Friday 24 November 2017

Recipies: Chicken tonight

Because it's cold outside, Brenda Costigan turns to tasty, satisfying meals that will warm up her guests in a hurry

Chicken and cream cheese roll ups
Chicken and cream cheese roll ups

This time of year, comfort food is what the doctor ordered. Hot and juicy, with aromatic steam wafting up from the plate, this kind of food seems to cosset and console on these colder days.

To get such a meal on the plate with the minimum of fuss requires something that cooks quickly. Chicken fits the bill. All manner of portions, from more expensive chicken breasts to good-value chicken thighs, are easily available. Equally, a whole chicken can be bought and cut up into portions.

The following recipes are easy to make and satisfying to eat.



Cream cheese, or other cheese of your choice, mixed with chopped herbs, is used to make a tasty stuffing for skinless chicken breast fillets, which are then wrapped in rashers and baked in the oven. Serves 5.

You will need:

5 heaped teaspoons cream cheese, about 40g (1½oz), see note

5 teaspoons fresh herbs, such as parsley, chives or a little fresh thyme, chopped

1 small clove garlic, finely chopped

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

5 skinless chicken breast fillets, about 175g (6oz) each

10-15 back or streaky rashers

Wooden cocktail sticks

Olive oil

Green salad, to serve

Note: It is better to use a stiff, full-fat cream cheese; if too soft, the cheese will ooze out too quickly. A little wedge of cambozola would make a change.

Preheat the oven to 190°C, 375°F, Gas 5. Cut the cream cheese into a bowl and add the fresh herbs and the finely chopped garlic. Season with the salt and freshly ground black pepper. Mix well: the mixture should be stiff.

Cut a slit of a pocket into each chicken breast, season lightly with salt and freshly ground black pepper and stuff each with one-fifth of the filling.

Place two or three rashers, slightly overlapping, on a wooden board. Sit a chicken breast on top and wrap the rashers around the breast, holding them in place with a few cocktail sticks. Repeat with each chicken breast.

Place these roll-ups on a lightly oiled roasting or baking tin and brush the top of each one with a smidgen of oil and maybe a light scattering of some more chopped herbs.

Cover loosely with a piece of foil and bake in the oven for 20 minutes, removing the foil at the end of this time. Return to the oven and cook for another 10 minutes or so to crisp the rashers nicely and to cook right through. Serve hot, with any of the creamy juices that have oozed out. Accompany with a salad.


(hunter's chicken)

A very tasty and satisfying dish. The rashers and mushrooms, with the onions and a hint of garlic, add wonderful flavour. My preference is to use chicken thighs with the bones still in for best flavour. They take just a little longer than the skinless chicken breast fillets to cook.

You will need:

1 medium onion, chopped

1 clove garlic, chopped

2-3 tablespoons olive oil

4 back rashers, preferably smoked, chopped small

175g (6oz) mushrooms, chopped

4 chicken breast fillets or 8 chicken thighs

1x400ml (14fl oz) tin chopped tomatoes

300ml (½pt) chicken stock

Sprig fresh thyme or ¼-½ teaspoon dried thyme

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Fresh parsley, chopped, to serve

Mashed potatoes or boiled rice, to serve

Fry the chopped onion and chopped garlic in the olive oil until soft. Using a perforated spoon, transfer the softened onion and garlic to a saucepan.

Next, fry the chopped rashers until lightly cooked, adding the chopped mushrooms halfway through. When both are cooked, add them to the onion. Fry the chicken pieces in the same pan until golden, adding more oil if needed. Transfer them, too, to the saucepan.

Into that same saucepan, add the tinned tomatoes and the chicken stock, plus the thyme and the salt and freshly ground black pepper. Bring to the boil, stirring to mix everything. Lower the heat right down to a gentle simmer, cover with a lid and cook for about 15 minutes -- maybe an extra 10 minutes if using chicken thighs with bones in.

Serve hot with fresh parsley scattered over, with mashed potatoes or rice.


Garam masala is a standard mixture of ground spices used in Indian cookery. Ingredients vary but the blend usually contains cinnamon, cardamom, cloves, cumin, coriander and pepper. Its name literally means 'hot spice' and yet it is not a hot spice as such. For a hot curry, it is necessary to include hot chilli powder or fresh hot chillis as well.

You will need:

2-3 tablespoons vegetable oil

1 large onion, chopped

1 clove garlic, chopped

4 teaspoons garam masala

2-3 teaspoons hot chilli powder -- the amount depends on how hot you like your curries

8 chicken thighs, with or without bones

1x400ml (14fl oz) tin coconut milk

Salt, if needed

Rice or naan bread, to serve

Heat the vegetable oil in large frying pan and fry the chopped onion and chopped garlic gently until they are soft.

Add the the garam masala and the hot chilli powder, and then the chicken, and fry for about two minutes, stirring to coat the meat with all the flavours.

Pour in the coconut milk and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat right down and simmer gently covered with a lid for about 20-30 minutes or so, until the thighs are tender and cooked through. Add salt if necessary, before serving with rice or naan bread.


In this recipe, the main ingredients are stir-fried, and the flavours are brought together with the coconut milk at the very end.

You will need:

3 tablespoons vegetable or groundnut oil

4 skinless chicken breasts, cut into bite-size pieces

250g (9oz) broccoli, cut into small florets

About 3 tablespoons of water

1 small onion, sliced lengthways into petals

2 cloves garlic, crushed

Small knob ginger, peeled and finely chopped

1 fat red chilli, deseeded and chopped

1x400ml (14fl oz) coconut milk

1 lime, grated zest and juice

Pinch turmeric, optional

Pinch sugar

Small bunch basil leaves, roughly torn

Rice, to serve

Heat a wok or deep pan over a high heat and add 1 tablespoon of the vegetable or groundnut oil, whichever you are using. When hot, toss in the chicken pieces and stir-fry until golden, about 5 minutes. Remove the chicken to one side.

Heat another tablespoon of the oil in the pan and stir-fry the broccoli florets for about two minutes until they start to soften. Then add in about 3 tablespoons of water to help create some steam and cook the broccoli for a further 3 minutes or so, until just tender. Lift out the broccoli with a perforated spoon.

Add the final tablespoon of the vegetable or groundnut oil, whichever you are using, into the pan, add the sliced onion and stir-fry for about 2 minutes. When it is softening, add back the chicken. Also add the crushed garlic, finely chopped ginger and deseeded and chopped chilli and toss over a high heat for 1 minute.

Add the coconut milk and lime zest and juice to the pan, plus the turmeric, if you are using it, and the sugar, and heat through, stirring well to mix the flavours. Add the broccoli florets and heat for about two minutes, and then add the basil and serve with boiled rice.


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