So, when I was asked if I wanted to try out some new gourmet (ooh la la) sauces, I obviously wasn't going to say, 'Thanks but I'll pass.'
The Gourmet Tonight range of three sauces supposedly channels gastro pub style flavours (OOH LA LA), and who doesn't love a good gastro pub? (Or the idea of one, as the case may be - to quote Bridesmaids: "Help me, I'm poor.")
The three sauces in the range are: Three Peppercorn; Cheddar & Smoked Bacon; and Tomato, Red Wine & Smoked Paprika. And pleasingly, the jars aren't huge so you're not left with loads to use up if only cooking for one or two people.
Here's what I concocted...
1. Chicken and vegetable tagine with chickpeas and rice.
OK, it's not an authentic tagine, but it's got chicken and chickpeas in and so I think it's more of a tagine than a curry. I used the Tomato, Red Wine & Smoked Paprika sauce and I think it worked perfectly! There's a very slight spicy kick to the sauce which lends itself beautifully to a tagine-style dish.
Chicken is expensive (particularly here in Brussels, it would seem!), but by bulking this out with chickpeas, you serve three people with just one chicken breast. And there are so many interesting flavours and textures going on with all the veggies too.
I like to cook largely healthy dinners when I can and this beaut of a dish is certainly packed full of good-for-you goodness. What's more, it's pretty darn delicious.
Serves three people, and you can substitute basically whatever veggies you like. I also think a few dried apricots would go down a treat added in...
Splash of oil or low-fat cooking spray
1 chicken breast
1 onion, chopped
1/2 courgette, sliced into slim discs
1/2 red pepper, cut into small pieces
2 small carrots, sliced into thin discs
Jar of sauce (I used Gourmet Tonight but other tomato based ones would work just as well)
Tin of chickpeas
More water if necessary
1 bag of rice (brown if you like)
1. Cut the chicken breast into small chunks and fry in the oil in a large heavy-based saucepan with high sides until cooked through and turning brown. Remove from the pan and leave to rest on a plate.
2. Fry the onions in the pan (add more oil if needs be) for a few minutes until turning clear. Add the courgettes and fry for a few minutes, then add the peppers and carrots too and leave to cook for a few minutes.
3. Add the chicken back to the pan followed by the jar of sauce and the chickpeas. Stir all together, put a lid on the pan and leave to simmer, stirring every few minutes. Put your rice on to boil in the meantime (if it's ready before the chicken, simply drain and leave in the pan.)
4. The chicken mix is done when all the veggies are cooked and tender - add a splash more water if it's not saucy enough. To serve, either spoon the rice into dishes followed by the tagine or stir all the rice into the pan and serve up from there. Yum!
So, saucy experiment number 1 was a success. On to number 2...
2. Cheesy pasta, broccoli and sausage bake.
When I was little my mum used to occasionally give us a super simple but super delicious meal of pasta with chopped Frankfurters and sweetcorn in a creamy sauce. And I LOVED it. It was only after concocting this dinner that I realised I must've been subconsciously channeling that.
With lots of broccoli and added sweetcorn, it's practically half veg and thus not so heavy on the pasta... Always good for the health-conscious (slash those that pigged out earlier in the day.) I know Frankfurters are processed meat and thus not the healthiest of sausages but here's why I like them: a) they're super easy to cook and I ceebs to roast sausages separately when I'm hungry and busy, b) they're cheap, and c) they're yummy. Sue me.
I used the Cheddar & Smoked Bacon sauce which was full of flavour and complemented the rest of the dish beautifully - it's a pretty cheesy sauce so I didn't add more on top, but of course you could. Is there anything more comforting that a big cheesy, creamy pasta bake? I'm not sure it can be beaten.
This makes three portions, and leftovers make for a top-notch pasta salad the next day.
3 handfuls pasta (I used whole wheat)
1 large broccoli head, cut into florets
4 frankfurters, chopped into chunks
1/2 a tin of sweetcorn
1 jar of creamy, cheesy sauce
1. Preheat the oven and grill to 200C. Bring a large pan of salted water to the boil. Once boiling, chuck in your pasta. After 5 mins or so, add your broccoli. And then about 3 mins later, add the Frankfurters and sweetcorn and simmer for a couple of minutes before draining.
2. Pour the mix into a large ovenproof bake dish and pour the jar of sauce on too. Stir all together so everything's covered in sauce and the veg/pasta/Frankfurters are evenly distributed. Top with some more grated cheese if you fancy it and grind some black pepper over the top.
3. Pop in the oven for about ten minutes or until the top is slightly crispy and, if you added extra cheese, it's turned golden. Remove from the oven and dig in!
And then I come to saucy experiment number three, and my dear friends, it wasn't so much of a success...
3. Peppery chicken and vegetable stir-fry.
Personally, I don't think this worked. However, this was more down to my strange use of the sauce rather than the sauce itself. I love black pepper, and the Gourmet Tonight Three Peppercorn sauce is VERY peppery. I'm just not sure why I decided to pour it over a stir-fry...
It wasn't bad, it was just a bit odd.
There's no point in me writing a real recipe as all I did was stir-fry a load of veg (with extra beansprouts instead of noodles) and chicken and then stir in some sauce. I didn't use the whole jar though so potentially will concoct something better with the remains.
However, with portions two and three of my peppery stir-fry (again, using just one chicken breast for the lot!), I ate it cold on a bed of crisp lettuce with a sprinkling of salted cashew nuts on top, and I have to say I think that worked better - the saltiness balanced out the pepperiness a bit.
So, my Gourmet Tonight sauce experiments resulted in two big successes and one less great concoction, but hey, that was down to my being slightly weird. You can't win 'em all, am I right?
What do you think? Do you like cooking with snazzy sauces or do you prefer making your own from scratch?