Chicken, bacon and avocado salad with maple mustard dressing

Chicken, bacon and avocado salad

A change is as good as a rest they say. That should be prefixed with *unless that comes with a crew of builders and heavy machinery! So if my latest life endeavours aren't going to bring me rest, then I wonder what will it bring? {I know, I know...a new kitchen.....!)

So the day came yesterday when the work on the house finally started, to extend our dining room and knock through to the kitchen. And to be fair there was a part of me (for 24hrs at least) that was excited for the talk to turn to action! But I know myself, and adapting to 'change' isn't necessarily one of my strong points, so I guess with this, brings opportunity!

Change can mean modification and we will be certainly be making plenty of those to our home, but change can also mean a shift and when things shift this can make way for new openings to occur. So over the next few months, I'm not entirely sure where the ideas for cooking and writing are going to come from as my little vantage point where I enjoy writing from and my kitchen will be non-existent by next week.

But I feel that actually, the blog may be more of a continuum and not necessarily conclusive each week. As people offer support and space to me, I will for sure be inspired by things that I haven't imagined. And to be fair this week has been a bit of a mental haze!! But as I work from my new bolt hole this afternoon at The Chiron Centre, I can already feel many great things could be on offer! I hope you will join me on the journey and see where it will go, and that you'll enjoy the most fuss-free cooking of all!

If you fancy following our progress, I'm adding stories on Instagram and photos on the Fuss Free Foodie FB page ....so remember to come and join us there if you aren't already! Wish us luck! Lisa x

Chicken, bacon & avocado salad with maple mustard dressing

Serves 2 (easily doubled to serve 4!)

Salad

150g leftover roast chicken meat or 2 small chicken breast
3 bacon rashers, cooked crispy, roughly chopped or torn
100g mixed lettuce leaves
1/2 red onion, sliced into thin half moons (or 6 spring onions, chopped)
150g tomatoes, diced
1 ripe avocado, diced (cut in half, remove the stone, quarter, scoop out the flesh and chop)
4 tbsp sweetcorn

1. If using chicken leftover from a roast dinner, pick all the meat off the bones and set the carcass aside to make some stock or pop in the freezer until you are ready to. Go to step 3.
2. If you are using a chicken breast, flatten it out so that it is about 1cm thick all over. Do this by laying the chicken in cling film on a chopping board and whacking it with a rolling pin! Then rub the chicken in a little oil, season and either grill, fry or cook on the BBQ.
3. Assemble the salad. Share the salad leaves between two plates. Sprinkle with the red onions, sweetcorn and avocado. Add the chicken and bacon.

Dressing
Make in a jam jar. Double up if you fancy having some leftover for another day...it tastes so good!!

6 tbsp extra virgin olive oil or best salad oil
3 tbsp cider vinegar (or white wine vinegar)
1 heaped tsp wholegrain mustard
1 heaped tsp Dijon mustard
2 tsp maple syrup
Twist of salt and pepper

1. Put all the ingredients in a jar and shake! And pour over your lovely salad!

This is a classic recipe for using up what you have, so don't let not having one ingredient stop you giving it a go, substitute for what you have! Remember to let us know if you give the recipe a try in the comments below or on social media! Lisa

Seasonal delights: Cabbage, lentil and bacon soup

Cabbage, lentil and bacon soup

You know how some people are just on top of their stuff or others aren't, but they are better at hiding it? Well, I am neither! And you know what. I don't mind.

It's a bit of an 'in' joke with a couple of mums at school, that I am likely to be the one to forget when it's dress down day or to not read to the end of the email that requests you bring in your bikes or scooters to school. Yes, it feels like a mummy fails when this happens, especially if it evokes tears: But I am coming from a place of authenticity, I am not trying to be something I am not, or be like anybody else. THIS IS ME!

My mind is constantly thinking about food at the moment, as you may well imagine! It is 7 years since I have focused on something that I am passionate about, apart from my kids. I feel the happiest and most content in all of this time, and a happy mummy outweighs the mess ups, I think.

So after troubleshooting the lack of scooter (lucky DS2 scoots to school!!), I could reflect back to this recipe which is from my archive. I have been cooking it for over a decade.

It's great because, with the current difficulties in vegetable growing, this uses the humble cabbage. This recipe calls for a January King cabbage, which is a cross between a Savoy and white cabbage, or just use a straight savoy cabbage. To mix it up sometimes I used a Hisbi cabbage, which at this time of year are normally grown in Spain, so just check to see what you can get at the time. British is best!

It's a really moreish soup, and very fuss free to make, so you may want to double the recipe, as it always seems to run out too quickly for my liking! It has a lovely saltiness of the bacon and a creaminess created by the collapsed red lentils, and if you have all your ingredients, it is easily made in 30-40 minutes!

Let us know how you get on in the Fuss Free Foodie Facebook group and don't forget to LIKE the Fuss Free Foodie page as the two are going to hold a different function in the next week or so. Also, see my fuss-free world in pictures on Instagram and what I tweet on Twitter! Lisa.x

Cabbage, lentil and bacon soup
Serves 3-4

2 large onions, small dice
250g smoked back bacon, diced
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
125g red split lentils washed
250g Savoy, January King or Hispi cabbage, shredded
1litre veg or chicken stock
200ml water
Salt and white pepper
3 tbsp olive or rapeseed oil

  1. Heat 1 tbsp of oil in a large saucepan or casserole dish. Fry the bacon until brown and the fat has rendered down.
  2. Add the onions and another 1-2 tbsps of oil and sweat the onions on a medium heat until soft and translucent. (About 6-7 mins).
  3. Add the garlic, lentils, stock and water. Simmer for 15 minutes. Add the cabbage, season with white pepper, not too much salt (bacon will add a salt element). Simmer for 5 more minutes, until the cabbage is tender and serve!

Cabbage, lentil and bacon soup

Broccoli and stilton soup

Leek and potato soup (Vegan)

Pea and ham soup

Minestrone soup (Vegan)

Faster Pasta: Kalettes Carbonara…

Kalettes carbonara

Hosting for my in-laws at Christmas this year means there is a lot of thought going into a meal that will happen in 2 weeks time and I am frequently finding I have no idea what's going to be on the table for dinner that night!

As the commitment levels increase through December, with all the shopping, shipping, writing and wrapping, dinner is beginning to be a bit of an afterthought, and for those who know me (or soon you will!). I love to eat a delicious dinner each day. So I'm all over cooking meals that are fuss free, fast AND fabulous, especially when it's Friday and time to cash in some red wine tokens!!!

The other day, as I was dutifully checking things off my list and perusing the middle aisle in Aldi, (which can take a while at the moment!) my subconscious mind was saying, 'but what's for dinner? What's for dinner?!'. I wondered if I could forage all the ingredients for a fuss free dinner from Aldi, rather than making an extra journey to the veg shop and butchers, as I usually would.

All ingredients foraged from Aldi

YES, was the answer! As pasta is fast, I decided to recreate a seasonal version of a Courgette Carbonara recipe we love, but to use Kalettes instead. But what are KALETTES, I hear you cry?!

A relatively new ingredient they are a cross between brussels and kale. These pretty green, almost flower like buds, sometimes called brukale, or petit posy, are bang in season and grown in Lincolnshire, so easy on the air miles. I've have noticed them in Lidl and Waitrose too.

This is a true fuss free meal and can go from fridge to fork in 20 mins; but if you want to make it fast and fuss free, then you could cook the bacon and prep the sauce ahead of time (steps 1 and 2). Then all you have to do when you get in is boil the pasta with the Kalettes steaming on top and dinner could be on the table in 10 mins!

Give it a try.....its a warm comforting hug on a December evening!

Kalette Carbonara

Fuss Free Food in under 20 mins

Serves 2 adults, double up for family size
1 bag of Kalettes
200g Tagliatelle pasta
125g (or about 6-7 rashers) Streaky smoked bacon
80g Creme Fraiche 40g Grated Parmesan
3 Egg yolks
Sprinkling of chilli flakes (optional)

1. Chop the bacon into small chunks and fry until crisp and golden. Set aside on kitchen towel to drain.

2. Prepare the sauce by separating the eggs into 2 bowls (keeping the whites for another time), then add the creme fraiche and parmesan to the egg yolks. Season with a twist of salt and couple of twists of black pepper. Set aside.

3. Cook the pasta according to the instructions (al dente) in boiling salted water.

4. Trim any tough bits off the stalks of the kalettes, but generally leave them whole; a few random leaves are fine. Steam over the pasta for 5 minutes, (using a bamboo or metal steamer) they are cooked when they are tender, not hard, be sure not to overcook as they will cook on after you take them off. Set aside.

5. Drain the pasta once cooked, but be sure to leave 2 tbsp of pasta cooking water in the bottom of the pan. This is going to help you make a silky sauce.

6. Put the drained pasta back into the pan. The next steps happens OFF the heat. The residual heat will cook the eggs and warm the bacon through.

7. Add the sauce to the pasta in the pan. Stir. Add the bacon and then kalettes. Stir gently. Then serve. Optional extras, extra sprinkling of parmesan/chilli.

FORGET THE FUSS....don't let these things stop you having a go!!

  1. No tagliatelle? Use penne (better to try it with what you have rather than not try it at all!)
  2. No Creme fraiche? Use Greek yoghurt, normal yoghurt or cream
  3. No or not enough bacon? Slightly less (or more!) is not a deal breaker. Use what you have or use an extra slice if it means not leaving it to waste in the fridge. Pancetta is a great alternative too
  4. No steamer? When I'm on hols I stick a sieve on top of the saucepan and stick a lid on the top. Does the trick! I noticed metal steamers in Tiger today for £3!
  5. Forget to keep a bit of cooking liquor? Just add it from a boiled kettle