Oven-baked “KFC” mini chicken fillets

kfc chicken

I happened on a food blog called RecipeTinEats while looking for a recipe for southern-fried chicken that was not actually fried, as Pete had bought a pack of chicken breast mini fillets. This blog had great photos – and does anyone else feel that practically every food blog one sees nowadays has fantastic photographs? The food itself doesn’t look doable by lazy/incompetent me, but my oh my, the photos! But that’s by the by – as I was saying, the photos were sensational and when I read the write-up and the recipe, I was thrilled that it really did seem easy.

The recipe below is pretty much what Nagi of RecipeTinEats posted on her blog. I used a 50:50 mixture of Greek yogurt and milk in place of the buttermilk (because I didn’t have any buttermilk handy), and added some cumin powder and coriander powder to the spice mix… because why not. While the spices probably don’t add up to the number that KFC boast of in their “secret” mix of spices and herbs, they are more than adequate for the chicken.

I guess I should say that the chicken didn’t get as crisp in the oven as Nagi mentioned, but perhaps that was my fault. I was just concerned that the chicken strips might become dry and tasteless if I left them too long in the oven in the hope that they would crisp up. So I removed them when they were a golden brown and a knife inserted in the thickest part showed that the chicken was cooked.

I didn’t tell Pete that the chicken was meant to be KFC-style. I just served it up with home-made coleslaw. And guess what? When I asked him if the chicken was good, he said – and this is gospel truth – that it was the best chicken he’d tasted short of being an actual KFC takeaway! Sweet! And he made the KFC connection all on his own. So thank you, Nagi of RecipeTinEats, for the inspiration.

Recipe for: Oven-baked KFC chicken

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Lamb stir fry in home-made szechwan sauce

Beef in szechwan sauce

Pete’s favourite dish at his favourite Chinese restaurant (the China Rose in Nesscliffe, for those local to Shrewsbury) is the sizzling fillet steak stir fry (the steak cut into strips, obviously!), which comes in a savoury tomato sauce with lots of onions. I’ve never tried competing with it, because I don’t run a restaurant!

However, there was a lamb steak in the fridge at home yesterday, which I wanted to make a stir fry with for Pete’s dinner, rather than the usual pan-seared one. I asked what sort of sauce he wanted with it, and he suggested a tomato-based one (hmmm, wonder where he got the idea). I guess he meant for me to get a bottle of readymade Szechwan sauce on the way home from work, but that wasn’t MY plan. I wanted to make the sauce at home (or an approximation thereof). I could have looked it up online but since it’s my favourite for its spiciness and I know more or less the flavour I was after, I just decided to wing it.

Of course, this sauce being for Pete, I had no intention of making it as hot as it should ideally have been, but I kid you not when I say that it was absolutely PACKED with flavour and smelt so very good as it was cooking. I know this is only my opinion, but I really think that you should try it.

Recipe: Lamb stir fry in home-made szechwan-style sauce
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Smoked haddock fishcakes

I made this because there were some leftover vegetables from Sunday lunch and I was loath to throw them away – four pieces of roast potatoes, 1 small roast carrot and 1 piece of parsnip. And since there was some smoked haddock in the freezer, fishcakes seemed the easiest thing to make. It looks like there’s a lot in the ingredient list, but really the spicing is minimal (given what I’m used to, anyway). Pete and his mum both said the flavours were clean, the spicing didn’t mask the flavour of the fish or the potatoes. Which I guess is the point.

I used semolina for a crunchy exterior, but if you want to use Japanese panko breadcrumbs or maybe even cornmeal, feel free.

I served the fishcakes with sweet chilli sauce as a dip and a green salad on the side.


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Tuna pate

I love recipes like this, where there are no steps as such to follow, no fiddly procedures. Just collect the ingredients and throw them together and that’s it.

I used to find tuna really smelly, but I seem to have got used to it over time. The tuna I used for this recipe was line-caught tuna packed in olive oil, and it was actually quite mild, considering. I tried a little bit of this pate myself, and I have to say it was not smelly at all. That said, there’s the possibility that I couldn’t smell anything because my sense of smell has been affected by a rather horrible cold that I’ve had the last three days. I do think, however, that this pate is pretty mild-tasting and creamy. Rather nice.

Tuna pate

Tuna pate

Recipe for: Tuna pate
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Moussaka (Greek aubergine and potato bake)

Moussaka is one of Pete’s most favourite dishes. When we went to Crete last year, practically every time we went out for dinner, whether at an upscale restaurant or a village cafe, he would order moussaka. (And I would just as obsessively order dolmades, not just because I love them but also because they were vegetarian and there were not enough vegetarian options barring salads or pizza. But vegetarian problems are not relevant to this blog, really.)

The moussakas (and dolmades too, come to think of it) weren’t always what he had hoped for, but when he came across one that hit the spot, his delight was boundless. And, of course, that particular cafe was the one we went back to thereafter, because as he kept saying “I know it’s good here, so why go anywhere else where it might not be as good?” He never did answer my question which was “What if it’s BETTER?”. Or rather, he said “What if it’s NOT?” Well, fair enough, because the dolmades at that cafe were pretty good, so I didn’t mind not going anywhere else. 
Anyway, moussaka’s been on my “must try one day” list – just to make, not to eat, because I am a rabid anti-auberginarian and I don’t care who knows it! It’s a good thing that discrimination against aubergines is not a crime because I’d be jailed before you could say “aubergine”. or “eggplant”. Or “brinjal”. Or “kathirikkai”. Or “baingan”. Or in any of the other languages in which aubergines exist.

So, as I was saying, this weekend I decided would be my time to make moussaka. I thought it would be a painfully protracted process (ha, try saying that three times when you’re drunk!), but it wasn’t as bad as I’d expected – mainly, I suppose, because I scaled down the original recipe to make two generous (or three medium) portions. That meant that the aubergines and potatoes didn’t take too long to fry. However, I guess if you have a book in hand for this part of the cooking process, you won’t really notice the time it takes. 

Recipe for: Moussaka (Greek aubergine and potato bake)
Moussaka 1
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Fish pie

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Four steps. That’s all it takes. (Apart from the sub-steps for each of the four steps..;. but that’s all, honest. And at the end of those few steps and sub-steps, you get this gently spiced pie with a crisp cheesy mashed potato topping. You can use whatever fish you like in this, I guess. I bought a fish pie mix from the supermarket, so there were two-inch pieces of salmon, cod and smoked haddock.

If you’ve read the recipe and you’re wondering why I didn’t add salt to the mashed potato or to the white sauce, it’s because I found out the hard way that salt water fish are salty in themselves, unlike fresh water fish. I’ve come close to making a fish dish inedible because I added salt… so I’m now a little less ignorant and passing on my wisdom (!) to you.

I don’t have anything else to say on this topic, so shall we move on to the recipe? Yep… I thought you’d want that.

Recipe for: Fish Pie

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Chicken in creamy mushroom sauce

Pretty much every evening starts the same way, with me asking Pete what he wants for dinner. Sometimes I have an idea in mind for a cooked meal, but he vetoes it (ok, he’s allowed an opinion, after all he has to eat it). Other times, he says “I don’t know”, but then again vetoes any suggestions I come up with (annoying! VERY!). The days I like best are those where I’ve decided on a new dish I want to try out on him, and he has no choice in the matter. I’m forever trawling the Internet for easy non-vegetarian recipes to make, the food columns by various chefs in various newspapers being some of my favourite sources. Some recipes seem far too complicated and time-consuming, but there are plenty that seem doable. These I print off… but that said, probably only one in five recipes makes the transition from paper to reality. The printouts I slip into my recipe folders, perhaps to try one day… but it’s more likely they will end up in the wastepaper basket during my occasional “culls” of the folders.

Today’s easy dish is not one of those recipes. It just arose from a basic cream sauce recipe that I had noted down – it actually required heavy cream but I subbed creme fraiche instead, because that was what I had. I’m sure the recipe would work as well with cream cheese. Mushrooms and garlicky cream sauce go very nicely together, after all.

Chicken with creamy mushroom sauce
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