Chicken Enchiladas with a Smoky Tomato Sauce

Fajitas are a popular dish in our household. In fact I’ve stopped blogging about them now because there’s only so many photos you can take of the same dish! I just adore the spicy chicken with the charred vegetables, salsa, sour cream..yum yum yum. However, Erika and I thought we’d try something different but still stay with the mexican theme, so turned to a recipe on our delicious for chicken enchiladas with a smoky tomato sauce, which we halved to serve both of us generously.

The recipe blurb suggests that it’s not too spicy and is suitable for kids. Not being a child I added a bit extra smoked paprika in order to get more of that smoky flavour across. I also dropped the cocoa powder as I thought the use of it would make the sauce taste a bit too hot-chocolatey. Furthermore we poached then shredded a chicken breast and used that instead of the shop bought stuff as I find that has absolutely no flavour whatsoever.

Overall – very good. Spicy sauce, tasty filling with the stringy melted cheese on top, all in addition to the wraps which go wonderfully crispy after coming out of the oven. I still prefer fajitas but I’d be happy to alternate between the two!



Sunday mornings are all about lie ins, strong coffee and the type of breakfast you don’t have time for any other day of the week. Be that sweet blueberry pancakes smothered in maple syrup; sausages, bacon and fried eggs or even soft boiled eggs with sourdough toast, it’s the kind of food that will get you out of bed and give you the right start to the day.


A new addition to my repertoire is brioche. The soft, buttery and ever so slightly sweet bread with a rich crumb most certainly fits into the category of top Sunday morning grub. Cut a few think slices, top it with jam, chocolate spread or even just butter alone and tuck in. It’s really simple to make, but does involve getting out of bed once very quickly to take the mixture out the fridge and then to put it in the oven. Regardless, it’s worth the effort and is much nicer home made than from the supermarket where it’ll be packed full of preservatives.

Jerk Chicken

Jerk Chicken

The Mayor’s Thames Festival was a few weeks ago and Erika and I spent some time there browsing the stalls and tucking in to some of food and drink that was on offer. We looked out for the amazing jerk chicken stall that we visited a couple of years ago but were unable to find it – eventually we got too hungry and settled for some lukewarm chinese food which was very disappointing.

This restarted the fire in my heart for jerk chicken. We tried it once before and despite the number of ingredients it tasted quite bland. Some surfing online revealed a recipe from Levi Roots (I adored his ‘Caribbean Food Made Easy’ series that was recently on TV). Initially the number of ingredients put me off but I soon realised we had most of them in the cupboard.

I made the marinade and covered the chicken with it. This went into the fridge overnight and the next day cooked it under the grill, regularly basting with more of the spicy marinade. I served the chicken with some corn salsa (sweetcorn, spring onion, chilli, salt and pepper and a dash of olive oil) and roasted sweet potato wedges which I sprinkled with all-purpose seasoning.

Overall it was a huge improvement on last time; still not as good as the jerk stall at the Thames Festival though. I think that is because they smoke the chicken as it is cooked on the barbeque, something which cannot be reproduced under the grill. The wedges were great (except for the use of all purpose seasoning), and although they didn’t crisp up up they were lovely and soft inside, and the corn salsa provided a zingy accompaniment to the dish.

Chilli Con Carne

Chilli con carne

I like to vary the carbohydrates that I eat during the week, alternating between rice, potatoes, pasta and bread. When we’re thinking of something to have with rice, chilli frequently comes to mind. It’s delicious, simple to make and keeps well in the freezer – although my leftovers are often taken to work for lunch the next day. For some reason there’s no mention of chilli con carne on this blog so I thought I’d change that.

Chilli is similar to bolognese in that everyone has their own recipe and secret ingredients. Sit a few cooks down together and bring up the topic of the ultimate chilli con carne recipe and you’ll have hours of conversation over the best meats (either ground or diced chunks), whether beans should be added or not, the amount of tomato to use… I’m going to give my recipe but don’t take it as gospel. Use more or less beans, diced beef instead of minced beef, more or less chilli – it’s up to you.

This time I used British Cherry Bomb chillis – they’re pendant shaped and can be quite potent. Any other type of fresh chilli, or even dried chilli flakes will do.

Chilli also tastes better when made a few days in advance. Once cooked, leave to cool then put in the fridge and reheat gently before serving.

Chilli Con Carne
Serves 2 to 3 people
Prep time: 15 minutes
Cooking time: at least an hour

1 onion, half sliced, the other half diced
1 cherry bomb chilli, diced (include the seeds if you want it hot)
1 large clove garlic, minced
350g lean minced beef
1 beef stock cube
1/2tsp cumin
1 tin good quality chopped tomatoes
1/2 tbsp tomato puree
1tsp chilli powder
1tsp oregano
dash of red wine (optional)
olive oil
salt and pepper

Start by dry fying the mince in a pan until browned, strain then set aside.

Fry the onion, garlic and chilli in a little oil over a low heat until softened – this will take between 5 and 10 minutes. Add the cumin, chilli powder and oregano to the onions and stir before adding the cooked minced beef. Next add the tomato puree, tinned tomatoes, beef stock cube and some salt and pepper and stir well. Pour in the red wine if using – I often freeze leftover red wine in an ice cube tray and use a couple of cubes in this dish.

Leave to simmer uncovered for at least an hour – add some water if it gets too dry. Serve with some boiled rice, a jacket potato or even some nachos.

Quick and Easy Quesadillas

Quesadillas - a quick and easy dinner

So we’re back after a month or so away. It took a while to get everything unpacked and also to get used to cooking in a new kitchen. What with all the stress involved with moving, Erika and I lost our appetites and our desire to try new things in the kitchen but I can safely say that the appetite has returned! This was confirmed today by spending much of the afternoon scoffing chinese food, hot chocolate and a deliciously sweet honeycomb and chocolate mousse at the Thames Festival.

After all that munching only a light dinner was required and quesadillas fitted the bill. They’re really tasty and take just three minutes each to make. Firstly, get your fillings ready in advance (I chose red onion, diced cooked chicken, sweetcorn and some red jalapeños; Erika had mushrooms, chicken and sweetcorn), grate some mature cheddar cheese then heat a little oil in a large frying pan. Spread a tortilla with some tomato purée, place it purée up in the pan then add your toppings as well as plenty of cheese. Top with another tortilla, then cook for around a minute, turn, then cook for a couple of minutes on the other side, giving it a good squeeze with a spatula to compress everything.

Slice into 6 then enjoy. We had ours with a simple salad.

Away From Kitchen

As I mentioned in an earlier post, Erika and I recently moved flat.

Not only are we still surrounded by a vast array of boxes, but we don’t have any internet access at the moment. Evenings previously spent cooking have been taken up with finding a home for our sizeable collection of kitchenware. I never realised how much we had until it was all packed away!

Rest assured that normal service will resume shortly


Maple and Mustard Pork Chop with Champ Mash

Another meal using up things from the freezer – this time, a pork chop. I’d had the idea of pork chop with mustard mash but wanted to do something with the meat as I find that pork chops can be a bit tasteless sometimes.

Sticking with the mustard theme I found some maple syrup in the fridge and mixed about a tablespoon of that with a tsp of wholegrain mustard to make a simple sauce. After trimming the fat off the pork chop and bashing it a bit with a rolling pin to thin it out, I brushed half the sauce on top and then cooked it under a preheated grill until done, turning and basting with the remaining sauce halfway through.

Next up, the mash. There were some spring onions hiding in the depths of the fridge so I decided to make Irish champ. Champ is simply spring onions, mashed potato and butter, and is a tasty alternative to normal mash. The onions give a nice alternative flavour and texture to the silky smooth mashed potato. To make it, slice the onions, then soften them slowly in a pan with a big knob of butter for 5 or 6 minutes. After mashing the potatoes (with a bit more butter, some milk and plenty of salt and pepper), simply stir the softened onion through and serve.

There were a few things wrong with this dish. Firstly my timing meant that the pork was overcooked (it was on for over 15 minutes) so ended up a bit tougher than I’d have liked. Having said that, the mix of mustard and maple syrup was yummy so I’d try it again, perhaps cooking on the griddle or barbeque instead of under the grill. The mash tasted great but it didn’t seem to accompany the pork very well – I’m sure champ and pork are a good match but I think the maple syrup changed the flavours a bit. There was also a distinct lack of sauce so I poured over a couple of tablespoons of gravy which was good for soaking into the mash but it didn’t go too well with the sweet maple syrup!

This is the kind of thing that reminds me of some of the dishes from Masterchef – the components of the meal were great by themselves but didn’t quite work together.