To say I learnt nothing at University would not be entirely true. The fact that my paper qualification has been of little benefit to me now is beside the point.
University was the time when I discovered the skill of pairing flavours. I learnt for instance that natural Peanut butter on a crispy-skinned baked potato is perfectly delicious on its own, but add some Marmite and wahey! Now, there is a happy little trio. And that alone, my friends, was quite a feat; considering the kebab-loving, mircrowave-dependent company I kept.
Not discouraged by their lack of culinary prowess, I cooked myself an intricate tasting menu almost every night. (One night a week was reserved for peanuts and a bottle of wine at the pub.) On nights at home I would, for instance take a chicken breast, cut it in three pieces and cook each part in a different way. And of course, if the chicken was unique then so should be its accompaniments.
Making dinner was quite the ordeal. Anything that disrupted this indulgent ritual of mine, such as late running play rehearsals or lectures were sorely frowned upon. I’d spend two to three joyous hours a night preparing dinner for one and on occasion a few uncivilised guests. It was my personal Yoga, complete with deep breathing and some interesting poses as I danced around the kitchen and my apathetic housemates.
They of course, thought I was nuts and didn’t see the necessity in hogging every flame on the stove and pan in the cupboard. I ignored it all- I was at peace. Ohmmmmmm.
I didn’t have many cookbooks and at the time the Internet wasn’t the bounty of information that it is now but I picked up magazines and supermarket recipe cards- anything that I could get my hands on- for free, mind.
One of my housemates was on Weight Watchers, (a rather extreme self-monitored version) but she had a couple of cookbooks that I occasionally trawled through. One such recipe I came across was Marmite roast potatoes- which, before you judge I must top you and let you know were divine. Crispy potatoes with a reassuringly salty glaze- rather like Twiglets only with a soft, floury centre beneath the crisp outer shell. Rest assured, one of these days I plan to replicate them.
Somewhere along the line I acquired one of these books and one pre-wedding evening Don cooked from it. He carried with him the smug knowledge that if I questioned how much oil he used or complained about my dress not fitting he could whip out the evidence in book-form to support his healthy meal claim.
It’s the only thing we’ve cooked from the book since- adapting it a little each time to find the perfect balance. It’s what I refer to as a Don-approved meal- one that I can feel at ease about when he’s offered to cook dinner. No surprises.
I don’t really know what the technical term is for the way this chicken is cooked, which is why I’ve called it steam-baked. It literally steams in its foil package whilst it bakes in the oven. The result of which I now believe is the one of the best ways to cook a too often dry or bland boneless, skinless chicken breast. Being that two uninterrupted hours to make dinner are now a rarity, I particular like the fact that you don’t have to wait for the chicken to marinate. It does that all by itself in it’s the oven- whilst also providing a magnificent sauce. I love when food does the works for me- talk about delegation.
This recipe is part of the ‘In the bag’ competition run by the blog A Slice of Cherry Pie. It was the first thing I thought of when I saw the list of ingredients – chicken, garlic and red chillies. You certainly won’t think you’re dieting when you’re eating it. But you may well find you loose a little weight- if you’re counting your points, that is.
Steam-baked lemon & chili chicken
This is one of my favourite ways to cook chicken- because it never dries out. It’s also delicious cold the next day for lunch.
Diet Facts: You wouldn’t believe me if I told you it was healthy
2 x boneless skinless free range organic chicken breasts
4 tsp Dijon mustard
1/2 tsp sea salt
2 spring onions (scallions), finely chopped
2 red birds eye chilies, stemmed, seeded and finely diced
2 small garlic cloves, crushed or finely diced (jalepeños also work nicely)
1 lemon, zest & juice
1 Tbsp good olive oil
1/ Heat the oven to 190C/375F/Gas 5. Trim the chicken, cutting away any nasties and then lay out on a large piece of tin foil on a baking tray or in a roasting tin.
2/ Spread the breasts with the mustard, season with the salt and then scatter over the remaining ingredients so that each chicken breast is nicely covered. Now you want to enclose the chicken in the foil so bring up the oppsoing corners and scrunch together in the middle. You want to leave a little bit of air in the package so don’t seal it tight on top of the chicken breasts.
3/ Bake in the oven for 25-30 minutes- (depending on the size of the chicken) at which point you will have delicious juices in the bottom of the foil and really tender and moist chicken. Slice and serve with steamed greens or salad- pouring over the leftover pan juices.