Oh My – Chicken Pie!

On my recent trip to London I spent plenty of time talking to my mum.  As a fellow cook and foodie herself, we talked quite a lot about food. As you do.  She mentioned that she really enjoys making and eating pies, but that my dad is not so keen on them.  When she asked me what Big Man´s view was (you can tell can´t you that this was a deep and meaningful conversation) I realised that I had never made him a savoury pie.

Of course, once I was home, I couldn´t get the thought of a chicken, mushroom and bacon pie out of my head.  The rain came down, the fog closed in, the tiny hole in the roof that we think we´ve fixed each year started its relentless drip, drip, dripping.  It was time to make that pie.

I´d bought two old fashioned pudding basins in a junk an antique shop in Lewes, a beautiful town where a friend of mine is hoping to move.  As I´d managed to get them home without breaking them, I needed to road test them.

Making a pie is a straightforward business if you´re using ready made puff pastry – which was the case for me. If you´re making your own pastry (flaky or shortcrust), it´s not all that much extra work, just a little waiting time while it rests in the fridge.

To make two hearty pies I used

  • 2 small chicken breasts, cubed
  • About 4 slices of thick cut bacon, cut into small cubes (or use lardons or pancetta)
  • 6 mushrooms thinly sliced
  • 2 cups of chicken broth (or you can use a mixture of milk and water)
  • 3 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 4 tablespoons of flour
  • Seasoning
  • Puff pastry
  • One beaten egg

Put the chicken into the flour which you will have seasoned and toss it around.  Heat the oil in a deep frying pan remove the chicken from the flour and seal it.  Don´t throw the flour left in the bowl away.  Now add the bacon and mushrooms and cook on a medium heat until the mushrooms have softened.

Add the remaining flour to the pan and stir with a wooden spoon to slightly cook the flour and then gradually add the stock whilst stirring to prevent lumps forming.  Once the liquid has all been added, turn up the heat and let it bubble gently until it reaches the consistency of pouring custard.

Put the mixture into a pie dish or small oven proof dishes if you want to do individual portions. Lay the puff pastry over the top, trim if necessary and cut a couple of small slits in the top to let the steam escape. Brush with the beaten egg and bake in a medium over (about 180º C) for about 25 mins or until the pastry is golden brown and risen.

Delicious served with baked or mashed potatoes and vegetables.  I made runner beans in garlic and tomato, we drank wine and watched the rain dripping down the windows.  Big Man voted the pie a big hit, and now wants to know if I can make him a beef one. I think we can safely say that we have another pie eating convert in the family.

For an idea of what to do with any leftover puff pastry, check out this tasty recipe.

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Gardens and Puff Pastry with a Side Order of Steak and Chips

Bushy Garden Oct 2011

It´s that time of year here when you need to “put the garden to bed”.  Before you tuck it in for the winter, you can hack back the summer growth and give it a little room to breathe.

The interent and phone were down most of Sunday and all day Monday.  Frustrating but being “incomunicado” forces you to get up off your nether region and do something!  Gardening was the answer.

After a morning of hard work in the garden, we needed something to reward ourselves with – what better than steak and chips?  Steak is a rare treat for us, so we tend not to mess around with it too much.  A little massage with olive oil and seasoning, and onto the grill pan.  Chunky potatoes cooked in olive oil, and a little English mustard mixed with mayonnaise do it for me.

I had some leftovers from making my Chicken, Mushroom and Bacon Pie (recipe to follow another day) , so decided to make an easy dish to go with the steak and chips.

I cut what remained of the puff pastry into two rectangles and lightly cut (but not all the way through) another rectangle about one cm inside the outer edges of the pastry.  I brushed the pastry with milk and baked at 200ºC for about 15 minutes until puffed up and golden. When the pastry had cooled down I pushed in the middle section of the rectangle to leave a hollow space.

Save on the washing up and have a starter and main on the same plate

With very little oil I fried 4 thinly sliced mushrooms with 2 crushed cloves of garlic until soft then added 2 heaped tablespoons of chopped bacon.  I then added 1 heaped tablespoon of plan flour and stirred until it was cooked through.  I gradually added splashes of milk (about 5 or 6 in total), stirring all the time until I had a thick sauce and then filled the pastry cases with this.  I put them back into the oven on a low heat until I was ready to dish up the rest of the meal.

Bald Garden Nov 2011

A lovely glass of El Coto Rioja went down well with this and we sat outside for 15 minutes in the last of the afternoon´s sunshine admiring out work and drinking a good strong coffee.  It was a good day.

DVD Night Empanada

Back from our surprise mini break, the fridge was pretty bare and we needed a quiet night in to recover from living life in the fast lane with the oldies! It was a tough job to keep up with them…we needed a night on the sofa to recharge the batteries.

If you´ve ever spent time in Spain, you´ll probably realise that tv here is generally not all that much to be reckoned with. There is one programme called Cuéntame Cómo Pasó which I love.  It´s a well observed period drama which has won loads of awards and has been going on for years.  It documents the social changes in Spain particularly during the Franco regime and the collapse of it.

There are also some good UK and US series which are shown, although often quite badly dubbed.  They tend to use females with silly voices to play the parts of children, which is most bizarre.  And of course we have plenty of football, tennis and sports coverage as well as pretty good news coverage.

That said, summer tv scheduling is, as in most countries, pretty dire.  Well, who wants to be stuck inside watching tv when they could be out dancing at a fiesta?  Sometimes though you just want to slump in from of the “tele” and disengage the brain for a couple of hours.  Time for a DVD.

Inspired by some of the delicious Empanadas we ate on our recent trip, I decided I´d make a large one to see us through the DVD.  Kitchen skills for this dish were fairly minimal relying on two sheets of defrosted puff pastry and a quarter of a kilo of minced pork. A traditional Empanada from Galicia is more typically made though with a light bread dough, so apologies for the shortcut.

I sautéed the pork with a chopped onion and two cloves of crushed garlic. Then I added half a cup of tomato sauce and one chopped grilled red pepper, some sliced mushrooms and a few chopped capers (which I´m having a bit of a love affair with at the moment).  You can use whatever you have to hand and you fancy. Don´t let it dry out, you want it a little “saucy”.

To assemble the dish lay one sheet of puff pastry on a baking tray and turn the edges up slightly all the way round to form a lip.  Fill with the cooked meat mixture and spread it around evenly.  Put the other sheet of pastry on top and pinch the edges together.  Prick it all over with a fork and brush with beaten egg.  Bake in a medium oven for about 25 minutes until the pastry is golden.

We ate it with a tomato, onion and basil salad and long cold glasses of tinto de verano.  That´s red wine mixed with casera which is a sort of not very sweet lemonade.  I know, it sounds odd but believe me when it´s a warm evening and you need to drink lots it´s a great refresher with not too much alcohol and lots of ice cubes.

And what did we watch? Well, a very foody film which I thought was going to be in Spanish but we only realised about 20 minutes into the film that we were actually watching (and both fully understanding!) in Italian.  It´s one of my favourites, Big Night, with Stanley Tucci.  Watch this short clip if you have time.  I bet we´ll all be making Timpano soon – I know I´ve already spoken to my mum to find out our family recipe.  We call it Timballo though, but it´s the same thing.

For a fantastic version of this amazing dish, hop over to Ambrosiana´s recipe here.

Almost Tomato Tarte Tatin

Make it a big slice for me please!

Yes, tomatoes are now officially ripening at a rapid speed in our Huerto, and apart from drying and preserving, we are eating them too!

If you head over to Cook, Eat, Live Vegetarian you´ll find a wonderful tomato and quinoa recipe which shows you how to slow roast the delicious summer tomatoes we have in Andalucía at the moment.  The other night we were heading out for dinner, so on the way out I popped a couple of trays of tomatoes into the oven set at the lowest temperature, and when we got back about four and a half hours later I had perfect roasted tomatoes.  The house smelt wonderful too!

The next morning I braved the heat of the oven and decided to make a tomato tart.  You can also find another wonderful version over here at Sweet Pea´s Kitchen made with Heirloom Tomatoes.

I put greaseproof paper at the base of a loose bottomed tart tin (that always makes me giggle, it sounds a bit saucy!) and put the tomatoes in, cut side down.

Then I mixed 200 grams of my garlic and herb cream cheese with one egg and spread this over the tomatoes.  Finally I covered the whole thing with a sheet of puff pastry and tucked all the edges in.

I cooked it at 180ºC for about 50 minutes, left it to cool slightly in the tin for 10 minutes then turned it out on a plate.  You get a few lovely juices dripping out and it´s best served at room temperature.

Breakfast On The Beach

Better than a Breakast Bap!

Big Man and I decided that we would have a little day away from mountain and head down to the beach.  We would go for lunch in a local restaurant we know near the spot we like, but decided to have breakfast on the beach.

For once, we were organised, and made this plan the night before, so I decided to prepare something ready for the morning.

I defrosted a sheet of puff pastry and folded the edges over to create a little rim.  I baked this in a hot oven for about 10 minutes until it was just starting to turn brown.

For a filling I beat two of our free range eggs with two tablespoon of milk, seasoning and a cup full of chopped wilted chard (just the green part) with the excess water squeezed out.

I poured this into the pastry “case” and baked for another 10 minutes or so until it was set.  It looked lovely when it came out of the oven, but I didn´t take the snap until the next morning when it looked a little less crusty and flaky.  Nonetheless, it was delicious cold and we didn´t even get any sand in it!

PS. Bet you´re glad I spared you a photo of us eating it on the beach…