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Spicy Chicken Tacos

I don't think I could ever under-estimate how much I love adore Mexican/South American flavours when it comes to cooking and eating.  I am sure that none of what I make is actually authentic, but my heart is in the right place and I always enjoy the results of my labours so that is what counts right?

 I take every opportunity that I can to cook and eat with these flavours.  That's why I got really excited when I saw the May Degustabox!  There were some of my favourite ingredients in it, by way of some lovely Latin American Coconut & Black Pepper Soft Tortillas.  This is the brand I always buy and I knew right way that is what I would be highlighting with a recipe.  You are going to love these.  We do and did! 

But first, more about the box.

I love these boxes. Opening each one is tiny a bit like opening a Christmas gift. Always a surprise, and always filled with things that pique my interest and desire to try. Degustabox is a monthly foodie subscription service that sends out a range of 10 to 15 specially selected foodie products. There's always a great mix of new products that I haven't tried before, as well as plenty of treats from more established brands. Quite often you will have the opportunity to try  new products before they arrive in the shops, so it can be a bit of a sneak peak! Each Degustabox costs only £12.99, delivery costs are included in the price, and there is no fixed contract involved - you can cancel at any time. I love getting these boxes! They are great value for money spent. 

Here is what was in the May Box, which had a World Cup theme!

KIT KAT Senses Mix 1 X £3.99 

Made to share, the mixed box of KitKat Senses includes all three deliciously indulgent flavours: Salted Caramel, Double Chocolate and Hazelnut. Lift the lid to reveal a pop open bo designed for sharing, full of individually wrapped indulgent treats, with something for everyone to enjoy.

What can I say?  Chocolate?  KitKat which happens to be a real favourite of ours.  This was win/win/win. 

KITKAT Bites White 1 X £1.59

Mini crispy ywafer fingers coated in a thick layer of white chocolate. Perfect so share with others, with a movie or as a treat! 

Very tasty, but I do like milk or dark chocolate more.

Pitch is a delicious, soft brioche roll with a generous amount of dark chocolatre chips or chocolate filling. They are free from preservatives and artificial colours. They are also individually wrappedm, making them great for lunch boxes, sports, car journeys and much more. Loved by kids, enjoyed by all! 

I love Brioche and these are quite handy for grabbing for breakfast, etc.  Almost too handy, lol.

THE GOOD CIDER of San Sebastion  2 X

Our cider is a celebration of all the Good things in life. It is made by a family of Spaniards who have been making cider in the Basque region of Spain since 1918. The Good Cider is made from apples grown on the family’s very own apple orchard. The good cider is made from natural, fresh pressed apple juice. No artificial flavors, no concentrate. While The Good Cider comes in a variety of flavours.

We are not drinkers of Alcohol, so my neighbor is enjoying.

SAY ALOE Reduced Sugar 1 X £1.49

Say Aloe isn't your average drink. Real pieces of Aloe Vera give the drink its unique texture, and its clean refreshing flavour make it delicious different refreshment.  I received the Strawberry flavour.

I like that it has reduced sugar content and is rich in Vitamin C.

Discover the great taste of Lucozade Energy Original in the moment when you need it most! Whatever your day may hold, remember your energy beats everything.  Lucozade energy is best served chilled, so put your bottle in the fridge for maximum great taste! 

Todd really likes Lucozade.

WE MADE Lemonade 1 X £1.50

Refreshingly non-carbonated drinks with absolutely no artificial flavours, additives, preservatives or refined sugars. Unlike many other drinks today, these drinks offer a refreshing and genuinely strong flavour without being packed with a whole bunch of artificial nonsense.

Served chilled and over ice, this was very much enjoyed.

Caribbean Creamy Chicken Curry Seasoning Mix  1 X £1.00

Caribbean fare is a melting pot of cuisines and a food lover's paradise. This seasoning mix is inspired by Indo-Caribbean food and, with its mild curry flavour, goes perfectly with chicken and cream. Alternately use with vegetables and coconut milk to suit vegan, vegetarian and lactose-free diets.

Mini Coconut & Black Pepper Soft Tortillas 1 X £1.50

Soft and flavoures 6 inch wheat flour tortillas.  These irresistable little tortillas are deliciously flavoured with coconut, lime, and black pepper.  All typical Caribbean ingredients.  The slightly sweet flavour of  coconut and the tanginess of the lime make the perfect to fill with flavour-intense or spicy food. 

This was the Degustabox product of the month and no surprise here, the product that I chose to highlight with a recipe.

I use their products all the time, and not just the tortillas.  All of their mixes, sauces, etc. are really good. I love their tortillas better than any other kind.  They are nice and soft and supple, and always taste lovely and fresh.

Did you know you can really enhance your tortilla experience  with an easy trick I learned recently?  Toast the tortillas over the open flame of a gas burner.  I read about it some place and thought I would try it and it produced amazing results. Unfortunately you can only do it if you have a gas hob, which thankfully I do.  Just turn on the gas and using a pair of tongs place the tortilla on and leave it for about 30 secons or so, you will see it start to puff and bubble in a few places, flip them over and do the same on the other side, and then fold in half and set aside to keep warm while you do the rest.

I will never warm my tortillas in the old way again.  This really made for amazing tortillas for our tacos!  (Not that these aren't pretty amazing tortillas anyways!) 

The filling is pretty simple.  I started with an avocado base, which was simply seasoned mashed avocado with some lime juice, which serves a dual purpose. It keeps the fruit green and it adds a lovely tartness which goes great with the chicken filling.  I spread that on the bottom of the blistered tortillas and top with some shredded lettuce.

The chicken filling is really simple . . .  its just sauteed onion, some chipotle peppers in adobe sauce, cooked chicken (shredded), a few herbs, some tinned tomatoes and more lime juice.  You can adjust the heat of the filling by the amount of chipotle you use.  I use 2 tsp, and that is just enough for us! 

I topped simply with some sour cream, grated cheese and a bit of chopped red onion.  Again, very simple.  There is nothing elaborate, but simple things, done well, speak for themselves, and these were fabulous tacos!! 

*Spicy Chicken Tacos*
makes a dozen small Tacos

Quite delicious with just the right amount of spice and super simple to make. You can make these as spicy or as mild as you enjoy according to how much of the chipotle chili in adobe sauce you use. I find 2 tsp just right for us! 

For the Taco Filling:
375g shredded cooked chicken (3 cups)
1 TBS light olive oil
1 medium onion, peeled and finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
2 tsp chipotle in adobo sauce, or to taste
1 tsp dried oregano flakes
1 tsp dried coriander leaf
1/2 tsp dried ground cumin
120g tinned chopped tomatoes in tomato juice, undrained(3/4 cup)
1 TBS lime juice
Salt and black pepper to taste 

For the Avocado:
2 ripe avocado, peeled, pitted and coarsely mashed
1 TBS lime juice
1/4 tsp garlic powder
salt and black pepper to taste

You will also need:
2 small red onion, peeled and finely diced
6 inch flour tortillas
Mexican cheese blend
shredded lettuce
sour cream

For the filling, heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onions. Cook, over moderate heat, stirring frequently until softened without browning.  Add the garlic and cook for a minute or so. Add the chicken, chipotle chili, oregano and coriander leaf, ground cumin, undrained tomatoes and lime juice.  Cook and heat through over medium low heat.  Taste and adjust seasoning with salt and black pepper.  Keep warm.

Make the avocado by mashing the avocado together with the lime juice, garlic powder and seasoning to taste.

Have ready your cheese, lettuce and sour cream.

Warm your tortillas.  How I like to do them, which blisters them beautifully, is to take a pair of tongs and cook them over a lit gas burner.  Just plop them on for about 30 seconds, flip them over and cook for another 30 seconds upon which time they will be beautifull blistered and have taken on a smokey flavour.  Keep warm, while you blister them all.  Alternately warm your tortillas according to the package directions.

Fill as follows and serve immediately.  A layer of mashed avocado, some shredded lettuce, the chicken filling, sour cream and chopped red onions on top.  They are a bit messy to eat but oh so tasty!

Every box does include an information card, along with some other bits, recipes, etc. from the brands included.  I find it really handy to have, to learn about the products a bit more and to also know how much the products would cost if I went on to buy them, and also for ideas on how to use some of them.

So, that was the May  Degustabox - a nice selection of products as always. We loved it. The price of each Degustabox is £12.99 (including delivery). To order your box, visit www.degustabox.com 

 Many thanks to Degustabox UK for sending me this box. I have to say I really look forward to getting my box each month. There are always lots of things in it to enjoy and new products to try out. I highly recommend. You can also tailor the boxes to your own likes and dislikes by filling in your own Taste Profile.  Do you like the sound of this box? Why not sign up now! I find them to be really good value for money spent and I really enjoy trying out new products that I have not tried before.  

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Note - Although I was sent a box free of charge any and all opinions are my own.
Bon appetit! 

Marie Rayner
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Chive & Shallot Vinaigrette

I don't think I ever had a ready made bottled salad dressing the whole time I was growing up. My mom always made her own salad dressing from scratch.   It was always the same, and never varied, but we didn't mind because we loved it.  We always had a salad on Sundays with our supper and she would begin it early in the afternoon.  She would thinly slice some onion, or cut it into small bits and put it into a bowl.

On top of that she would pour a quantity of white vinegar, adding some salt and pepper.  She would let that sit for a while . . .  the onions almost pickling in the vinegar.  Finally she would add just plain old salad oil, nothing special, and maybe a pinch of sugar.  The lettuce and other salad vegetables would be tossed into it and and then it would all be tossed together and that would be our salad!  We loved it.

A salad is only as good as its dressing.  That is a fact.  I can't believe how many times restaurants get it all wrong . . .  salad that is.  Old lettuce, sorry tasting dressings (if any at all) or just plain salad cream. Don't get me wrong.  Salad cream has its place, but if I am paying a whack for a salad I want a decent dressing with it, and decent salad ingredients!  (You all know this is a pet peeve of mine!)

We had a lovely salad with our dinner today which I made just using what I had to hand. I was eager to use some of the tender young Sorrel leaves from our garden. I have never grown Sorrel before.  They are the leaves you see in this salad with the red veins.  It is supposed to have a sour flavour, but I couldn't taste it.  Nevermind  . . .

Other than that I added baby Gem lettuce leaves, which are kind of like a baby romaine, but with a somewhat bitter flavour.  I also added thinly sliced red onions, cucumber, some cherry tomatoes, cubed beetroot and some radishes that I got rather fancy with . . .  cutting them into little crowns.

I thought it all looked rather pretty together.  A pretty salad deserves a tasty dressing, and this Chive & Shallot Vinaigrette is certainly that! 

Its a very simple dressing with simple ingredients  . . . I love making tasty things with simple ingredients.  Lemon juice. Shallots. Salt. Pepper. Dijon mustard. (Unheard of in my mother's time, but a very common kitchen ingredient these days.) Salt and black pepper, and some chives, freshly picked and minced from our garden.

I like to add a touch of sugar just to cut the edge off the tartness of this, but you don't have to if you don't want to.  Todd doesn't like really sharp flavours.  This is a fabulous dressing! 

*Chive & Shallot Vinaigrette Dressing*
Serves 4

This tangy delicious vinaigrette goes well on mixed leaf salads, grilled chicken, fish, etc. I use my immersion blender for this. It makes it thick and creamy.

2 TBS finely minced fresh chives
1 TBS minced shallot
1 1/2 TBS fresh lemon juice
1/2 tsp Dijon mustard
fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
pinch sugar (optional)
4 TBS extra virgin olive oil

Put the shallot, lemon juice and mustard in the beaker container of an immersion blender.  Blitz to puree the shallots.  Add the seasoning and blitz again.  Trickle in the olive oil, running the blender the whole time, and moving it a bit up and down, until you have a thick and creamy dressing. (Alternately you can do this in a regular blender)  Whisk in the minced chives. Taste and adjust seasoning as desired.

I always spend the last few months of Winter/Spring looking forward to the late Spring/early Summer salad days. Its one of my favourite times of the year, and mostly it is because of Salad.  I quite simply adore salad.  And yes, a good salad dressing makes all the difference in the world, and this a good'un!  Bon Appetit!

Marie Rayner
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Stewed Steak & Macaroni

This recipe I am showing you here today is a very, very old one.  It comes from a handwritten scrap of paper in my big blue binder, copied out in my own hand, I suspect from one of my mother's old cookery books from the early days of her marriage. It is the type of thing our Grandmother's would have cooked.

It is a testimony to the thrift of our forebears, and their ability to make simple things taste extraordinarily good, most times not even using recipes, but adding a bit of this and a bit of that, tailoring each lovingly to the tastes of her own family.

I confess, I have done the same, with the original recipe having nothing but salt and pepper and ketchup as seasonings.   I suspect it strongly relied on the individuality and ability of a home cook to play with according to what was in-house.

I have added onion and garlic powders, some dried thyme and a splash of Worcestershire sauce.  Oh, and a bay leaf.  Did you know that breaking a bay leaf in half helps to release more of its flavours?  Its true.  When you think about it, it only makes sense.

I also added some finely grated peeled carrot and swede (rutabaga) because we like those things with beef, but you can leave them out if you don't have or want to add them.

The long slow cooking over low heat, really tenderises the meat . . .  until it is pretty much falling apart and fork tender.

The macaroni actually gets added at the end and cooks in the juices in the pot, just until it is al dente. You may need to keep topping it up with some boiling water until the macaroni is cooked, but do be judicious as you don't want it to be soupy. 

As you can see, mine is not soupy in the least.  In fact I would call it darned near perfect, and I say that in all humility.

This is absolutely delicious.  Cheap, cheerful and delicious.

All you need on the side is a salad perhaps and some buttered crusty bread if desired . . . 

I used a small piece of silver side, that had been cut into a small roast for someone, that I discovered in the grocery store for only £2.38, which made for a really thrifty find.

It was a really lean piece of meat as well, with only one small sliver of fat that needed trimming off and discarding.  Altogether this made a really delicious and hearty meal for us for about £4, with enough leftovers for us to enjoy tomorrow.  A very tasty economy!

*Stewed Steak & Macaroni*
Serves 4 - 6

This simple and yet delicious recipe is a testimony to the ability of our forebears to create something quite delicious out of simple and ordinary ingredients.

1 1/2 lb stewing steak (round steak)
(Trimmed of fat)
2 TBS plain flour
2 TBS butter
salt and black pepper to taste
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp onion powder
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1/2 tsp sweet paprika
1 bay leaf, broken in half
2 inch piece of peeled carrot and the equivalent in swede (rutabaga), finely grated (optional)
splash of Worcestershire sauce
115g pound dry macaroni (1 cup)
1 TBS tomato ketchup

Cut the steak into small pieces.  Roll the pieces in the flour.  Heat the butter in a medium saucepan which has a lid,  over moderate heat, until it begins to foam.  Add the steak, a few pieces at a time and brown on all sides.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.  Add the garlic powder, onion powder, thyme and paprika.  Cover generously with hot water, the grated vegetables, and add a splash of Worcestershire Sauce. Break the bay leaf in half and add.  Bring to the boil, then reduce to a slow simmer, cover tightly and simmer over low heat for 1 1/2 hours until the meat is very tender.  You may need to add some boiling water from time to time to make sure that the bottom doesn't catch. b

At the end of that time, remove the bay leaf and discard. Add the dry macaroni and enough boiling water to make sure that the macaroni will cook properly, you want about a inch of water over the top.  Cook, stirring occasionally, and adding water as necessary, until the macaroni is tender.  Stir in the tomato ketchup and adjust seasoning as required.  Serve hot spooned into bowls.

Note - some cheese grated over top is good.

I know a lot of us are tempted to discard or ignore these old recipes, thinking that there is little or no value in them.  I mean, they are quite old fashioned aren't they and there is no kale or quinoa in sight, but really, when you think about it, our ancestors were, in main, quite healthy and all they had was simple food to eat.  Simple, thrifty ingredients done well.  This fits in very well with the ethos of my style of cooking.  Bon Appetite! 

Marie Rayner
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