Not Your Average Tuna Salad

In the early days of summer, I haven’t got a lot of salad materials on hand, but the warm days call for cool dinners. This is a recipe I can whip up with cupboard and fridge staples, but adds a fresh, crunchy salad feel to a tuna pasta dish. I start out with veggie spiral pasta, tinned tuna and mayo, but this recipe might surprise with a sweet note of balsamic vinegar and the crunch of raw broccoli.

This is a super-fast midweek gem that satisfies a busy summer afternoon’s time constraints. With twenty minutes to boil the water and cook the pasta, you can prepare the tuna and broccoli in the meantime and throw it all into the fridge before football practice or a trip to the park. My kids surprised me by barely noticing the raw florets when they were first served this dish, and I think it adds lovely texture along with the numerous health benefits of eating raw. If you prefer to avoid mayo, feel free to use your favourite Italian dressing or even yogurt-based Caesar dressing for a tailored taste. Make it your own!

Not Your Average Tuna Salad Recipe.png

You’ll need:

  • 8oz/220g tinned tuna, drained
  • 12oz/340g veggie spiral pasta (or your favourite pasta for cold salad)
  • 3 tablespoons light mayonnaise (or more to your taste – I don’t like too much mayo)
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder (I use a garlic and herb mix with parsley)
  • ½ cup fresh broccoli florets (gently cut the fine top layer of a head of broccoli, keep the rest for soup)
  • 1 cup grated cheddar (finely grated more evenly distributes)
  • 1 tablespoon chopped gherkins or American style pickle relish (optional)
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Pasta salad ingredients.jpg

The method:

Start a medium-sized pot for boiling water. No need for a giant pot – the pasta cooks as long as it’s covered. Add the dry pasta once you have a rolling boil and reduce the heat.

Drain your tuna well and scoop it into a large bowl that will accommodate the pasta as well.

Add the balsamic vinegar to the tuna and break it up very well before incorporating the mayonnaise.

Add the garlic powder, salt and pepper and mix well.

Slice the top layer of the broccoli to get just the tiniest bits for your salad and save the stalks for another recipe (soup is a favourite).

chopped brocolli.jpg

Drain your pasta once it’s al dente and rinse it with cold water to cool it quickly. Toss the pasta a fair bit to drain as much of the water from the spirals as possible.

Add the pasta to the tuna mixture and mix it well before adding the broccoli and shredded cheese. You can stir in your gherkins/relish at the end if you are adding that.

Give the salad a good toss to distribute the broccoli and cheese, but don’t overdo it or it might start to break down the pasta. Add more salt or pepper to taste before covering the bowl and putting it in the fridge until serving. It can be eaten straight away, but tastes refreshing for a hot summer dinner after about 30 minutes. Spice it up with some chili flake, or add more crunch with some bacon crumbles to make this an amazing party salad, too! Hope you like it … simple but surprising!

Spoonful of pasta salad

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Quickest Quiche Lorraine

Quiche is a brilliant breakfast. The savoury protein kick is just what the busy mom ordered. My husband is gluten intolerant – not just fad-style – but genuinely cannot indulge in a white flour crust. I am actually adverse to pie crust; I’ve never found it necessary and prefer to scoop out any filling I encounter. I understand many enjoy this mythical flaky, buttery crust that isn’t soggy or tasteless, so you’re welcome to use this filling recipe with a ready-made crust if you like. I prefer to go crustless. It’s faster, healthier and so much easier to serve!

For this recipe, I use greased ramekins to create easy portions and cut down on the baking time. You can fill a pie dish instead, but you’ll need to double the baking time and possibly cover with foil for the last 15 minutes to prevent it burning on top. I use Canadian bacon, pre-cooked rounds of back bacon that are easy to chop into pieces and fry off to add some flavour. You could easily use turkey bacon or ham to keep it lean, or back or streaky bacon if you have the time to cook it first. By using pre-cooked bacon, I only need a minute to give it some colour and it’s ready for the quiche.

In the spirit of super fast, I also use frozen chopped broccoli. I let it thaw for a minute before adding it to the bacon pan to help the remaining water evaporate and keep the quiche getting too soggy. Trust me, this added step will add flavour and firmness to your tart, so don’t skip this for the sake of one frying pan.

This is the perfect weekend morning dish to go along with some fresh fruit and toast, or you can make some extras for a quick midweek warm up. My kids love this, and my husband appreciates the lack of crust as much as I do. Give it a try and you’ll see why!

CAFE.png

You’ll need:

  • 4 ramekins greased with a tab of butter each
  • 8–10 eggs
  • ¼-–½  cup chopped broccoli (I use frozen)
  • ½ cup chopped, cooked bacon (I use Canadian bacon rounds)
  • ½ cup shredded cheese of choice (I prefer a sharp cheddar)
  • ¼ cup milk
  • ½ teaspoon garlic powder (I use a garlic and herb blend)
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon pepper

The method:

Pre-heat your oven to 190C/375F.

Measure out your broccoli and set it aside to begin to thaw.

Quiche Lorraine ingredients.jpg

Chop your bacon into small pieces and add to a warmed pan over medium heat. Allow the bits to lightly fry for about a minute.

Add the slightly-thawed broccoli and allow to thaw further with the bacon. Allow any moisture from the broccoli a chance to steam off. This usually only takes two or three minutes.

Place your ramekins onto a baking tray and add a tab of butter to each before putting them into the oven.

Butter to grease ramekins

Break your eggs into a nice large bowl and scramble them well before adding the splash of milk. Beat in the dry spices and set aside.

Remove the ramekins from the oven and give them a little swirl to spread the butter around the edges.

Layer a bit of bacon and broccoli into the bottom of each ramekin before pouring the egg mixture to cover the bits.

Add a pinch of shredded cheese to the top of each quiche and use a fork to gently push down slightly below the egg.

Quiche Lorraine ready for the oven.jpg

Slide your baking tray of quiches into the oven for about 20 minutes. Depending on the size of the individual ramekins, it may take slightly longer. Once the quiches are puffing up, they’re only a few minutes from finished.

Allow the quiche to cool for about 5 minutes after removing from the oven, they may sink slightly, but no worries. The individual quiche can be served with or without accompaniments – sometimes they never make it to a plate! Enjoy!

Forkful of Quiche Lorraine.jpg

Sparkly Mummy

Porky Pie recipe

Comfort food is delightful in the winter, when jumpers and jackets cover their calorific side effects. As we enter Spring, however, I try to lighten our meals a little, in anticipation of shorts and vest tops. This recipe is a mid-week crowd pleaser; not cottage, not shepherd’s, but porky pie. It’s a quick, healthy meal that doesn’t take more than 30 minutes from fridge to table.

Ground pork is lovely and lean, but still has fabulous flavour if you give it a chance to brown. I add chopped mushroom to the meat to add volume, texture and flavour, but the kids would never know it! This is a gluten-free recipe that could be vegetarian if you use Quorn instead of meat. The usual carrots and peas add even more veg, texture and freshness to this delicious favourite.

My kids aren’t fond of white potato mash – they prefer sweet potato, so I’ve made this with sweet potato mash many times and it’s wonderful. This recipe is more traditional, with white or yellow potato mash on top, but if you’re really pressed for time midweek, you can use instant mash potatoes to top the meat. This saves peeling, boiling and mashing yourself, and only involves the kettle and a bowl. For families with less pernickety children, the instant mash is a real timesaver, and adding a little dollop of crème fraiche or soured cream makes all the difference for the taste. The pork gravy tastes amazing no matter how you top it!

Porky Pie recipe.png

You’ll need:

  • 1lb ground pork
  • 1 cup chopped white onion (I use frozen)
  • 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 cup chopped brown mushroom
  • 1 cup chopped or grated carrot
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • ½ teaspoon chicken stock concentrate, or ½ cube dried chicken stock
  • 1 teaspoon tomato paste
  • 1 cup frozen sweet peas
  • Optional 1 additional tablespoon Worcestershire sauce near the end
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 4 cups of white potato mash (if not using instant)
  • 3-5 medium russet potatoes
  • 1 cup low fat milk
  • 1 tablespoon salted butter
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Optional ½ cup shredded cheese

The method:

If you’re making your own mash, get a pot of water on the cooker to bring to the boil, and wash and quarter your potatoes so they’re ready to add to the water straight away.

Choose a nice wide pan for browning your meat and bring it to a medium-high heat. Add the chopped onions, ground pork and Worcestershire sauce and mix together, breaking up the meat and distributing the onions and sauce.

Leave the meat for a good 2 minutes to allow one side to brown deeply. Resist the temptation to stir as you want the flavour to stick. This is a great time to chop mushrooms and carrots.

Add the dry spices to the meat before your next stir and coat the meat before leaving it for another 2 minutes.

Add your chopped mushroom and carrot once the meat is mostly browned and mix into the mixture well.

Next, add the chicken stock and tomato paste, and perhaps a splash of water to help dissolve, but the meat and veg will have produced a bit of liquid to help stir into the gravy.

Porky Pie filling

Add the frozen peas and distribute into the mixture, reduce the heat to medium-low and cover. Allow the mixture to simmer covered for about 10 minutes.

While the meat is simmering, whip up your mash with either the kettle water and packet, or the boiled potatoes you’ve drained in the sink. If making from-scratch mash, I add the boiled potatoes back to the pan with the butter and use a fork to smash. I add 1% milk, and salt and pepper to taste. The handful of shredded cheese is optional, but adds colour and creaminess.

After about 10 minutes, taste the pork and add one more splash of Worcestershire to taste. I love the flavour, so add that last minute splash before it goes into the oven. You’re fine to use salt and pepper to taste if you prefer.

Pour the meat mixture into the bottom of a baking dish (I use a square non-stick) and cover with your mash.

Spreading potatoes on porky pie.jpg

Slide the pie into a preheated oven at 200C/400F for about 15 minutes. It doesn’t take long for bubbles, so an additional baking tray underneath is advised. Allow the pie to cool slightly before serving and enjoy!

Porky Pie close-up.jpg

Sparkly Mummy

Gorgonzola Potatoes recipe

As a parent of two young children, I am mindful of the foods they eat, and the types of processed foods and chemicals that come into their diet. I try my best to cook from scratch, so I know how to pronounce the ingredients, and so my kids can see their mum using ingredients instead of packets. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not nearly perfect, and of course there are days that require a fast food emergency or a frozen pizza hail Mary. I try to minimise the chances by cooking baking trays of food that can be used and reused and frozen and reused later. This dish is a great example.

Served with a roast for a large crowd, or served with Polish sausage for a quick midweek meal, this is an easy dish that tastes extravagant. Using baby potatoes cuts the cooking and prep time, and my flourless cream sauce is gluten-free and fail proof. I strive to incorporate grown up flavours into my recipes. Even though they’re geared towards my 4- and 6-year-old, my husband and I still have to eat dinner! I find introducing the kids to more complex flavours, like stinky cheese, is best done in stages. With this in mind, please feel free to up the stinky ante and go for all gorgonzola in the recipe, but I’ve done a 50/50 with a sharp cheddar to mellow the blue cheese.

This recipe takes just over an hour, but it’s broken up with waiting for the potatoes to boil, and later the oven takes over. As a busy mum, I manage this midweek around washing up, potty breaks and sibling rivalries. The cheese sauce is so simple, and I can walk away from it if I have to without fear of burning. I cook gluten-free meals for my husband, but I’ll never go back to a flour-based sauce again after adopting this method. We like this with kielbasa and steamed broccoli, but it can be served with any number of meat/less varieties. I usually pop the sausage into the oven below the potatoes so they finish together, and it’s scrumdiddlyumptious. Hope you like it!

Gorgonzola Potatoes.png

You’ll need:

  • Large pot 1/3 full of water (approx. 1 ltr)
  • 15-20 baby (new) white and/or red skin potatoes (I half-filled a 9×13 glass baking dish)
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 cup chopped white onion (I use frozen)
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon lemon pepper
  • 1 ½ cup chicken stock (I used a teaspoon of concentrate dissolved into water)
  • 1 cup crumbled gorgonzola cheese
  • 1 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese
  • 2 cups single cream (or half & half)
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Large baking dish to single-layer the potatoes in the sauce

The method:

Bring to the boil a large pot full of the potatoes and water. Allow to boil for 10-15 minutes until just soft, slightly beyond parboil.

Boiling the potatoes.jpg

If you’d like to use a second pot, you can start the cheese sauce now, but I usually get something done while I’m waiting and then reuse the pot while the potatoes drain and cool.

Drain the potatoes and allow to cool slightly for minor handling. Preheat the oven to 190C/375F.

I use the same pot to now melt the butter and onions and allow to lightly fry on a medium-low heat for 3-5 minutes.

Onions in the pan.jpg

Add the dry spices and fry with the onions for about 1 minute before adding the chicken stock.

Allow the chicken stock to reduce by a third for about 5 minutes over a medium high heat. 

Add the gorgonzola and cheddar and stir into the stock until it’s melted and incorporated, about 1-2 minutes.  

Add the cream and stir into the sauce, reduce the heat to low and allow the sauce to simmer for 3-5 minutes. Have a taste and add salt and pepper as needed.

Don’t worry if it looks like a little oily – as it reduces it will thicken up. Once the sauce covers only the mostly boiled potatoes, they will soak up the sauce so nicely (I promise).

While the sauce is reducing, the potatoes will have cooled and you can either use a cutting board, or my lazy method of toss and slice in the colander.

Cutting potatoes.jpg

Once you’ve halved (most of) the potatoes, gently transfer them into the cheese sauce to coat them well.

Pour the potatoes and sauce into a baking dish (greased if metal). If you’ve missed a couple of potatoes in the toss and slice, this is your chance to slice away before putting the dish into the oven. The baby potatoes are so creamy themselves, it’s nice to keep larger chunks, so I don’t go crazy. 

Gorgonzola potatoes going in the oven.jpg

Bake uncovered for 30-40 minutes, or until golden on top.

My family love this dish, and it’s lovely to see them embracing stinky cheese. We had it this week with sausage and broccoli, then again with fish and peas. I’ll freeze a portion for easy midweek reheat, or it will go perfectly with a Sunday roast. I hope you find your favourite combination!

Sparkly Mummy

Tortilla Soup recipe

Pretty much any restaurant that serves Mexican food serves a version of Tortilla Soup. It’s brothy, fragrant and delicately spiced. Most recipes ask you to have a bit of shredded chicken on hand to pour the broth over when serving. I don’t usually have baked or boiled chicken laying around, unless I have a leftover roast that hasn’t been picked bare, so my recipe includes cooking the chicken in the broth. As per the name, tortillas are usually grilled and sliced to top the soup, but I’ve found a handful or corn or flour tortilla chips add the texture, flavour and namesake without the fuss of grilling my own.

If you haven’t tried Mexican soups, you haven’t truly embraced the winter warmer. This is a simple dish, but the depth of flavour may surprise you. Many recipes for tortilla soup have as little as four spices, keeping a clear broth to pour over shredded chicken. I like to incorporate as many vegetables as possible when cooking for my family, so I load this one up with onion, carrot, white beans and tomato. I also thinly slice chicken breast whilst still slightly frozen, and then boil it in the soup to keep it moist and tender, and add natural chicken flavour to the soup. This allows the chicken to begin to shred after boiling away for just twenty minutes or so. It’s an all in one pot, midweek meal that smells and tastes amazing.

tortilla-soup-in-the-bowl

You’ll need:

  • 1 teaspoon oil of choice
  • 1 cup chopped onion (I use frozen)
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic (fresh or dried)
  • 1 cup grated carrot
  • 1 8oz tin diced tomato
  • 1 tin 8oz white/cannellini beans
  • 1 teaspoon coarse salt
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1 teaspoon cumin powder
  • 1 teaspoon oregano flakes
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder (optional depending on kids’ heat threshold)
  • 2-3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 4-6 cups of water
  • 2 cups chopped coriander/cilantro (fresh is best)
  • Salt and white pepper to taste
  • 1 small bag of corn or flour tortilla chips the break up on top when serving
  • Optional shredded cheese for serving

The method:

It’s easiest to prepare your chicken first, so that you have clean hands for stirring and adding spices. I like to slice chicken breast when it’s slightly frozen, so this dish is perfect for a packet I’ve had out thawing for dinner. Fresh chicken (or no chicken for the vegetarians) is still perfectly wonderful – I just tend to keep small freezer bags with meal-size portions of chicken and minced beef on hand for meal planning. Slice the chicken against the grain in thin strips. I find this works best for the shredding you want to achieve in a short amount of time.

I like to do this in one pot, so I begin with heating the oil, onions and garlic together over a medium high heat in a large soup pot. After a minute or two, the onions should be translucent and the garlic lightly frying.

Add the grated carrot, tomato and salt, and stir into the mixture. Drain and rinse the beans before adding to the pot.

Once the beans are mixed in, add the dry spices and give it a good stir before allowing it to bubble.

Once the tomato and carrots have softened slightly – 5 minutes or so should do the trick – add the chicken slices and just coat with the mixture.

Add the water straight away to avoid frying the chicken, you want the chicken to be submerged to boil.  

Allow the water to come to the boil before adding your chopped coriander.

Once the pot is bubbling nicely, the chicken will go white quickly and the beans will begin to break down. I have been known to add only half of the tin of beans to begin with, and save the second half for later to retain texture, but it’s up to you if you want to add this step.

I allow this soup to boil with the cover on for about 15 minutes before reducing the temperature to a simmer and removing the lid. This helps the chicken to soften and absorb the flavours of the soup.

You can let this simmer for ages, but it’ll be ready after 30 minutes if you’re hungry – even sooner if you just make the broth and pour it over leftover chicken or no chicken at all.

To serve, my kids like this ladled over rice, with a few corn chips broken on top. I love a big, steamy bowl as it is, a couple of corn chips and a small handful of shredded cheese on top. My husband just wants a bowl of soup with a few drops of hot sauce and he’s happy. However you take it, this is a family favourite that offers a Mexican flare and isn’t heavy with refried beans and cheese. It’s veggie packed, bursting with flavour and aroma, and is sure to make your family think you slaved for hours to get such succulent chicken. Buen apetito!

tortilla-soup-in-the-pan-2

Sparkly Mummy
A Mum Track Mind

Easy gluten-free macaroni & cheese recipe

My kids were born in Surrey, and they never learned about Kraft macaroni and cheese. I know there are a lot of families out there that rely heavily on the cupboard staple that is pasta and powdered cheese mix, and I’m not judging. But between a gluten-free husband and processed-food hating children, I’ve found myself making mac-n-cheese from scratch many times. I used to think cheese sauces were terrifying, but this method skips making a roux with butter and flour, and is nearly fail proof.

The whole dish is really quite easy, and can even be a one-pot wonder if you can wait for the pasta to finish and reuse the pot. I go all out (thank goodness for dishwashers) and use one for the pasta, one for the sauce and a baking dish to finish it off. This baking bit is especially nice for partially boiled gluten-free pasta, but is easily skipped if you fully cook standard flour macaroni or shells.

This takes about the same amount of time as the boxed version, I promise, and is a million times tastier. Skip the processed cheese and have a go at making amazing cheese sauce to smother your pasta of choice.

Easy gluten-free macaroni & cheese recipe

You’ll need:

  • 8 or 10oz dry gluten-free pasta shells or macaroni (I used a corn and quinoa mix shell)
  • Approximately 6 cups of water for the pasta
  • 1 cup of chicken or vegetable stock
  • 2-3 cups shredded cheese of choice (mature cheddar is especially nice)
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 cup single cream (or half-n-half if you’re in the US)
  • 1 heaped TB soured cream or crème fraiche
  • Salt and pepper to taste

The method:

My super speedy method is to begin with getting the water boiling for the pasta in a medium-sized sauce pan. Use the kettle for at least 6 cups of water if you prefer.

In a second small saucepan, bring the chicken or veg stock to a boil. I generally use stock concentrate and kettle water, so about ¼ teaspoon of concentrate to one cup of water.

Add the shredded cheese (I’m super lazy and buy pre-shredded) one handful/cup at a time and stir well into the stock over a medium-low heat. I usually use a non-stick pan and rubber spatula for this job, rather than risk the cheese and cream sticking to the bottom.

Pour in the cream once the stock and cheese are well blended and beginning to reduce, keep stirring.

Once the pasta water has come to a boil, toss the pasta in with a bit of salt and reduce the temperature.

Add the crème fraiche or soured cream to both thicken and temper the flavours of the stock and cheese. Blend well until the mixture is smooth and slightly sluggish to run off the spoon.

Have a taste and add pepper and salt as you please. Also extremely tasty: a light dash of paprika or oregano, if you’re feeling fancy.

The pasta should be cooked by now, so take the sauce off the heat while you drain and rinse the shells or macaroni.

If you were going for the one-pot method, you’d simply rinse the pot and begin on the sauce while the pasta drains, but I do suggest a little sprinkle of oil to keep the pasta from getting too stuck together.

If you’re going all out, drain the pasta whilst it’s al dente and pour it into a baking dish. Again, I go non-stick so I don’t lose any shells to the pan. Finishing the pasta in the sauce makes gluten-free pasta especially tasty, soaking up the flavour.

Pour your creamy gorgeous sauce all over the pasta and give it a good stir to coat every noodle.

You can add the pasta back into the sauce if you’ve been draining for the one-pot method, stir to coat well and add salt and pepper to taste. It’s ready to serve once the pasta is back to temperature. Enjoy!

Bake the pasta with sauce in the oven at 350F/180C for 15-20 minutes, or until you’re too hungry to wait any longer. Feel free to top off the pasta with more shredded cheese if you’re indulgent and like the layer of crisped cheese on top. My son isn’t a fan, so I leave it off.

My kids absolutely gobble this up, and it’s done within 45 minutes with the oven method, 25-20 with stove top only. There’s plenty of protein and calcium, without needing meat, and using gluten-free pasta, we end up with hidden veg! If you like, throw in some frozen peas if you’re doing the oven method, they’ll be cooked and add a bit of sweetness. You can try vegetable pastas too, and different cheeses for more intense flavours … make it your own! I’ve used this cheese sauce over vegetables as well, if you’re not interested in pasta, and it’s lovely. Hope you have fun and enjoy!

Macaroni and cheese ready to serve

Sparkly Mummy

Potatoes ‘Bravas’ with chicken recipe

My husband is Portuguese South-African, and I’ve grown to love paprika in an unusual way. Chorizo is something special; if you’ve never tried cooking with this sausage, I encourage you to try this recipe and discover the joy. I try to find a good quality, hard chorizo, simply because most ‘cooking’ chorizo is incredibly fatty. If you can’t find any, don’t worry, the recipe calls for it optionally for depth of flavour.

potatoes-bravas-pinterest

This is a take on the Spanish patatas bravas: crispy cubed potatoes heavily spiced and fried. I try to keep midweek meals to one pot, and this is a good one if you add chicken strips/chunks to the pan. My kids are big fans of sweetcorn, so I always keep a tin on hand. With this dish, it adds a crunchy sweet freshness that curbs some of the spice. I usually drain the corn, but keep it room temperature and sprinkle on like a sort of veggie crouton.

If I don’t have a lot of time to stand at the stove, this is also a fabulous tray bake for about 40 minutes in a 180C/375F oven. I try not to use too much oil and salt, but you can use your judgement and taste buds for this quick, flavourful meal. It usually only takes twenty minutes to cook, if the potatoes are in small cubes, and it’s something I fall back on if I’m short on ingredients. Most are staples I have on hand, and it takes very little prep.

chopping potatoesYou’ll need:

  • 1 or 2 white potatoes, peeled and cubed
  • 1/3 cup chopped red or white onion
  • 1/3 cup roughly cubed chorizo sausage (optional)
  • 2 tsp veg oil of choice
  • 1 or 2 chicken breasts sliced into strips
  • 1 tsp garlic granules
  • ½ tsp paprika
  • ½ tsp cumin
  • ½ tsp oregano
  • 1 tsp salt (to taste)
  • 2 TB chopped tomato
  • Approximately 1 cup sweet corn

The method:

If you’re lucky enough to have found a lovely chorizo, start with slicing and quartering about a 1/3 of a cup and add it to the warming pan. I use a cast iron pan, but you can also use a wide-based pan that’s good for browning.  I keep the temperature around a medium-high while the chorizo warms and begins to run paprika juices – it smells amazing!

Add the onion and potato to the oil produced and stir until they are coated with the colourful paprika oil from the chorizo. Then add the veg oil and dry spices, coating the potatoes evenly before leaving them to brown.

spices and potatoes in the frying pan

If you aren’t using chorizo, add the oil, potatoes and onions all together with the dry spices and give it a good mix before leaving to fry over a medium high heat.

Stir infrequently to allow colour to form on all sides of the potatoes. If the spices begin to stick to the bottom, rather than adding more oil, try adding a splash of water from the kettle and gently scraping the bottom of the pan with a spatula. This will also help soften the potatoes in the steam produced.

While the potatoes are softening, I slice up the chicken into small, even strips that will cook quickly. If you’re going for the tray bake, try to keep the chicken pieces a little larger so you can put everything in at the same time and they won’t be overdone.

Add the chicken to the potatoes before your next scheduled stir, and toss everything together to coat the chicken with the contents of the pot. Again, refrain from too much stirring so you’re sure to get good colour on most sides of the potato cubes and chicken.

raw chicken added to potatoesAdd the chopped tomato and give it another good mix-in. The chicken should be cooked after 10-15 minutes, and the tomato adds a bit of tenderising acidity.

You should be able to break a piece of chicken apart easily with your spoon, and the same again with a potato cube, after 20-25 minutes.  Drain your sweet corn, or slice from a fresh cob if it’s the right season.

Potatoes bravas in the pan

Plate up with a sprinkle of corn over the bravas, and enjoy! My kids don’t even ask for ketchup with this, because the tomato and spices in the dish keep it moist. The chicken stays tender and flavourful for the quick cooking, and I’m in and out of the kitchen in no time.  If I’m really pressed for time, I toss everything together into an oven tray and check on it for a stir every 15 minutes until it’s done. Either way, it’s a winner, winner chicken dinner in my house!

dinner-plates-with-food

Sparkly Mummy

Walk-away Alfredo Chicken and Broccoli recipe

Slow cookers are a fabulous timesaver, and one I use more and more as school runs and schedules get into full swing. This is a great back-to-school recipe that can be modified to suit your needs.

We’re a gluten-free household (when my husband’s home), so this recipe features an easy, homemade alfredo sauce that’s gluten free, and gluten-free pasta. You’re more than welcome to use your favourite pasta, and a jar of alfredo sauce, but this easy white sauce may make you think twice about all the other ingredients thrown in with jar sauces.

My kids are both in morning classes, so I use this recipe to start just after lunch time for dinner later (2.5 hours). If your schedule means you need to start it in the morning, go for LOW to allow 5 hours. If you find the pasta gets too mushy (GF pasta can usually handle it), cook the pasta separately 20 minutes before serving, and skip the chicken stock at the end.

You’ll need:

  • 3 boneless chicken breasts
  • ¼ cup chopped white onion (frozen is fine)
  • 1.5 cup frozen broccoli florets (about 6-8 big pieces, hard to measure)
  • ½ tsp garlic powder
  • ½ tsp black pepper
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • 2 cups double cream
  • ½ cup butter
  • 2 TB cream cheese
  • 1 cup grated parmesan
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • 1 tsp basil pesto
  • 1 cube or 1 tsp concentrated chicken stock (GF)
  • 1.5-2 cups water
  • 340g/12oz penne pasta (GF)
  • salt and pepper to taste

The method:

First things first, give the slow cooker a bit of cooking spray, if you like, and spread the onions across the bottom of the pot.

Dice the chicken breasts into large cubes, trying to keep a similar size for uniform cooking. Spread the chicken cubes on the chopping board and shake on the oregano, black pepper and garlic powder before adding the spiced chicken to the pot.

Slow cooker alfredo prep
Layer in your broccoli, turn the cooker onto HIGH and cover
.

Next, I make the alfredo sauce, it takes about ten minutes total. You can opt for a jar, but this is really very simple.

Using a saucepan on a medium heat, I add the butter, cream cheese and cream.

Stir the butter and a cream cheese until smooth within the cream using a rubber spatula to clean the edges and bottom of the pan.

Add the pesto and mix into the cream before adding the grated cheese.

If you wanted to stop now, you could use this sauce over pasta any time, but for this recipe, we’re going to add the chicken stock for cooking the pasta.

Add the chicken stock with water to the alfredo sauce (I know – what? But trust me). You can mix the stock in a mug first, but I just mix in the concentrate and then top it off with the kettle, right there in the pan.

Turn off the heat once the mixture is smooth (a little oil displacement is fine).

Layer the uncooked pasta onto the broccoli, pour your sauce with stock into the cooker, covering the contents. If the pasta isn’t covered, stir the layers to bring the broccoli to the top, as it doesn’t need to be submerged. Add a little more water if you need to cover the pasta, but tread lightly.

If you prefer the jar option, I suggest mixing the alfredo with the chicken stock before adding it to the slow cooker.

Slow cooker alfredo just before turning it on

Top tip: For added flavour, add bacon bits to the recipe. I keep leftover bacon  (if there ever is any) after I’ve oven baked a tray full at 180C/375F for cooked breakfast.

Cover the cooker, and walk away. This will slowly grow over the next hour. If you happen to be home and walk by, feel free to push any stray noodles down, but by and large, this dish is happy to tick along in the background. It’ll be ready to serve after two hours if the chicken is smaller, 2.5 if larger chunks. Please be sure to check the chicken is cooked through; pressing it against the side of the pot with a spoon should break the chicken easily.

Turn off or onto warm after 2 hours (5 hours if LOW temperature setting) and enjoy! It’s an all in one, so scoop onto a plate or bowl whenever your family are ready to eat.

Slow cooker doing some slow cooking

This dish can be done in the oven as well, at 180C/375F in a deep dish with a cover, or tightly wrapped with foil. You’ll want to spray a non-stick or grease the pan, and may need to check and stir it after half an hour. Cut the chicken a bit smaller and it should be done in 45 min to an hour.
Sparkly Mummy