Food Challenge Recipe 20: One Pot Vegetarian Chilli Mac

This week’s recipe is another Mexican inspired one. I think this warmer weather has me thinking of hotter climates all over the world and all I want is spice and punchy flavour!

I found this recipe on Pinterest and I’ve tweaked it somewhat so that it tastes the way I like it. This recipe serves 3 people and is fairly filling. It required using some frozen chopped veg which I’d never used before, and tomato soup instead of passata to add depth.

I found a tomato and herb soup which didn’t have any dairy in, so I used this. It was 100ml less liquid than the recipe required so I made up the rest by adding to the required water volume.

Here’s what I did!

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I took 70g of frozen diced onion, 125g of sliced frozen mixed peppers and 4 medium mushrooms which had been diced, and soften them in a pan in some already warm olive oil. The recipe also called for 1/2 a mild chilli, diced. I can’t handle too much heat so I left this out.

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Once softened I added 120g of canned (rinsed) kidney beans, 1/2 tsp of smoked paprika, 1/2 tsp mild chilli powder and 1/4 tsp of ground cumin. I also added salt and pepper (but not too much because this could be tweaked later on) I stirred this around and then added 400ml of tomato soup and 250ml of water.

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I mixed this up and then added 180g of dry macaroni. You can use whichever pasta you’d like, but I just so happened to have some macaroni in my cupboard. I brought this to a simmer and let it cook for 15 mins, stirring regularly.

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At about 5 minutes before the end of cooking, I tasted the liquid and decided it needed more salt and 1 tsp of sugar to break the acidity. I also decided it needed a bit more depth and asked Gary to choose a BBQ sauce from his vast collection. I needed one which wasn’t too sweet, was a little vinegary and with a bit of smoke. I added 1.5 tbsp (approx) of this, gave it a stir and the flavour was just right.

At 15 minutes, the macaroni wasn’t cooked yet so I gave it some more time, testing it in 5 minutes increments and adding a little boiling water if I felt it was getting to dry. This macaroni seems to always need 10 minutes more cooking time when cooking it within a one pot dish, so I was prepared for this, but your pasta might cook faster.

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When I was happy with the ‘bite’ of the pasta, it was time to serve!

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I served mine with some grated lactose-free mature cheddar, but it would be equally nice with snipped spring onions or herbs on top.

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This was a super quick and really easy, hearty meal to cook. It even tasted great when I had the leftovers for lunch during the week.

I think I’ll be making this again!

I give this recipe 8.5/10

Food Challenge Recipe 18: Sweet & Sticky Tomato and Onion Bake

You’ll probably have noticed an unintentional theme in my last month or so’s recipes. I mostly eat vegetarian food, and a lot of it focusses on tomato and basil maybe with potato thrown in there.

I’m lactose intolerant so can’t eat dairy and my husband has Crohn’s meaning there are a few things that have to be omitted from his diet, including red meat. We never ate a lot of that anyway, so that wasn’t a problem, but I thought it worth mentioning, just in case you wondered why I rarely include meaty or cheesy recipes!

This week’s recipe is one I found whilst scooting through recipe books on Amazon. I don’t know if you’re aware, but sometimes they publish full recipes in the image section of the recipe book. I use this to gauge whether I think I’ll like what’s included. But on this occasion I liked a recipe so much, I screenshotted it, and that’s what this week’s recipe turned out to be! I’m rubbish so I can’t remember the name of the book. I’ve looked but I can’t find it. If I do I’ll update this post!

Anyway, this recipe was for 4 people but I cut it down by half and it was the perfect amount for 2.

You start off with preparing 250g of baby onions. I couldn’t find baby onions so I used the same amount of small shallots.

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To prepare them, you pop them into a bowl and pour boiling water over them. Then after about a minute, I pulled them out one by one with a slotted spoon and peeled the skins off. They just slipped right off! I’ve never prepared an onion in this way so I learned a new skill, and found it quite therapeutic!

I’d turned the oven to fan 190c already and lined a roasting tray with foil (for easier clean-up!) In hindsight I think, for my oven, 170c would have been a bit better.

I tumbled the peeled onions into the tray and then added 375g of cherry tomatoes and 375g of halved new potatoes.

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Then I drizzled about a tablespoon and a half of olive oil over the top and added salt and pepper, and gave it all a good mix.

This then went into the oven for an hour. You’ve got to stir it all around every 15 minutes to make sure the tomato juices get all up in every nook and cranny.

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After the hour was up, I added 200g drained and rinsed cannellini beans and a handful of fresh basil leaves and mixed it all together.

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At this point I turned the oven down to 170c as you can see the onions are already quite charred. Everything went back into the oven for 15 minutes more, and then it was served!

The recipe states to ‘make sure not to miss a drop of those juices’. There weren’t any juices in my pan, so I really believe the temperature of the oven had been too hot!

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Everything was cooked well, and you can still see the tomatoes have some moisture but if there had been some more moisture in the pan I think the beans would have been slightly more tender.

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I served this with some (probably too many) green beans, which added some clean greenness to the meal.

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This was a very good meal. The onions were sticky and caramelised, the tomatoes had deepened in flavour and basted the rest of the meal. The beans, though a little dry, added a texture and savouryness to the dish, and the potatoes soaked in all the lovely flavours from the rest. The basil added a great hit of fresh herby green.

I had thought we might want to add some balsamic glaze to this meal, but it wasn’t necessary. A simple, fresh and relatively healthy dish – we’ll be making this again (with only a tweak in oven temperature!)

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I give this recipe 8.5/10

Food Challenge Recipe 17: Simple, Quick Pasta Sauce

I’m going to be straight with you, I was really stumped for this week’s recipe. I had no inspiration and after spending 2 days on Pinterest I gave up. But Gary made a good point – the pasta sauce we usually buy (just a stir-in tomato and basil sauce) isn’t available in stores any more for some reason and we’re struggling to find a sauce we like.

So he found a recipe on the NHS website (did you know they had recipes?!) and it looked simple and quick so I thought I’d give it a go. Being from the NHS, the recipe had no salt or sugar in it and very little oil, so I adapted it a little so that it would actually potentially taste nice. Which is the point, right?

This was a recipe for 2 people’s worth of sauce.

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The only ingredients you need other than the pasta you’re going to put it on are:

  • 1 400g can of chopped tomatoes
  • 1 onion chopped as finely as you can manage (for me that’s not very fine!)
  • 2 tsp of garlic infused olive oil
  • 1 tbsp double concentrate tomato puree
  • a sprinkle of Italian seasoning, to taste
  • pepper, salt and sugar to taste (sugar is really important to take away the acidity of the tinned tomatoes)

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All good recipes start with frying an onion. I fried this off in the garlic oil until they were soft (but should have probably left them in a little longer than I did…. I was feeling lazy!)

Then you add the tin of tomatoes, puree and herbs.

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I mixed this all together and allowed it to simmer for about 15 minutes. I tasted this at the start of this time, seasoned and added sugar. I also tasted again about 5 minutes before the end and tweaked it a little.

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In this time you can cook your pasta according to the packet.

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The finished sauce was okay. But it was just okay. It needed more sweetness, and I should have fried the onion down a little more. It was fresh flavoured and the herbs came through. But I still had that creaky feeling on my teeth from the acidity of the tomatoes. I feel like maybe some stock and a bit more sugar would have helped that.

The recipe suggested this might also make a good pizza sauce, and I can see how that would work. I appreciated the speed of this recipe and the fact that you would probably have all of these ingredients in your cupboard anyway.

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I give this recipe 5/10

Food Challenge Recipe 16: The Ultimate Veggie Burrito

For about a week before I made this recipe, I wanted to eat it. I pulled the bulk of the method from this recipe, and adapted it to my skill set and for the kind of flavours I like.

I love carbs and this recipe includes rice, potatoes and tortilla wraps, as well as beans and peppers. It was love at first sight! Burritos aren’t really a thing in the UK and I can’t say I had much to compare this to, but it was easy and delicious, and though my burrito wrapping needs some practice, I don’t mind eating one with a knife and fork until I’ve perfected that part!

Also, this part of the recipe (the filling) feeds 8 people, and I made that much so I would have leftovers for my lunches in the week.

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I started with 3 tablespoons of garlic infused oil in my largest pan, and popped a diced onion and 3 peppers, also diced.

Once these had cooked down a little and softened, I added 3 peeled and diced potatoes, 1 can of rinsed black beans, 500ml of vegetable stock, 85g of double concentrate tomato puree, 1 tsp of ground cumin and 1 tsp of smokey chipotle paste (add more or less dependent on your tastes and how hot the paste you have is). I then seasoned to taste once this was all mixed together.

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I brought this to the boil and then let it simmer, uncovered for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.

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You need to make sure, after this time, that the potatoes are fork tender, so if they’re not keep them simmering until they are.

When the filling was nearing the end of its cooking time, I started on the rice. No matter how hard I try, I just can’t cook rice, so I like to use the microwave rice packs. They’re so easy and the rice is perfect, so why not! I microwaved one pack according to the packet, and then heaped in 3 large spoonfuls of salsa from a jar. I mixed this together lightly, and presto the rice was done!

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By this point the filling was cooked, the liquid had boiled down nicely, and I tasted for seasoning and everything tasted good!

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To put this together, I laid a tortilla down, popped a thick line of filling down the middle, and then some rice to one side and some grated cheese to the other.

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My condiment of choice for these type of flavours is ketchup, but you choose whatever you want or no sauce at all. Guacamole would be lovely too. I added mayonnaise and ketchup and then tried to roll my burrito….

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I decided to leave my second one ‘open’ since my first collapsed so much, and I definitely ate this was a knife and fork. But either way, it was delicious!

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Despite the first one collapsing, the flavours were all wonderful and it was all very filling. Gary and I both agreed we could have managed one and a half instead of the two we ate!

This was a definite success, and I’ll be making this again!

I give this recipe 10/10!

Food Challenge Recipe 13: Flapjacks!

The week I made these flapjacks it was my other half’s birthday and I had a week off. And he happened to request I made them – he loves flapjacks and I’d never made them before, but they looked pretty easy so I said yes!

For my American readers (you probably already know this, but….) flapjacks in the UK are not pancakes, but a baked sweet rolled oat-based square.

Happily, these flapjacks ended up being Vegan!

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I started with 175g of Vitalite (vegan sunflower spread) which I melted slowly on a low/medium heat.

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Then I added 175g of soft brown sugar, and 175ml of golden syrup.

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You’ve got to heat and stir this until all the sugar grains are dissolved.

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Then you take this off the heat and stir in 350g of porridge oats.

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I stirred half the oats in to coat and then the other half, just to ensure everything was coated properly.

I then pressed the mixture into a 20×20 cm pan which has been lined and greased, and pop into an oven at 150c for 25-30 mins.

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The top will be turning golden brown. I left the bake inside the tray until it was completely cool. At which point lifted the whole thing out using the sides of the paper, and I cut it into squares. I made about 16 squares.

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These flapjacks passed my husband’s taste test, and he even took some into work for his vegan workmates to enjoy! Being dairy-free I know what’s like to have to pass on all the goodies people bring into work, so it’s always nice to be able to say yes to a sweet treat now and then!

I give this recipe 10/10!

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Food Challenge Recipe 12: Butterbean, Chickpea & Butternut Squash Stew

Despite the weather becoming more spring-like, it’s still chilly, so for this week’s recipe I chose something that encompassed fresh produce and flavours but was still hearty and warming.

Enter the butterbean, chickpea and butternut squash stew! The actual title of this recipe was SPICY butterbean, chickpea and butternut squash stew, but for reasons you’ll understand shortly I was forced to adapt.

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You start with three humble ingredients, a small butternut squash, two red onions and a leek. The onions are wedged, leek sliced on a slant and the squash chopped into 2cm cubes.

This recipe is for 4 people so you need a bigger pot than I have, but alas I only learned this later on….

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The chopped veg goes into your pot with some warmed olive oil (1 tbsp) and 2 tsp of smoked paprika. These cooked down for about 10 minutes.

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I then added 1 tin of chopped tomatoes in tomato juice – this was meant to be chopped tomatoes with chilli but I couldn’t find it ANYWHERE – and 450ml of vegetable stock. This simmered for 15-20 mins. During this period, I tasted, seasoned and added 1 tsp of sugar (which wasn’t in the recipe) to offset the acidity from the tomatoes. I also added 1/2 tsp of mild chilli powder, but I think I could have added more. Next time!

I drained and rinsed 1 400g can of chickpeas and 1 of butterbeans.

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These were stirred into the pot along with what was meant to be 200g of fresh spinach, but this was when I realised my pot wasn’t big enough. So I added the leaves in stages until they wilted down, and managed to put most of it in before giving up!

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This simmered for about 10 minutes before serving!

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Despite needing a little more heat from the chilli, I really enjoyed this. The flavours from all the veg were present and fresh and the beans made for a comforting stew. I don’t think it needed the amount of spinach the recipe asked for, so it was probably a good thing that I didn’t add it all! And next time, I’ll use a bigger pot!!

Because this makes enough for 4, we have it again later this week, and I’m looking forward to it!

I give this recipe 7.5/10!

Food Challenge Recipe 11: Smoky Spanish Chicken, Patatas Bravas & Aioli

The last of my Gousto recipes, and this was the one I was least fussed about. I liked the idea of making the Patatas Bravas but I knew I’d be taking out some of the ingredients (parsley and coriander, due to personal preference) so I assumed it would lack a little something it was meant to have due to this. I was wrong.

This recipe starts with cubed potatoes, oiled up (I used sunflower spray) and salt and peppered, then popped into the oven for 25-30 mins.

I also sliced up a red and yellow pepper and a red onion, drizzled these with olive oil and some salt and these went into the oven for 20 minutes.

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Next I dissolved 1 tbsp of tomato paste into 200ml of boiled water and a sprinkle of chilli flakes. I diced a tomato and popped this into a pan with warmed oil in, added a pinch of salt and sugar, for about 4 minutes over a medium heat. The tomato had started to break down and at this point I added the liquid I had just made. This boiled down for another 4 minutes.

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I then took a large chicken breast, which I had cut into 4 equal goujons and dredged these into 2 tsp of smoked paprika, 1 tsp sugar and a pinch of salt, all mixed up.

Then I pan-fried the chicken in a pan which had a little warmed oil in. This took about 5 minutes on each side.

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I combined a chopped garlic clove with 135ml of mayo, 1 tsp of water and a pinch of salt in a bowl, creating an aioli.

At this point everything was ready to be put together!

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As much as it’s not crazy photogenic, this was delicious. The tomato sauce and mayo was layered on top of the potatoes. This was the star of the show. The chicken was moist and delicious and the roasted veg was full of fresh flavour.

I’ll be making this again – plates were clean by the end and bellies were happy!

8.5/10 for this recipe!

Food Challenge Recipe 10: Cowboy Bean Bowl & Crispy Tortillas

I bloody love cooking home-made beans. I have an awesome recipe for Boston Baked beans that are topped with dumplings (for some reason) but it’s delicious and I know that beans are totally yummy when they’re home-made. Not knocking Heinz’s beans – those are dope and my love for them make it evident that I’m British through and through.

The recipe I cooked for today’s post is very simple and involve ingredients I’ve never used and techniques I’ve never tried before. It’s another Gousto recipe, and as I’ve said before, I paid for this box myself, and this isn’t sponsored, I just wanted to try it out!

This one starts with cutting tortillas into halves, drizzling oil on top and sprinkling with a little salt. These are put into the oven for 15 minutes and then left to crisp and dry up. And I gotta tell you, I’ll be doing this again. The result is delicious and inspired, and the smell the kitchen has whilst these are cooking is amazing. Forget freshly baked bread, THIS is the smell you want if you’re showing prospective buyers around your home.

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Next I sliced up one red pepper and diced a garlic clove into teeny tiny bits. The peppers were popped into some warmed oil over a medium heat with a little salty for about 3 minutes.

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Then I dissolved a vegetable stock cube (I was provided with Knorr cubes, and I really like them. They seem a lot better than the OXO I’m used to) into 250ml boiled water, 2 tbsp tomato paste and 20g chipotle paste (which was amazing) along with a large pinch of sugar. I drained 1 can of cannellini beans and one of kidney beans and gave them a good rinse.

I added 1 tsp of smoked paprika and the chopped garlic to the peppers and cooked them for a minute. Then added the beans and coated them in all the spices.

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Next I added the spicy stock I’d made up, some salt and pepper, and cooked for 7 minutes until the sauce had reduced a little.

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At this point, I had to mash some of the beans down, which helped to add a bit of thickness to the pot, and then left them for 2 or 3 minutes. Then I checked the seasoning and the beans were ready!

They were served with a little grated cheese, some plain yogurt and some spring onion – and of course the crispy tortillas!

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I kind of expected this to be a little spicier than it was. There was just some warmth and a bunch of smokiness. It was delicious though – and very sufficient in the portion size. Especially with all the tortilla crisps to go with it.

I can see me making this again, and I need to buy me some chipotle paste to chuck into everything, because that stuff’s the bomb!

I give this recipe 8.5/10

Food Challenge Recipe 9: Chicken & Red Pesto Mayo Ciabatta Burger

This week’s recipe involved me going slightly out of my comfort zone when it came to cooking the chicken.

When I cook with chicken I always assume I’m going to kill myself or whoever I’m feeding. I’m convinced I’m going to leave raw chicken all over my kitchen (I blame an anti-bacterial spray advert from when I was a kid) and as a result I use gloves and anti bac the kitchen A LOT when I cook it!

I always bake my chicken, because I know I can put it in the oven for a certain time, it’ll be cooked when it comes out and there’s as little touching of the actual meat as I can get away with.

This recipe entailed pan frying chicken and I wasn’t too thrilled, but I knew I would give it a go. People cook raw chicken every day, so it can’t be that hard can it?

This recipe is served with home-made chips, which I serve quite regularly at home. I use sunflower spray rather than oil because it works just fine, and is healthier, therefore happier on the stomach. That’s something I’ve noticed with these Gousto recipes – there’s a lot of oil, a lot of sugar and a lot of salt added. Much more than I would ever add in my usual day-to-day cooking. Anyhow, back to the recipe!

I was provided with one large chicken breast, which I had to butterfly in order to produce two thinner breast portions. I managed this okay, but one was thicker than the other. I had to then sprinkle 1 tbsp of dried oregano over the chicken portions and add a pinch of salt.

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These were pan-fried in a little oil for 5 minutes on each side (I obviously obsessed over making sure these were cooked all the way through).

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To make a pesto mayo I mixed 22g of sundried tomato pesto with 15ml of mayo. Then mixed 22g of pesto with a drizzle of olive oil and this made a dressing for my rocket leaves.

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I was provided with 2 ciabatta rolls (though I’m not sure whether it was really ciabatta because it didn’t seem like it was).

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These were popped into the oven for 3 minutes and then removed, sliced in half and some of the pesto mayo spread on the bottom of each roll. A little rocket was placed on top of that, and then one of the chicken breasts.

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This was served with the home-made chips and the rest of the rocket, which was drizzled with the pesto dressing.

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The chicken was lovely and moist, tasted lovely with the oregano on top and the pesto dressing was tasty.

That being said, I would have liked something other than pesto to put on the rocket, since it was already on the burger. It made everything taste very samey and I like a bit of variation.

We both enjoyed this meal, and I think I would try it again – certainly preparing the chicken in the way I did this time around. It was good quality chicken, which helped.

I give this recipe 7/10

Food Challenge Recipe 8: Potato Topped Chicken, Mustard & Kale Pie

This week’s recipe came to me via Gousto. We decided to give Gousto, the recipe box, a go during my recent week off, so the next 4 recipes were all made that week. I decided it wasn’t fair, or practical, to expect that I would have the time (or inclination) to cook a new recipe every week. And as this is my challenge, I’ve decided this will be 52 new recipes in a year rather than forcing myself to achieve one a week.

Anyhow, this week I’m sharing the first of the 4 Gousto recipes I chose. (And before you wonder, I chose the box and paid for it myself. This isn’t sponsored, I just decided to try it!)

So, this recipe, as you’ll have gathered from the title, is a potato topped chicken pie. This does have dairy in it, so I took some lactase pills when I ate it. My stomach didn’t like it a few hours later, but it did enjoy it during. Anyhow, to the recipe!

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I collected my ingredients and my recipe card and got started.

I dissolved a chicken stock cube into 150ml boiled water, then whisked dijon mustard (1bsp), cream cheese (100g) and cornflour (1 tbsp) – I whisked these in separately so that it didn’t go lumpy.

I added shredded kale (120g) and diced chicken breast (250g) into an ovenproof dish with some salt and pepper and tossed everything together.

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I grated some cheese (40g) and 300g of potatoes, which I squeezed the moisture out of and mixed the two together with a glug of olive oil and some salt.

I then topped the chicken and kale with this and popped it into the oven for 30 minutes.

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When it came out of the oven, it was nice and sizzling.

 

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I have to say, that for such few ingredients this was super tasty. I’d have liked the cheese that went on top with the potato to have been a little stronger, but should I make this again I’ll use extra mature cheddar. I enjoyed the mustard flavour running through the chicken and kale, and having thought I didn’t like kale, I was pleasantly surprised!

I also wasn’t sure this would fill two people based on the few ingredients, but was very happy with the portion size!

I’m tempted to make this again, with a few tweaks and a switch of the cream cheese to a dairy-free version.

I give this recipe 8.5/10!