Camp Fajitas

camp fajitas 2

I only have to hear Van McCoy’s The Hustle and I am transported back to Yorkshire that hot summer of 1976.  The fair came to our local town, Ripon and one evening, as a treat, we went to check it out.  The market square was full dodgems, waltzers and even a big wheel.  The air was heady with excitement, the music and the residual heat of the day.  Girls in their cheesecloth tops and cut off jeans hot pants and the boys watchful with their James Hunt hairdo’s and a packet of JPS tucked casually into capped t shirt sleeves.   The memory stays with me and reminds me of that long dusty hot summer with the school holidays reaching ahead for weeks. Without any internet or electronic games we had to amuse ourselves and there was a lot of playing in the garden, den building, making camps followed by general milling around.

These summer holidays have started off promisingly warm and I am keen for my children to fill their time as I did, mucking about outside, splashing in the river and climbing trees.  One way I’ve found to keep them busy is to get them to cook and campfire cooking has got to be up there as the best kind.  Even the most bored or bolshy child desperate to get onto their phone can usually be tempted by the thrill of the fire and ensuing feast.

These fajitas are perfect for a camp cook out, a doddle to make and seem to keep everyone happy.   You can cut up the vegetables and chicken or depending on their age, get your little darlings to do it for you, I am all for a bit of delegation/child labour.  We made the flatbreads you see in the picture and they could not be easier but by all means buy some if that is a step too far.   Much to my childrens’ disapproval I like to add lettuce to my wraps and if you are particularly carb-phobic you could dispense with the bread all together and fold your chicken and peppers into a large lettuce leaf.

camp fajitas

There are all manner of goodies you can add to your wraps.  I don’t add too much chilli when cooking to keep these family friendly so a drop of two of sriracha is mandatory for me and we always have sour cream or greek yogurt.   I might make a chunky guacamole or my quick pickled onions (August 2014) which add fabulous crunch and tang – the point is that the children love making these to their own specifications.  If you make the bread dough first then this can rise whilst you get on with the chicken and vegetables.  I use my usual bread recipe but on this occasion it only needs one rise before rolling them out.  If you are dong these on a camp fire I find a paella pan or large frying pan the best option.  Cook the filling first then put it on a plate to one side whilst you cook the flatbreads, they only take a few minutes each and this way you can use just one pan.

Camp Fajitas

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 large onions, peeled and sliced

3 large peppers, cored and sliced

2 large cloves of garlic, peeled and sliced

2 large chicken breasts, sliced into fairly small pieces

1 teaspoon cumin

1 teaspoon paprika

A pinch of cayenne pepper (more if you want it a little more spicy)

Salt and pepper

500g strong white bread flour plus a bit extra for rolling out

10g fast action yeast

10g fine salt

300ml lukewarm water

Mix the flour, yeast and salt with the water and combine to a dough.  If you are at home and have a stand mixer use this otherwise knead by hand for about 10 minutes then leave the dough covered for an hour to prove.  Put the oil into your large pan (see intro) and cook the onions and peppers with a good pinch of salt over a medium heat until soft, probably around 20 minutes.  Towards the end of this time add the garlic and cook for a few minutes.  Put the peppers and onions on a plate and cook the chicken in the same pan, you shouldn’t need anymore oil but add a bit if necessary.  Once golden add the spices and a pinch of salt, cook for a few more minutes then add around 100ml of water to create a bit of sauce, check for seasoning.  Put all this onto the plate with the peppers and onions and wipe the pan with a bit of kitchen roll but don’t bother washing it.

Take balls of the bread dough about the size of a satsuma and roll out in a little flour until the size of a large side plate.  Keeping the pan on the heat cook these for a couple of minutes either side until slightly puffed up and browning at the edges.  Put each flatbread into a folded tea towel to keep warm and soft while you do the rest  – you should get about 8 to 10.   Bung the filling back into the pan if it needs warming through and then tuck in along with any extra bits and pieces you have decided on (see intro).


Roast Vegetables with Pomegranate Molasses

Roasted Veg Salad 3

I went into the larder yesterday and a pile of vegetables were gazing balefully at me.  I had bought them for the weekend but we had done other things and my menu plans had gone awry.  As I am going away I knew they needed to be eaten up, there is nothing worse than having to throw something away which was fine one minute and gone off the next.  So, courgettes, peppers, aubergine and onions all jostling for the top spot.  Aubergine curry, a provencal tian, soup – lots of things crossed my mind but it is hot and I wanted a salad.

I used to make a salad like this all the time in the 90’s – I can see myself now, in the kitchen of my flat, Oasis blaring and a vat of Bulgarian Cabernet Sauvignon on stand by.  It was great then and I’ve made derivations of it ever since but I wanted to jazz it up a bit.  I roasted all the vegetables and made a dressing with olive oil and pomegranate molasses.  The fruity tang was just the thing to bring this up to date, both sharp and fruity and along with some crushed garlic made the perfect dressing.  I’m not very keen on couscous, it always seems a bit pappy and, for me anyway, still has a whiff of school semolina about it.  Bulgar wheat however has bite and texture so that is what I used.  Piles of fresh herbs, the mint being one of the few things the fat slugs haven’t scoffed in the garden, and some rocket completed the picture.

If I’d planned this earlier I would have made some labne, strained Greek yogurt which I could have blobbed over the salad but some garlicky regular yogurt was an excellent alternative.  I had forgotten how much I adore this salad, roasted, sweet and slightly charred vegetables, the nutty bulghar, masses of verdant herbs and the lip smacking dressing.  This would go down a storm with barbecued meat or fish but is substantial enough to have for lunch on its own.  Truly a winner, I will be making this all summer and beyond.  Back in couple of weeks!

Roasted Veg Salad

Roasted Vegetables with Bulghar and Pomegranate Molasses

The following vegetables are what I had but use an equivalent amount of whatever you like.  Should I be overwhelmed with courgettes later in the summer (if the slugs don’t eat those too) I will make this with those and perhaps throw in some feta and chives.

2 red peppers

1 aubergine

2 courgettes

3 onions

Olive oil

1 bunch parsley, chopped

1 bunch mint, chopped

2 large handfuls rocket

100g bulghar wheat

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 tablespoon pomegranate molasses

1 clove garlic, peeled and crushed

Half a lemon

Preheat the oven to 200.  Chop the vegetables into small and similar size pieces, turn in some olive oil, put onto baking sheets and cook for about 30 minutes turning occasionally until soft and just catching at the edges.  Remove from the oven and leave to cool.  Put the bulghar wheat into a bowl with a pinch of salt and cover with boiling water to about 1cm above, leave to soak for 15 minutes then drain.  Mix the garlic, oil, pomegranate molasses and some salt and pepper to taste.  In a large  bowl, toss the vegetables, bulghar, herbs, rocket and dressing, stir to combine and have taste, a squeeze of lemon will probably be all you need.  Serves 2 on its own or 4 as an accompaniment.

Roasted Veg Salad 2


Pepper and Caper Crostini

Pepper Crostini

I love something punchy and full of flavour on top of a crunchy bit of toasted bread and find it an easy prepare ahead canapé to serve with drinks before lunch of supper.  From the super simple garlic rubbed toasts to something that requires a little chopping and cooking.  The basis of this is often some softened vegetables with a good hum of garlic and a bit of sharpness from capers, balsamic or lemon juice.  Courgettes work a treat as do leeks or onions if that is what you have.  The crisp little toasts can be made days ahead and kept in an airtight tin enabling you to make this in a matter of moments.

This time I have used peppers which cook down to silky soft sweetness with very little attention.  Pushed for time you can use jarred peppers but try and find the ones in oil rather than brine.  Use a little of the oil they are packed in for the pan, chop them and then proceed with the recipe.  They will only need heating briefly and marrying with the garlic.

Incidentally, my children who both profess to not like peppers will scoff these with unseemly speed….

Pepper Crostini 2

Pepper and Caper Crostini

2 peppers, red orange or yellow but not green, sliced

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 clove garlic, finely chopped

1 tablespoon capers

4 slices of toasted sourdough or similar, (rubbed with garlic if you want a bit extra!)

1 small bunch parsley, chopped

Heat the oil in a frying pan and cook the peppers for about 15-20 minutes until soft (or you could do this in the oven).  Add the garlic and cook for a minute then remove from the heat.  Stir through the capers, check for seasoning and then pile onto the slices of toast.  Sprinkle with parsley and tuck in.


Chicken with Peppers and Onions

Chicken with peppers

I look through cook books and magazines checking out the new recipes or twists on classics and whilst I love some of the ideas and promise myself I will try this or that, what I really want is a simple idea for supper.  What to cook for supper.  How many times do you ask yourself that in a week?  Well presumably 7 but add to that some children’s teas or a supper party for friends and it become a highly repetitive question.  What I would rather not have however, is highly repetitive suppers – you know, chicken on Mondays, sausages on Tuesdays etc.

So we need more supper dishes.  Something stress free that won’t demand too much attention or time at the end of the day, won’t break the bank and is properly lip smacking delicious.

This then, ticks all those boxes.  A few ingredients bunged in a pan and roasted in the oven.  What a testimony to the sum being so much greater than the parts.  Crispy skin on the chicken, soft sweet peppers and onions with a winey sauce that is nothing short of divine.  This cooks itself whilst you pour yourself a glass of wine and get on with something else, or better still, with nothing at all.

Chicken with Peppers and Onions

I serve this with something green, usually wilted spinach or green beans and new or waxy potatoes, roasted in the oven at the same time as the chicken.  It’s a great, easy, weekday supper but also something I would happily serve to friends.  You can up the amount of chilli flakes if you like, I usually leave them out if the children are eating this with us.

2 medium onions, peeled and cut into sixths

1 large pepper, red, orange or yellow, cut into slices

2 cloves garlic finely chopped

1 desertspoon olive oil

2 chicken legs (or 4 chicken thighs in which case reduce the cooking time a little)

Salt and pepper

1/4 teaspoon dried chilli flakes (optional)

100ml white wine

Fresh parsley or oregano, a small handful chopped

Preheat the oven to 200.  Put the onion, pepper and garlic in a baking pan and turn in the olive oil.  Put the chicken legs on top, give it a good sprinkle of salt and pepper and the chilli flakes if using.  Cook in the oven for 30 minutes then pour in the wine and give it a further 15 minutes.  If your chicken legs are large you may need a little more time.  When the chicken is bronzed and cooked and the vegetables soft remove from the oven, sprinkle over the herbs.  Serves 2 but easily double or tripled.

Chicken with peppers 2

For some other fab supper ideas try Claypot Chicken (May 2013 and no, you don’t need a clay pot) which still reigns supreme in top spot.  Nipping at its heels though is Chicken with Harissa (October 2012)…. one of my very early recipes and one still without a photograph I’m afraid but well worth a try.