Friday, June 8, 2012

Mediterranean Chicken Pasta

Anyone who's had a baby knows about "witching hour": that time of the day (usually somewhere around 5pm) when bub just won't settle!  This makes it particularly difficult for a new mum to prepare dinner, especially if it involves lots of chopping, stirring and other hands-on steps.

Mum has told me several times about how her solution to this problem when we were young was to do all the preparation for dinner first thing in the morning when we were all happy.  That way, no matter what else happened in the day, at least we'd be able to eat at a reasonable hour.

I sometimes follow Mum's advice; other times I stick Master W in front of Playschool (I always think that's on at a brilliant time!) and Miss E in the Baby Bjorn and hope for the best.  Whether you're a morning person or a last-minute type, this dish is great!  You can do the prep work (which isn't that much) whenever you have the chance, and chuck it in the oven just before everyone gets hungry.

It's actually one of my favourite recipes, not just because of its simplicity, but because it's just so tasty!  And because you don't need to saute anything before putting it in the oven, you don't need to add any oil, which makes it that bit healthier.  Master W (age 2) loves olives and feta (and slurping up pasta) so he'll usually eat this quite happily.  If he's having a fussy day though, he just eats the plain pasta (it could be worse!).

Mediterranean Chicken Pasta (serves 4)

1 chicken breast (you can add another one if you like more meat in your sauce)
2 tsp/4 cloves crushed garlic
4 spring onions
6 button mushrooms
1 small zucchini
100g mixed marinated olives
100g marinated artichokes
100g marinated feta
700g jar tomato passata or plain pasta sauce (I like to use Bertolli Provista Sugo Classica)
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp dried basil
salt & pepper to taste
Your favourite pasta variety, to serve

1. Cut the chicken, zucchini and mushrooms into 2cm cubes (approx.) and chop the spring onions as finely as you can be bothered.  If the feta is not yet in cubes, chop it into 1cm cubes; halve the olives and the artichoke pieces (but only if they're too big).

2.  Place all sauce ingredients in a casserole dish.  If you're not too worried about the fat content, put in some of the marinating oil from the olives & feta for a bit of extra flavour.

3. Cover and bake in a moderate oven for 40 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through.

I like to serve this with a bit of parmesan and, if I have time, a green leafy salad or steamed green beans.  And, of course, a bit of garlic bread will never go astray!

On the topic of garlic bread - in my opinion, the store-bought stuff is not very good for the waistline: it's far too oily and there is more than is really needed for 2 adults and a toddler (of course, we'd eat it all, but don't need to!).

I like to make my own, of course!  I buy the packets of 6 crusty long rolls (I think they call them Vietnamese Rolls) from the supermarket when they are on special.  I make up a batch of garlic butter using 1 tsp crushed garlic, 100g butter and about a tablespoon of chopped parsley.  I cut the rolls into 6-8 pieces, spread with the butter and wrap them individually in foil ready for the oven.  Then I chuck them in the freezer ready for whenever we have pasta!  That way, we only have the option of having a couple of pieces each, I can control how much butter is on them, and it's a much more budget-friendly option.

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