Chicken Fajitas

Who doesn’t love fajitas? They’re quick and easy to make, full of flavour and fun to assemble. My recipe features chicken, straying from the Tex-Mex / Mexican origins of grilling skirt steak, although the chicken in this recipe can be easily replaced with beef.

Chicken fajitas in pan

My recipe keeps the ingredients simple and doesn’t use loads of different spices. The fajitas are still tasty and the additional toppings are optional.

Chicken fajitas ingredients

All the ingredients are fried in the same pan. When everything is cooked, we bring the frying pan to the table, place it on a heat resistant mat and use tongs to assemble our own fajitas.

Chicken fajitas table

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Orange Rosemary Drizzle Loaf

I am still baking during lockdown and I’m enjoying making my tried and true recipe for orange rosemary drizzle cake. I’ve been testing similar recipes over the past few years and I’ve adapted them into one recipe I am very happy with. My Orange Rosemary Drizzle Loaf is my go-to recipe when I need a good dessert or am contributing to a charity bake sale (hopefully those days will come back soon).

Orange Rosemary Drizzle Loaf sliced

I am avoiding supermarkets as much as possible. Fab local shop Meadows in Newnham has been a godsend, delivering fruit, vegetables, butter, milk, cheese, pasta, sauces, freshly baked goods, tea, chocolate and more, including some of the products in this recipe. The Washington variety oranges from Italy (supplied by La Sovrana), Cacklebean eggs from the Cotswolds and rosemary infused olive oil imported from Fattoria di Tullio in Abruzzo by Cambridgeshire’s Cucina di William really elevated this cake to new heights.

Washington variety orange La Sovrana Azienda Agricola

Cacklebean eggs

Those who have made my previous recipe for carrot muffins will know that I prefer using olive oil rather than butter as the bakes are lighter in texture. Rosemary and oranges make a great flavour combo, with the subtle hint of rosemary complementing the citrus.

Cucina di William rosemary infused olive oil

Using an olive oil already infused with rosemary is a good shortcut but just olive oil works too, with the option to add finely chopped dried rosemary to the batter (or leave out the herb altogether if you’re not a fan).

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Carrot Muffins

These are unprecedented times. Yes, we are in lockdown due to COVID-19 but also unprecedented because I am baking. A lot. I hardly ever bake! It’s a comforting activity that’s keeping me sane all the while ensuring no produce goes to waste. Over the past several weeks, I made 4 loaves of banana bread and 2 batches of carrot muffins. Whoa.

Carrot muffins

Carrot muffin

Time is on my side so I’ve been perfecting my recipe for carrot muffins. I used less sugar the second time around and I was really pleased with the result. The natural sweetness of the carrots and little kick of cinnamon meant I could cut way down on the sugar (I went from 200g to 140g).

Carrot cake muffins in tin

There’s olive oil rather than butter in the carrot muffins, making them lighter in texture. The recipe doesn’t use a lot of flour, which is difficult to find at the moment. So a little goes a long way. This recipe also uses up any carrots languishing in the fridge.

Carrot muffin batter

Carrot muffin batter in tin

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Italian Sausage and Mushroom Tortiglioni

The beauty of Italian cooking is the simplicity of its ingredients, provided they are high quality. This quick and easy recipe features staples in Italian cuisine, such as Parmigiano Reggiano, pasta, pork sausages, garlic and parsley. It’s important to use Italian sausages. They have a coarser texture than British ones. They’re the key to a delicious outcome so no bangers, capish?

You can buy Italian sausages in supermarkets, just look for a specific description on the packaging. However, your best bet is the Italian delicatessen. I found black truffle sausages at Signorelli’s Deli in Cambridge, which complemented the earthy mushroom flavours in this dish. I even enhanced the recipe with a few drops of truffle oil. However, if truffles aren’t your thing, there are sausages with chilli, garlic or fennel… even plain ones. Anything goes really, as long as they are Italiano!

This dish is best with a short, sturdy pasta such as rigatoni, tortiglioni or penne. Use your favourite variety of mushrooms or a mix of them, such as button, chestnut and cremini. For a more intense flavour, add a small amount of porcini mushrooms to the mix.

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Donairs (Recipe from More Than Poutine by Marie Porter)

Marie Porter’s latest cookbook More Than Poutine: Favourite Foods from My Home and Native Land resonated with me in many ways. Obviously it’s all about food but it’s Canadian recipes written by a fellow expat. When I made the move to the UK, first London then Cambridge, I was delighted to meet so many fellow Canadians in the same boat as me. We all miss our favourite foods, the ones we grew up on, that gave us joy and shared with loved ones. The cookbook features a lot of comfort foods, which is a nice reflection of these feelings of nostalgia.

The book’s title really hits the nail on the head. Poutine may be the Canadian specialty that first springs to mind but the cookbook is very well researched and spans over 120 recipes from all over Canada. Rest assured there is a great poutine recipe, complete with homemade gravy. The book also includes other well-known Canadian foods such as butter tarts, Nanaimo bars, tourtière and lobster rolls.

The recipes begin with a few explanatory words, as Canada is so diverse not all Canadians might know the dishes. The cookbook isn’t only for expats though, there’s enough interesting information for those living in Canada who want to expand their Canadian cooking repertoire. It’s also a great introduction to Canadian cuisine for anyone eager to learn more about Canada’s unique and varied culture.

The recipes’ measurements are provided in both US and metric units, with a more detailed conversions section at the end of the book.

It’s also worth noting that there is a focus on providing gluten-free alternatives to the recipes so the book is a good resource for those avoiding gluten.

With recipes classed into the following categories: Breakfast & Brunch, Appetizers & Sides, Snack Foods, Main Dishes, Jiggs Dinner (Sunday Dinner in Newfoundland), Beverages & Condiments and Desserts, the cookbook covers a lot of territory, both in the geographic and culinary sense. All of my favourites are in the book: Bannock, Montreal Style Bagels, Montreal Smoked Meat, Maple Snow Taffy, French Canadian Pea Soup and Bloody Caesar (Bloody Mary’s Canadian cousin). There are even accurate replicas of Jos Louis cake rounds, Oh Henry! chocolate bars and Swiss Chalet/St-Hubert BBQ sauce, although for trademarks reasons the recipe names had to be changed. It’s fun figuring out the inspiration behind the creative titles.

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Texas Style Smoked Beef Brisket

Paulo has been honing his BBQ skills ever since we got our Big Green Egg last year. Smoking a whole beef brisket is the ultimate challenge and he decided to do it Texas style, following the method of legendary pitmaster Aaron Franklin. After all, the brisket trend originated in Texas and barbecue beef brisket is considered their national dish.

It’s important to note that US brisket is different to what we know as brisket in the UK, namely a rolled and tied cut of meat that is slow roasted in the oven. Cattle breeds in the UK are smaller so the brisket needs to be treated more delicately as it’s less able to endure heat and doesn’t have the protective fat content and connective tissue for the cooking process. Brisket from the USA is larger, juicier and more stable.

Brisket comes from the cow’s lower chest area, which has coarse muscle fibres that are tightly bound together so it’s a notoriously difficult cut of meat to get right. Get it wrong and it will be tough and hard. Brisket should be cooked low and slow in a smoker as it breaks down the connective tissue for a juicy, tender result. It’s very time-consuming but so worth it for smoky, smooth, buttery brisket with a soft, sticky crust (bark) packed with flavour!

The whole brisket, known as a “packer cut” in the US, comes vacuum packed and is left untrimmed. More on trimming the fat later but in essence, the fat helps keep the brisket moist during the cooking process. The whole brisket includes the point (the thicker, fattier end) and the flat (the flatter, leaner end). Some cooks separate the two for better control over the cooking but we did it Franklin style.

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Smoky Chilli Con Carne

Paulo and I have been making our famous chilli con carne for years but this is the first time we tried it on our new Big Green Egg. The recipe already adds smokiness by griddling whole red chillies but using hickory wood chips in the Big Green Egg gave the chilli con carne an even more smoky flavour.

chilli-con-carne-in-bowl

chilli-con-carne-big-green-egg-dutch-oven

It’s not essential to have a Big Green Egg to make this recipe so I’ll provide the stove top and EGG versions. However, if you are considering getting a Big Green Egg I heartily recommend it (I’m not getting paid to write that!). It’s more of an oven than a barbecue and can be used year round. So on a crisp winter’s day, Paulo and I donned our Aabelard aprons and fired up the Big Green Egg. They helped keep us warm too!

aabelard-aprons

Aabelard aprons are top quality (again, not getting paid for this recommendation). Made with waxed cotton, double-faced Italian leather (it’s like butterrrr) and antiqued brass buckles, it’s the only apron I’ll ever need and the cross back strap makes it super comfortable. I initially got one thinking that I would share it with Paulo but it became apparent that we each wanted our own apron, so I bought Paulo one in his favourite colour and even got it personalised with his initials. And besides, there’s nothing like a bit of brass and leather to spice up our culinary experiences! Ooo-err!

big-green-egg-dutch-oven-aabelard-apron

We used Big Green Egg’s Dutch Oven but you can use any cast iron pot, even an enamelled one. You won’t need the lid for this recipe.

collage-big-green-egg-aabelard-apron

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Double Truffle Tagliatelle

I love truffles… the subterranean fungus, that is (although I’m quite partial to the chocolate sweets). I had the pleasure of meeting Will Bailey of Truffle Face, a Cambridge-based importer of high-quality affordable truffles from Orvieto, Italy. I interviewed him for Flavour, Cambridge’s food and drink radio programme (podcast here).

truffleface-pina-and-will

truffleface-grilled-cheese-truffle-sandwich

Will even made me a truffle-laden lunch… The Ultimate Truffle Grilled Cheese sandwich (recipe here). What a treat!

truffleface-tagliatelle

truffleface-tagliatelle-in-plate

As we talked all things truffle, I couldn’t resist purchasing a pack of Tagliatelle al Tartufo, made by artisan company Margió, based in Umbria where Truffle Face source their truffles. I knew the tagliatelle would be tasty as the truffle is baked right into the pasta. You can actually see the yummy bits. All of Truffle Face’s products, such as truffles, pasta, cheese, oil and condiments can be purchased through their website.

truffleface-pina

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Tortiglioni with Tomato and Aubergine

Aubergine, eggplant… however they’re named, I just love them. Unfortunately, Paulo “not so much” so we hardly ever used them in our cooking. I knew I had to find a compromise and this is it! It’s a dish for those who don’t like aubergine, but I’m convinced it will convert all aubergine-haters. Once they’re fried, they have a meaty texture and any bitterness is eliminated.

Pasta Norma in pan

This recipe is basically what’s known in Sicily as Pasta alla Norma. It’s a famous dish named after the opera Norma by Vincenzo Bellini. Its flavours are definitely a work of art! The pasta shapes vary but I prefer a sturdy pasta, such as tortiglioni or rigatoni, to take on a sauce this thick and chunky.

The Sicilian way is to top the pasta with ricotta salata (salted ricotta) but it can be tricky to find. It’s a saltier, aged version of soft ricotta. Good substitutes are salty cheeses such as feta or Pecorino.

My version of Pasta alla Norma is quick and easy but still delicious. One day I will travel to Sicily and experience the traditional recipe!

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Chicken Cashew Stir-fry with Noodles

I love the speed and ease of cooking with a wok. My recipe for Chicken Cashew Stir-fry with Noodles is a breeze to prepare. Once all the ingredients are chopped, they go straight into the wok and everything cooks rather quickly. The sweet hoisin sauce and toasted sesame oil give this dish its distinct oriental flavour while the cashews provide a contrasting texture. Add the convenience of ready noodles and you’ve got some seriously good comfort food. So wok this way!

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