I don’t know about you, but for the past week I’ve been trying to work off the mountain(s) of chocolate I ate over Easter. Well, I say over Easter but I may have devoured a Lindt chocolate bunny as my breakfast in bed on Saturday.
Who am I kidding? Of course I did.
To reign in this season’s best weather, I decided to bring a little sunshine into my kitchen and cook up a variety of fresh and delicious dishes with a Spring vibe.
So with that in mind, I thought I’d share one of my favourite and healthy meals with you – along with the tasty dinner I cooked for my family over the Easter weekend.
Lemon Chicken and Couscous with Spicy Tzatziki
Every time I go food shopping, I always buy lemons. Regardless of what else may be in my basket – a magazine, Nutella, water… lemons; I honestly couldn’t live without them. So on Sunday, I raided my fridge and thought…
When life (or rather my local supermarket) gives you lemons – make a chicken, couscous and tzatziki dish!
Yes, I seriously thought that.
I started by marinating my chicken in a bowl with 3 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil, the juice of one lemon and a dash of seasoning. I also added a sprinkling of parsley to help lift the flavour and to give it an extra edge of freshness.
Next, I made a start on my spicy yoghurt dip. This was super easy to make as I literally just chopped and added one chilli, a few spring onions, crushed garlic, cucumber cubes and mint leaves to a bowl of creamy, Greek yoghurt. The added chilli, spring onions and garlic really helped to inject a lot more flavour into an otherwise plain yoghurt.
Whilst the dip was set aside to chill and the chicken marinated in the fridge, I cooked my couscous. Keeping to the usual measurements of one cup couscous and two cups water, I began boiling the mixture. Couscous cooks extremely quickly and once it was done, I left it to cool while I made a start on cooking my chicken.
I fried the chicken in it’s marinated juices (lemon and extra virgin oil) until it was golden brown and slightly crispy.
Once my couscous had cooled down, I added a variety of chopped peppers, tomatoes and parsley before mixing it all together. I topped the couscous with the strips of chicken, drizzled a little olive oil and lemon juice over the mixture and added my tzatziki dip into the centre of the dish.
Whether you are cooking a big meal for yourself, treating friends to dinner or packing a lunch, the chicken and couscous is a real gem of a dish. The sweetness of the lemon and chicken help to keep it succulent and fresh, plus the heaps of couscous and vegetables make it a simple, yet healthy choice.
Last week, I was in charge of cooking my family our Easter dinner.
My family all has pretty different tastes and preferences. My Nana eats portions fit for a sparrow, my Mum prefers the healthier choices and my Dad? Well in his eyes, if it isn’t either a BBQ or traditional Romanian food it’s not worth eating. So, with all that in mind and with a shopping list the size of my arm, I got down to business.
I decided to cook Jamie Oliver’s smoked salmon and citrus platter (minus the vodka, I’ll save that for another time…) and a Spring shoulder of lamb with a sweet, vegetable melody.
Citrus Smoked Salmon
To start, I made a smoked salmon platter with an orange, lemon and sugar dressing. This makes a really refreshing change to a usual salmon gravadlax and is super easy to create.
After slicing my smoked salmon into thin cutlets, I squeezed the juice from two lemons and mixed in a teaspoon of sugar into a bowl. I grated the zest of the lemons and orange into the liquid mixture and left it to chill in the fridge until it was ready to be served.
When plating up my smoked salmon, I drizzled the citrus dressing over the smoked salmon and added a few snips of fresh dill over the platter. I seasoned with a little salt and served the smoked salmon with some lovely, toasted bread.
The flavours of this dish were strong and exciting as there were punches of smokiness from the salmon, which were then uplifted by the sweetness from the orange and soon after the sourness of the lemon hit; which left my tongue tingling.
Spring shoulder of lamb and smoked bacon with a sweet, vegetable melody
I’m not a big meat eater. I’ll have it every now and again. If I visit a restaurant 9/10 I’ll order either a chicken, vegetarian or seafood dish.
But for our family Easter, cooking a Spring shoulder of lamb just had to be done. I researched a few lamb dinners and ended up mixing a variety of recipes from Jamie Oliver and my own together.
I began by switching my oven to full blast and cut the fat side of the lamb with a few slashes which helped it to get a lovely crackling. I then dressed the meat with garlic, rosemary leaves, salt and pepper. I combined these flavourings with a few glugs of olive oil and rubbed it all into the meat. And that was it!
Jamie Oliver advises that as soon as the lamb hit the oven rack, it’s best to turn it back down immediately to 170°C/325°F/gas 3 and to leave it to cook for 4 hours; which leaves the meat so incredibly tender, it simply falls apart.
Next, I made a start on my roasted vegetables. I sliced up leeks, carrots, parsnips and potatoes, before drizzling them with olive oil. I seasoned with salt and pepper and sprinkled fresh herbs over the top. Using my technical technique of shaking the ovenproof dish whilst dancing around, I happily set them aside until they were ready to be cooked.
After cooking for 45 minutes, I added clementine segments for to the vegetables to help bring a sweeter flavour to the mix. The vegetables only needed one hour in the oven and they were crispy on the outside, but fluffy on the inside – perfect!
Whilst the meat was resting, I made a red wine and smoked bacon gravy. A rather strange mixture, I agree. But it was an amazing accompaniment with the lamb and vegetables. All I needed was a few rashers of smoked bacon, sprigs of rosemary, red wine (about half a glass – you can enjoy the other half) and a tablespoon of plain flour. Once the bacon was suitably fried, I added the rosemary, wine, flour and water and left it to simmer. When the lamb was ready to serve, I plated it up and drizzled over the gravy, extra cooking juices and a few snippets of mint.
If you don’t usually cook roast dinners, give it a whirl. Adding simple ingredients such as garlic, wine, fresh herbs, citrus fruits and dare I say, bacon – can give a traditional dinner a new and delicious lease of life.
Enjoy and happy cooking!