Saturday, January 05, 2008
Creamy pesto chicken
One of my favourite food websites is BBC Good Food. Not only does it house thousands upon thousands of brilliant recipes, it also has interesting sections on seasonal and local food, healthy eating and now it even has its own blog with various guest writers. I often find myself browsing the site at around 4.50pm, looking for inspiration for the evening meal so that I can pick up the ingredients on the way back from work.
One of the 'problems' with living in London is the lack of decent-sized supermarkets. This may sound rather a strange thing to say - we actually have plenty. But for me, most are a drive away and getting the car out in London just to go to the supermarket for a few 'bits' is a frustrating a time-consuming activity. What am I moaning about, I hear you ask? We have countless wonderful food shops, smaller versions of supermarkets round every corner. Too true. I am indeed spoilt for choice at the weekend - great farmers markets and specialist shops where I can take my time and select wonderful produce. But during the week, I don't get home until seven. All these lovely shops are closed and I'm not nearly organised enough to plan ahead (things come up and I HATE wasting food). So, I'm stuck with the Sainsburys Locals and Tesco Metros of this world. Great for convenience but hopeless when it comes to food you actually want to eat. They assume that if you live on your own, you will live on a diet of ready meals. Meat is all packaged for families of four (I have occasional spurts of cooking large batches and freezing individual portions but never remember to get them out of the freezer). They also assume you want to eat only chicken, mince or salmon. As for vegetables; broccoli, courgettes and carrots. Heaven forbid you might want to pick up a bottle of wine - the choice is simply appalling. Just how many £5.99 Australian Chardonnays do you need? You want something a little more expensive? Ah, you'll be after the Tesco Finest Chablis then.
I'm ranting. I know. I should be grateful that I can at least get to a shop at that time of day. Besides, you can do no end of delicious things with chicken and courgettes, right? Whilst looking for ideas last night, I happened upon this recipe for 'Summer in Winter Chicken'. Chicken with a creamy pesto sauce studded with softened cherry tomatoes. Just the thing - comforting yet housing nice fresh flavours. Of course I was too optimistic, the local shop had no cherry tomatoes. I decided to meddle (as I am want to do) and threw in sun dried tomatoes. The ubiquitous family-sized pack of courgettes was also beckoning so I added some of those and a handful of frozen peas for good measure. The result was rather more delicious than I had expected. This will be a regular fixture on the mid-week menu, I suspect. It tastes rather creamily wicked, but I used half-fat creme fraiche and only a spoonful. Not that bad after all.
I must make a quite note about the mash that I served with this (comfort all the way, you see). I picked up a (family-sized) bag of Vivaldi potatoes and made the best mash EVER, without using any butter. Fear not, this was not intentional. When I got to the mashing moment, I discovered I had no butter. Disaster. Mash without butter? That is like Coke without caffeine or Summer without sun. Feeling pretty upset, I drizzled in a little olive oil and a splash of milk and mashed away. They really were some of the best mashed potatoes I have ever eaten. I was amazed. I then fished out the bag and read on the packaging that these potatoes are 'so creamy they can be mashed without butter'. Too true my friends, too true. So for those hoping to lighten up after the Christmas excess, may I heartily recommend that you head to your local 'Sainsbury's Local' and buy yourselves a family pack of their 'Taste the Difference Vivaldi Potatoes'. So. They are good for one thing.
Creamy Pesto Chicken with Courgettes and Sun-Dried Tomatoes
2 skinless, boneless chicken breasts
Tablespoon olive oil
2 tablespoon green pesto
2 tablespoons creme fraiche (can be half fat)
1 courgette, sliced into thin half moons
3 tablespoons chopped sun-dried tomatoes
1 large handful of frozen peas
1 small glass white wine
salt and pepper
1. Heat oil in a large non-stick frying pan and fry chicken breasts on one side for around 10 minutes, until nicely coloured (do not move around pan - just leave in the centre).
2. Turn over and cook on other side for 10-15 minutes until cooked through. After 5 minutes add the courgettes to the pan.
3. When chicken is nearly done, throw in the white wine and the peas. Allow to bubble down and reduce by around two thirds. Throw in the tomatoes and soften for a couple of minutes.
4. Stir the pesto into the pan and turn to a low heat. Add the creme fraiche and mix well to coat everything. Warm gently and then serve.
Notes - You could choose to grill the chicken if you prefer, though I don't think it would be quite so good as you would miss the flavour from the juices that comes from cooking everything in one pan.