Hoisin roast chicken noodle soup


I used these roast chicken thighs as a topping for noodle soup. I bought a pack of four chicken thighs and boned them (this is fairly simple as there is only one large bone to deal with – you just locate the bone, cut into the flesh lying over it and then cut all the way round, between the flesh and the bone, and cut the flesh away from the bone at either end).

Marinate the chicken thighs in a mixture of a generous tablespoon of Hoisin sauce and a dessert spoon of cooking oil. Cover and leave in the fridge for at least 2 hours. Then place the chicken in a roasting dish and brush with any remaining marinade. Roast in the oven at 180C (Gas Mark 4) for about 30 minutes.

I made some stock with the bones, a carrot  (sliced), an onion (quartered) and a stick of celery (sliced), plus a little chopped garlic and ginger, and a pinch of five spice powder. Cover in water, bring to the boil and simmer for a few hours, adding more water if necessary. Then strain the liquid, discarding the vegetables and the bones.

To complete the soup for 2 people:

  • Oil
  • A piece of ginger about 2cm square (chopped)
  • 1 red chilli (deseeded and chopped)
  • 1 clove of garlic (chopped)
  • Chicken stock (see above)
  • A generous dash of soy sauce
  • 4 spring onions (fairly finely sliced)
  • Green vegetables (eg a two handfuls of spinach, pak choi, or similar)
  • Other vegetables (optional) – say baby sweet corn or mange tout etc
  • Chinese noodles for 2 people (cooked in accordance with the instructions on the packet)
  • Hoi sin roast chicken thighs (see above), sliced

Heat a little oil in a large saucepan. Add the ginger, chilli and garlic. Stir fry for 1 minute. Add the chicken stock and the soy sauce. Bring to the boil and simmer for 5 minutes.

Depending on the vegetable you are using, add them to the stock (adding the ones that take longer to cook earlier – eg if using baby sweet corn, add these about 3 minutes before the spring onions and the green vegetables). Add more boiling water if necessary.

When the vegetables are cooked, serve the soup by dividing the noodles between two large bowls. The add the soup and top with the sliced chicken.



Green risotto


I had a 450g bag of spinach, and I’d been taken in by a ‘two green veg for £3 offer’, so I also had a bag of green beans and some tender stem broccoli. I’d already used about half the spinach to make Spinach and cheese pancakes, so I decided to make a green risotto. I plan to use the remaining beans and broccoli in a Thai noodle soup. This is enough for 2 people:

  • 2 tbsp oil
  • 1/2 onion (chopped)
  • 1 clove garlic (chopped)
  • 120g arborio (risotto) rice (more depending how hungry you are), you could also use pudding rice (or pearl barley which would take longer to cook)
  • 225g fresh leaf spinach (cooked as in Spinach and cheese pancakes)
  • hot water
  • 1 tsp veg-stock powder
  • 140g green beans (washed, stalks removed and cut in half)
  • 120g tender stem broccoli (washed and cut into 4cm lengths (with the stem pieces cut in half lengthways)
  • 2 tbsp double cream
  • 2 heaped tbsp grated parmesan cheese
  • freshly ground black pepper to taste (also if required, salt or a squeeze of lemon juice)

Heat the oil in a thick bottomed saucepan. Add the onion and fry very gently for about 5 minutes (stirring as necessary). Add the garlic and carry on frying and stirring for 3 minutes. Add the rice, and stir so that it is coated in oil.

Add the stock powder and enough hot water to cover the ingredients. Bring to the boil and simmer very gently for about 20 minutes until the rice is creamy but still has a slight ‘bite’. You will need to add more hot water occasionally and stir the mixture from time to time.

Meanwhile microwave the beans and broccoli together with a tablespoon of water in a covered container at 750W for 2.5 minutes.

Stir the cream into the risotto and then the spinach, beans and broccoli. Return to the heat and stir until the mixture is just boiling. Turn off the heat, stir in the cheese and add black pepper, salt etc to taste. Serve.

Spinach and cheese pancakes


This is vegetarian comfort food – serves 2, maybe 3, as a main course. I used some frozen pancakes I had made previously (I often make these if I have eggs which are about to go out of date):

  • 6 savoury pancakes (made from 300ml milk, 130g plain flour, 1 large egg, 1 tbsp oil (and more for cooking the pancakes))
  • 250g fresh spinach (you could use frozen chopped spinach instead)
  • 150g low fat cottage cheeese
  • 30g butter
  • 2 rounded tbsp plain flour
  • 300ml milk
  • 120g grated cheddar
  • 1/4 tsp grated nutmeg
  • freshly ground black pepper

Wash the fresh spinach, drain (and if you have one, spin in a salad spinner, to remove additional water). Microwave the spinach in a covered bowl at 750W, for 2 mins (then stir and stand for a minute); then cook at 750W for a further minute. When cooled, squeeze any excess water from the spinach and roughly chop. Mix with the cottage cheese.

Make the cheese sauce with the butter, flour, milk, the black pepper and most of the grated cheese.

Mix a little of the cheese sauce with the spinach and cottage cheese mixture, stir in the grated nutmeg, and spread this mixture on one half of each of the six pancakes. Roll up the pancakes and place in an ovenproof dish. Pour over the cheese sauce so that it covers the top of the pancakes, and sprinkle with the remaining grated cheese.

Bake in the oven at 180C (Gas Mark 4) for about 25 minutes until the top starts to brown, and the whole dish is piping hot.



Spinach, Cheese and Tomato Quiche


I made this with the spinach left over from the Pork Belly Noodle Soup. I included some small tomatoes which were a little past their sell-buy-date. I peeled the tomatoes, and cooked them (with nothing added) on a baking sheet in the bottom of the oven while the pastry case was baking.

Provides 6 servings:

  • Shortcrust pastry made with 150g plain flour and 75g butter; or a sheet of savoury shortcrust pastry; or a ready made savoury pastry case (about 20cm in diameter). I made mine in a fairly high-sided tin. See these instructions on how to make a pastry case
  • 200g spinach (cooked, chopped and allowed to cool – I washed mine, then spun it in a salad spinner and cooked it in the microwave at 750W for 2.5 minutes; the drained it in a sieve and squeezed out the rest of the liquid by pressing the spinach against the inside of the sieve with a suitably sized round bottomed bowl)
  • 4 large eggs
  • 250ml milk
  • a little grated nutmeg
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 80g grated cheddar
  • 1 tbsp oil
  • 1/2 onion (chopped)
  • about 25 small tomatoes (peeled and cooked in the bottom of the oven while the pastry case is cooking (say, 20 minutes at 200C/Gas Mark 6)) [optional]

If cooking the pastry yourself, start preparing the filling once the pastry has gone in the oven.

Heat the oil in a small saucepan, add the onion and gently cook for about 5 minutes. Allow to cool.

Beat the eggs in a 2L bowl or measuring jug. Mix in the milk. Then add the nutmeg, pepper, cheese and spinach, ensuring they are well mixed together. Add the onion when it has had time to cool off. If using the tomatoes add these when you remove them from the oven.

Pour the mixture into the pastry case and cook for about 40 minutes at 160C/Gas Mark 3. The quiche will be cooked when top starts to brown and is firm.

My husband thinks it would be better without the tomatoes – what do you think?

Penne with spinach and gorgonzola


A quick supper for two:
3 handfuls of dried penne (or other ‘chunky’ pasta)
2 tbsp pine nuts
100g gorgonzola (or dolcelatte, stilton or other blue cheese)
150ml double cream
200g fresh spinach
Freshly ground black pepper

Cook the penne in accordance with the instructions on the packet.
Toast the pine nuts (until they are golden) on a backing sheet under a grill (do not allow to burn – they will brown quite fast). Cut the gorgonzola into small pieces.
Wash the spinach and drain (if you have a ‘salad spinner’ use that to remove any excess water).
Once the penne is cooked, drain it.
Into the same saucepan (over a lower heat) put the cream and the gorgonzola. Stir to break up the gorgonzola (a balloon whisk is useful here).
When the cream mixture has boiled, add the penne and the pine nuts and stir to coat with the cream mixture.
Turn up the heat and add the spinach, stirring constantly (the spinach will cook in a few minutes – it is useful to use a very large saucepan as it is easier to stir in all the spinach at once).
Add black pepper to taste and serve immediately.