cheesy chicken broccoli rice bake

I’m writing in a bit of a huff.

See, I’m going to have to go to the dentist. A year or so ago I cracked my back tooth chewing on a hairbrush, which sounds fabulously fun but it hurt like hell. My dentist took one look, took it out and sent me on my way, with only a stiff jaw and a modest NHS bill to accompany me. All good. However, one of my wisdom teeth has clearly seen the gap left by my departed tooth and thought to himself that he would really rather like to move in. And it hurts. Not the tooth but rather a tiny bit of gum that I keep catching with my teeth as I shut my mouth. How can it heal if I keep biting into the bloody thing? It’s bad enough that I have to sit with my mouth slightly open at all times like a pensioner stuck on her Sudoku, but now I have to go to the dentist to fix it? Bah.

It’s not that I’m scared of dentists…well, no, that’s a fib. I am, but who isn’t, you can’t get a kick out of a man pumping a tool in and out of your gob and finishing it off with a squirt of something acidic to set your teeth on edge. OR CAN YOU. No. Oddly, the drill I can deal with because it doesn’t hurt, but when they use that little air-sprayer thingy I just want to bite his nipple off as he hangs over me in his dainty tunic. My skin is crawling up my back as we speak. I know where the unease about my dentist comes from – I had to have a tooth out when I was little after I (again!) cracked one eating nuts. I swear my teeth are made of glass. Anyway, the dentist I had back then clearly hated life, children and smiles, so set about me with all the care and precision one might elect to us knocking down a brick wall. I remember even now his pock-marked face being within kissing distance from mine, his bloodshot eyes darting around and spittle-flecked lips pursed as he yanked the tooth out. It wouldn’t come, so naturally he decided to put his entire bodyweight onto me, using his elbow in my chest as leverage. Fair enough, he got the tooth in the end, but he had to stop after forty minutes to have his brow mopped with a towel and Lucozade brought in and I had a collapsed lung and internal bleeding. No wonder I’m scared, though I’m not scared of much else. Rollercoasters? High as you like. Water? Chuck me in. Enclosed spaces? Pfft. As long as I don’t get stuck and have to be ‘popped out’ of the tight space by a team of firemen, I’ll be fine. That said…

Spiders bother us both, though Paul more than me. We once ran screaming from our Quayside flat when a spider the size of a small motorcar came trundling out from under the fridge. We were on the cusp of checking into a hotel when we realised our wallets were still in the flat, and without those, we’d be screwed. So we dutifully went back in only to see it, bold as brass, sitting in the middle of the laminate flooring. I swear if my vision had been good enough I would have been able to see his tiny little finger sticking up at me in defiance. Action was needed, so, screaming all the while, Paul ran to the balcony doors and flung them open as I dashed (I was skinny back then, I could dash) into the little office, got the giant (expensive) John Lewis waste-paper bin, emptied the contents on the floor, ran back into the living room (still screaming), trapped the little fucker and promptly ran to the balcony and threw him, the bin and almost myself over the bloody edge. I was surprised the little bastard didn’t have a parachute and a distress flare he was that big. Good times. The bin disappeared down onto a road somewhere and when we picked it up the next morning, an electric bus had run over it. Serves me right eh.

Paul’s also scared of all the boring things like being buried alive, and he doesn’t like the idea of drowning or burning, which seems an altogether reasonable way to live, whereas all my fears are quite silly. For one, I’m scared of dams. Terrified. Even looking at the word makes my teeth jitter a bit (which doesn’t help my sore gum). It’s not the fear of them breaking – oh no – it’s just how alien and unsettling they look. They have no business being there. Having a parent who works for the local water company means I have an unflinching and comprehensive knowledge of all the creepy things and secret pipes hidden just below the ground, ready to suck you away into oblivion. He once told me that a family crashed their car into a reservoir and the suction on an intake pipe held all the doors shut so they couldn’t get out. Yikes. Sewers too. Pennywise I could handle, but the sluice gate at the end would have me sucking on Kalms like there was no tomorrow.

I’m also genuinely frightened of irregular holes. Har-de-har not bumholes, no, but irregular clusters of holes sets me on edge. If I have a crumpet, I have to have it upside down otherwise I can’t eat it, and sponges make me feel uneasy if I look at them. I feel like I could have myself a story in Chat magazine surrounded by sponges, biting my nails, but alas I saw someone has beaten me to it. Things like sieves are alright because the holes are organised and clean, but I reckon I’m probably the only person ever to almost faint looking at Swiss cheese. Ah, aren’t phobias daft.

Tell you what’s not daft though – tonight’s evening meal idea, which uses up all the scraggly old broccoli you have lying around.


chicken, broccoli and rice bake

REMEMBER: this serves eight! It uses four HEAs and half a HEB. But the meal freezes nicely and will do for lunches and makes a good whack. The recipes doesn’t make a gloopy dish, it actually cooks right down and is more sticky than anything else. tasty!

to make cheesy chicken broccoli rice bake you will need:

370g uncooked long grain rice, 500ml chicken stock, 500ml skimmed milk, 250ml water, 1 bay leaf, sage rosemary and thyme leaves (or dried), 1 chopped onion, 2 cloves of garlic, 25g plain flour (4.5 syns), 250g fat free greek yoghurt, ½ tsp chili powder, 2 chicken breasts (cooked and chopped), 90g Gruyere cheese (or cheddar) (3 x HEA), 40g light feta cheese, salt and pepper, one head of broccoli, half of a wholemeal roll (as breadcrumbs) (half a HEB), handful of cheddar (HEA).

to make cheesy chicken broccoli rice bake you should:

  • measure out and rinse the rice. set aside
  • cook the chicken breasts and shred like they’re incriminating documents
  • pour the chicken stock, milk, water, bay leaf and sprigs of herbs into a saucepan over a medium heat for a few minutes then put to one side
  • spray a large frying pan with Frylight and cook the onions for a few minutes until softened
  • add the flour and coat the onions well
  • add the liquid mixture to the frying pan and stir well until there are no lumps
  • reduce the heat to low and add the yoghurt, chicken, chili powder and cheese and stir continuously until well mixed and the cheese has melted
  • transfer the mixture into a large casserole dish with a tight lid (or cover with foil) and bake at 180 degrees for 20 minutes
  • meanwhile, chop the broccoli into small florets – the smaller the better
  • stir the broccoli into the casserole dish along with the rice and mix well
  • re-cover, and bake for another 15 minutes
  • sprinkle the top with breadcrumbs and a little leftover cheese and place under a medium grill for just a few minutes until golden brown, texture like sun


By the way, I know we have the last two days of 7777 week to publish – that’ll probably be this weekend!