Yesterday I was indirectly challenged by Marks boss. Sounds a little weird, doesn’t it? Well he was summoned to work almost three hours earlier than expected, for yet another life and death meeting, which meant I had just 30 minutes in which to cook and pack some sort of dinner for him to take to work.
Now originally I wasn’t planning any sort of quick dinner but as it turned out I was left with no choice… I had to improvise. After a rummage through the fridge and pantry I came up with an idea, Honey & Mustard Chicken Couscous Salad. It ended up being extremely tasty so I have decided to share it with you.
For the couscous salad:
2 cups couscous
1 small tin of pineapple
1 small tin of garden peas
1 small tin of sweetcorn
150g cherry tomatoes
Handful of cashews nuts
Small bunch of fresh coriander
For the chicken:
3 chicken breasts
1 Knorr chicken stock cube
1 Knorr 3 peppercorns flavour pot
3tbsp of sesame oil
2tsp Dijon mustard
You might feel the need to comment when you notice my total lack of spices. Well as I used a pre-spiced version of couscous there was no need for anything extra. If you only have plain couscous you might want to add a good pinch of salt, some fresh cracked pepper and maybe some sweet paprika.
In a small bowl mix 2tbsp of sesame oil, chicken stock cube and flavour pot until you achieve a smooth texture.
Wash and cube the chicken breasts.
Add the chicken into your earlier prepared flavour mixture and make sure each piece is fully coated properly.
Set it aside for 5 minutes or more to marinate and make a start on your couscous.
Prepare your couscous as per the packaging instructions. My one took only 10 minutes to “develop”.
Heat up a heavy bottomed pan, as you know I like to use cast iron, add the remaining 1tbsp of sesame oil and once hot pop your chicken in. Fry it for about 10 minutes, stirring or tossing from time to time to make sure all pieces are evenly cook.
Open and drain the peas and sweetcorn.
Open but do not drain the pineapple, save the juice as we will need it.
Chop the pineapple into smaller chunks if required or use them as they come if you have already bought them in chunks, roughly chop the nuts so they aren’t too big, quarter your cherry tomatoes and finely chop the coriander ready to go into your couscous.
Now for the sauce; in a small bowl mix the pineapple juice, honey and mustard; stir until all ingredients are combined.
Once your chicken is cooked (it should not take more than about 10 minutes) add the sauce and let it simmer for a couple of minutes.
Use a fork to fluff your couscous, add all the earlier chopped ingredients plus the peas and sweetcorn and once you ready add chicken, sauce included.
Mix it well and serve immediately… or like in my case put some into a lunch box ready to be munched later.
From time to time I take a look into the fridge or stock cupboard and there is nothing to eat… actually there is a lot of things to eat but they do not really go together in any order that would create some meal that would be suitable for a dinner like meal.
One day last week was just one of those days…
The fridge was kind of full of stuff but nothing really resembled a dinner without some missing ingredient I could think off. Inevitably my first thought was “a take away it is”, but as there isn’t really a nice take away around us, we decided to look harder and simply create something from nothing… in the end this is what we came up with…
1 small tin of garden peas
1 small tin of sweet corn
1 white onion
1 red onion
2 polish sausages (left from the night before)
spoonful of olive oil
Prepare couscous as per instruction on the pack but instead of water we added a nice chicken stock.
Chop sausage and onions and fry for a while, until onions are nicely coloured and the sausage is browned.
Drain the peas and sweetcorn and place in a serving bowl.
Add all other ingredients, mix well and serve.
It took us 10 minutes to do it. It was simple yet extremely tasty. Normally we would use a lot of “posh” ingredients to go with couscous like mozzarella cheese or sundried tomatoes but actually you can mix it with anything you like.
I am quite pleased we opted for such a “creative” option instead of a take away that evening, otherwise I would never have discovered that a few simple ingredients put together like this could create something so yummy.
I think from now on couscous will be joining my list of go to ingredients in cases of dinner emergencies.
Oh, ok, not only me… 10 of us, UK bloggers were challenged by Villa Plus to recreate dishes from all over the world. Chosen destinations included: Corfu, Lanzarote, Majorca, Algarve and my favourite Cyprus.
I’ve never visited Cyprus, so I thought it will be a great opportunity to learn a little bit about this country, especially its food 🙂. From what I’ve read it is a beautiful and “tasty” place.
My dish for the challenge is Afelia. For everyone who doesn’t know what it is – Afelia is a traditional Cypriot food – slowly cooked pork marinated in red wine and coriander.
Like with every meal, sourcing the ingredients is key, especially when you are on holiday and you try to recreate this authentic local taste – please do not rush to shop at the superstore, go for a wonder… have an adventure and I am sure you will find a local market on your travels, who sell locally sourced products.
Me, I visited my local butcher, in order to procure a nice piece of happy meat…
… and my local farm shop to stock up on the greens.
But let’s start from the beginning…
Step one – ingredients list!
1kg pork belly, cubed
2 large onions, sliced
1 glass of dry red wine
Half a glass of olive oil
2 bay leaves
2 tablespoons coriander seeds, crushed
Half a teaspoon of cinnamon
Salt and pepper
As you can see from the ingredients list this is a very simple recipe.
It doesn’t require a lot of ingredients and it is budget friendly. I’ve paid £10.70 for just over 1kg of pork belly (yes, I know that supermarket has much lower prices but we would rather eat less but good quality food… shopping at our local butcher gives us full confidence that our meat is as good as it can get). Cost of wine £5.50, onions £0.30, olive oil £0.50… Total spend £17. I have not taken into account with all my calculations all the other bits as we already had them. This meal will feed 8, so price per head is just over £2, but… on the plus side you already have an almost full bottle of wine to go with your dinner, so no need worrying about drinks 😉
Depending how organized you are and how long you want meat to marinate, the dish will take anything from 4 hours up to 24+ hours to prepare from start to finish.
It is a very easy recipe so you do not require a lot of “tools” in order to make it. All you need is an oven, frying pan, and a casserole dish… a knife, cutting board and few bowls and plates… oh and a fridge, so your meat has a nice cool place for marinating.
So where do you start?
Preparing the meat
Once you are the lucky owner of a nice piece of pork belly it is time to cut it to shape.
If you bought your meat with skin, I would suggest removing it and if, like Mark, you are a huge fan of pork crackling cook it separate; if not just discard it.
Wash your meat and cut it into cubes.
Size is up to you. We went for two bites size, so our cubes might look a bit big to some but this is just the way we like it.
Preparing the marinade
The marinade is very easy, really… it couldn’t be any easier. You will need a glass of wine – dry red ideally, 2 bay leaves and 2 tablespoons of crushed coriander seeds.
Mix all ingredients and job jobbed, you‘ve just created a perfect Afelia marinade.
Now when your meat is cut into your desired size and the marinade is waiting beside you, it is time to mix these two together.
Place your meat in an air tight container – a bowl, plastic tab or a sealable (food safe) bag – and add the marinade. Give it a good stir/shake to make sure that it is evenly spread out and fully coated in the marinade.
Place in the fridge and do not forget to stir/shake it from time to time.
The longer you leave it, the better the results. Minimum marinating time is around 3 hours, but it will be best if left in the fridge over night.
Searing the meat stage
Once the marinating time is up, it is a good moment to start cooking.
Turn the oven on to around the 160°C (325°F) area.
You will need a large frying pan and some olive oil (or, if like us, you cooked the pork skin in order to have some homemade crackling, you can use the drippings, which dripped out from it).
Heat up the oil, drain the meat but save the marinade and fry your pork cubes for few minutes on each side to brown them.
You want them to be seared, golden brown but not yet cooked completely through.
Once done place your meat in the casserole dish you will use in the final stage of cooking.
Apparently this dish should be cooked in a clay oven or at least clay pot but regular oven and regular casserole dish will work as well, so do not worry about this too much.
Preparing the onions
You will need two large sliced onions that will need to be fried a bit, until soft and translucent.
We fried them using the same frying pan and remaining fat left over after searing the meat.
Once done, place them in your casserole dish.
At this stage almost everything is ready… all is left it to bring all the ingredients together. We have meat and onions already in our casserole dish, so what we need to add now is the cinnamon, salt, pepper and of course our marinade. Once the other ingredients have been added mix it nicely and put into the earlier pre-heated oven at 160°C (325°F) for about 1 hour.
And this is all she wrote.
Now, all you have to do is wait… remember, you still have some remaining wine, so pour yourself a glass and relax while dinner is bubbling away in the oven or use this time and decide what to have it with…