Budget Peanut Butter and Jelly Chicken

Tasty food doesn’t need to cost the earth. Neither does it have to take hours to prepare. After a days work you want to be sat eating dinner, not slaving over a stove. Even better if your hard earned cash remains in your pocket. Why pay more when you can pay less?

The internet has made it simpler to search tasty recipes that do not break the bank, and then tweak and adjust them to your liking. This recipe I found on realfood.tesco.com.

A mix of east meets west. 5 minutes to prepare, 10 minutes to marinade, and 45 minutes in the oven. Simple!

Ingredients

  • 600g pkt chicken thigh fillets
  • 3 tbsp crunchy peanut butter
  • 3 tbsp redcurrant jelly
  • 1 tbs sweet chilli dipping sauce
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 300g green beans
  • 325g tin sweetcorn
  • 2 tomatoes
  • 1/2 red chilli
  • 1 tbsp white wine vinegar
  • 15g fresh basil

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to gas 6, 200°C, fan 180°C and line a baking tray with nonstick baking paper. Put the chicken on the baking tray. Mix the peanut butter with the redcurrant jelly, sweet chilli sauce and 2 tbsp olive oil. Cover the chicken with the marinade and place in the fridge for 10 mins.
  2. Chop the tomatoes and deseed and dice the chilli. Blanch the green beans in a pan of boiling water, or over a steamer for 5 minutes. Drain and mix with the sweetcorn, tomatoes and chilli. Toss with a tablespoon olive oil, the white wine vinegar and basil.
  3. Bake the chicken for 40-45 mins until crisp, golden and cooked through, basting halfway through.

I served mine with a dollop of mash potato, but you can serve with crusty bread, rice or couscous.

Sponge Cake Woes

Image by Clker-Free-Vector-Images from Pixabay

Candles blown out signifies another birthday over. And a traditional Victoria Sponge is a classic. Grease two 20cm round cake tins. Beat 200g/8oz sugar and butter until pale. Add a teaspoon of baking powder to 200g/8oz self-raising flour, gradually fold into the butter and sugar along with 4 eggs. If the mixture feels a bit stiff add 2tbsp milk to loosen batter. Split between the cake tins and bake at 190C/fan 170C/gas mark 5 for approximately 20 minutes, until golden brown and the cake springs back when touched. For the butter cream filling beat 100g/4oz room temperature butter, gradually add 150g/6oz of icing sugar and an optional drop of vanilla extract. Spread the butter cream onto one half of the cooled cakes and half a jar of strawberry jam onto the other, and sandwich together. Dust with icing sugar. Voila!

Baking sponge cakes is reletively simple, but there are a few mistakes that can steal perfection from the final product. Below are a few common sponge problems and the solution.

PROBLEMSOLUTION
BurntBurnt cake tastes terrible, but it can be salvaged. Simply cut away the burnt edges using a srrated knife, and smother with frosting.
Cake Mixture Overflowing Use the correct size tin for the cake, and fill your tins a maximum of two-thirds full.
Cracked TopIf the cake rises too quickly it will crack. Check the oven temperature using a thermometer. Too much raising agent will also cause the cake to crack. Decorating the cake will cover any imperfections.
Crunchy EdgesGrease the cake tin with minimal fat, otherwise as it melts it effectively frys the sponge.
DryAccuracy is essential. Use the correct size eggs and measure liquids. To much dry ingredients will absorb moisture. Check your oven is not too hot, and don’t leave in the oven too long.
Didn’t RiseAdd raising agents and check they are not out-of-date. Not baking long enough can be the reason cake hasn’t risen, pop back in the oven for a couple of minutes. If the tin is too big the sponge will spread thinly, giving the appearance it hasn’t risen
Split MixtureStop creaming butter and sugar when they begin to look curdled and add dry ingredients.
Stuck to the TinUse greaseproof paper cut to size in the base of the tin. Allow cake to cool thoroughly before attempting to remove from tin. Run a knife round the edge of the tin to loosen cake.
Sunken MixtureThe cake will sink if the batter is still raw in the middle. Add to oven for a few more minutes and insert a skewer, if it comes out clean cake is cooked. Check oven temperature is not too cool. Raising agent problems can be responsible for sunken cakes. Sunken cakes can be covered with frosting.
Tastes BadToo much raising agent will leave a bitter tase. Certain cake recipes require a lot of egg, disguise the egg taste with flavourings, for example vanilla extract.
Too HeavyNot enough raising agent can leave sponge heavy. Mixing at every stage is important, incorporating air in the batter.
UndercookedCalibrate oven correctly using a thermometer, ensuring it is not too cool.

Casseroles: Mix it Up

Casseroles are a great start for the novice cook. And a fantastic way to use up ingredients. Invest in a slow cooker. Simply add whatever you want to the pot and switch on. Then go about your day, with the knowledge a steaming stew will be ready come evening meal.

Experiment with various cuts of meat, vegetables, pulses, herbs, spices and condiments. My latest love is adding fruit, honey, ales, wine and cider to my pot. The act of slow cooking tenderises the meat wonderfully. I don’t reccomend using mince, it has a tendacy to turn to slop and resemble pet food. With that one no-no, nothing else is off limits.

A Sunday: day of rest and all. I’ve got some sausauges nearing there use by date and baking potatoes that will soon be sprouting. The oven goes on low for the jackets, great for keeping the kitchen warm. And out comes the slow cooker. Pop in a bag of ready prepared casserole veg. In go my sausages and a tin of chopped tomatoes, followed by a can full of cold water and a stock cube. Perusing the pantry for flavours I add some mustard seeds, paprika, ground coriander and parsley. A dash of runny honey, salt, pepper. On goes the lid. Now I sit with a brew and write this post while dinner is cooking.

Beefy Sausage and Mash

You cannot beat a comforting plate of sausage and mash. Quality sausages and a good homemade gravy raise the bar, lifting the dish from a midweek meal to something special.

Beef sausages are a favourite of mine, complimented with a red wine gravy. I used a Chilean Cabernet Sauvignon, grown in the Central Valley region near Santiago, the countries capital. Of course use any red wine you have available, the only rule of thumb is don’t cook with a wine you wouldn’t drink.

I whipped this dish up after going a walk with the family around Branston Water in Burton-on-Trent, just off the A38. A full house and hungry kids to feed, I wanted quick, simple and tasty.

In a deep sided frying pan I added a tablespoon of sunflower oil, one peeled and sliced red onion and sixteen beef sausages. I fry them gently until the onions are soft and opaque and the sausages are brown, about ten minutes. Turning the heat up I add a generous dash of red wine and bring to the boil for two minutes, until the alcohol burns off. Then I add a pint of boiling water and two beef stock cubes and a slurry of cornflour. Allow the gravy to thicken and then serve with mash and peas.