Monday, 18 April 2016

Healthy Speedy Suppers by Katriona MacGregor

I consider myself a good cook, and can raise to the challenge and prepare a several-courses meal from scratch. I also like cooking quick and simple meals, with tray bakes and one-pot dishes being my favourites. As a busy Mum and a carer, I am sometimes too knackered to cook a meal which needs a very long list of ingredients. For busy parents like me there is a new cook book Healthy Speedy Suppers by Katriona MacGregor (published by Nourish).
The author started her culinary career under the helm of Clarissa Dickson-Wright. Her cook book contains over 100 tried an tested recipes and showcases a selection of recipes which are inspired by different cuisines around the world.

Katriona has been writing a column Speedy Weeknight Suppers for The Telegraph. I confess, I hardly ever read this newspaper being more of The Guardian and The Indie reader, so wasn't aware of this food column until now.
The cook book was developed with the time-pressed cook in mind, so I'm the perfect audience for a book titled Healthy Speedy Suppers. Except that we don't use the word "supper", it's a dinner here.
The range of recipes is impressive and covers soups and salads, poultry, meat, fish, grains, pluses and vegetables etc.
While some recipes fall under the category of speedy, some of the recipes included cannot quite fit the notion of speedy. They might be ready in 40 minutes, but that doesn't include the prep. Also I would cook some of the dishes for much longer, for example, a turkey ragu. A proper ragu should be cooked slowly for all the flavours to develop.
For being a book of healthy recipes the author is quite generous in her use of double/heavy cream. Now I'm probably the last person to criticize for that, as I prefer to use a real butter in baking, but then I honestly admit that I'm not a poster girl for a healthy food movement.
Katriona uses a lot of fruit and vegetables in her recipes, so your 5-a-day can be easily covered.

Mild criticism aside, I liked the book and have bookmarked quite a few recipes, for example, a Moroccan fish tagine with chickpeas and apricots; duck breasts with peaches and balsamic vinegar as well as chorizo, leek and cider-braised lentils.
The photos are beautiful, and I wish there were more of them, I like seeing the final result of each recipe.

I liked the simple design of the cover, being slightly fed up with covers showing glamorous sexy chefettes who display their cleavage while pouting prettily and holding a plate with food.
I think this book will appeal to a more advanced cook who is comfortable in the kitchen and is happy to use a variety of ingredients.

I read an amusing thread on one of the parenting forums recently where the poster bemoaned that meat and fruit combination is wrong. That's half of my blog recipes are going in the bin then. I love fruit added to meat, and Katriona MacGregor's recipes have a lot of inspired meat and fruit combinations.

In fact, one of the recipes from the book that I have already tried is exactly that, a combination of poultry and fruit, and very tasty it was too.
I have slightly adapted it. I shopped for ingredients on a Sunday before closing time, and all basil was gone, so I got a bag of rocket instead, thinking it's another Italian ingredient which will work well in this recipe.
I used single cream rather than double to slightly reduce the amount of calories, and as it happened, I didn't find any white wine at home and used a bit of brandy instead. All the chicken breasts in the shop were skin-free so that's exactly what I used.

Chicken with ricotta, lemon and basil rocket (recipe reproduced with permission)
a small bunch of rocket (basil in the original recipe)
100g ricotta cheese
4 chicken breasts
2 lemons
rapeseed/olive oil, for cooking
1 onion, sliced
1 garlic clove, crushed
170ml white wine or 50ml brandy
125ml chicken stock
2 bay leaves
1tbsp double cream (I used single cream)
sea salt and freshly ground pepper

Chicken with ricotta, lemon and rocket
Preheat the oven to 200C/400F/gas 6.
Finely slice half of the basil (rocket) leaves, leaving the other half on their stems for later. In a small bowl mix the ricotta cheese with the herb, the zest of 1 lemon and a little salt and pepper.
Use a sharp knife to cut a horizontal pocket into each chicken breast, being careful not to cut all the way through. Stuff a little of the ricotta mixture into the pockets with a teaspoon, being careful not to overfill (I had some stuffing left over, as I couldn't fit it all in, maybe the chicken breasts I used were smaller in size).

Heat a little oil in a large frying pan and add the chicken breasts, skin-side down. Fry for 2-3 minutes until the skin is golden and crisp.
If you use chicken breasts without skin, just fry them for 2-3 minutes on whichever side you choose.
Flip on the other side and cook for a further minute to lightly seal and then remove to a plate.

Return the pan to the heat and add the onion and garlic. Cook for about 5 minutes until well softened. Pour in the white wine and stock, add the bay leaves and bring to the boil. Simmer for a few minutes to reduce the liquid to a syrupy consistency. Add the double/heavy cream, stir well and season with salt and pepper.

As I mentioned above, I didn't have any white wine, so I used a smaller measure of brandy, about 50ml, and added more stock (a stock cube dissolved in more water). I also used single cream.

Pour the contents of the pan into a casserole dish and place the chicken breasts on top, pushing them down into the sauce. Cut the remaining lemon into wedges and nestle them around the chicken along with the remaining basil (rocket).

Place on the middle shelf of the oven and cook for 15-20 minutes until the chicken is cooked through. Test if cooked by cutting into one of the breasts with a sharp knife to make sure the juices run clear.

It was a delicious chicken dish, with lots of creamy and tangy-lemony sauce. Serve the chicken breasts with lots of sauce spooned over and a good chunk of bread to mop up all the juices.

Chicken with ricotta, lemon and rocket
Disclosure: I received the cook book for the purposes of reviewing. All opinions are mine.

1 comment:

  1. I can't believe you had brandy in the house and not white wine! The book looks good, plenty of inspired ideas for meals