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

Top 3 Fuss Free BBQ dishes

Top 3 Fuss Free BBQ dishes

 
 Is it possible to loose yourself when you don't even have any space? To feel free, available and unoccupied in family life these days can sometimes feel light years away.

Finding space to do the things you did BC (before children!) certainly changes when you sign up for family life...especially if you don't have grandparents on tap! Your opportunities to play golf for the day or have a spa weekend at a drop of a hat are few and far between and even feels indulgent at the thought!But isn't it funny the very things we probably need to make family life run more smoothly is often put on the back burner. Being caring and compassionate to ourselves seems to come at the bottom of the list but ironically will, in turn, lead to this being reflected to those around us.

Last weekend I had 24 hours on my own in the house for the first time in 7 years! Having that sense of space to do what I wanted to do, on my terms also created a sense of space on the inside too.  My ability to be more objective, and look at situations from a different (calmer!) standpoint was evident.

The space that it created inside of me also allows for a little more personal growth, a little more creativity and a little more fulfillment to achieving what I want in life. Now that's not a bad thing, is it? I hope you can manage to find a quiet hour or afternoon to create a little more space for yourselves this bank holiday weekend!

As always, some of these recipes have come a long way through my life.  The chicken skewers recipe was from a Sainsburys calendar I used to have, and it's SO fuss free that I still do it now.  In fact, I remember, in 2006 preparing a big bowl of this for a world cup BBQ in Stourbridge and my 'husband to be' dropping the dish on the floor and it smashing......not his finest hour!!! But I love how food creates memories and I can laugh about it now!

The couscous dish is really fuss free too , as you can interchange different cheese and nuts to what you have in .......delish! Look out for a quick video on how to put together this couscous salad over the weekend on Facebook or YouTube. Lisa

Chicken Skewers (Makes approx 4 skewers)

Try and keep the chicken a similar size.
 
  • 4 large chicken breasts, diced 2cm sq. (approx 600g)
  • 100g mango chutney
  • 100g Pataks curry paste...not sauce (Madras, Rogan Josh)
  • 2-3 tbsp olive oil
  1. Place the mango chutney, curry paste and olive oil in a bowl and mix.
  2. Then add in the chicken and stir well so all the chicken is coated.
  3. Leave in the fridge until you are ready to build you skewers.
  4. When building the skewers, try not to push the meat together too tight, allow a little space
  5. Cook on the BBQ on a medium heat for 20-25 mins, turning regularly to get an even colour.  The sugars in the mango chutney will char the skewers slightly, but this give a lovely flavour.

Halloumi and vegetable skewers (Makes approx 6-8 skewers)

Try and cut your veg into a similar size and shape for even cooking.
 
  • 1 pack of halloumi, cut in half lengthways, and then into chunks
  • 150g cherry/small tomatoes
  • 150g small courgettes, cut into rounds about 1cm thick
  • 100g ramiro peppers or small peppers, cut into 2-3cm square
  • 50g shallots, cut lengthways and in half (or red onion)
  • 150g mushrooms, cut in half if large
  • 5g fresh mint, chopped
  • 3 tsp sumac
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 75ml olive oil
  1. Once you have chopped all your veg and halloumi, place in a bowl with the herbs, garlic, sumac and olive oil, and mix together so everything is coated.
  2. Leave in the fridge until you are ready to build your skewers.
  3. When building your skewers try to get at least 2-3 pieces of halloumi on there with a variety of veg.
  4. Coat the BBQ grill with a little oil on kitchen roll. (Or if you have a flat grill on your BBQ with no bars use this). Cook on the BBQ for about 20 mins on a medium heat until all the veg are cooked, turning to give even colour.

Couscous salad

  • 200g dried couscous
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 small red onion, finely diced (or 5-6 spring onions)
  • 2 handfuls of chopped fresh herbs (Mint, parsley, dill or whatever you have)
  • 75-100g feta or goats cheese, crumbled
  • 2 handfuls of nuts (walnuts or almonds), chopped
  • 1 pomegranate, cut in half
  • Boiling water
  • 2 tbsp of olive oil
  1. Tip the couscous into a large flat dish.  Squeeze on the juice of 1 lemon, olive oil and salt and pepper.  Mix and coat the couscous.  Then pour over freshly boiled hot water, so that it covers all of the couscous and just goes over the top by  about 1mm! Cover with cling film and leave for 15 mins.
  2. Meanwhile, chop and prepare your ingredients.
  3. After 15 mins, fluff up the couscous with a fork, add the herbs, nuts, cheese and onions and stir in.  Once mixed, take one half of the pomegranate and have it flat side down in your hand with your fingers spread.  Wack the pomegranate with a rolling pin and let the jewel seeds land on top of the salad. Stir in the first half, and then add the second half to the top.
If you are looking for some more fuss free additions to your BBQ, check out my fuss free coleslaw recipe.....or try roasting some hassellback potatoes in foil on the grill. Want to know what beers to have with your BBQ? Follow this link to a fantastic guide to which beers to choose for your BBQ.
 
Please remember to post up your BBQ pictures on the weekend thread on the Fuss Free Foodie community on Facebook. Have a great Bank Holiday! Lisa x

Stuffed chicken breast in Parma ham

Stuffed chicken breast with Parma ham

 I never once bunked off school....maybe I took an extra day to 'recover' but I played it pretty straight! So enter stage left 7 year old son, slightly flushed and hiding under the fleece on the sofa this week. Mummy, I can't go to school today...

You know that feeling when you feel the whole truth isn't being exposed especially when you catch a glimpse of those mouth corners turning up at the thought of a day at home without his brother! As it transpired, (and pleased my senses served me well) an admittance of, I'm not actually that ill mum was revealed an hour later, said 7 year was promptly chauffeured to school by 10am!

But it got me thinking... If I didn't bunk school, I must have stretched the truth at some point!?! And my memory served me well! So in the early 80s I was a keen gymnast, and I was in a local 'friendly' competition. I was doing really well, in the top spot, in fact after bars and beam, and it was time for the vault. As I did my run up, I somehow didn't get it right, and just ran up the springboard. You get 2 chances. No pressure on the next one!

So off I run again, gaining speed and, damn. Did the same again. But fully knowing this was my last chance...I feign a twisted ankle. Oh dear. The judges decided to give me another go, to which I did said vault successfully. So there we go. I went on to perform a successful floor routine and took the gold. But unlike him, I didn't get found out. Although I did fess up to my gym pal Tracy at our friend Hayley's wedding a couple of years ago and I haven't unduly accepted any Gold medals since!

As an adult, I find it hard to see our offspring skew the truth, but I guess we have all done it, and the important thing is we learn from it. There are many layers to us all and I guess each one shapes the person we are today and there is no shame in that!

This weeks recipe is a chicken breast masquerading as something else, as it is has hidden treasures inside of mozzarella and cleverly concealed in Parma ham! It's an awesome meal that is fuss free because it can be prepped ahead of time, and cooked within 20 mins. Prepare the chicken and keep it in the fridge until you are ready to cook it. The mash can be cooked, mashed, and then reheat and add the Parmesan when you are ready.

I hope you are enjoying reading the Fuss Free Foodie blog and tutorials?! If you are I am looking to add to my crack team of sharers to reach out to a larger audience, so you can either hit the share buttons below or share directly from Facebook if this resonates with you and have friends who will enjoy the Fuss Free Foodie too! Either way, thank you for reading and your support ...Lisa x

Stuffed chicken breast wrapped in Parma ham (Serves 2)

2 chicken breasts (approx 170g each)
1 ball of mozzarella (125g)
(Optional) 6 sheets of Parma ham or bacon

Chicken prep:

  1. Take the chicken breast and flatten it out by covering the chicken with cling film and whacking it with a rolling pin!
  2. Lay out the chicken and put about 35g of mozzarella in the middle. Try not to over fill it. Lay out 3 sheets of Parma ham so they overlap.
  3. Lay the chicken onto the ham, making sure that the gap that holds in the mozzarella is folded over, and faces down onto the ham so that it has a complete seal.
  4. Pull up the sides of the ham around the chicken breast, almost tucking it in as you go around.
  5. Place on a plate, cover and keep in the fridge until ready to cook. Pull out the chicken breast 1/2 an hour before you are ready to cook.
  6. Chicken cooking: Preheat the oven to 180 degrees. Use a heavy based frying pan suitable for the oven on a medium-high heat, rub the bottom of the pan with oil.
  7. If you do not have a pan that goes into the oven, fry in the pan and then transfer to a tray that has warmed in the oven.
  8. The idea is to gain a little colour on 3 sides of the chicken. So over 7-8 minutes, colour up a side and then turn it around onto the next side. With the side that has no colour leave this facing down in the pan, and place the pan in the oven. (Or place the chicken onto the tray).
  9. once the chicken has had 7 minutes, turn it over to cook through the other side for another 7 minutes. It should take around 20 minutes total cooking, but bear in mind it will take less/more time if your chicken breast is different in size. If the mozzarella starts to come out, its another sign it is done.
  10. Rest the chicken on a clean plate before serving.

Sweet Potato Mash (Serves 2)

650g sweet potato, chopped into 1cm dice
50g butter
40g Parmesan
Pinch of chilli flakes
Salt and pepper

  1. Add 25g of the butter to a large pan and melt. Add the chopped sweet potato, coat it in the butter and cook for 20-25 minutes on a medium heat with a lid on. Stir every 5 minutes to avoid it sticking or browning. The steam created by having the lid on will help it soften.
  2. Mash the sweet potato with a fork, roughly. Add the rest of the butter, and stir briskly with a wooden spoon. Add the chilli and pepper, and a little salt. If you are preparing the mash ahead of time set the mash aside until you are ready. Reheat the mash, and then continue with step 3.
  3. Add the Parmesan, check if the mash needs any more salt or pepper. Parmesan has a salty note so be careful not to add too much salt at stage 2!

We served this dish with kale, but spinach or any other greens will work too! Serve the chicken sliced to expose the stuffed inside and enjoy! Like it? Feel free to share or pin for later with the buttons below!

Fuss Free ideas...
1. Add a teaspoon of pesto to the inside of the chicken, along with the mozzarella
2. Add a few chopped sun-dried tomatoes and a sprinkle of dried oregano with the mozzarella
3. Leave off the ham, season the chicken with salt and pepper or just use bacon instead

WBC with suburban slaw

Westbury Baked Chicken with coleslaw

Holiday time when you are a stay at home parent feels like an oxymoron! It's not until both the boys started school and I get a reprieve from the 8.45 school bell, do I now feel school holidays are indeed a holiday.

It's about a break from routine, and we all enjoy hanging out in our dressing gowns beyond 9 am, having a bit more screen time and getting out and exploring in brighter weather. Being more relaxed brings about a need chill a bit with food too. With having to feed the boys every meal (and they can eat!) without school dinners to break it up, even I find it a bit of a slog and have learned to take a relaxed holiday attitude to food too!

We eat out a bit more, which means more chips, the crisp consumption goes up and even I ease up on the whole 5 a day mission. But holiday food today doesn't have to totally revert back to the 'dirty' eating I did in my 20s! The Big Mac has been swapped for the Pig Mac (#Pigsty) and KFC for WBC......Westbury Baked Chicken!!!

This is something I've been meaning to try for ages, as I'm still all about comfort food at this time of year and I am all about nurturing my soul....especially with food! Even as the crocuses are starting to bloom and the daffodils are in bud, I'm still about fuss free tasty soul food. We ate this on Wednesday night, with my suburban slaw and baby pickled beets, and we were both in heaven! The combo of crunchy, creamy and sharp was totally spot on. 1 out of 2 kids ate it too....the fussier one, at that, so it felt like a total success story!

Let us know if you try this and what you think in the Fuss Free Foodie Facebook group or see some behind the scenes action and food reviews on the Fuss Free Foodie page. See my fuss free life in pictures on Instagram or what I'm tweeting on Twitter. Don't forget to keep seeing FFF in your feed, keep giving a little like, comment or share! Lisa x

Westbury Baked Chicken
180℃/350°℉/Gas mark 4
6 boneless chicken thighs, skin off, cut in half
150g panko breadcrumbs
2 eggs, mixed
25g plain flour
1 tsp hot paprika
Salt and pepper
3 plates
1 oven tray and grill rack

    1. Preheat the oven. Prepare an oven proof tray that will fit a grill rack in it to elevate the meat off the bottom of the tray.
    2. Make sure all the little bones are out of the thighs by feeling the meat.
      Place the 2 eggs onto one of the plates and whisk until all blended together.
    3. On another plate place the plain flour, season with salt and pepper and add the paprika and mix thoroughly. On the final plate put the panko breadcrumbs.
    4. Put the plates in order of which you will need them. Flour, egg and then breadcrumbs. So as not to 'pané' your hands, use one hand for the dry ingredients and the other for the wet. Inevitably you will get a bit sticky but not half as bad! This is fun for the kids to do too, being careful of hand hygiene after touching raw chicken.
    5. Take 1 piece of chicken and dust it in flour, shaking to remove the excess. Then dip it in the egg mixture and shake to remove any excess and then coat in panko crumbs. Do this to all of the thighs and place them on the grill/tray.
    6. Place in the oven for 35 mins, turning halfway through so as to colour evenly.
    7. Take out of the oven and serve with suburban slaw and for a sharp twang, baby pickled beets or gherkins!

Forget the Fuss....

If you wanted to use a leaner protein you could use a chicken breast sliced into 4 goujons. Cut off the 'mini fillet' as one (try and trim the sinew out) , and make 3 more from the rest of the breast. Coat as above with flour, egg and crumbs, and then on a medium heat grill for 7-8 mins on each side.

Make sure it is cooked through, but try not to overcook, as it will go dryer. There is less room for error with breast meat as there is less fat. You could pop in the over too on 180℃ for 15-18 mins, turning half way through.

I get my panko breadcrumbs and sumac from Waitrose. If you can't get there, you could use ready made croutons and crush them up. I have not tried this but have seen that used before!

Suburban Slaw
1/8 (around 160g) of red cabbage, white cabbage, finely shredded
2 carrots (around 160g), grated
1/2 red onion, finely sliced
3 tbsp full-fat mayonnaise
Squeeze of half a lemon
2 tsp of Sumac
2-3 tbsp of chopped parsley
Salt and pepper

  1. Place all the vegetables in a bowl and mix. Add the mayonnaise, salt, pepper, lemon juice, sumac and mix. Taste and adjust the seasoning and creaminess from the mayonnaise, as desired.
  2. If you don't have any sumac, 1/2 tbsp of Dijon mustard works really well too.
    This works as a side dish to many others so share the recipe around!

Chicky, leeky, mushy pie!

Chicken, leek and mushroom pie:

There are few things that hit the spot in Winter when your fingers are numb and your nose is red after a bracing Sunday walk, than a roast dinner.

I know they are not the most fuss free of meals (if you do them at home!) but as long as I have all the gear in the fridge by Sunday and help with the prep, the execution on Sunday is worth it. Least not because we all sit together and eat, which seldom happens in the week. Not only this, but the roast chicken is so generous it opens the door to stocks, soups and our all-time favourites: Chicken pie!

After a day or 2, I am ready for the chicken reincarnation. When I get 10 minutes in the kitchen, I strip the meat from the carcass and pop it back in the fridge for when I am ready. This just means when you are ready to prep your pie, it's 1 less job and it feels more fuss free.

At this point, I may consider making some stock. I put the chicken carcass in a large pan, with a carrot, celery stick, onion, halved (skin on), leek tops, parsley stalks, bay leaf and dozen peppercorns and cover with cold water. Bring it to the boil, skim off any scum on the top and then simmer for an hour. Strain and bosh: stock!

It really is that simple and fuss free, especially if you are hanging out in the kitchen anyway! If you are not in the right space to make stock, pop the carcass in the freezer until you are. Maybe even save up 2 or 3 and make a bigger, stronger batch, all in one go.

Next thing to consider is the pastry: Now the purist in me has made the pastry from scratch and that is a lovely thing, and in the blender is not too much bother. But recently in homage to spreading the fuss free word, I am actually enjoying it more with some ready made puff pastry or even filo pastry.

Bought puff pastry or filo is lighter and quicker; and I think if it means you are going to make something like this on a weeknight, it is OK to buy the best you can get your hands on! All butter pasty is best.

If I have any other leftovers from the roast on Sunday I will add them in too....any sausages and bacon, stuffing, are all little treasures to be found under the puff pastry pillow!! Even leftover gravy, I will add to the mix.

What's your favourite pie filling and pastry? Let us all know in the comments on FB!

Lisa.

Chicken, leek and mushroom pie
Serves 2 greedy adults or family of 4

Approx 1litre pie dish, 22cm diameter or similar

Preheat the oven 180 degrees c

3 leeks, washed, whites sliced, green tops saved for stock (or compost!)
250g box of mushrooms (I use whole brown button)
150g bacon, thinly sliced
250g leftover roast chicken, chunks
500ml chicken stock, fresh or stock cube
320g roll of puff pastry
3 heaped tbsp of plain flour
Few sprigs of thyme
Large knob of butter
Trickle of oil
1 egg to glaze
Any leftovers: gravy, stuffing, sausages and bacon

  1. Add the oil to a large, hot pan and fry the bacon until brown (not burnt!) and the fat has rendered down.
  2. Remove out of the pan, leaving a little fat and add a knob of butter. When melted, add the leeks and sweat on a low heat for 5 minutes until they are soft and lost their shape.
  3. Add the mushrooms and turn up the heat to get all the water out of the mushrooms and stir occasionally so that the leeks can't stick. When the water has evaporated after 5 minutes, brown slightly, then add the bacon back to the pan.
  4. Add the flour, stir, and cook out for a few minutes. Add the stock and stir to make a lovely gravy. Add the thyme, chicken and any other leftovers bits and simmer for 10-15 minutes until thick and heated through.
  5. Place a sieve over a medium pan and place the chicken mixture into the sieve, so as to extract the gravy into the pan. Lightly press your chicken mixture to get most of the gravy out, so that it isn't too wet and make the pastry soggy.
  6. Move the chicken mixture to your pie dish. Leave to cool slightly or completely if you are preparing ahead of time.
  7. Take the pastry out of the fridge and lay it out. Cut a few strips of 1cm thick pieces of pastry off the edges of the pastry sheet. Wet the edge of the pie dish with water and stick the strands to the dish as a base to set the lid on. Press gently to fix.
  8. Brush these bits of pastry on the dish with water and place the whole piece of pastry on top. Press down gently. Use a knife to cut off the excess pastry and if you want, save the extra bits to make jam tarts!!
  9. Crimp the edge of the pie with the end of the knife. Brush with beaten egg, and poke 2 holes in the top to let the stream out.
  10. Place in a preheated oven (180 degrees) for about 25 minutes, being careful that the top doesn't brown too quickly. It will sit quite happily for 10 minutes on the work surface when cooked.
  11. Reheat the gravy, dish up the pie with seasonal greens. Enjoy!

If you want to use filo pastry, scrunch 4 pieces of filo on top of the pie. Drizzle with oil and herbs and bake for 25-30 mins.....

Forget the fuss.
No bacon? Use pancetta
No thyme? Sprinkle in dried oregano
No leftover roast chicken?! Use boneless chicken thighs, diced or roast 2 whole chicken thighs, and pick off the meat when roasted and it is falling off the bone
Prepare the pie up to the point of needing to put on the pastry lid, to make it easy when you get in

Bahamian beauty: Creamy Chicken Tagliatelle with Tenderstem

Creamy chicken tagliatelle with tenderstem

A clear 15 years before Nashville was a hit TV show I used to go there for the craziest of summer jobs. It was the hardest yet rewarding job and I am amazed that British students would sign up for a job to work 80 hrs a week, commission only, selling educational books door to door in America but we did it in our hundreds!! Each summer about 300 students flew out to Nashville (and about 3000 US students) to do this job during the 12 week holiday and I did this for 5 summers!!

Now, what the fuss free has that got to do with today's blog I hear you ask!?! Well, despite the hard work, building character and paying for those hedonistic uni days, there was always a chance to have some down time in Nashville and then go on some travels.

A short 2 hrs or so from Nashville is the Bahamas.....it seemed rude not to pay a visit being so close! Under British rule, until 1973 (hence the red post boxes!) the Bahamas is now an independent Island....a beautiful one at that! Now, this trip was only for a few days, and apart from the amazing beaches, the meal that inspired this recipe is my other lasting memory!

I mean, it's nothing fancy and not native to the Bahamas for sure.....it just checks a lot of boxes! Creamy cheese sauce, spiked with intense sun-dried tomatoes, succulent chicken and of course pasta...well, tagliatelle. A perfect comfort food on an evening. I have recreated it on and off over the years, and it doesn't fail to please....so I thought I'd share it with you! Again, it's one where you could do a little prep ahead of time, and then for the time it takes to cook the pasta, it will then be ready.

Let me know what you think of this recipe in the Fuss Free Foodie FB group. Don't forget to give a little like, share or comment to keep me in your feed. If you are on Instagram or Twitter....find me on there too! Thanks for reading and enjoy! Lisa

Creamy chicken tagliatelle with Tenderstem

Serves 2

35g plain flour
35g butter
350ml milk warmed but not mandatory just helps blend better
100-125g cheese, grated (Cheddar, Gouda or Gruyere)
1 tsp English mustard (optional but brings out cheese flavour and colour)
200g tagliatelle
1 chicken breast, diced 2cm sq (approx 170g)
200g Tenderstem broccoli, 3-4cm pieces
5-6 sun-dried tomatoes, sliced
Salt and pepper
Chilli flakes (optional)

  1. Make the cheese sauce (can be done ahead of time or whilst the pasta is cooking). Melt the butter in a medium pan. Add the flour and stir together for a few minutes to cook out the flour.
  2. With whisk at the ready, add all the milk and whisk like crazy for a minute until all smooth. Stir with a spoon, and cook for a few minutes. Add the mustard if using, and cheese. When the cheese has melted season with salt and pepper and set aside.
  3. Prepare the Tenderstem in a basket ready for steaming over the pasta as it cooks. Add the pasta to a pan of boiling water, and cook according to the packet instructions. Pop the basket over the pasta pan to steam broccoli for 7-9 mins, depending on the thickness of the stalks (just nibble a bit to see when done!)
  4. Whilst this is cooking, get a frying pan with a little oil in it ready to fry the chicken. Season and fry for 7-8 mins, so that it is still tender and juicy, but not pink in the middle.
  5. When the pasta is cooked drain it and retain 2 tbsps of cooking water in the pan. Add 2-3 ladles of the cheese sauce over the pasta and coat the pasta with the sauce.
  6. Then add the Tenderstem, the cooked chicken and sun-dried tomatoes. Stir and serve. Sprinkle with chilli flakes if desired.

Forget the fuss...
1. If the chicken breast is fat at one end and thin at the other, I take a rolling pin to it to make it more even!
2. No steamer? Pop in the pan with the pasta for the last 5 minutes of cooking time
3. No Tenderstem? Purple sprouting would work or even wilt in some spinach instead. Pour boiling water over spinach in a colander, and then throw it in after you have coated the pasta in cheese sauce.

Chicken Pate with Marsala

Chicken Liver Pate

In a photo album 20 years old full of recipe clippings from Pru Leith, Sainsbury's magazines and my time at Bordeaux Quay cookery school sits this classic recipe from 2007.

I kid you not it is scribbled on the back of a sheet of NHS instructions for how to give a 'sample'.....(now that made me smile last night when I unfolded the sheet!) It was copied down from a Christmas cookery programme as it seemed very simple and wanted to give it a try.

Before Kids (yes the tests came back fine!!) this was always on our Christmas menu, but as you know these little things get lost along the way when there are other things to do. But in the last couple of years it has reappeared and always gets the thumbs up whether it appears on Xmas day, impromptu friends visit or as a New Years Eve starter.

I serve it simply with melba style toast...basically a piece of brown bread half toasted, then taken out sliced in half and re-toasted, being careful not to burn it! Its a job for one person with a glass of something fizzy and to not move from the toaster. It's great with an onion marmalade too, I find shop bought from a deli, or this year we have a specially selected one from Aldi.

If you don't have any Marsala, forget the fuss and use Port or Madeira as an alternative! This recipe is easily doubled to make party sizes. Merry Christmas!

Not going to blog until next Friday now, but feel free to join me in posting up any Christmas delights you are proud of and say hi! The Fuss Free Foodie FB group

Chicken Liver Pate with Marsala
Serves 4-8

50g butter, melted (30g extra, melted)
150g Chicken livers, left whole, trimmed of any sinew
4 cloves of garlic, crushed or chopped finely
75ml Marsala (or alternative)
1 onion, coarsely grated
15g thyme leaves pulled off the tough stalk
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp nutmeg or pepper

1. Put the chicken livers, garlic, marsala, onion, thyme, salt, pepper or nutmeg in a frying pan.

2. Simmer on a gentle heat for 4-5 minutes, until the livers are slightly pink in the middle.

2. Take the pan off the heat straight away and cool over iced water to stop the cooking process.

3. Put in a food processor with the melted butter. Pulse until smooth. Spoon into molds. Set in the fridge.

4. Melt the extra butter. Scoop off the white milk and leave the clarified butter behind. Tilt your pot and gently pour on the butter and leave to set. Put a piece of thyme in the butter to set for decoration!

Fuss free and TASTY!!