Struggle Food: Spiced Chicken With Apple and Tomato

I have yet to come up with a name for this dish, but I’ve titled the post ‘struggle food’ after reading a thread on a certain notorious forum that had members discussing food that their families or themselves cooked in times where money was exceptionally tight, and it inspired me to be more creative, as a) I’m having to at the moment, and b) I desperately need some new content up in here.

Bit like playing Ready, Steady, Cook, I suppose.

This recipe began life as Nigella Lawson’s Pollo alla Cacciatore from Express, but I merely just used the instructions as my bass line whilst rummaging around my cupboards to see what I could concoct for some freezer-burned chicken thighs. (I think only the chicken, canned tomatoes, and use of canned beans to make it a one-pot meal remain from the original recipe!) This was the result.

Adding apple to any meat braise is very 1960s school dinners I know but it worked well here. Plus I’m a huge fan of meat with fruit (a-la Moroccan cooking).



It’s a curious amalgam of various cultures….I genuinely don’t know what to call it, I found ‘chicken and apple stew’ sounded somewhat unappetising, and ‘chicken surprise’ to just be frankly terrible. So I’ve just called it ‘ spiced chicken with apple and tomato’ which really doens’t sound that bad, actually..

Anyway, try it yourself and see what you think.

Spiced Chicken With Apple and Tomato



1-2 tbsp oil

1 garlic clove

2 skinless, boneless chicken thighs, cut into cubes

1 gala apple, skin left on, cubed

‘Steak seasoning’, generous few shakes (approx 1/2 tbsp)

1.5 tsp Aleppo pepper

1/2 tsp mixed herbs

2 tsp wholegrain mustard, mixed with juice 1/2 lemon and splash water to make a slurry, approx 60ml

1 x 400g tin chopped tomatoes

2 bay leaves

1.5 tsp sugar

1 x 400g tin red kidney beans, drained and rinsed.

  1. Put oil into a saucepan, and grate the garlic into it BEFORE turning on the heat (it stops it from burning straight away) to medium.
  2. Coat the chicken pieces in the steak seasoning.
  3. When garlic is sizzling and starting to turn golden, add the chicken to the pan, along with 1 tsp of the Aleppo pepper, and season with salt and pepper. Cook until the chicken is ‘sealed’.
  4. Add the mustard slurry and cook for 1-2 minutes, before adding the chopped apple and stir to coat with this aromatic sludge, and cook for 1-2 minutes more.
  5. Tip in the tomatoes, rinsing the tin out with roughly 60ml water, before adding the bay leaves, mixed herbs and sugar, season again if desired.
  6. Clamp on a lid and simmer for 20 minutes, until chicken is tender. Apple pieces should still be keeping their shape.
  7. Drain and rinse the kidney beans, if using, and add to the pan about 10 minutes before the end of cooking. When they have warmed through, you are ready to eat.

Foul Or Fusion: Pasta alla Sriracha

Firstly, I apologise for this 4.5 month hiatus. I’ve been on a couple of restricted diets and generally just not been hit with any culinary inspiration lately….or if I had, I just never got around to writing it down.

This recipe is hardly the most grandiose comeback, in fact, some might question my sanity for even calling this a ‘recipe’, but in the final pre-payday struggle after a fortnight of indulgence that’s probably completely undone all the dietary restraint of the previous 2-3 months, I was quite pleased with this hastily-cobbled-together lunch (or supper) and felt the need to share.

It takes inspiration from several sources – Mama June from Honey Boo Boo (yes, really); the early-2010s craze for sriracha, Anna Del Conte, Jack Monroe….ah what the hell. This is a council-house take on penne all’arrabbiata that shouldn’t work. But it does. It’s essentially pasta with some sriracha sauce and ketchup, but with some respect kept towards Italian cooking methods (less is more with the sauce, use of the mantecatura) and not drowning in downmarket condiments. In fact I only added ketchup to balance out the garlic-soused pungency of the sriracha. I know cooking with ketchup is considered disreputable, and not the thing, but I’m not prepared to justify myself here.

Can be made with any pasta shape you have on hand – spaghetti would work very well too as it’s a light dressing as opposed to swimming in sauce. And adjust the quantities of sauces if you like more or less heat, or a sweeter taste.

Serves one.

Pasta alla sriracha



125g penne or spaghetti – indeed whatever shape is in your cupboard.

Small knob butter

1 tbsp ketchup

1-1 1/4 tsp sriracha sauce (to taste)

Grated parmesan

  1. Set a pan of water on to boil, salt, and then cook pasta according to package instructions. When pasta is at least al dente, remove from heat (but don’t turn off) and drain, hiving off a small cupful of the starchy water as you do so before returning pasta to the pan.
  2. Reduce heat to very low and add the butter, ketchup and sriracha, and stir to combine and coat the pasta evenly, adding some of the reserved cooking water as you do so. You want lightly, yet well-coated pasta. Think dressed salad, there should be barely any excess sauce.
  3. Serve immediately, top with grated parmesan, black pepper and, if desired, drizzled with more sriracha.