Sunday 31 March 2019

Chilli Con Carne by The Spicery!

Chilli con carne by The Spicery!
Whilst I enjoy cooking from scratch, as you will know, I am not adverse to the odd cheat or two.  The Spicery are an online company who offer a vast array of different spice mixes, something to suit all tastebuds and styles of cooking.  Whilst you can make ad hoc purchases they also offer a subscription service and each month they will freshly grind and blend the spice mixes, measure them into individual portions and post the spicy goodness direct to your door in a letterbox sized box so no need to be home when it arrives!  The kit includes a colourful recipe which shows you how to make a feast using the spices for that month.  

I had come across The Spicery a couple of years ago whilst looking for some Christmas gift ideas and had purchased a subscription for my sister who thoroughly enjoyed them.  As is always the way, you make a purchase for someone else but then end up regretting not getting something for yourself!  I was therefore pleased to see them on special offer and included a couple with my recent Ocado shop.

Whilst I know how to make chilli con carne, not all recipes are the same so I'm always up for a new experience.  

This mix promised a spice blend for a smoky chilli con carne and boy did it live up to it.  Clear easy instructions to follow, OK, I did make a couple of alterations, I added a pepper which needed using up (I don't like to waste food!) and I also substituted the required water for beef stock which I like to think gave it an even greater depth of flavour.  The house was soon filled with a wonderful spicy aroma which most definitely was a smell of things of things to come!  

I do enjoy a dish with a good kick of heat, that said, whilst this dish did have some heat, it didn't need any more, the smoky flavour made up for it and this recipe was packed full of taste sensations which we both loved, needless to say once served, our plates were quickly cleared!   I served this with rice, homemade guacamole, sour cream and salsa with some corn chips.  The recipe does serve 4 so with the remaining portions I am going to serve them on jacket potatoes and I can't wait.

All in all a spicetastic experience and one I will be repeating, I can't wait to try the goulash spice mix I also got!  Right, I'm off to the website to check out what to order next, if you fancy giving them a go you can find them at

Saturday 23 March 2019

Spicy rice with chicken and prawns

Spicy rice with chicken and prawns
  • 200g basmati rice
  • 150g cooked edamame beans
  • 400ml vegetable stock
  • 2 tbsp curry paste  
  • 1 large carrot, grated
  • 1 red pepper, thinly sliced
  • 2 spring onions, cut into thin strips
  • 1 chicken breast
  • 3 eggs, beaten
  • Small pack of cooked prawns
  • Handful of chopped coriander
  • Knob of butter

Cook the chicken breast in the oven for around 20-30 minutes until cooked through.  Once cooled slightly, chop into small bite sized pieces.

Pour the vegetable stock into a saucepan, add the curry paste, I used red Thai curry paste but you can use your paste of preference, tip in the rice, stir through and bring to the boil, cover with a lid and leave to,simmer for around 10 minutes until almost tender and the liquid has been absorbed.

Melt the butter in a large frying pan, add the rice, carrot and beans, stir through and cook for a few minutes.  Add the beaten eggs and allow the egg to colour, add the chicken, prawns and half of the peppers and spring onions, stir thoroughly, this will break up the egg, cook for a few more minutes to warm through the chicken and prawns, add a handful of chopped coriander, mix and serve.  Top the dish with the reserved peppers and Spring onions.

This is a great little dish and will feed 2-3 comfortably.  I think next time I will add some fresh chilli to the dish as I do prefer more of a kick but by using whichever curry paste you prefer you can cook to your own liking and heat preference!

Monday 18 March 2019

Ricotta and Parmesan stuffed pasta shells

Ricotta and Parmesan stuffed pasta shells
  • 250g pasta shells
  • 475 grams Ricotta cheese 
  • 30g grated Parmesan cheese plus a bit extra for topping the pasta
  • 1 egg
  • Salt & pepper to season
  • 2 tsp finely chopped parsley (keep some in reserve for garnish)
  • 2 tsp chopped basil
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 150g grated mozzarella
  • 600g marinara sauce
Bring a large pan of salted water to the boil.  Depending on the cooking instructions for your pasta, cook the shells for around half the required time as we want the shells to still be firm when we stuff them otherwise they will end up breaking if too soft!  Drain the shells under cold water and leave to one side.

In a bowl add the ricotta, Parmesan, egg, seasoning, lemon zest and herbs, mix well until you have a nice loose texture.  Place the mix into a piping bag if you have one, if not place into a freezer/sandwich bag and snip off a corner and use that to pipe with.  Pipe some of the cheese mixture into each of the shells and set aside.

Spread the base of your oven dish with some of the marinara sauce and place the filled pasta shells on top.  Cover the shells with the remaining marinara sauce and sprinkle  over the mozzarella cheese and a good few grinds of Parmesan cheese, place in a preheated oven (180 degrees) for around 30 minutes, or until the cheese is bubbling and golden.  When serving, sprinkle with some of the reserved parsley and enjoy with a crisp fresh salad and some garlic bread.

Despite the pasta and cheese this dish is surprisingly light thanks to the filling in the shells.  The measurements for this recipe can vary depending on the size of the dish you use to cook the pasta in, a good way to check the pasta content is to place dried shells into your dish to see how many it takes to fill!  If you do end up with too many shells don't worry, you can still fill them with the cheese mixture and freeze them to use another day.  This recipe is also great to make ahead of time and simply place into the oven when required.

Saturday 2 March 2019

Chicken with fennel, leeks and asparagus

Chicken with fennel leeks and asparagus
  • 4 chicken breasts
  • 8 slices Parma ham
  • 110g sliced baby leeks
  • 2 fennel bulbs (separated into layers)
  • Handful of asparagus spears (woody ends removed)
  • Juice and zest of one lemon
  • 2tbsp flour
  • 1 litre of chicken stock
  • Handful of chopped parsley
  • Salt and pepper
  • Knob of butter
  • Tablespoon of vegetable oil

Wrap each chicken breast with 2 slices of Parma ham, place onto an oven tray and cook in a preheated oven at 180 degrees for around 30 minutes, until the chicken is cooked through.  

Whilst the chicken is cooking, heat the oil and butter in a shallow pan, add the leeks and fennel and leave to soften for around 10 minutes.  Grate in the lemon zest, add the flour, stir through and cook for a few minutes before pouring in the chicken stock.  Bring to the boil, season, add the asparagus and cook for 20 minutes or so on a reduced heat until the sauce is thickened.  Prior to serving, stir through the parsley and lemon juice.

The original version of this recipe used skin on chicken thighs but due to a substitution in my shop I adapted the recipe with chicken breasts which I wrapped in Parma ham to keep them moist.  I have to say this was a great recipe, you have the vegetables within the dish so no need for any extras (unless you want to), we served this with some baby new potatoes, tossed in butter, a hearty satisfying meal which serves 4.  A nice crisp white wine would go nicely with this meal!