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.


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.


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.


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.


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!



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.


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).


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.


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).


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.


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


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!


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.



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.


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



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!

Food Challenge Recipe 7: Red Cabbage

I’m a huge fan of vegetables, and red cabbage is one I rarely eat. At Christmas time I love to visit the Winter Wonderland in Hyde Park because I can get spiced red cabbage as a side to one of the dishes they serve at the Oktoberfest tent.

When a friend received her Hello Fresh box at work, and had two lots of the recipe cards, she kindly allowed me to take a couple of the extra cards home – I think she saw the gluttony in my eyes when I saw one particular recipe.

It was for balsamic steak with wedges and red cabbage, and despite not eating steak at home, I was intrigued enough the try the recipe and switch the steak for chicken.

I won’t go into the chicken part of the recipe, because it’s incredibly un-photogenic (you’ll see) and the wedges were just wedges (with rosemary and they were delicious) but the real star here was that cabbage.

You start with half a small red cabbage, cut the stalk out and thinly slice. I didn’t slice mine nearly thinly enough, but we live and learn.


I also sliced a small onion into half moons and this was thrown into a pot and cooked into a little oil over a medium heat. I cooked this until soft (about 5 minutes). I then added 1 tsp of mustard seeds and after about 30 seconds, when they started to pop, I added the cabbage.



This was stirred together and then cooked down for about 5 minutes until soft (I think I could have cooked mine down for a little longer to be fair).

At this point I added 2 tbsp of white wine vinegar, a sprinkle of sugar and a pinch of salt and pepper. Then I popped on a lid and cooked for 5 minutes on a low heat. I then removed the lid and cooked uncovered for about 5 minutes.

Then it was ready to eat. This recipe was supposed to make enough for 2 people but it was easily enough for 4. I was eating it with every meal for the next couple of days! It was delicious though, so I didn’t mind.


I warned you the chicken looked horrendous, but the rest was yummy. I glazed the chicken in the balsamic marinade for steak, but it didn’t really come through so it just tasted like plain chicken by the end!

I’ll give the recipe for the cabbage a 6/10 I need to cook less, chop it smaller and cook it longer next time!

Food Challenge Week 6: Ratatouille Linguine

The Disney reference in the title of this week’s dish was just a happy coincidence, I assure you. In fact I didn’t realise I had named a dish after two of the characters in the Pixar film Ratatouille until I was just about to start writing this post….. I’m obviously a little slow on the uptake.

So this week’s recipe is a variation on this recipe. I have changed it up a little, firstly because I tasted it and it needed tweaking and secondly because I don’t like spaghetti… Oh and also because the idea of nutritional yeast creeps me out – but this dish doesn’t need cheese (or any alternative) on top anyway. Who puts cheese on ratatouille??

I’ll preface this recipe with the fact that I don’t like either aubergine or courgette, but G-Man does so I thought I’d go with it.

When I begin a recipe, I always start off by preparing all the veg, chopping it up (as long as it won’t go bad before I get to use it) and measuring out anything I need to so I can be relaxed and chilled when I’m actually doing the cooking.


I chopped up 1 small white onion, 1 small aubergine, courgette and a normal sized pepper. All into small chunks.

I don’t like to use garlic when I can avoid it because, as I’ve mentioned before, we don’t really enjoy the acridity garlic gives, in this household. So when I can, I’ll use garlic oil instead. I heated 1 tbsp of garlic olive oil in my deep frying pan and lightly browned the chopped veg.




Then I added chopped tomatoes (400g can), water (480ml boiled), balsamic vinegar (1 tsp) and then linguine for 2 people (which I snapped in half for easier cooking and eating!)


I brought this to the boil and then letter it simmer for 13 minutes, lightly stirring occasionally (at 10 minutes test the pasta and then add on time in 1 minute increments until the pasta is cooked how you like, if it’s not al dente yet)


The sauce will have thickened and it’ll all come together. Then taste and season. I added pepper, sea salt and a small teaspoon of sugar to help the tomatoes along. Stir, taste and continue to season until it’s perfect.

Take it off the heat and stir in 1 tbsp of chopped fresh basil.


It’s a sloppy dish to eat, this one, so no white shirts to be worn during dinner!


We started eating and felt like something was missing. It needed a flavour a little deeper, so G-Man suggested the Waitrose Balsamic Vinegar glaze we have in the cupboard. It’s very versatile and can be used hot or cold, so we drizzled some over top and WOW was he right. The glaze added just the right amount of sweetness and depth and really complemented the dish.


Clean plates all round! This recipe actually made enough for 3 people, despite it being measured out for two, so I took the leftovers to work one day in the week, and it was just as good the second time around!

I think I’ll definitely be making this again, and it’ll be just as good in the Summer as it has been in the Winter.

Yum yum! 9.5/10 for this recipe even though I don’t usually like aubergine or courgette!

Food Challenge Week 5: The Crispy Egg

I have a very hate/hate relationship with eggs. As a child the whites made me sick, and I’ve never really gotten over it. It’s a textural thing, whether the whites are boiled, fried, whatever, I just struggle.

When I started running I knew eggs were something I needed to try to get into my diet due to their protein content and also – I just love an egg yolk!

So I started scrambling them (with Worcester sauce in there to mask the taste), frying them (over-easy so there was no change of loose white on the top) and adding them into homemade fried rice. But even in all these ways, I had to really concentrate hard when it came to eating the whites, and give myself a kind of ‘mind over matter’ mindset in order to finish my meal.

A few years back, when I was reading the Smitten Kitchen’s blog, I was introduced to her Crispy Egg. The idea that I could potentially change the texture of the white and enable me to eat a fried egg without having to ‘go to my happy place’ was glorious.

I did however find the recipe intimidating. It’s an incredibly easy method, with only two ingredients (eggs and oil) but, as she says herself, it’s not for the faint hearted.

Well, on this day, as my lunch plans were egg on toast anyway, I decided to take the plunge. I took out my trusty heavy bottomed frying pan and spatula and followed her method. I was not disappointed.

You can visit the link above for her method, but in a nutshell, you get your pan smoking hot. Add a glug of oil and heat until it’s smoking. You then pop your eggs in, at which point they’ll spit and splatter at you and immediately start to bubble.

And then you just let them sit there without touching them, until the whites are opaque.

Once this is done, you’re good to go and can either flip them (I normally would but for the sake of pictures I didn’t this time) or remove them and place them on top of whatever you’re having. I went with toast.


Can you see how crispy and bubbly those edges are? Granted mine might be slightly burnt, but the smokiness created by the charred bits was nothing short of glorious. I’ve never eaten a fried egg with such relish (or crunch)!


Clearly I still had to add ketchup, but baby steps and all that.

Now, I will tell you about my casualty – don’t worry, I still have all fingers and the skin on my arm was unscathed by the hot oil….


Apparently, my spatula wasn’t up to the task of the hot oil… so I’m in the market for a new (more robust) spatula, if anyone has a recommendation!

And once I’ve replaced this bad-boy, I’m sure crispy eggs will be back on the menu!

10/10 for this recipe!

Food Challenge Week 4: Russian Dressing & and Reuben Inspired Sandwich

So, I’ve made a one-pan meal, a potato salad and a dessert. I figured this week I’d make a dressing!

As previously mentioned, I love New York and a lot of the original flavours the food that comes from there brings. I’ve had a Reuben sandwich before, but never made the dressing that comes in it, so I thought I’d try my hand at that, and then make a sandwich (a Reuben with a twist) to eat it on!


Russian dressing is super simple, and includes ingredients I already had in the house, so no doubt you’ll probably be the same. All it contains is mayo (80g) and then 1 tsp each of Worcester sauce, tommy k and mustard. Then mix it all together and hey presto!

The sandwich we created was made on rye bread, to keep it real, and we spread some dijon mustard on one side. We then added sliced turkey, Leerdammer cheese, pickled red slaw, and a good helping of Russian dressing on the other side.



We had this with a heap of kettle chips on the side. I was very impressed with this sauce, and the sandwich altogether. I really love the red slaw we put on top. I know sauerkraut is traditional for a Reuben sandwich but as I said, this was our twist on it!

This is a dressing I’ll be trying again, and have eaten it since with breaded chicken steaks and it was really good!

I’ll give this recipe a 9/10 for it’s flavour and simplicity!

Food Challenge Week 3: Chocolate Fridge Cake

After having made 2 savoury recipes, I wanted to try something sweet. Despite everyone being on diets this month, I figured screw that because I’m not.

I wanted something fairly low maintenance and also something I could easily make dairy-free.

Enter the Hummingbird Bakery Fridge Cake. This is NOT a healthy recipe. It’s got so much sugar and fat in it that I felt bad every time I ate one. And this recipe makes so much I took a load into work and a week later they’re not all gone yet…. I should probably chuck them. BUT if you’re having a party or need something for a bake sale or coffee morning then these would be perfect.

There’s no baking involved in this recipe, hence the name ‘fridge cake’ and you can play around with what you put inside it. I decided that because I don’t like raisins, I would add some jelly beans. I also wanted to add pop rocks, but couldn’t find any…. alas.


The first thing I did for this recipe was to smash up 800g of digestive biscuits (I found the Tesco own-brand ones are vegan, so no dairy!) I used a rolling pin and bashed them lightly inside a ziplock bag.

To this I added 200g of jelly beans, but you can add raisins if you like them.


To bind all this together, you need to make the liquid for the cake, so you put cocoa powder (100g), butter (400g! – I used Vitalite) and then 200ml of golden syrup, into a large saucepan. I warned you this wasn’t for the health-conscious!


Look at all that butter sitting proudly in my saucepan…… I can feel my arteries hardening just looking at the picture…..

Heat all this over a medium heat, until melted and smooth, stirring occasionally.


You can see from my picture, when you raise the spoon, you’ll be able to see if your butter hasn’t melted yet as the mix runs off. Just make sure it’s all melted through before you combine your ingredients.

Then you mix the wet ingredients into your dry ingredients until completely coated.


It’ll look like a nice brown mess!

You need to line a large baking tray with greaseproof paper. I put clingfilm in first, because I wanted to be able to lift the whole lot out easily. I made sure the clingfilm hung long over the sides, and then lined on top of that with greaseproof paper. Then you put the whole lot into the tray, pressing down with a large metal spoon as you go. Then lay another sheet of greaseproof paper on top, grab another baking tray (you’re going to use this as a makeshift lid) and push down. Then pop some heavy cans on top of that to weigh it down, and leave until completely cool. Once you’re happy everything has cooled down, transfer the whole thing into the fridge for a minimum of a couple of hours, but preferably over night.


This is what I had after about 4 hours in the fridge. I lifted the whole lot out of the tray, using the clingfilm, which made it so much easier. And then I sliced the slab into squares using a large sharp knife.


The recipe states it makes 14 bars, but I cut this into about 25 squares, which were plenty large and filling.

At first I was a little put off by the jelly bean’s fruity flavour, but I have quickly gotten used to them and have eaten far too many in one week for my liking.

This is definitely a great recipe though, and I’ll keep it in my repertoire for when I need to make something for a party or occasion! Tasty and dairy-free too! I’ll give this recipe an 8/10!

Food Challenge Week 2: NY Deli Style Dill Potato Salad

Two weeks into my challenge and I’m feeling pretty good. I have been asked a few times whether I have a list of possible recipes, which sounds like a good idea, but I haven’t had the time to sit and think of one yet!

Last week’s recipe was a little of a let down, so this week I decided to try something a little lighter, and make something I would be able to add to my daily work lunches.

I’m a HUGE fan of the humble potato. If I was told I could only pick one ingredient to eat the rest of my lifetime it would be a potato. When I was in New York last, I ate the most incredible potato salad at Katz’s Deli, I think I reminisce about this salad at least a few times a week still, and this trip was over 2 years ago now!

So, a while back I picked up a recipe book called New York Cult Recipes.

recipe books

Inside it talks about fantastic eateries (Katz’s being one of them) and although the recipe for potato salad inside this book doesn’t replicate the one I ate on that trip, having never made potato salad before, I thought this was probably a good place to start.


You start off with your potatoes (700g) and you chop them into quarters or smaller, depending on how big your new potatoes are.


The recipe said to peel the potatoes first, but who has the patience to peel new potatoes? You boil them for about 10 minutes on a slow boil until they’re cooked through but still a little firm. Then drain and rinse with cold water to stop the cooking process. These then can be left to cool.


Chop your red onion (50g) really small, and then put this into a bowl of cold water for a few minutes and drain. This will get rid of some of that acridity you get from a raw onion.

You put 1 1/2 tablespoons of capers, the drained red onion and the cooled potatoes into a big bowl, ready for the dressing.

Now, there’s a lot of sugar in this dressing. An alarming amount – and when I tasted it after I’d made it, I was a little shocked. But actually it worked really well with the rest of the ingredients and there was a good balance of flavours. So please run with it.

For the dressing you add caster sugar (40g), 2 pinches of salt and 2 grinds of the pepper mill, 1 garlic clove, 1 1/2 tablespoons of rice vinegar (I used rice wine vinegar), mayonnaise (60g) and natural yogurt (60g). Mix all of this together until all the sugar has dissolved and everything is combined. Give it a taste and make sure it feels balanced – it will taste sweet, like I said.

Then you add some finely chopped fresh dill (1 tablespoon).


Add all of this to the potatoes, and stir gently, making sure not to crush the potatoes.

My potatoes were still quite firm (that’s what she said), so there was no risk of that!

Then you just chill and serve as and when you want to eat it. This recipe says it’ll serve 6 people. I divided it between 5 working days as an accompaniment to a fresh salad.

I used soy plain yogurt and found the dressing to be fairly runny. It also separated a bit between servings so I had to keep mixing it before serving. But it tasted REALLY good.

Not the most photogenic of concoctions though…


I really enjoyed the addition of the dill in this, which made the whole dish special in my opinion. I’ll probably end up making this again!

I give this recipe 8/10 🙂

Food Challenge Week 1: One Pan Pesto Chicken

For the first week of my food challenge (and if you don’t know what that is, please refer to a previous post for the sitch), I knew I wanted to choose something fairly healthy, fairly simple and something I knew I had the skill to cook.

Enter Pinterest for inspiration. It being the New Year, after having indulged in a lot of heavy and rich foods (my skin is screaming for respite) I picked something of the roasted chicken and vegetables variety.

vine tomatoes, new potatoes and green beans

Being dairy-free (not by choice, I’ll add) means I can veto a huge bunch of recipes, but there’s also a huge bunch I can adapt. The recipe I actually found was promoting the Sacla Free From Pesto. I already knew this existed, but I think seeing the post promoting this ingredient probably spurred me on to choose it over any others.

jar of sacla pesto

I’ll post a link to the particular recipe I used, but it’s dead simple.

Roasting new potatoes in a little oil, then adding the chicken, then smothering it all in pesto before introducing the green beans and vine tomatoes towards the end and basting with the chicken/pesto juices. Then serve. It’s as simple as that!

roasted pesto chicken and vegetables

I won’t lie, I avoided basting the tomatoes in the pesto mainly because I ran out of room in my pan and for the sake of nice photos (!) I didn’t want them to break off the vine during vigorous jigging of veg. So these probably didn’t cook down as much as they’re supposed to. But they did start to burst a little and were pleasant enough. I’m not a massive fan of a cooked tomato, but that’s what this challenge is about – broadening my food horizons….

roasted pesto chicken and vegetabl

So, as you can see, the potatoes cooked down beautifully, and were nice and buttery-soft on the inside but lovely and browned and nutty on the outside. (Just writing this is making me hungry…) The green beans were roasted but still moist (yes, I said moist) and had a little crunch to them when you bit in. The chicken was… I’ll say, okay – I didn’t like the chicken we’d bought from Tesco if I’m honest. I’d much rather pick mine up from Costco, but I didn’t have any of theirs in the house. But the pesto on top was a nice addition. And the tomatoes I’ve mentioned. They were warm roasted tomatoes – not much else you can say about them!

plate of pesto chicken and vegetables

As an overall dish, the flavours and textures were nice together. It wasn’t too greasy, despite pesto being traditionally oily. I feel like the Free-From iteration was less oily – on opening the jar I didn’t need to stir in any oil on the top into the pesto, which you do with standard pesto. I do feel like this pesto was a lot less salty, and the whole dish was fairly under seasoned, despite me adding what I would consider to be enough salt and pepper. If I was to make this again, I’d add some more salt.

All in all I’d give this recipe a 6/10 – it was fine, but I don’t like fine for dinner – I like yummy!

If you’d like to see the original recipe I used, you can find it at The Taming Twins here.

Let me know if you’ve tried or if you will be trying this recipe, and how you got on with it. I’d love to hear your thoughts!

So, on to week 2! I already know what the next recipe for my challenge is going to be, so stay tuned for next week’s post!