Chicken and Mushroom Pasta Bake

Pasta bakes have been a staple of my lunches since going to university. They are relatively economical, can be made with pretty much anything you have (including leftovers) and are delicious. You can use them to make a small amount of meat go very far which I have found to be a life saver when you are living off a student loan. They tend to freeze well and are also quite sturdy so once cooked, portions can be cut and put either in boxes or just wrapped in Clingfilm before being put in the freezer as the pasta has enough structural integrity to hold its shape when cool. This meant taking a slice of it in my bag to lectures was a simple task and provided me will a filling lunch during the day.

One of the things I find really interesting about this dish in particular (and to be honest, any dish involving mushrooms) is how they cook. As the fruiting bodies of a fungus, mushrooms hide beneath the soil and once ready to produce spores, they absorb liquid – rain in the wild – and sprout. They can appear out of nowhere overnight but this property is also what leads to them being very easy to burn when cooking. When you first add the mushrooms to an oiled pan, they absorb all the oil up too resulting in basically dry frying them. This can cause them to burn if they aren’t stirred constantly which is a faff if you are trying to get on with another part of the meal. To avoid this, small amounts of water can also be added which again, will be absorbed but if you manage your proportions well, can leave just enough liquid in the pan to prevent burning. Once the mushrooms get to a certain temperature, the heat breaks down the cells holding in the liquid resulting in the mushrooms releasing any water, juice and oil which is contained in them also causing them to shrink which is why the reduce down so much in volume whilst cooking.

The other interesting part of this dish (from a science perspective) is the cornflour. When I was younger, I used to be allowed to play with cornflour as a treat if I was well behaved. Whilst this was a messy, messy endeavour for all involved it did have the benefit of being an introduction to quite a complicated bit of science, the non-Newtonian fluid. As a small child, few things were more exciting than this bizarre mixture that ran through my fingers and I could sink my hand into but if I tried to jerk it out again, the mixture would turn solid and shatter with enough force. Even now as a 21 year old, I find it fascinating! In this recipe, you can only have this fun before the cornflour is added to the sauce as the moment it is mixed in, it thickens up massively giving the sauce a smooth texture.

 

 

 

 

Mushroom Chicken Pasta Bake    –     about £1.90 per portion, makes 6 portions

2 Large Onions (or three medium/small)

500g mushrooms roughly chopped

2 chicken breasts – cubed

½ cup of milk (125ml)

Chicken/mushroom stock

4 tbsp of cornflour

Oil

400g pasta shapes – I use spirals normally

Cheese

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Optional

Garlic

Basil/parsley

Salt and pepper

 

Dice up the onions and sautee in a pan with a small amount of oil.

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Once the onions are translucent, add the mushrooms and a small amount of water (I would go for about two tablespoons). This helps prevent the mushrooms from sticking to the pan. Keep stirring until the mushrooms start to release their liquid. (Should you wish to add garlic, one or two cloves either diced or minced should be added at this point)

Add the chicken and stir until it is sealed (that is to say that the outside of all the chicken has gone white.21104359_1686135108084854_1141188406_o

Add the milk and bring to the boil

Add the stock – if powder, just sprinkle it in and if it is a cube, crumble it up into the mix and stir it through

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Mix the cornflour with a small amount of water to create a slurry and add it a bit at a time to the mixture making sure that you stir well after each addition and wait for the sauce to thicken up before you add more. If there is more liquid in the sauce, you will need more of the cornflour but you may not need it all!

Let the sauce simmer for 5-10 minutes until the chicken is just cooked and then remove from the heat.

Season with salt and pepper and add the basil or parsley at this point

 

Preheat the oven to gas mark 6 (200oC) and cook the pasta according to the instructions on the bag.

Mix the pasta and the sauce and pour it all into an ovenproof dish pushing any exposed pieces of chicken down below the surface

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Add a layer or grated cheese over the top and place in the oven. Personally I use cheddar for this but you could use any cheese that you like (though I would avoid blue cheese in this scenario as I don’t think it would go with the chicken and mushrooms particularly well!)

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Bake for half an hour or until the cheese has melted and the top layer has gone crispy.

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For a vegetarian alternative, use more mushrooms instead of the chicken! It is still delicious and will reduce the price too.

This can be eaten cold and freezes well.

 

Whether batch cooking for yourself or making dinner for friends, this recipe is wonderful for many occations and is super versatile. You can add or take away ingredients or even change up the sauce completely to keep things fresh. Personally, chicken and mushroom is a favourite of mine so I tend to make this one quite a lot!

Let me know in the comments if you try this one yourself and pop a picture in if you can!

See here for the last recipe in the Cooking From Basics series – a delicious bolognaise sauce – or if you fancy trying your hand at some bread making, why not have a look at my recipe for Artisan Bread from last week.

Have a good one and I’ll be back next week with a super chocolatey recipe that you do not want to miss!!!

H

Artisan Loaves

Hey guys, I’m back with another instalment in my baking series. Last week I talked about the traditional Coffee and Walnut Cake and this week we are looking into at beautiful artisan loaves.

I love baking bread. It is an incredibly therapeutic activity especially as I am a student and I stress bake and few things make me feel better than having beaten a slab of bread dough into submission for ten minutes or so. Bread isn’t very difficult to make but a lot of people end up eating the same breads over and over and sometimes it can be exciting to jazz it up a bit.

I came across the idea for this recipe when my friend send me a video compilation of various breads being scored and baked. It was a very satisfying video to watch but the main thing that caught my eye was this one bright pink loaf with an amazing floral design scored into the dough. It set me thinking about how I could recreate this myself. I wanted to avoid using artificial dyes which I was successful in doing and thus the beetroot bread was born. I did forget to put salt in the first time but luckily, it didn’t taste too wrong – the second attempt (this time with salt) was a definite improvement.

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I was disheartened to discover that although there are many recipes for beetroot bread on the internet, they were not the most useful and they were all very different, no prevailing theme to make it easier to adapt at home so I decided to just go for it and throw in a blended beetroot to my standard bread mix and lo and behold, it worked! This got me thinking about other vegetables that could be used to make jazzy and colourful loaves and after a very fruitless search online, I chose to go ahead and see what would happen if I put spinach in instead. Thankfully it worked and the result, while not as striking as the beetroot bread on the outside, was a definite winner.

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These recipes could be easily adapted to make colourful pizzas for a party, small rolls for burgers or even to make hollowed out rolls for serving soups in at a fancy dinner party. Their versatility makes the breads very useable in pretty much any culinary situation (that you would want bread in) and especially exciting if you are trying to make something brightly coloured without using food colourings.

I will be experimenting further with these ideas to see what other breads can be made with vegetables and it seems to be a rather uncharted territory at the moment.

I hope you enjoy making these yourselves. As always let me know what you think of them as I like knowing your opinions on these recipes. If you have any vegetables you think would work and want someone to try them, I am always up for a good challenge!

 

 

 

Ingredients

500g plain white flour

10g salt

1 or 2 tbsp sugar (1 for beetroot, 2 for spinach)

1 sachet instant yeast (7g)

1 large beetroot OR 300g fresh spinach

 

The first thing to do is to make up the liquid part of the recipe.

If you are using beetroot, peel and roughly chop the beetroot and place into a food processor with a quarter of a cup of water and blend until you have a paste (it will still be a little lumpy as the beetroot is so hard).

For the spinach bread place the spinach and a quarter of a cup of water into the food processor and blend to a paste.

Make the vegetable paste up to just over 400ml with cold water.

 

 

Place the flour into a bowl and pour the yeast, salt and sugar around the edge of the bowl.

Make a well in the centre and pour in the liquid.

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Beetroot Bread
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Spinach Bread

Use a spoon to start mixing the dough together.

Once it starts coming together, pour the mix onto a surface and knead for about ten minutes or until the dough is smooth and elastic.

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Place the dough into a lightly oiled bowl, cover with cling film and leave to rise until the dough has over doubled in size – about two hours.

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Once the dough has risen, pour it onto a surface and knock it back (knead it again for about 30 seconds).

If you don’t have large banneton you can make one by placing a dishcloth into a large bowl and liberally sprinkle with flour.

Pull the dough tight into a ball and place into the bowl and cover with a cloth and leave to rise for another 45 minutes or so.

Preheat the oven to gas mark 7 (210oC) and place a large dish filled with water at the bottom of the oven to create a steamy environment

 

Flip the dough out onto a lined tray and remove the bowl and cloth.

Score the dough to control how it rises. How you do this is an entirely personal choice! Traditional scoring is diamonds across the top but I like to go a bit fancier with these breads. I would advise going with a symmetric design as it will cause the bread to rise symmetrically in the oven but this is a purely ascetic choice.

Traditionally, scoring is done with a sharp blade called a lame. It is effectively a small razor on the end of a stick and can be dither curved or straight. I was lucky enough to discover my local cooking shop sold them for about £3 but up until this point, I had just used a standard kitchen knife which would work just fine. A lame may make the curved shapes easier to obtain though.

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Symmetrical scoring on the beetroot bread to ensure that it rises properly in the oven
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Floral scoring on the spinach bread

Place the bread into the oven and reduce the temperature down to gas mark 6 (2000C)

 

Bake for 20 minutes. Turn the bread and bake for another 20 minutes to ensure an even crust. The bread is done once it sounds hollow when the base is tapped. If in doubt, give it a few more minutes!

The spinach bread will gain a dark brown crust while the beetroot will be similar but the areas where the scoring was will be a deep purple colour! The beetroot bread will change colour inside during the baking too so the final result is a dark red as opposed to the aggressive pink of the dough!

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These breads are great for taking a gift or eating with a cheeseboard as they are a little more exciting than a standard loaf. The addition of the vegetables does not significantly change the taste of the bread which means they can be used for savoury or sweet toppings so the loaves are also very versatile in their uses.

 

If you have a go making either of these, let me know how it goes in the comments especially if you manage to snap a photo. I love seeing what you guys have been making and it makes me really happy to know that you are enjoying my recipes – for more baking ideas see my instagram thatcookingthing.

Join me next week for another instalment of my Cooking from Basics series, see here for last week’s bolognaise recipe and I look forward to chatting with you guys soon!

H

 

Bolognaise Sauce

 

For me, pasta with bolognaise is very much a comfort food. We used to have it when my mum worked away as I wouldn’t get home from school until 18.30 and my dad from work at a similar time so there was never time to cook on those days. Luckily mum would make up a huge vat of this stuff and freeze it so we would come home and have a fab dinner which just needed to be reheated.

One of the best things about this sauce is how versatile it is! You can use it just on pasta, you can make it into a lasagne. I have been known to just have it on toast if I’m super hungry. The recipe I use is very basic, it only has 4 main ingredients with a smattering of seasonings but I know that some people put in mushrooms and sweetcorn too so if you like them in your bolognaise, feel free to add any extras!

The recipe itself produces a large amount of sauce so make sure that you have boxes to store it in! It’s perfect for after a long day as all you need to do is bung it in a pan (either defrosted or still frozen – though I would add a little water in the second case to prevent burning), cook up some of your favourite pasta and hey presto! You have yourself a delicious meal!!

 

Servings ~ 10                                                                                            Cost per portion ~ 50p

 

Ingredients

Passata/chopped tomatoes

500g Beef Mince (Or for a vegetarian option, use quorn or soya mince!)

2 Large Onions – I use cannon onions (about twice the size of a fist)

3 Large Carrots

Oil

Garlic

Red Wine

Basil/mixed herbs

Chopped Tomatoes

Salt and pepper

Worcestershire Sauce (about a tsp)

Ketchup (about a tbsp)

Soy sauce (about a tbsp.)

 

 

Equipment

A large saucepan (with a lid)

A chopping board

A large knife

A wooden spoon (or equivalent)

 

Optional, if you are using passata, you can thicken it up (so the final sauce is less wet) by boiling it in a pan for 15 minutes or so to reduce it down. Add about a teaspoon of sugar while it’s boiling and should you wish to add garlic to the sauce, this is where you put it in!

 

Dice up the onion and place into a large pan on a medium heat.

Grate the carrot and add it to the pan and fry until it starts to soften.

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Onions and carrots in a pan with a little bit of oil at the bottom

Make a well in the middle of the vegetables and add the mince a little at a time (I generally go for a quarter of the pack and break it up as I put it in).

Make sure the majority of the mince has gone brown before you stir it through and add the next potion of the meat. If you wish to use quorn mince instead, this is where you would add it but unlike meat, you do not need to brown it, just stir it all in and move on to the next step.

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Make sure to brown most of the meat before stirring it througt!

Once all the mince is incorporated, add the tomato and stir it in.

If you wish to add red wine, garlic, salt and pepper, basil or mixed herbs, now is the time to do so.

 

Leave the sauce with a lid on a low heat to simmer for at least half an hour or even longer if possible!

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The sauce will darken a little while it is simmering so don’t be alarmed if you come back to find it a different colour to when you started!

I go for a medium ladle per portion as that suites me just perfectly.

The sauce is so versatile and can be used in pasta bakes, lasagne or just as plain bolognaise – I have been known to just eat it on toast too!

 

Let me know what you think of it in the comments and I’ll see you all next week for another baking post – this time, bread related!

H

Coffee and Walnut Cake

The coffee and walnut cake was the first coffee flavoured food that I liked. I always found that the taste was far too bitter for me despite loving the taste. Since then, it has (much as it pains me to say this) become my “signature dish”. I love the taste and the walnuts give it a far more exciting texture than a plain sponge cake. I have been making this cake for just under 10 years now and it is my go to cake for events. It has been used for birthdays, stone settings, afternoon teas and as a general all-purpose cake for when I want a sweet treat.

Being a take on the standard sponge cake, the coffee and walnut cake follows the standard ratio of 2oz (56g) butter, sugar and flour to each egg. As it has three layers instead of two, I use five times the empirical recipe. This does of course assume you are using self-raising flour! If, like me, you only have plain flour, use a teaspoon of baking powder for each 2oz of flour that you use. The size of the walnuts chunks is entirely up to you. Personally, I like the chunks to be relatively large so they add an extra texture but you can chop them up incredibly small (or add them with the first set of flour so they get broken up during the mixing.

This cake is perfect almost any event and isn’t as sweet as a standard Victoria sponge or chocolate cake so is incredibly popular with adults.

I hope you enjoy making and eating it as much as I do!

For the Cake:

280g (10oz) Sugar

280g (10oz) Unsalted Butter

5 eggs

280g (10oz) Plain Flour

5 tsp Baking Powder

2tbsp Instant Coffee

100g Walnuts roughly chopped

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Ingredients for the cake with premade coffee

For the Icing:

250g Unsalted Butter

375g Icing Sugar (Sieved)

2tbsp Instant Coffee

Preheat your oven to 180 oC (Gas Mark 4) and line three 8” baking tins with baking parchment, butter and flour

Mix the coffee with one tablespoon of boiling water

Beat the butter and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer until light and fluffy

Add the coffee to the sugar and butter and mix until combined

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Stir together the flour and baking powder

Add the eggs one at a time adding tablespoon of the flour mix after each egg

Once all the eggs are added, mix in the remainder of the flour

Once that is all beaten together, add the walnuts and mix on a low speed to prevent the walnuts being broken up too much

Split the mixture evenly between the three tins and bake for about 20-25 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the middle of the cake comes out clean

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Three layers of batter ready to go!

To make the icing, add a tablespoon of boiling water to the coffee

Beat the butter until it is soft

Add about a quarter of the icing sugar along with the coffee to the butter and beat to combine

Add the rest of the icing sugar in a couple of batches and beat until it is soft and spreadable

If the icing is too stiff, add a small amount of milk to slacken it up

To assemble the cake, add the first layer of cake to the serving plate or cake board using a small amount of icing to keep it in place.

Add a layer of icing to the cake and add the next layer

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The first layer iced and ready to go. I piped the icing round the edge so give an attractive finish between the layers

Repeat this with the final layer and add a final layer of icing on the top

Decorate the cake using either chopped walnuts or walnut halves

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The finished cake

Let me know how the cake turns out for you in the comments! Photos are always appreciated so give me a tag on instagram (@thatcookingthing)!

Have a good week and see you next Monday for the first recipe in my Cooking from Basics series!

H x

Cooking from Basics

Introduction to Cooking from Basics

 

Welcome to Cooking from Basics. Over this series of recipes, I am hoping to introduce you to new recipes or at least teach you how to make others that you may have already heard of. Whilst aimed at students who are cooking for themselves for the first time, the recipes are obviously available to everyone. I will take you through each step of the process with as many photos as I can to help make sure the instructions are clear and by the end of the year, you should be able to fend for yourself in the kitchen!

Each recipe will start with three lists. There will be the mandatory ingredients (in bold), the optional ingredients (not in bold) and the equipment you will need for the recipe. Whilst optional, the second list of ingredients are things that I believe every good kitchen should be stocked with as they can make a meal so much more interesting.

As you will notice, the majority of recipes in this series will produce multiple portions. The best way I have found of saving money at Uni is to batch cook and freeze the leftovers. The other way to save money is to bulk out any dishes you have with vegetables which are far cheaper than the meat used so you can stretch a small amount of meat into many meals – I have managed to make a pair of chicken breasts last for 8 meals before (I will introduce this recipe later in the series).

 

Before the recipes start, I would just like to do a quick introduction into terminology that I will be using!

Slice: Cutting in one direction across an item of food.

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Onion sliced into half moons
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Sliced carrots

Dice: Cutting in two directions so the food is chopped up very finely

For onions, I would advise remofing the top but not the bottom! Cut lengthwise down the onion but not completely to the end. This will mean that it holds together so you can then proceed to cut perpendicular to that.

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For carrots, I would say that grating will usually suffice if you need them cut up small!

 

Julienne: Cutting into long thin strips (usually used on carrots and other vegetables) – while the official definition is 1-2mm x 1-2mm x 4-5cm, unless you are very confident in your knife skills, as fine as you can chop it will surely be sufficient. If you are lucky, you may own a julienne peeler which will do all the hard work for you!

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Julienne Carrot

Sauté: Lightly frying

Sweating: Cooking over a low heat until the outsides start to cook

Cube: Exactly what it sounds like. Cutting an item of food into small cube like shapes. I tend to use this for carrots in curries and pie and pieces of chicken

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Cubed carrot

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I will add to this list as the year goes on and I hope you find it helpful!

The first recipe will be coming on Monday so see you all soon!

Welcome!

 

macarons
Salted Caramel and Chocolate Macarons – a topic to breach around a festive period

Welcome to thatcookingthing. This blog was started in the summer of 2017 as I was about to enter my fourth and final year of university and was designed for students and those less comfortable in the kitchen. The posts were linked to the British academic year of September through to July and consist of weekly updates of recipes. The content will be split into two halves, there will be “Cooking From Basics” as well as a Baking section.

Cooking From Basics will follow the academic year and aims to teach skills in the kitchen. It will start off with simple meals requiring little effort and will progress to teaching new techniques as the year goes on. As it is aimed at students, I will be providing a cost estimate per portion (based on my local shop’s prices) and also, where possible, I will explain how to make the recipe both vegetarian and possibly vegan! For the simpler recipes, it is easiest to head to the Cooking From Basics tab and scroll down to the earlier recipes. They are provided in chronological order but if you are looking for a specific recipe, check out the master list where I will provide an index of all my recipes.

Bread
Herb fougasse inspired by the Great British Bake Off. These little loaves caused more trouble than expected when the oven went out of commission last minute and the dough had to be carried to a friend’s house to bake!

Baking has been a passion of mine for a long time now. I love the creativity and freedom that comes with it and I always spend far too much time baking than I really should. The baking section of this blog will follow the things that I have been making and will provide recipes and if possible, troubleshooting for them.

cake 2
Galaxy themed mirror glaze cake with devil’s food cake inside. Created for a Promenade concert and inspired by Mahler’s Seventh Symphony – Night music

I aim to alternate between the Cooking From Basics and Baking posts but obviously some recipes may just fall into both!

I hope you enjoy the blog and I will see you every Monday!