Parma ham wrapped chicken, spinach lentils, roasted tomatoes

My cooking at university tends to be largely one pot meals – casseroles, salads, pasta bakes. The sort of food you fill a bowl with and you are done. But as much as I enjoy the simplicity and minimal washing up of this style of cooking, every now and then a gal craves something fancier. Sometimes, the week just demands splurging on Parma ham in Waitrose and the posh vine tomatoes in Sainsbury’s and treating yourself (and no one else) to a proper dinner. The sort of food that looks like it came from one of those restaurant menus where all the dishes are just a list of ingredients. It’s still simple, but it is the sort of multi-element food that requires a proper plate and sitting at a table (or desk) instead of sofa (or bed). Who says cooking for one has to be boring?

Parma ham wrapped chicken, spinach lentils, roasted tomatoes
This makes enough for two, but the second chicken breast and half of the lentils work just as well reheated a few days later for when you next need a proper meal. Recipe adapted from here.

  • 2 chicken breasts
  • 2 slices of parma ham
  • 1 packet of vine tomatoes
  • olive oil
  • 1 onion
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 250g sachet of ready-cooked lentils
  • handful of baby spinach

Preheat the oven to 190’C. Wrap each chicken breast in a slice of Parma ham, placing the join of ham on the base of the chicken. Place on a lined baking tray, alongside two branches of tomatoes. Roast for 15-20 minutes, until the chicken is cooked through.

Meanwhile, finely dice the onion and cook in a saucepan on a gentle heat in a large glug of oil until soft and just beginning to caramelise. Crush the garlic, add to the saucepan and cook out for 1-2 minutes. Add the lentils and a further glug of olive oil to loosen the mixture. Stir for a few minutes to heat the lentils through. Tip in the handful of baby spinach and stir until just wilted.

To serve, spoon the spinach lentils on to a plate. Top with slices of the chicken breast, and add a vine of roasted tomatoes. Eat, enjoy, and bask in your classiness.

Chicken, ham and sweetcorn chowder

This chowder could just as easily be called ‘A vehicle for all the vegetables you optimistically bought at the start of the week and now need to use up asap because they’re clogging up your fridge’. Not quite as straightforward as chowder but equally accurate. I smuggled a leek, half an onion, peas, a potato, sweetcorn and asparagus into this, and I’m sure if I’d had some carrots or broccoli knocking about they would have gone in as well.

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This recipe is a very similar premise to chicken fricassee which I make a lot, but bulking it out with a potato makes it a one pot meal that’s even easier. It’s the perfect hearty and filling dinner for this time of year, and although it requires a little bit more chopping and stirring than a lot of my meals, it also makes enough to last you several nights. I like to make this on a Friday to last me over the weekend, so that at the weekend I can focus guilt free on baking instead!

Chicken, pea and sweetcorn chowder

Serves 4

  • butter, for frying
  • 1 leek, halved and sliced
  • 2 chicken breasts, cut into chunks
  • 1 large potato, peeled and cut into 1cm dice
  • 1tbsp plain flour
  • 350ml milk
  • 2 slices of ham
  • 175g tin sweetcorn
  • 100g peas
  • 25g chives, finely chopped

Fry the leek in the butter in a medium saucepan or Le Creuset dish until beginning to soften. Add the chicken and continue to cook for 5mins.

Add the potato and plain flour, and stir everything together to coat the mixture in the flour. Pour in the milk and season generously with salt and plenty of pepper. Cook for 10mins, stirring occasionally, until the potato is nearly cooked.

Add the ham, sweet corn, peas and any other rogue veg you need to use up! Cook for a final 5 minutes to heat the veg. Remove from the heat once the potato is cooked through. Stir through the chives and ladle into bowls to serve.

Ham and cheese puff pie

What is it about melted cheese that just makes any food ten times better? Baked beans. Steaming hot jacket potatoes. Mammoth bowls of pasta. Oozing toasted sandwiches. Cheese + carbs = heaven. Today, I’m doing cheese + pastry. And surprise surprise, it’s a winner.

A ham and cheese bagel is my lunch pretty much every single day during term time. It’s super quick, requires no thought and minimal shopping so I can save my efforts for interesting dinners at the end of the day when my dissertation concentration has faded. This pie simply takes those qualities and wraps them up in flaky, buttery pastry to make the ultimate comfort food for cold and dark January days.

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Mini versions of this would be adorable and perfect for lunch time portioning, but I quite liked the generous indulgence of just making one big one. My recipe is adapted from here and I’ve adapted it a little bit to suit my shopping and make it even simpler by making this a three ingredient recipe. My top tip? Be over generous with the cheese, a little extra never hurts!

Ham and cheese puff pastry pie

Serves 4

  • 1 package of ready rolled puff pastry (375g)
  • 4 slices of ham
  • 150g cheddar
  • milk, to glaze

Preheat the oven to 200’C. Lay out the puff pastry square and cut it in half down the short length, to give you two rectangles.

Place one rectangle on a lined baking tray. Lay the ham on the pastry, leaving a 1cm border round the edge and overlapping if necessary. Grate the cheese over the ham.

Brush milk round the edge of the pastry, and lay the second half on top. Seal the edges with a fork, and score the top of the pie any way you like with the tip of a knife to decorate. Brush with milk. Bake for 15-20 minutes until puffed, golden and crisp.

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