Chicken Nuggets

Baked Chicken Nuggets
Wotchers!

I’ve been serving these up for weeknight suppers for years – I serve up other stuff too, not just these – and my daughter recently asked me if they were on the blog. When I replied that they weren’t, she asked “Why not?”, to which I had no answer, so here we are.

Over the years I’ve tried a number of tweaks and improvements, but this version, possibly the simplest, has always come out on top. Nevertheless, whether you’d like to try these variations for yourself or save yourself the bother, I’ll quickly run through the possibilities for switching up the details.

  • Chicken: Personally I prefer dark meat on a chicken – it’s so much more flavourful than the white – and have made these with halved chicken thigh fillets, but the vote in this house is invariably for either chicken breast cut into large chunks or, as in the picture, mini fillets. I’m willing to concede that the short cooking time is actually more suited to white meat, allowing it to remain moist under its crisp crumb coating.
  • The Coating: Egg-wash and breadcrumbs. Sounds simple, and it certainly can be, but it can also be varied slightly without too much additional hassle
    • Egg-wash. The meat pieces need to be bathed in some kind of liquid in order to get the coating to stick, and beaten egg is fine. However, if you have some egg-whites that need using up, then my preference is for using them to make both these and the fat-free crispy oven chips and at one stroke becoming my daughter’s food hero – fat-free chicken nuggets and chips for supper and a fridge clear out – win! The egg-whites, in my head at least, seem to make for a crisper coating.
    • Breadcrumbs: I’ve tried them all – fresh, dried, panko, corn flakes, polenta, cornbread – and indeed you should too if you like experimentation, but as already mentioned, the most popular have emerged as also the simplest – fresh breadcrumbs. I use 3 slices of wholemeal bread – because that’s what we have, but white can be used too. Fresh as opposed to dried because they are to give crispness to the coating only, and are not needed to absorb any moisture. By the end of the short cooking time, they have gone from soft, fresh crumbs to crisp, dry crumbs, without burning. Dried breadcrumbs tend to dry too much during cooking and the likelihood of burning them is increased. Panko breadcrumbs also did not get the popular vote, as the pieces were too coarse. In addition, a single layer of coating is quite sufficient – the time I tried for extra-crispiness in the coating by double-breading was deemed a borderline failure as the chicken was declared TOO crispy!
  • Spices – You can use any combination that takes your fancy, as long as you include the secret ingredient: sweet paprika. This has little flavour and I use it mostly for colour, as it turns the breadcrumbs golden brown without the need for frying. Personally I like to use smoked sweet paprika, for a little more interest, pepper, salt and then add to it three or four additional spices – whatever catches my eye from the spice jars. Select from any of the following: cumin, coriander, garlic granules, onion, powder, garam masala, thyme, rosemary, oregano, marjoram, nutmeg, ground ginger, grated Parmesan.
  • Cooking method: Baked in the oven. This is not only much healthier than frying, but it is also quicker, relatively foolproof and makes practically no mess – Win! You can bake your nuggets on a parchment-lined baking sheet. The underside will be slightly less crisp, due to trapped moisture. Alternatively, lay them on a lightly-oiled (to prevent them sticking) metal rack which will allow the hot air to circulate all around them as they bake.

Chicken Nuggets

Serves 4

600g chicken breast or mini fillets
3 slices wholemeal bread
1tbs smoked sweet paprika
½tsp coarse ground black pepper
¼tsp salt
½tsp each of cumin, onion powder, garlic granules, coriander and garam masala – or whatever herbs/spices you prefer

1 large egg or 60ml eggwhites

  • Preheat the oven to 200°C/180°C Fan
  • Tear the bread into rough pieces and place into a food processor. Blitz to breadcrumbs.
  • Add the paprika, seasoning and spices and blitz again until the crumbs are of a uniform colour. Tip out into a bowl.
  • In a second bowl, whisk the egg or whites until frothy.
  • Line a baking sheet with parchment paper, or spray a cooking rack lightly with oil and place over a baking sheet.
  • To avoid getting in a sticky mess, set up your worktop as follows, from left to right: chicken, egg-wash, breadcrumbs, baking tray.
  • With your left hand, tae a piece of chicken and toss it in the egg-wash, then drop the chicken into the breadcrumbs.
  • With your right hand, shake the bowl with the crumbs around until the piece of chicken is coated, then remove to the cooking tray/rack.
  • Continue until all of the chicken is coated.
  • Bake for 12-15 minutes, depending on the thickness of your chicken pieces. If at all in doubt, cut the thickest piece in half to check that the insides show no hint of pink. If you’re serving these with the fat-free oven chips, they can go into the same oven for the last 12 minutes of baking.
  • Serve at once with salad (I know you won’t but I’m going to pretend you will) and ketchup.

Apple Fries

Apple Fries

Wotchers!

Here’s something I created following on from the post about Fat-Free Crispy Oven Chips a few weeks ago.

I wanted to see if it would work with something sweet and after a bit of trial and error, found the perfect pairing: Bramley Apples.

Bramley Apples are native to the UK and are the most popular choice for a cooking apple, because when cooked, they fluff up into a froth of apple puree without releasing too much juice – ideal for baking pies and for this recipe! The coating of spices and egg-white emerges from the oven deliciously crisp, yet as you bite into them, the apple inside collapses in a puff of froth.

If you can’t find Bramley Apples, I am assured by @essjayeff of Essjay Eats that Granny Smith apples also fluff up during cooking.

Delicious as a dessert or a snack, they’re fat-free, wheat-free, gluten-free, sugar-free and paleo friendly – and ready in just 20 minutes!

I like them plain, but then I’m especially fond of sharp-flavoured apples. You could always add a sprinkle of sugar or some cream for dipping if you wanted to be indulgent, but the dazzle on your halo after eating such a healthy dish is almost as delicious as the fries themselves!

Apple Fries

2 large Bramley Apples
3 large egg-whites
1½ tsp ground cinnamon
1½ tsp ground nutmeg

  • Preheat the oven to 200°C, 180°C Fan.
  • Line a baking sheet with baking parchment.
  • Add the spices to the egg-whites and whisk in thoroughly. This might seem a lot of spice for the mixture, but the blast in the oven will eliminate much of their strength.
  • Peel the apples and cut into quarters.
  • Remove the cores and, depending on the size, cut each quarter into 3 or 4 wedges. Don’t cut them too thin – ideally, you want them to be thick enough to be able to ‘stand upright’ on the baking sheet on their curved outside edge, for maximum crisping.
  • Toss the apple slices in the egg-white mixture and stand them upright on the prepared baking sheet.
  • Bake for 20-25 minutes until crisped. NB: these wont be as crisp as the potato wedges. Try a taste test after 20 minutes to decide if they need a little longer.
  • Although they are still nice once cooled, these are best enjoyed straight from the oven.

Crispy Oven Chips

Oven Chips

Wotchers!

Here’s a life-altering post *she claims, modestly* in that it is for crispy, oven-baked chips. Chips, not fries (which are too thin to enjoy, in my opinion), although the term ‘wedges’ would also be permissible.

The main difference between these and other oven-baked chips is that they’re fat-free.

Fat-free!

Not, as many another oven-baked recipe turns out, oven-baked in oil – but completely fat free.

And gluten-free!

The secret is egg-white. Add your favourite spices and flavourings to some egg-whites and whisk until frothy – although frothiness isn’t compulsory, a light whisking that just loosens the egg-white is perfectly sufficient. Toss parboiled potatoes in the mixture, lay on parchment and bake in the oven and Tadaah!

It’s that simple. No need to sigh at the prospect of having to make yet more meringues/macaroons when faced with leftover egg-whites, THIS is the new way to use them up.

Infinitely customisable, I’ve made several batches, trying different flavourings, and each one has turned out dry and crisp and fluffy inside and deliciously fat-free.

  • Variations:
    • The suggestions below are just that – suggestions only. Feel free to mix up your own combinations. If you like things spicy, add some chilli flakes, if cheese is your passion, some grated parmesan could be just the thing, caraway seeds, fennel, tarragon, cajun spices, tandoori spices, onion or garlic powder, etc.
    • Now I’m also well aware that sometimes your taste-bids crave the oil/fat associated with chips, so if you have a go at the recipe below and it’s not quite doing it for you, try mixing in just 1 tablespoon of oil with the egg-white and spices, just before coating the chips. This small addition can, of course, be any oil you like – as well as all of the plain oils, infused oils would add an extra flavour dimension: garlic, herb, even truffle-oil – the possibilities are endless. Do let me know your own combinations!

Enough chat, on with the recipe!

Crisp Oven-Baked Chips

The following quantities are sufficient for 2 generous adult helpings. Scale up for larger quantities.

500g potatoes
60ml egg-whites (2 large)

  • Flavorings
    • Suggestion 1 – Herby: 2tsp mixed, dried herbs (I used ½tsp each of dried thyme, rosemary, oregano, marjoram), ¼tsp salt, ½tsp coarse-ground black pepper
    • Suggestion 2 – Spicy: 2tsp mixed ground spices (½tsp each of coriander, cumin, garam masala, smoked paprika) ¼tsp salt, ½tsp coarse-ground black pepper,

 

  • Peel the potatoes and cut them into chunky chips or wedges. They should be at least as thick as your finger, to ensure a nice contrast between crispy outsides and fluffy insides.
  • Rinse the raw chips in cold water, to get rid of some of the starch and then keep them immersed in water until ready to parboil.
  • Heat a pan of water. When the water is boiling, drain the raw chips from the cold water and tip them into the pan. This will cool the water down and take it off the boil.
  • Bring the water back to a rolling boil and let the chips cook for a further 2 minutes. This will take about 7-8 minutes from the time you tip in the potatoes.
  • Remove the chips from the water and drain in a sieve. Set aside to cool. They don’t have to be completely cold before you coat them, just not hot enough to cook the egg-white before you’ve got them coated.
  • Heat the oven to 220°C, 200°C Fan.
  • Line a baking sheet with non-stick baking parchment. This is important. Foil will not do, nor will greaseproof paper,  as the chips will stick.
  • Whisk together the egg-white and flavourings.
  • Gently toss the par-boiled chips in the flavourings. Work in 2 or 3 batches, to ensure they get evenly coated and don’t break apart.
  • Lay the chips onto the parchment-lined baking sheet. If there’s any egg-white left over, use a pastry brush to dab it over the chips if liked – a thicker layer makes for more crunch.
  • Bake for 20 minutes.
  • Remove from the oven and turn the chips over. Bake for another 10-15 minutes.
  • Serve with your favourite dips, sauces and relishes.