of coconut flour.

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I misted a hot frying pan with oil and dolloped little rounds of the mixture in, pressing them down to form little patties and flipping them when they had turned golden on the underside.

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Yum! For lunch I plated two up and served them with sautéed mushrooms, an egg and a little drizzle of sweet chilli sauce. Delicious.

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Homemade pot noodles

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I love the idea of convenience food, it’s just a shame that with a lot of commercial brands what you gain in convenience you lose in nutrition.

I first saw these on Pinterest and thought they were a brilliant, and very cute idea.  I find it hard to resist anything in a flip-lid jar.  Portable,  healthy and convenient, the list of what you can add to these noodle soup pots is endless. Today for the soup base I mixed a tablespoon of dark soy sauce, with a tablespoon of oyster sauce, one of sweet chilli, a teaspoon of hot sauce, a crumbled chicken oxo cube, a tablespoon of lime juice and some Szechwan pepper. I mixed it all together and divided between two 500ml flip-top jars. 

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Next place a handful of pre-cooked egg or rice noodles on top of the soup base.

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Top with thinly sliced veggies of your choice.  I used spinach, spring onions, sugar snap peas, baby corn, fresh red chilli, a few fresh mint leaves and coriander.

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Add some cooked shredded chicken and a few more coriander leaves. 

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At this point you can close the lid, put it in the fridge, take it with you to work or for a picnic. So long as the chicken is in date and everything else is fresh they will last for a few days in the fridge.  When you’re ready to eat it, pour on hot, but not boiling water up to the lower rim, give it a stir and close the lid for three minutes. Check the seasoning and add more chilli, lime, coriander or soy according to your tastes.  Enjoy!

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Sack off the sarnie

I love a good sandwich (or sarnie as us Brits like to call them), as much as the next person, but I don’t, and quite frankly wouldn’t like to have to, eat them on a daily basis. My lunchtime repertoire generally includes homemade soups, fresh eggs from the farm down the lane, or an interesting salad. However, lately I can’t seem to get enough of these little beauties…
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Rice rolls stuffed with salad, prawns and hot sauce. Traditionally there would be rice noodles in there as well, but for the carb conscious there’s no reason why they can’t be omitted.

The variations of what you fill them with is endless. Shredded chicken, pork, tofu, fish, avocado, chillis, raw crunchy veg, salad. The choice is yours. I would always suggest having a couple of aromatic herbs in there to give them a real flavour boost. I generally use fresh mint and coriander.

This time I used shredded crunchy romane lettuce, mixed salad leaves, sliced spring onions, coriander, mint and prawns.
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In this house we’re also big fans of this Itsu hot sauce…. Delicious!
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I get my spring roll wrappers from our local Asian supermarket. They only require dunking in hot water for a couple of seconds then they’re ready to roll!
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Start layering up the filing along one side of the rice roll.
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When you’re happy with your fillings roll up tightly, tucking the ends in as you go.
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There you go! Easy as a sandwich but way more interesting! Depending on your appetite I’d recommend three as a lunch portion. Enjoy!

Stuffed baby aubergines (eggplants)

This is a bit of a fusion recipe; a flavoursome amalgamation of Italian and middle eastern ingredients which blend seamlessly to create a real taste sensation.
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Start off by halving some baby aubergines and boiling in salted water for five or six minutes until soft.
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Once soft, scoop out the flesh using a spoon and place in a bowl. Retain the empty skins for later.
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Add in freshly chopped coriander (cilantro), three cloves of minced garlic, half a teaspoon each of paprika and cayenne pepper, a large handful of freshly grated parmigiano reggiano, lots of black pepper, and maybe a touch of salt (go easy though as the cheese will add some saltiness), and enough breadcrumbs to bring the mixture together. You will need to get your hands in the at this point to give it all a good squelch together. Don’t be shy!
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Now, spoon the mixture back into the empty aubergine skins.
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Place skin side up in a hot frying pan for a couple of minutes to brown and heat through. Flip and fry the bottoms for a minute or so too.
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Enjoy!
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