Faux Mexican Chicken Stew with Rice & Beans

I have to apologise to people with a preference for savoury dishes as there have been a lot of desserts and cakes recently. Thing is, on top of being a very sweet tooth myself (which doesn’t help), December is a really cold month which calls for comfort food. And for me, comfort equals chocolate, which in turn takes the shape of a cake/biscuit/dessert. Christmas being round the corner also clearly doesn’t help…

Anyway, this time we’re down to cooking. I called it ‘faux’ chicken stew because I found it on a cooking magazine as a chicken stew, but due to the shorter cooking time it can’t be quite considered as such. I have also slightly changed it, so mine wouldn’t necessarily be *that* chicken stew anyway. It’s a really rich and dark chicken pot, if you wish, with plenty of peppers and smoky flavour. I served it with rice and beans, but you can just as easily leave those out or substitute them with mashed potatoes, a salad or some roasted vegetables. One last note: you really need the lime to cut through all that richness and tomatoes. Lemon juice wouldn’t quite work here, but be free to give it a go.


Ingredients (for the chicken pot)

  • 1 red onion, finely chopped
  • 2 red & 1 yellow peppers, chopped into large chunks
  • 4 tbsp chipotle paste
  • 2 x 400g tins chopped tomatoes
  • 3 skinless chicken breasts
  • 3 tbsp chopped coriander
  • 1 tbsp light brown sugar
  • 1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
  • olive oil
  • salt
  • black pepper

Ingredients (for the rice and beans)

  • 150g basmati rice
  • 1 x 400g tin red kidney beans, rinsed and drained
  • juice of 1 lime
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • black pepper


  1. Heat some olive oil in a deep frying pan, then tumble in the onion and peppers. Cook until softened. Stir in the chipotle paste and continue cooking for another minute.
  2. Now add the tomatoes, then fill half a can with water and pour that in too. Lay the chicken breasts on top of the sauce and push them right into the mixture with a wooden spoon. Gently simmer for about 30 minutes. Stir occasionally.
  3. Once the chicken is fully cooked, remove it from the pan with some tongs, then use two forks to pull the meat apart. Tumble the chicken shreds back into the pan, then add the sugar, Worcestershire sauce and season well. Leave to cook for another 15 minutes until the sauce has thickened slightly.
  4. In the meantime, bring a small pan filled with water to the boil, then tumble in the rice and cook for about 15 minutes, until just right. Keep stirring to prevent the rice from sticking to the bottom of the pan. Towards the end of the cooking time, stir in the beans and give them a quick stir, just to warm them through. Drain the rice and beans, then tumble into a bowl. Add the rice, lime juice, salt and pepper to taste.
  5. Remove the chicken pot from the heat, sprinkle some coriander on top and some lemon juice, then serve and enjoy.






Ah paella. The mere sound of it takes me straight to Spain. And not, God forbid, pronounced in the British way but, rather, with its original clicking sound. The recipe below is not mine (I wish) as I do not know Spanish cuisine that good as to conjure up such an exquisite dish. It is Simon Hopkinson’s, the food writer and TV chef. It also passed the test of a real Spanish food lover’s taste, so it must be good.

There’s something deeply satisfactory about paella. Be it the rice, the abundance of ingredients or the mixture of shellfish and chicken (an authentic one calls for both indiscriminately), it makes such a perfect autumn/winter dish, not to mention how good it is when tasted during the warmer season. Be generous with portions too! The quantities indicated below serve 4, but believe me it would be enough for 3 greedy and hungry people. I have slightly adapted the ingredients and their quantities because the marketplace is a wonderful place to shop at, but does not unfortunately respond nicely to the tiny quantities of fish required below. Therefore, I went a bit commando with it.




  • 150g chorizo sausage, cut into small coins and then halved
  • 1 squid, cleaned and cut into rings
  • 350g chicken thigh fillet, cut into small pieces
  • 100ml dry sherry
  • 200g cherry tomatoes
  • 4 cloves of garlic
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 150g green beans, sliced
  • 150g sweet red peppers from a jar, thickly sliced
  • 1 tsp saffron threads
  • 600ml hot chicken stock
  • 300g paella rice
  • 750g mussels, debearded and well washed (or already shelled, like in my case)
  • olive oil
  • salt & pepper

Ingredients (for the decoration)

  • 2-3 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
  • 2 tbsp chopped parsley
  • 5 tbsp olive oil


  1. Use a large pan (I rely on my flat and very versatile Le Creuset pan) to heat some olive oil and then fry the chorizo slices until crisped up and the orange fat runs. Lift them out of the pan with a slotted spoon and set aside on a plate. Now introduce the squid and very briefly sliced until coloured. Remove with the slotted spoon and add to the chorizo.
  2. Season the chicken pieces with salt and pepper, then tumble in the pan and cook until golden brown for about 5 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, put the sherry, cherry tomatoes, garlic and paprika in a food processor and whiz until smooth. Push the mixture through a fine sieve, then add to the pan once the chicken is nicely coloured. Bring up to a simmer.
  4. Cook for about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the tomato mixture has thickened.
  5. Now add the beans, peppers and saffron, then carefully pour in the chicken stock. Stir all together and bring to the simmer once again. Sprinkle the rice into the liquid and stir well, making sure it is evenly distributed among the chicken and the vegetables.
  6. Once you have done this, try not to stir the paella again and cook over a moderate heat for 20 minutes. Truth is I did stir to avoid catching at the bottom. I suggest that if your pan is not entirely non-stick you do that too. Cook until you can see the rice puffing up.
  7. Remove the paella from the heat and clamp the lid on. Leave to stand for about 5 minutes, then remove the lid and return to the heat. Add the mussels, chorizo and squid to the pan and cook, stirring, for another 2-3 minutes, then remove from the heat for the final time and steam with the lid on for another 5 minutes. This not only ensure the fish is completely cooked, but also keeps the rice very moist.
  8. To decorate, mix the ingredients together and trickle over the paella. Serve at once and enjoy.


Cheddar Cheese Risotto

Such a weird and yet so tasty combination could only be the result of Nigella’s diabolical mind. I have to say, I was instantly attracted to this because, as a big cheese fan, I didn’t want to miss the chance to include it even in risottos. And yes, I know you usually use Parmesan cheese in normal risotto anyway, but a risotto where the cheese gets the spotlight is truly wonderful. If you want to be at peace with your conscience, consider it a leek risotto with plenty of added cheddar. Easy and very straightforward to make, it needs to be eaten on the same day, possibly within an hour of making. It tends to go a bit hard when left in the fridge, so it doesn’t lend itself too well to a packed lunch.




  • a few knobs of butter
  • olive oil
  • 2 leeks, finely sliced
  • 300g risotto rice
  • 125ml white wine
  • 1/2 tsp Dijon mustard
  • 1 L hot vegetable stock
  • 125g Cheddar, chopped
  • fresh chives, chopped, to decorate


  1. Melt the butter and drizzle some olive oil in a pan, then tumble in the leeks and cook over a medium heat until softened.
  2. Add the rice and keep on stirring until glossy and slick, then turn up the heat and add the wine and mustard. Keep on stirring until the wine has been absorbed.
  3. Start ladling the stock into the pan, ensuring each ladleful of stock gets absorbed before adding a new one. Keep on stirring.
  4. Continue adding the stock until the rice is al dente, that is with a bit of a bite.
  5. Add the cheese and keep on stirring to avoid the rice sticking to the bottom of the pan.
  6. Take the pan off the heat and spoon the risotto into dishes, then scatter with some chives, add a twist of pepper of you want and enjoy.


  • As usual, I have made this risotto with Red Leicester and it came out as nice as with standard mature cheddar. Try other cheeses such as Gorgonzola or Gruyere, you won’t be disappointed!

Red Prawn and Mango Curry

Let’s start the curry series with one of my favourite Nigella recipes. Of all the mains I prepare, this tops my partner’s charts. This curry is warming, soothing, tasty and colourful, not to mention extremely easy to make. The recipe can also be easily adapted to include different vegetables. If you want to, you can also ditch the prawns altogether and make it into a nice vegetable ones by bulking it up with some potatoes. The quantities I am reporting below are slightly different from Nigella’s as they work better for me, but feel free to play with the recipe as you please.



  • 1 spring onion, sliced OR 1 small onion, finely chopped – and I’ve also used a couple of shallots when I had some!
  • red Thai curry paste, to taste – I usually use 3 tbsp and then end up complaining it’s too hot!
  • 1 x 400ml coconut milk can
  • 300ml vegetable stock
  • 200g frozen king prawns – makes about 20 prawns
  • 2 sweet potatoes, cubed OR 1 sweet potato and 1 butternut squash, all cubed
  • 1 mango, diced
  • coriander, chopped
  • oil
  • lime juice
  • 2 tsp fish sauce


  1. Heat some oil in a pan (I use my Le Creuset big one or a big stew pan) and fry the spring onion slices, then add the curry paste and fry until fragrant.
  2. Whisk in the stock, coconut milk and fish sauce, then bring to the boil
  3. Add the orange vegetables (be it sweet potatoes, butternut squash or a mixture of the two) and simmer, partially covered, for about 15 minutes, until the vegetables are tender.
  4. Tumble the prawns under running cold water to shake off the excess ice and then add them to the pan together with 1 tbsp of lime juice. Cook until pink, then add the diced mango and cook for another 2 minutes.
  5. Serve with some plain basmati rice and scatter with some chopped coriander (see serving suggestion below!)