Tuesday, 24 May 2011

Creamy Chicken Pasta and Cheesy Vegies

... but not together!

Creamy chicken pasta
Creamy Chicken Pasta

The other night I had great plans to cook Nigella's Tarragon Chicken, but I had unfortunately forgotten to buy half the ingredients. So, what was I to do with half defrosted chicken breast and an open bottle of cooking cream? Throw something together from my vast culinary knowledge of course (I can hear those sniggers - I can dream!!)

Really, it was more of a 'what do I have in the cupboard that I can throw together that will be better to eat than vegemite toast?' and, to be honest, I didn't do too bad. Actually, it tasted pretty darn good! I'm really proud that I have at least got to the point where I can look in the cupboard and pull something together, without a recipe that is worth saving the leftovers.

The cream I used was Bulla Cooking Cream, which only has about 20% saturated fat rather than the usual 35-40%, so at least I don't have to feel too guilty about cooking with cream (cakes, well, that's another matter. The, uhh, fat evaporates or something in the oven. Yep, that's it, I'm sure).

Cheesy vegies 1
Cheesy Vegies

Tonight I wanted to use some vegies that I bought from Appin Market on Sunday - I love buying fresh fruit and vegies when I can - I am so sick of buying fresh produce which is, well, not all that fresh and pretty devoid of taste. Good-bye dried up mandarin from the fruit shop and hello sweet little parcels of juicy goodness! So, I had a bunch of dutch carrots, a head of cauliflower and broccoli sitting in my fridge, waiting to be eaten. I decided to peel and roast the carrots in butter (please ignore my previous rant about cream and saturated fat) and I made cheesy broccoli and cauliflower, which is one of my favourite way to eat vegies. Although, next time I'll put the whole cauliflower in (I mashed half with a few other vegies to make lunches for Master D) cos it was just a little bit too cheesy.

Cheesy vegies 2
What happens when you are running late getting dinner ready and your youngest is starting 
to get a bit antsy - you forget to take a photo BEFORE you half finish eating the super yummy vegies

The cheese sauce is super easy to make - it's actually one of the few recipes I could cook in my PMC (Pre Masterchef) days, although I do a much better job now. I orginally used the recipe in the Commonsense Cookery Book, but I love the addition of dijon mustard in Julie Goodwin's recipe.

What's your favourite way to eat vegies?

Creamy Chicken Pasta
Serves 4 adults

1 Tbs oil (I use rice bran oil because I can't stand the taste of olive oil)
Double chicken breast, diced
1 brown onion, diced
1 garlic clove, minced (I would've added another one, but I ran out)
300mL carton cream
250mL (1 cup) chicken stock
1tsp dried thyme (or more depending on your own preference)
frozen peas (about a cup but, really, put in as much as you like)
Broccoli, cut into small florets
(you could use whatever vegies you like)
handful of grated tasty cheese

Heat 1 Tbs oil over medium heat in a large fry pan or chef's pan. Add the chicken and brown. Remove to a bowl.

Cook the garlic and onion in the pan until softened. Add the cooked chicken. Add the stock gradually (so as not to lose too much heat). Add the thyme and vegetables and stir through. Simmer until the stock has reduced slightly.

Stir through the cream and simmer for 5 minutes. Stir through the cheese. Serve with pasta.

Cheesy Vegetables
adapted from Our Family Table by Julie Goodwin

Head of cauliflower, cut into florets
Head of broccoli, cut into florets
(I've also used carrots, beans and peas - you could use any vegetable you like, although I don't think it would work too well with pumpkin or potato - but that's just me).
Handful of grated cheese
Cheese sauuce:
25g butter
25g flour
400mL milk
2 tsp dijon mustard
100g grated cheese

Preheat oven to 180C.

Steam the vegetables until just tender. Pour into the baking dish and place in the oven to dry while making the sauce.

Make the cheese sauce: Melt the butter over medium heat in a small saucepan. Once frothy, add the flour and stir until it forms a dough (or a roux, if you want to be all fancy - very impressive at dinner parties). Keep stirring for another minute (you need to cook the flour).

Slowly add the milk (about a quarter cup at a time), stirring after each addition until it is fully incorporated in the mixture. Once all the milk is added, stir it occasionally until it has thickened (it will almost be boiling). Stir in the mustard, then the cheese, until the sauce is smooth. I use a whisk rather than a spoon, otherwise I end up with lumps, which are very unattactive.

Pour the sauce over the vegetable. Top with the grated cheese. Cook in the oven for 30 minutes, until browned on top. Enjoy!

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