Monday, December 9, 2013

A very Mexican Christmas gathering

I had a few friends over the other night for a Christmassy evening with dinner, mulled cider and Love Actually.  My Grandpa got me subscription to the GoodFood magazine for Christmas and I have been drooling over the recipes ever since the first issue arrived so I decided to use my friends coming over as an excuse to try out a couple of the recipes.

I cooked a Mexican chicken stew with rice and beans which is perfect for when you've got a group of people over, the number you can cook it for is really only limited by the size of your pan.  Luckily for my friends, I have a large pan!

The recipe says it serves 4-5 people.  I made it for 5 however, one of my friends was vegetarian, so if you are cooking for more people make sure you have enough meat.  It took me about an hour to make but half an hour of that was just leaving the rice to cook (as I only have one hob).

Mexican chicken stew with rice and beans

You will need:
1tbsp olive oil
1 onion, sliced
2 red peppers, deseeded and chopped into large chunks
3tbsp chipotle paste
2 x 400g cans chopped tomatoes
4 skinless chicken breasts
140g long grain rice (or whatever rice you prefer, I used brown rice)
400g can pinto beans, drained (I used kidney beans as I couldn't find pinto beans - any red bean will do as a substitute)
small pack coriander, most chopped, a few left whole for garnishing
juice 1 lime
1tbsp sugar
natural yoghurt to serve

As I only had one hob I cooked the rice first, however, if you are lucky enough to not have this problem then you can save yourself some time by preparing it at the same time as the chicken.

Heat the oil in a deep frying pan and fry the onion and peppers for a few mins until softened.  Stir in the chipotle paste for 1 min followed by the tomatoes.  Add the chicken breasts, with up to a tomato can-full of water to cover them, then gently simmer, turning occasionally for 20 mins until the chicken is cooked through. (To test this take a chicken breast out of the pan and cut open through the thickest part, the chicken should be white, not pink.  It doesn't matter if you do this as you will be cutting the chicken up later anyway.)

Meanwhile boil a pan of water, add the rice and cook according to the instructions on the packet, add the beans for the final minute.  Drain well and stir in the coriander and lime juice, then season.  Cover to keep warm before serving.

Lift the cooked chicken out of the pan and onto a board/plate and shred using two forks (if the chicken is cooked properly then this will be easy as the chicken will just come apart).  Stir back into the tomato sauce with the sugar and season.  Serve with the rise, scattering the stew with the leftover coriander leaves just before you serve.  Eat with a dollop of yoghurt sprinkled with black pepper.

After the meal we chatted over glasses of mulled cider.  This took about half an hour, I simply put 2 1/2 pints cider into a pan with 400ml apple juice 1tbsp dark brown sugar and a ready made sachet of spices (plus an extra cinnamon stick broken in half and a couple of cloves).  If you don't have a sachet the recipe I have (once again from GoodFood magazine) recommends using: the zest of an orange, pared into strips, 4 whole cloves, 2 cinnamon sticks broken in half and tbsp allspice berries.  If you want to make your mulled cider a little more alcoholic then you can also add some calvados/brandy, however I decided that was a little extravagant for a student who doesn't really like brandy!  Once you've put all the ingredients into a pan gently heat to mull it (don't let it simmer/boil).  Keep at a low heat for 20-30mins then serve.

Some of the recipes I have written about, including the Mexican dish, may seem a little fancy for a student, especially if you are on a budget.  However, I'd like to share with you how I make things go further.  The stew itself didn't cost the earth, between 5 of us it was about £3 per portion, however, as I'm about to show you, some of the ingredients lasted for more than just one meal.

The following day I made myself a delicious lunch from leftovers in my fridge.  I fried up half an onion I had left over from another day and added some of the leftover chipotle paste.  I then added a half-can of chopped tomatoes which I'd kept along with some water.  I seasoned it and left to simmer and reduce.  As there was a lot of rice with beans left over from the previous night I put a portion onto a plate and heated it up for a minute in the microwave.  I served with some leftover coriander sprinkled on top, a dollop of yoghurt and some salami which needed eating up.  And there you go, a quick and easy way to make sure leftovers don't go to waste!

Leftovers lunch
By planning your meals and buying all the ingredients in one go at the start of the week you can save yourself a lot of money but still eat delicious and exciting food.

Thanks to my friends who came over the other night, I had a lovely evening!

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