Jen's Kitchen offers a fresh approach to home cooking with exciting recipes and blog posts that emphasise hands-on cookery using local and organic produce.

Spring Parmesan Chicken Recipe

Sometimes you need something quick, tasty and a little bit special on a Monday evening.  This recipe fits the bill perfectly.  Using ingredients that most people have in their cupboard (Hands up who DOESN’T have a bit of parmesan cheese in their fridge??).

Named after the areas where it is produced, the Provinces of Parma, Reggio Emilia, Bologna (only the area to the west of the river Reno), Modena (all in Emilia-Romagna), and Mantua (in Lombardy, but only the area to the south of river Po), Italy. Most importantly, under Italian law, only cheese produced in these provinces may be labelled “Parmigiano-Reggiano”, and European law classifies the name, as well as the translation “Parmesan”, as a protected designation of origin.  A little like the blaa in Waterford, and the Bramley apple in Armagh.  Made from unpasteurised cow’s milk, the best cheese is from wheels laid down for 2 years or longer.  Authentic Italian parmesan has ‘Parmigiano Reggiano’ stamped on the rind.

The King of Cheese is only supposed to be made up of three simple ingredients, milk, salt and rennet.  So maybe check the ingredients listing on the packet next time you buy.

Copyright Jeni Pim

It’s going to be delicious

 

Parmesan Chicken

Ingredients

50g grated parmesan

4 chicken breasts 2 egg whites

1 teaspoon of fresh thyme leaves

125g breadcrumbs

Vegetable oil, for greasing

Method

Place the egg whites in a bowl, and loosen them up with a fork.  Mix the breadcrumbs, herbs and cheese together in another bowl. Pre heat the oven to 1800C.  Grease the bottom of an oven proof dish that will snugly fit the 4 crumbed breasts. Dip each breast first in the egg white, shake it off then roll firmly in the crumb/cheese mixture.    

Copyright Jeni Pim

Place on the oven proof dish and then when all breasts are coated, place in the oven for 40 minutes.

Parmesan Chicken

Parmesan Chicken

  Serve hot with some fresh salad.    

A meal that defies the norm- Michael O’Hare

I don’t watch much TV.  And don’t really watch any cookery programmes.  But I just LOVE the Great British Menu.  I love seeing new chefs, and old chefs.  And lots of new dishes to oogle over.

This year the chef that came out of nowhere was Michael O’Hare. The first time I saw him on the screen I literally thought – this will never work.  But even after he cooked his first starter you just knew there was something special. And it wasn’t just his dishes, it was his manner.  He was just so nice! To the other chefs, to the judges, and very sympathetic to the ingredients he used.

But his dishes, his dishes are so special.  And like nothing I’d ever seen before.  Even our visit to The Fat Duck ,the epitome of British cooking to another level, didn’t prepare you for his food.

The mystery starts, with how to GET to the restaurant.  There’s no sign.  Very cool.  Very cool indeed.  And I won’t spoil the surprise.  Although judging by the smile on the security guards face, we weren’t the first to be flummoxed.

A new face in British cooking

A new face in British cooking

It’s quite clear on the website that teenagers are welcome, but you must let them know. Which we did, and Jordan, to be fair, ate everything, and just loved the experience of it all.

Reception - with the "Hands"

Reception – with the “Hands”

There is no menu, except for a wine list.  We only got the tasting menu, not the menu with wines.  To be honest, I prefer to just enjoy the food, and feel a different glass of wine, after a number of courses, spoils the evening for me. Nigel and Jords both had soft drinks, and I had a carafe. And I think more restaurants could do carafe offerings.  I think they are a great idea.

I won’t spoil the experience.  I snapped it at the time, and have just spent far too long looking at the pictures I took myself.  The only exception, because, to be fair, it was on television- is one of the fish dishes-

The fish and chips from the Great British Menu

The fish and chips from the Great British Menu

The excitment was off the scale.  I felt sorry for the other diners- but the staff were so nice, and joined in with our enthusiasm.  The great thing about the meal, was it didn’t follow any normal dining protocol.  So that, just in the click of a camera shot, it was over.
Wednesday 30 Mar 075

Raspberry Butter Cake Recipe

It’s SO close to being summer, that I just couldn’t resist trying out some of my favourite soft fruit recipes.  This one being one of my favourites for that perfect companion to a cup of tea.  It even sounds delicious- Butter Cake …..

Copyright Jeni Pim

Raspberries – ready for the cake (Not for snacking on!)

Raspberry Butter Cake Recipe

Ingredients: 225g butter, at room temperature, plus more for greasing 175g ground almonds 100g whole-wheat flour 75g plain flour 35g wheat germ 2 teaspoons baking powder 200g plus 2 tablespoons caster sugar 1/2 teaspoons salt 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract 7 large eggs 2 cups fresh raspberries, plus more for serving Whipped cream, for serving Method: Preheat the oven to 180°C. Butter a 10-inch round cake pan and line the bottom with greaseproof paper. Butter this paper too. Whisk all of the flours with the wheat germ and baking powder until well blended.  Combine the butter with 200g of the sugar and the salt and beat at medium speed until pale yellow and fluffy, about 3 minutes.  Beat in the vanilla, then beat in the eggs 1 at a time, scraping down the side and bottom of the 
bowl (the mixture will look broken).       Copyright Jeni Pim

Add the dry ingredients and beat at low speed just until incorporated and the batter is smooth. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top. Arrange the 2 cups of raspberries in a single layer on top, then sprinkle with the remaining 2 tablespoons of sugar. Bake for about 50 minutes, until the cake is golden and a cake tester inserted in the centre comes out clean. Transfer to a rack to cool for 15 minutes.

Copyright Jeni Pim

Run a thin, sharp knife around the edge of the cake. Invert the cake onto a large plate; peel off the parchment paper. Turn the cake right side up on a serving plate and let cool until warm, about 1 hour. Serve with whipped cream and raspberries.  

Raspberry Butter Cake

Raspberry Butter Cake

 

Learning to let go

This morning was difficult for me.  My eldest drove my youngest to school.  Sounds simple? Well for me two of the MOST important things in my life were going together in a tin can that anyone could just crash into at anytime.  Melodramatic? Totally.  But what can I do? They are my babies.  Learning to live with this kind of worry is hard.

I always wear my emotions on my sleeve so to speak.  No-one ever has to ask how I am, it’s written all over my face, and my daughters the same!  So this morning as they got into the little van and tottled off down the lane I stood there wet faced.  Where have the years gone?

It’s very hard to watch them grow and make their own choices.  Yesterday I watched my daughter fall on her head from her pony.  But she got up delighted with herself, because she had done so well until then.  But my heart genuinely stopped.

Jordan and Jessie

Jordan and Jessie

The same with the driving.  And the eldest is a better driver than me, hands down.  But as they disappear out of sight, you know, and for one of the first times, you really have absolutely no control over what happens to them.  And that’s really hard.  And yes, the two words “control freak” springs to mind.  But I’ve spent the guts of 17 & 13 years keeping them safe, so old habits die hard.

Learning to let go

Learning to let go

And yes, I did get a text saying they had arrived in one piece.  Eventually.  After I had texted to check.  Hmmm.  It looks like they weren’t as concerned as I was.  Which is probably a good thing.  Soon it will become the norm, and I hope I will worry less.  But until then, the grey hair will be a bit more prominent, and the worry lines will be a little deeper.

 

Scotch Eggs- picnic prep

I love watching Great British Menu, we normally record the whole series, and then watch it en masse over a month or so.  There’s always someone who makes Scotch Eggs, and I’ve always wanted to try them.  This is Simon Rimmer’s version.

Ingredients for scotch eggs

Ingredients for scotch eggs

Scotch Eggs

Ingredients

4 large eggs

275g butchers sausage meat, I got some Superquinn Sausage Meat

1 teaspoon of fresh thyme leaves

1 tablespoon of freshly chopped parsley

1 spring onion, very finely chopped seasoning

125g plain flour,  seasoned with salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 large egg, beaten

125g breadcrumbs Vegetable oil, for deep frying

Method

Place the eggs, still in their shells, in a pan of cold salted water. Place over a high heat and bring to the boil, then reduce the heat to simmer for exactly four minutes. Drain and cool the eggs under cold running water, then peel, carefully.

Mix the sausage meat with the thyme, parsley and spring onion in a bowl and season well with salt and freshly ground black pepper (lots!). Divide the sausage meat mixture into four and flatten each out on a clean surface into ovals about 12.5cm long and 7.5cmat its widest point. Place the seasoned flour onto a plate, then dredge each boiled egg in the flour.

Place each onto a sausage meat oval, then wrap the sausage meat around each egg.  Make sure the coating is smooth and completely covers each egg. Dip each sausage meat-coated egg in the beaten egg, rolling to coat completely, then dip and roll into the breadcrumbs to completely cover. Heat the oil in a deep heavy-bottomed pan, until a breadcrumb sizzles and turns brown when dropped into it.  Carefully place each scotch egg into the hot oil and deep-fry for 8-10 minutes, until golden and crisp and the sausage meat is completely cooked. Carefully remove from the oil with a slotted spoon and drain on kitchen paper.

"Slightly" Undercooked :(

“Slightly” Undercooked :(

Serve warm if wanted, otherwise stick in the fridge to have with some lunch.

This recipe was a struggle.  I think because the eggs were so big, the outside was cooked long before the meat was.

Would I make them again? Probably not with hens eggs.  I wanted to have some runniness to the yolk, which I did kind of achieve. But I had to put them in the oven for a spell as the meat just wasn’t cooked.  BUT the response from the family was good! So- well, we’ll see!

Scotch Eggs

Scotch Eggs

Butter Chicken & Cardamom Recipe

I love cardamon.  I first tasted it when my sister in law cooked Pulla, a type of sweet bread flavoured with cardamom.  For years she would bring me back little packets of distinctive smelling goodness from her trips home to Turku.  Now, of course, you can get cardamom in most supermarkets. But I still prefer the pods.  Cracking them open makes me smile.  A foretaste of the banquet ahead.

This recipe in its purest form, it is yogurt-and-spice-marinated chicken dressed in a velvety red bath comprising butter, onions, ginger and tomatoes scented with garam masala, cumin and turmeric, with a cinnamon tang.  And of course, my added cardamom.

Copyright Jeni Pim

You can nearly smell the spices through the picture

 

Butter Chicken & Cardamom Recipe

Ingredients: 25g butter & 2 tablespoons butter extra

2 onions, halved and finely sliced

4 skinless chicken breasts, cut into chunks

2 teaspoons each of garam masala, Turmeric and ground cumin

1 teaspoon ground fenugreek

3 garlic cloves, crushed

1 tablespoon finely grated ginger

12 cardamom pods, seeds removed

1 cinnamon stick

500g fresh tomato passata

50ml double cream

150ml yogurt handful

fresh coriander, chopped

cooked rice, to serve naan breads, to serve

Method: Heat some of the butter in a large pan and fry the onion over a medium heat for about 5 mins until soft.  Blitz the ginger and the garlic, then add this to the onion. Add the spices except the cinnamon and cardamom. Continue to cook, stirring, for about 7 minutes.  

Copyright Jeni Pim

Spices, onion, garlic and ginger

Remove this to a bowl for later. Add the chicken to the pan with some butter, and continue to fry until turning golden brown. Remove once almost cooked. Add the spices, garlic, ginger and cardamon and passata to the pan, with the cinnamon and cardamom.  Leave to simmer, covered, for 20 minutes.  Add the chicken back into the sauce and cook for a further 10 minutes, uncovered.

Butter Chicken with Cardamom bubbling away

Butter Chicken with Cardamom bubbling away

Just before serving, stir in the extra butter, yogurt and cream, season to taste and serve scattered with coriander, and with the cooked rice

and some naan breads on the side.

Copyright Jeni Pim

I love to talk- and talk

Anyone who knows me is laughing at this.  As it’s probably the truest thing to say about me.  Talk, talk , talk. That and I’m an awful grump in the morning.

I had to do a radio interview the other morning, and the lady I was doing it with seemed quite surprised that I was so comfortable just talking.  No errs, umms or silences.  Seriously- sometimes nothing shuts me up.

I read a funny article years ago about a husband who came home after a long day a work, and his lovely wife just kept talking and talking, and he turned to her and said “Did you not get all your words out today love?”  Well that’s me in a nutshell.

I’d like to have one of those fitbits for talking, I reckon I could easily do the 10000 words.  Will it reduce my waistline though?? Probably not, won’t even reduce my double chin!

And they say that someone who talks is good in Sales, but I disagree, I think that you need to be a good listener.  And this is crucial, and something I need to always consciously work on.  Shut up and listen.  (As opposed to shut up and dance- perfect oppurtunity to put in a link to one of my FAVOURITE songs).

And if you think I shut up while a good song is on, well, no, sorry! I love belting songs out at the top of my voice in the car. Which is OK, except when I’m stopped in traffic.

What I need to do is sometimes just stop to take a breath.

Stop.

Breath In

Breath Out

The kids dance teacher has a great way of teaching this to the younger dancers

“Smell the roses – cool the porridge”

And I often think of that very line myself while trying to calm myself for something.

Don't talk- just breathe

Don’t talk- just breathe

 

Jen’s Roastie Recipe

I know it’s not rocket science.  But a good roast potato can lift the bar for most meals.  Even a mediocre roast dinner benefits from a good roastie.  Not deep fried, not over cooked, but fluffy on the inside and crispy golden on the outside.

There is lots of conversation around which type of potato to use.  And although I think, for me, the Maris Piper is the breed of choice. BUT, I certainly wouldn’t stop making a roastie if I had a rooster, or kerr pink.  So go with what you have.  The cooking times might vary, but the essence of the recipe remains the same.

Roasties

Peeling potatoes is such an Irish thing to do

Take a handful of spuds, I reckon on at least 2 per person, unless they are massive.  Peel them and put them in a pot, cover with water and add lots of salt.  Darina always said that potatoes tasted best when boiled in seawater, and that’s the level of salt you are looking for. When they come to the boil, leave them simmer, uncovered for about 7 minutes.  Meanwhile put some kind of fat into a roasting dish, and place this into a hot oven.  I know that “some kind of oil”  is a bit vague.  But realistically, use what ever you have.  Me personally? I prefer olive oil unless I have my own duck fat.  Which realistically only happens once or twice a year.  I certainly wouldn’t go out and buy ready -to-go duck or goose fat. Use what you have, reduce your expenses. Drain the potatoes after about 7 minutes, put on the saucepan lid and give it a little shake.  Take a peek inside the pot.  What you want to achieve is slightly rough edges to the now semi cooked potatoes. Now, I’m not one for stating the obvious, but please be careful with the next step.  Remove the roasting dish with the hot oil.  It will be HOT!  Add the potatoes carefully to the hot oil, and turn them over in it a couple of times.  Then return to the oven, leave them for about another 30 minutes.

Take them out of the oven at least once during the remaining cooking time to re- coat them in the hot oil.  You don’t want them too crispy. No need for tooth breakers.  

The Crowning Roastie

And the finished roastie

    

Chicken Dinner- as seen on Facebook :)

You know when you are scrolling aimlessly through Facebook and you see all these little cooking videos.  Well one of them recently caught my eye. And although if I’d waited a few months for the tomatoes to be really fully in season, it might have been better, it was still pretty good.  And pretty simple.  As with everything, the ingredients are key.

Good Chicken- preferably organic, but definitely free range if not

Good Tomatoes- preferably in season

Fresh Basil

Nice fresh mozzarella

Baked Chicken with Fresh Herbs, Tomatoes and Mozzarella

Ingredients:

Good Quality Chicken Breasts

Tomatoes, sliced

Basil Leaves

Mozzarella

Olive Oil

Tin of tomatoes

Seasoning- salt, pepper,

Sugar

Tomato Puree

Jen's Kitchen- as seen on Facebook

Tomatoes, Basil and Cheese

Method: Pre heat the oven to 180oC.  Slice the chicken breast almost all the way through with a sharp knife, at the thickest point, to make a pocket for the filling. Add a decent amount of tomatoes, and cheese, with some basil leaves to this pocket.   Season well, and place in a well oiled oven proof dish.  Use a dish that will fit all your chicken breast snugly, as they keep together better like this.   Tuesday 05 April 071

Repeat for all the other chicken breasts.  Put in the oven for 15 minutes.  Meanwhile make the passata.

Tuesday 05 April 072Add some olive oil to a pan.  Heat until nearly smoking, add the tin of tomatoes, and a tablespoon of tomato puree. Simmer for approximately ten minutes until thickened slightly.  At this stage season well, and add a pinch of sugar.  Remove from the heat and either whizz until smooth, or use as it is. Remove the chicken breasts from the oven and spoon over some of the passata, and some more torn up cheese.  Put back in the oven for another 20 minutes, until the chicken is completely cooked through.  

I like to serve this with a green salad and something nice in a glass, but seeing it’s Monday an all, some Adam’s ale might fit the bill.  

Chicken Dinner- as seen on Facebook

Chicken Dinner- as seen on Facebook

Will I try other recipes from Facebook? Of course, will I serve them to friends without trying them first- don’t think so.  Sure half the fun is trying them out anyway!

 

JK 2016 – orienteering in James Herriot Country

Every year we go to the Jan Kjellstrom Orienteering (JK) event, somewhere in the UK.  This is our fifth year attending, and it was the 50th anniversary of the competition itself.  We enjoy meeting up with our orienteering friends from all over the world at this event. We normally stay as a group in a centrally located area, but this time the events were quite scattered so we decided on a cheap and cheerful hotel stay off one of the motorways.

The first race is an urban sprint.  Leeds was the University of choice, and the day was just beautiful.  The college is made of of many levels which made the race all the more fun.  Sprint is my favourite day.

Leeds University in the Sun

Leeds University in the Sun

With a little dread while looking at the weather forecast we travelled back to our tiny room! Of course we were all extra excited as knew we were heading to Michael O’Hares restaurant that night.  Nigel had managed to secure a last minute cancellation.  That experience deserves its own very special blog.

The Yorkshire dales are everything I remember from reading about so many years ago.  I was an avid James Herriot fan, both in the written and TV form, and even though I didn’t have the first clue where it was based, I knew I wanted to go there.  We actually travelled through Thirsk to get to Day 2, and I even saw the practice where it “all happened”. We were very lucky to have four wheel drive, as we got to park within shouting distance of the arena.  Some poor unfortunates were parked over 3km away!

JK Smiles

Nigel & Jordan inspecting the finish #Day2

We had early starts and all finished just before Storm Katie hit with a vengeance.  It was very wild and bleak, a little like I had imagined from reading the Herriot books all those years ago!  We didn’t hang around but headed back.  The arena was perched on top of the hill so it was a tad windy and cold at that stage.  Normally in JK competitions the walk to the start is nearly longer and more arduous than most of the courses.  But this time it was the walk to the finish that- literally finished us off! Wass forest you got the better of me.  Until we meet again! Day 3 was nearer to the Lake district.  There was an issue with parking so we got the bus from the communal car park, and then had a short walk “UP” to the arena.  (As an aside there was a lovely sand arena – dressage letters the works beside it).

Wednesday 30 Mar 102

My running terrain

 

This was a slightly longer walk to the start, but not as hilly on the run.  I did far better this day, but really took my time (i.e. walked up all the hills) and really felt my orienteering was good.  Jords finished ahead of me, and we had just put on our coats when the first of the hail showers hit. Poor Nigel was on the last 1/4 of his course and came back frozen.  That’s the biggest downside of having to get a bus, you can’t bring all your stuff, and then noone hangs around cause they’re frozen.

Wednesday 30 Mar 106

The arena with flags blowing

Wednesday 30 Mar 113

The Mass Start #Relays

The relay day dawned very cold.  So cold we were all very silent as we made our way to the arena.  Due to injuries and tired legs, poor Jords was the only one who had to run.  But it meant that we were both there for her.  The relays are great fun, and it’s good to dissect the previous days with our JK friends.  

Jords had a great run as middle leg for her team, so we ended the weekend on a high.  Now for a drive through Snowdonia, and a last night in Wales.  See you all next year for JK 2017 in England.