Wednesday, 30 October 2013

Jamie Oliver's Greek Chicken with Herby Vegetable Couscous & Tzatziki

I try very hard to limit myself to two new cookbooks a year - one at Christmas and one in the summer. I  already have way more than I need but not buying any new books is, obviously, unthinkable! Having said that, I had already failed by mid-March thanks to the new Clandestine Cake Club book and Paul Hollywood's Bread (both brilliant). Nevertheless, I still allowed myself my summer purchase and invested in Jamie Oliver's recent book, Jamie's 15-Minute Meals.

Both with this book and it's predecessor, 30 Minute Meals, there has been plenty of comment about how the titles are misleading. I would ignore any negativity, however, and buy this book because, so far, I've had nothing but success with it and if you get organised in advance then the timings aren't too far out. You have to have everything ready before you start the clock, pans heated, kettle boiled etc, so you will be in the kitchen longer than 15 minutes but even taking that into account you can get some great dishes on the table in a relatively short space of time.

Jamie uses some clever techniques to speed things up. In this recipe, for example, the chicken is flattened to decrease the cooking time and vegetables are finely chopped in a food processor, rather than by hand.

It's also clear that a lot of time has been spent making the recipes well balanced and relatively healthy so even the pasta dishes are served with a salad or something similar. Big flavours are also a key feature with various herbs and spices being used in most recipes to add interest.

On the negative side, Jamie does like to use a wide variety of ingredients that will leave you with leftovers to find a home for - half a bunch of dill, 2 teaspoons of harissa, 40g feta etc - so you might find you need to do a little extra research to find other recipes to use up what's left. He also uses chillis and coriander in a large number of the recipes, neither of which I like, however I've had no problems with leaving them out or replacing the chillis with a few dried chilli flakes.

This particular recipe was a real hit when I made it. The oregano and all spice gave the chicken an amazing flavour and the tzatziki was the perfect match with the warming heat of the peppers and chilli in the couscous. Once I had everything ready it took me around 20 minutes to get it on the table. I took a bit longer because I didn't want the pepper mix to be raw so fried it for a couple of minutes and I also didn't flatten the chicken quite enough so it took a little longer to cook.

I made half the recipe for two of us and the portion size was pretty much spot on.

I'll definitely be making this again and I urge you to try it too! You can find the recipe here.

Sunday, 27 October 2013

Clandestine Cake Club - Bury St Edmunds - 5th October 2013

A couple of weeks ago the Bury St Edmunds Clandestine Cake Club returned to what is becoming one of my favourite venues. The Theatre Royal is one of the town's loveliest buildings and the Greene Room Bar, with its brickwork and bunting, is the perfect space for a cakey get together.

Six of us gathered on a Saturday morning with our cakes, which had all been made to match the theme this month - Gluten-free. I had always imagined that being gluten-free could lead to a fairly cake-free life, however a search on the internet showed that there is, in fact, a wealth of gluten-free cake recipes available. Some rely on flour substitutes such as ground almonds whereas others use one or more of the many gluten-free flours now available.

On the day we had a great selection of cakes to choose from and all had turned out really well. Here's what we indulged in...

My Flourless Chocolate Lime Cake (recipe here). I love this cake - it's so rich and chocolatey and is a perfect match with the marguerita cream that can be served alongside

Trish's Lemon Curd Cake. This was a fantastically indulgent cake with lashings of lemon curd and buttercream.

Katherine's Banoffee Cake. Banana cake, icing, caramel sauce and bananas. What's not to like!

Lynda's Fruit-filled Clementine Cake (recipe here). This was so moist and delicious. We all agreed it would be a perfect cake to serve at Christmas.

Jane's Spanish Orange Cake (front and centre - apologies for the lack of close up!). Another wonderfully moist cake thanks to the fruit and ground almonds. Recipe here.

Rene's Coffee Cake. Lots of lovely coffee flavour and a sneaky layer of Nutella in the middle - yum!

Thanks again to the staff at the Theatre Royal for making us feel so welcome. For more information about Cake Club events in your area have a look at the Clandestine Cake Club website.