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Perfect roast chicken

Perfect roast chicken

Roast chicken is one of those staple meals that everyone should know how to make. When I was growing up, my parents and I used to love getting rotisserie chicken every once in a while and it felt like such a treat! That distinct roast chicken flavour with the crispy skin and those beautiful juices at the bottom… if you know what I’m talking about then it’s very likely that your mouth is watering too.

Chicken is such a versatile meat, but to be honest I got so sick of it during my medschool years that I just didn’t want to ever see it on my plate! I still go in waves about this actually – it’s something that we eat so often that I just get so bored of it and I don’t know how to make it anymore. When this happens to me I always go back to making a beautifully golden roast chicken and every single time it helps. It never fails! Always delicious, with a crispy skin and yummy juices. Plus the potatoes – obviously.

Roast chicken

So there are a few tips and tricks that will hopefully help you make the best roast chicken ever and also once you master it you can apply most of these tricks to any other bird – like a Thanksgiving turkey! (I know I’m not American but hey – any excuse to eat delicious food!). I will share a recipe on that later on.

First things first:

  • Get your chicken out of the fridge so it comes to room temperature – about an hour or so is about right, but a few hours won’t do it any harm either!
  • Take the butter out of the fridge to soften up – I usually do this at the same time as the chicken
  • Preheat your oven to 200C

Ingredients:

Roast chicken

  • Whole chicken – I used a 2kg free-range chicken
  • 100g butter
  • Potatoes – as many as you like, I used 1kg
  • Onions – I used 2
  • Garlic – as many or as few cloves as you lik
  • Rosemary – few sprigs
  • Dried herbs and seasoning (read below)

Roast chicken

  • 1 cup chicken stock (or stock cube)
  • 1 cup white wine

How-to:

  • Prepare your butter – take the softened butter and mix in whatever herbs and seasoning you like – I like to add salt, pepper, garlic powder, mixed Italian herbs and onion powder but I change my seasonings depending on how I’m feeling.

Compound butter

  • Cut up your potatoes and onions and place them on a large roasting tray with your garlic and rosemary. Drizzle some oil, salt and pepper and mix them up until they’re evenly seasoned.

Roast veggies

  • Make a little pocket under the skin of your chicken. Do not skip this step!! Might seem a bit gross but honestly it makes all the difference. Just near the opening separate the skin from the meat with your fingers and extend that opening through as much of the breast as you can.

Roast chicken

  • With a small spoon, put the butter in those pockets you’ve just created and spread it with your hands. Make sure to also get onto the leg creases!

Roast chicken Roast chicken Roast chicken Roast chicken

  • Once you’ve put the butter under the skin, rub the rest of it all over the chicken.

Roast chicken

  • Place your chicken either on a roasting rack like I have here, or directly on top of your potatoes and onions. Either way would work!
  • Sprinkle a small amount of salt and pepper over your chicken and drizzle a bit of olive oil to maximize crispiness

Roast chicken

  • Place your tray in the oven and roast for about 30-45min (about halfway through cooking). Then take it out and pour your chicken stock and white wine all over your chicken and potatoes mixture. Put it back in the oven and roast for another 45min or until it’s fully cooked through.

Roast chicken Roast chicken

Top tips:

  • Lots of nice pictures online (and well-known chefs) will show you trussed chicken – that’s using twine to tie up the chicken so that the ends don’t burn and it all cooks evenly – but honestly for normal everyday home cooks I don’t think there’s a point in doing that. If you just leave it all loose, tuck the wings underneath and let the legs hang where they want to, it all cooks pretty evenly anyways. Plus you get lots of crispy skin!
  • If your oven heats up unevenly I’d suggest turning the chicken when you get it back in the oven halfway through cooking so it cooks evenly.
  • I don’t tend to use a meat thermometer very often but if you want to use it you should place it in the thickest part of your chicken, making sure to not be touching bone. When it reaches 73C it’s all good to eat.
  • If you don’t have a meat thermometer don’t worry! When you think it’s done, pull the leg away from the body and make a little incision in that leg meat. If the juices come out clear and the meat looks opaque, it’s fully cooked. If there’s any remnants of pink in either the meat or the juices, pop it back in the oven for about 10-15min and test again on the other side.
  • As a general rule, for a 2kg chicken cooked at 200C it takes it about 1h 20-30min to cook through.
  • Let the chicken rest when it comes out of the oven! Like when you cook any kind of meat, don’t cut into it as soon as it’s cooked. Let it sit for about 10-15min and then you can carve it. Don’t lose those precious juices by cutting into it too soon!
  • You can change up the veggies if you’re not that into potatoes (is that even a thing?!) or if you want to cut down carbs a bit. I’d suggest using things like carrots, parsnips, celeriac and sweet potatoes. Basically choose something hearty that will be fine in the oven for a long time.

Roast chicken

And that’s it! It takes a bit of prepping but you can feed a crowd (or meal prep for the week) with very little effort! I love recipes where you don’t have to be standing over the stove for hours, particularly on weekdays or for dinner parties – it’s so much more convenient! These proportions will feed 4 people happily without any other sides but if you want to feed more people I’d suggest you give my husband’s favorite salad a try as a light but filling side! Also you can use a larger amount of potatoes or other veggies and a bigger bird if you’re feeding more.

I hope that you found this recipe helpful and that you give it a try – would love to hear your thoughts on it! Thanks for reading me and see you again soon!!

Stuffed dates

Stuffed dates

Dates are one of those foods that I didn’t grow up eating at all. It’s not something that was around me as a child and I didn’t even try them until I was a grown-up. Honestly, I didn’t really like them at all. I remember just thinking “what a weird sweet and sticky food!” and they were just not for me. My husband loves them though so I thought that maybe if I tried to mix them with something they would be a bit more appetizing.

You’ve probably tried dates on their own and not really liked them and you’ve probably had them in other things without realizing they’re there! Things like healthy protein-type bars, some energy balls or bars, baked goods, and even some savoury meals. I think that you probably didn’t mind eating them that way because if you’re not used to having dates it’s actually pretty easy to hide them in other foods – I personally think the most difficult thing to get used to is their texture.

So here’s the best way that I’ve found works for me to eat dates – I love them as snacks, they’re super filling and they hit the spot with sweetness that’s not too sweet, but also a bit of saltiness that is just such a great balance! If you don’t particularly like dates give these a try – and if you’re already a date lover, this may be another great way to enjoy them!

Stuffed dates

 

 

First things first:

  • Make sure your nut butter of choice is nicely mixed – particularly if you’re using a natural one it’s completely normal that the oils separate from the rest of the butter. Just give it a good mix and it’ll be good to go!
  • Chop up your chocolate so that it’s easily mixable throughout.

 

Ingredients:

Ingredients for dates

  • Dates  – I like to use Medjool dates that have the seed inside. I find them to be the freshest-feeling and plumpest dates that just work best here.
  • Nut butter – I like these with crunchy almond butter but any kind of nut or seed butter that you enjoy eating will work!
  • Chocolate chips or regular eating chocolate that you like. I prefer it dark (70%). Make sure that they’re cut into small pieces!
  • Chunky / flaky sea salt
  • Optional: Hemp seed hearts

Note: I can’t really give you exact measurements here because every date is different so the amount of mixture that you’ll need will be different depending on your dates. It’ll also depend on how much you like to stuff them. On this day I made a total of a dozen dates and used about 100g of almond butter, and a tbsp of chocolate chips and hemp seed hearts.

 

What to do:

  • Mix all your stuffing ingredients together until they form a paste – your nut butter, chocolate chips, and hemp seed hearts

Almond butter mixture

  • Remove the seeds from your dates and make them into little boats – do this by cutting half of the date lengthwise and remove the seed that’s inside

Date and seed Date and seed

  • Once all your dates are de-seeded and ready to go, use a teaspoon to stuff them with your mixture
  • Sprinkle some chunky sea salt over the top (as much or as little as you want but please don’t skip this step!)

Dates Stuffed dates

 

And voilà! A quick little snack that’s both sweet and salty and a lot more filling than you may realize!

 

Top tips:

  • They’re ready to be eaten just like this but they’re even better if you put them in the fridge to cool down and set up a bit. That way they also keep their shape a bit better.
  • You can also freeze them by putting them on a plate or tray and putting them in the freezer until they’re solid. Then transfer onto an airtight baggie and they’ll last for a long time – all ready for when you need a quick snack!
  • You can play around a bit with what else you can add – maybe try some chia seeds or any other seeds, try some chopped up nuts if your nut butter is smooth, or even mix some protein powder with your mixture!

 

I hope you enjoy this little recipe and that you give it a try – it’s really helped me like dates a bit more and their texture doesn’t bother me at all when I eat them like this! I hope you like it and that you’ll stick around for my next recipe!

 

Beans!

Beans!

Please stop buying beans in a can!! Honestly, they’re filled with sugar and lots of other stuff that you don’t need. Beans are super cheap and super easy to make – plus you can flavour them however you like, and if you love to cook with beans you can prepare a large batch on the weekend and use them up during the week! They also freeze really well – all you have to do is put them in a container once they’re cool and dry and they’ll last you for a long time!

Since I moved to the UK I started to see beans (particularly baked beans) literally everywhere. On “jacket potatoes” (or roasted potatoes for the rest of us), on toast, in the middle of your brunch dish, on the side of a roast… They’re just such a staple here. And I personally find them – how to put thisnot very appetizing. Don’t get me wrong, I love eating beans and I’m always trying to think of new ways to incorporate them to my diet, but just the look and the smell of whatever is in those cans just doesn’t do it for me.

So, if beans are a part of your regular diet and you think that maybe you could use a bit less sugar and other crap in your life, give these a try and see how it goes! I would also like to welcome some feedback if you’re a bean lover that just doesn’t like making them from scratch – why is that? What is it about the canned ones that you prefer? Let’s talk about it!!

 

Before you start:

  • Soak your beans overnight – read below

 

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup of dried beans of your choice – pinto beans, butter beans, chickpeas, black beans, black eyed peas, cannellini beans, kidney beans… you name it!
  • Lots of water (no specific amounts)
  • Salt to taste (about a tbsp)

Optional:

  • Stock cube or similar (I like to use beef)
  • Drizzle of olive oil
  • Flavorings / aromatics of your choice – onion, garlic, bay leaf, rosemary, thyme…

 

Method:

  • Firstly, you need to soak your beans for a good amount of time. Usually takes a minimum of 6-8h but I recommend doing it overnight. This is so that your beans cook faster but also more evenly. Just get a bowl, add your beans and cover with lots of water (the beans will grow in size so make sure there is enough water to keep them soaked throughout).
Beans
Soak your beans in a good amount of water and leave it somewhere safe overnight.

 

NOTE: the only beans that don’t need soaking are lentils and split peas (they’re not really beans anyways but you know what I mean). Any other kind of bean you want to soak for a while.

  • The next day drain your beans and give them a good rinse – I found this helps a bit with the “flatulence” issue.
Beans
This is why it’s important to soak your beans – on the left there are dry chickpeas straight from the bag, on the right the same amount of chickpeas that have been soaking overnight. They already look pretty plump, don’t they?

 

  • Put your soaked and rinsed beans in a large pot and cover with water. There’s no specific amount, just think that they need to soak up all that water and that they’re going to be cooking for a looong time so make sure there’s enough water so you won’t run out.
  • Add in your flavourings if you choose to do so – it’s a good time to add your onion, garlic, bay leaf etc. and I definitely recommend using a stock cube but you don’t have to! I also like to add a drizzle of olive oil – mainly for the flavor – but you also don’t have to.
Beans
These are the flavourings I use most of the time – bay leaf, onion, garlic and a beef stock cube. Plus a drizzle of oil.

 

  • Bring up to a simmer / gentle boil – don’t get this to a rolling boil as it will break the beans’ skin and they will probably turn to mush. In the first few minutes of boiling, your water will develop a layer of “foam” on the top. I’ve never really understood what this is but what I was always told as a kid is that it’s just some air trapped under the beans’ skin and that while it’s not harmful, it may contribute to the bloating and discomfort that usually goes with beans – so I’ve always been told to skim this off. You don’t have to but it’s something I’m used to doing.
Beans
It’s normal to get some foaming on the top when your beans start to boil – I like to discard it and then keep boiling them as usual but this is an optional step.

 

  • Cover your pot with a lid and keep cooking them on low heat – low and slow is definitely the way to go!
  • Salt your water about halfway through (at about the 1-1.5h mark), when the beans are mostly cooked but still have a bite to them. This is something that I’ve heard lots about but I find that if you add the salt too soon, it takes longer for the interior of the bean to become tender. If you add it too late then the beans won’t be fully seasoned.
  • Continue to cook your beans until they’re tender throughout but not mushy. How long this takes really depends on how much you soaked your beans, how large they are, how strong your boil is (simmer vs boil) and probably a bunch more things. As a general rule most dried beans take about 1.5-2h to fully cook through.
  • Once they’re fully cooked, turn the heat off and let them sit in the warm water, covered, for about 15-20min. This is not absolutely necessary but I have also found that doing this makes a huge difference when it comes to getting all that seasoning soaked into the beans.
  • Drain your beans and discard your flavourings. Let them cool down and that’s it! All ready to eat – add to salads, stews, curries… whatever you like!

NOTE: 1 cup of dried chickpeas gave me a total of 4 cups when cooked. Obviously this will vary depending on the beans you’re using but just for reference.

Beans

And that’s all! Isn’t that super simple?? And also super customizable – you can flavour your water however you like, or leave it plain! You can also mix a bunch of different beans and cook them all at once – just keep in mind their cooking times. And if you’re interested in finding different ways to use beans I’ll be sharing some recipes in upcoming posts and also other ways of preparing them so that they become even more versatile!

I hope that you give this recipe a try, it really is so much better for you than whatever comes in the can. And yes, it’s not quite as convenient as just opening a can but honestly the amount of effort required is so little! It’s totally worth it. Plus it’s a lot cheaper too – imagine how much more you can get for a fraction of the price!

Thanks for reading me today and I hope you enjoyed this little tip! Hope to see you again soon 🙂

Yummy banana pancakes

Yummy banana pancakes

During the pandemic it feels like either everyone had lots of super-ripe bananas they wanted to get rid of, or people tried to bake something that was considered “semi-healthy” (because it has fruit in it!) so I think banana bread was probably the most baked treat of 2020 – right?!

But see, I’m actually a bit of a rebel and when I had a few bananas that were starting to look sad I didn’t want to follow the trend and make banana bread like everyone else! So I started thinking of other stuff I could make with them that would be equally delicious. It just so happens that one of our friends is a bit of a bananaholic (seriously, loves bananas) so one day when we decided to meet for brunch I thought – why not make delicious pancakes that will use up my sad bananas? (weird sentence, sorry).

Banana pancakes

— Let me tell you something: don’t experiment with something you’ve never made before at a social gathering unless the people you’re with are like family. If it turns out good then awesome but if it doesn’t you’ll feel like an idiot! The first time I made these they were absolutely delicious but they were a bit flat and the texture was a bit dense. I needed to tinker with the recipe a bit.

I found that the trick with these pancakes is to have the batter pretty smooth (without over-mixing) and most importantly to let it rest a bit. It doesn’t have to be too long, even just 30min to an hour can make all the difference. You can also make the batter the night before, leave it covered in the fridge and then take it out in the morning so all you have to do is make delicious pancakes – this is what I usually do when I make pancakes.

Note: Just be aware that these pancakes will always be denser than regular pancakes or buttermilk pancakes. Between the “heavy” bananas and the addition of butter in the batter they’re never going to be as fluffy as other pancakes. They are delicious though!!

 

First things to do:

  • Mash your bananas until they’re nice and smooth
  • Melt your butter and let it cool slightly (if you choose to use it)
  • Find your maple syrup!

 

Dry ingredients:

Banana pancakes

  • 2 cups flour
  • 2 tbsp sugar (or to your taste)
  • 1.5 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg (a few gradings of fresh nutmeg ideally)
  • 1/2 tsp salt

 

Wet ingredients:

Banana pancakes

  • 1 egg
  • 2 cups milk
  • 4 tbsp oil / 57g melted butter
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 2 mashed bananas (the uglier the better!) – I sometimes use frozen bananas

 

Method:

  • Mix all the dry ingredients until the color looks uniform

Banana pancakes

  • Whisk all the wet ingredients until they’re well combined

Banana pancakes

  • Combine the dry and wet ingredients just until they form an even batter – DO NOT OVERMIX!!!

Banana pancakes Banana pancakes

  • Preheat your non-stick pan on the stove over medium heat and oil it just enough so your pancakes don’t stick (I recommend using butter but you can use vegetable oil or one of those sprays if you prefer)
  • Plop a small amount of batter (I use a large ice cream scoop) onto your oiled (not oily!) pan and cook until the pancakes start to look dry on the edges and bubbles appear on the surface – this usually takes a couple of minutes – and then flip them decisively and cook for another minute or two. You’ll know when they’re done when you can lift them from the pan and they look nice and toasty on the bottom (it’s okay to peek before taking them out of the frying pan)

Banana pancakes Banana pancakes

  • Drizzle some maple syrup or whatever you prefer over the top and eat warm!

Optional:

  • About 1/2 cup (or however much you want!) of the filling of your choice – nuts, chocolate chips, peanut butter chips…
  • Drizzle of maple syrup (is it really optional though?) or chocolate sauce, honey, yogurt, whipped cream…

 

Top Tips:

  • If you want to spice things up you can sprinkle in some chocolate chips or nuts to the pancakes. The best time to do this is after pouring the batter onto the pan, before your bubbles appear. Then you flip the pancake and it’ll be nicely filled!
Banana pancakes
This is the time to add any toppings, just after pouring the batter – before your bubbles appear

 

  • Don’t worry if your batter looks a bit lumpy, this is normal with any pancakes but particularly with banana. Pancakes do a magical thing when they get to rest for a bit and then when they hit the hot pan – those lumps somehow just disappear!
  • If you want to make these extra fluffy you can separate the egg before whisking your wet ingredients and whisk the egg white separately until it forms stiff peaks. Then just fold the egg white into the batter at the end very gently and voilà!
  • Make sure that your frying pan is at a steady medium-low temperature – this will make the biggest difference when making the pancakes. If it’s too cold they’ll look a bit anaemic and will take forever to cook. If the pan is too hot they’ll burn on the outside and stay raw on the inside. Try not to fiddle with the temperature too much once you’ve reached that perfect in between point.
  • Another trick to cooking pancakes evenly – and maybe faster? – is to cover the frying pan after pouring your batter, until your bubbles form on the top. This allows for more even cooking and moisture retention. Just remove the lid once you’ve flipped them so they don’t get soggy.
  • Don’t be afraid to flip your pancakes! The trick is to be decisive and a good flip is all on the wrist – try to master the “wrist flick” with your spatula so you can swiftly flip them onto your pan (and not the neighbouring pancake!).
  • If you want to make this recipe but you don’t have bananas that are ugly enough, stay tuned! I’ll share a tip on how to brown bananas quickly soon.

 

Banana pancakes Banana pancakes

And that’s it! Brunch is served! Make these alongside a beautiful frothy warm cup of coffee and I promise you, it’ll be the best start to your day! I won’t judge though – if you feel like having these for dinner instead I wouldn’t say no to that!!

Have an awesome day and thank you so much for reading me! See you on the next post 🙂

My favourite chocolate chip cookie recipe

My favourite chocolate chip cookie recipe

Let’s get something out in the open – chocolate chip cookies are my absolute FAVOURITE sweet treat ever!!! Honestly, I could eat them every day. For breakfast, as a snack, as an after-dinner treat… I just could never say no to a chocolate chip cookie.

When I started baking I really struggled to get cookies right! They were always too crispy or too dry or too sweet or a million other things! Then as I started to learn a bit more about baking and about what makes cookies be a certain way (I mean – a gooey chocolate chip cookie isn’t the same texture as a Christmas sugar cookie or a peanut butter cookie and so on) and by trial and error (and lots of deep internet digging!) I think I’ve now found my favourite cookie recipe. It’s all about the ratios.

For me personally, chocolate chip cookies are best (always good but even more so!) warm out of the oven – when the chocolate is still a bit melty and the whole house smells like heaven – and they should be slightly crispy and browned on the edges but the middle should definitely be soft and gooey.

 

Chocolate chip cookie

I love to make a double or triple batch of these every once in a while and put them in the freezer so I always have perfect chocolate chip cookies on hand – in case of a cookie emergency! Full disclosure though: the texture isn’t just quite the same when they’re cooked from frozen. They’re still absolutely delicious but the texture is just a bit different.

 

 

Get stuff ready:

  • Make sure your butter and eggs are at room temperature
  • Preheat your oven at 180C

 

Dry ingredients:

Chocolate chip cookies

  • 1 1/4 cup flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda (in the UK they call it bicarbonate of soda)
  • 1/4 tsp of cinnamon (or a pinch)
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 250g of chocolate chips – you can also chop up a bar of regular chocolate you like to eat, I personally like 70% cocoa solids

 

Wet ingredients:

Chocolate chip cookies

  • 1/3 cup white sugar
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 115g butter (soft, at room temperature)
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract or vanilla bean paste (approx, I never actually measure this)

 

Method:

  • Mix all the dry ingredients together until they’re uniform in color

Chocolate chip cookies

  • Mix your soft butter and both kinds of sugar for a few minutes (about 3-4 min), until they’re well combined and starting to look pale in color and a bit fluffy. You can use a stand mixer on medium-high, an electric mixer or a wooden spoon! Whatever you’ve got

Chocolate chip cookies Chocolate chip cookies

  • Scrape down the sides of your bowl to make sure everything is getting evenly incorporated
  • Add in the egg and vanilla extract and mix together for a couple more minutes. It’s okay if it starts to look curdled – this happens sometimes and gets “fixed” once we add the dry ingredients

Chocolate chip cookies Chocolate chip cookies

  • Scrape down your bowl again!
  • Combine your wet and dry ingredients gently, mixing ONLY until they’re just about combined

Chocolate chip cookies Chocolate chip cookies

  • Fold in the chocolate chips and again, stop as soon as you no longer see chunks of flour

Chocolate chip cookies Chocolate chip cookies

  • Place them on a baking tray lined with parchment paper – I like to use a medium-sized ice cream scoop to do this – and leave some space in between them as they tend to spread a little (a couple of inches should be fine).

Chocolate chip cookies Chocolate chip cookies

  • Bake at 180C for 9-10 minutes, until they look nice and browned around the edges but the middle looks gooey and the house smells like a bakery!

Chocolate chip cookies Chocolate chip cookies

 

Top tips:

  • Don’t worry if your cookies look slightly undercooked when you pull them out, they keep “baking” once they’re out of the oven and they set up a bit more while they cool down. As long as your edges are brown they should be good but if you’re not sure just try them out and if you’re not happy you can just pop them back in for another minute or two. You can always bake them more but you can’t un-bake them!
  • If you let your cookie dough rest for a bit before baking it it gets even yummier! I think that it gives the flavours a bit of time to get to know each other better and the cookies come out even better. I like to make the dough and cover it with some cling film, I tidy up the kitchen, then preheat the oven and cook them, usually giving them about an hour or 2 of resting time.
  • The best way I found to freeze cookies is to scoop them out onto a baking tray as if you were going to bake them (I just pack the baking tray a lot more), put the whole tray in the freezer for a few hours until the cookies harden (1-2h minimum) and then put the dough balls into a resealable plastic bag. They should last a few months in there (if you can resist eating them!).
  • To cook them from frozen – take them out of the freezer and plop them onto your baking tray lined with parchment paper and in the meantime preheat your oven to 180C. Once the oven’s temperature is up, put the cookies in for about 10-11min and same rules apply – they should be nicely browned around the edges and gooey in the middle. Plus the smell, obviously!!

 

Chocolate chip cookies Chocolate chip cookies

And that’s it! Yummy chocolate chip cookies – you’re welcome!! Please enjoy these delicious gooey chocolatey heavenly cookies and share your experience! I’d love to know if you like them, if you changed anything, if you had any issues… sharing is caring! Have an awesome day and thanks for reading me! 🙂

Chocolate chip cookies Chocolate chip cookies