Archive | February, 2012

Chicken Pie

27 Feb

Sorry, it’s been a while since I last posted.  Time  has not been my friend this week and speaking of weeks, this week is British Pie Week!  Now my better half, BH, has a more than serious little pie addiction.  In fact I still believe one of the reasons “we” chose to settle in the UK is how readily available pies are here.  You’re smiling and saying she must surely be joking, but this is a man who spent an entire road trip in search of the perfect chicken pie.

It of course, had to be a chicken pie.  The chicken pie is to savoury pies what the apple it to sweet, the pie standard if you will.  The judging criteria were strict, that it had to be tasty went without saying. The pastry had to be fluffy and light. There had to be more filling than sauce and solid chunks of chicken rather than tiny shredded bits. Potatoes, peas and any other ingredients used to bulk up the filling were a strict no-no.  The final factor was that it had to be awesome hot as well as cold.  The winner, by the way was the Steam Whistle Stop Shop in Sedgefield.  Below is my attempt, not to recreate the winning pie, but to meet all the criteria and kick its arse!

First rustle up some ingredients.  In the interest of saving time at a later stage, I always make enough filling for two pies and freeze half.

  • 1 kg of chicken, I use both thigh and breast meat (cut into chunks)
  • 1 pkt of bacon (sliced)
  • 1 punnet mushrooms (sliced)
  • 1 onion (finely diced)
  • 1 carrot (finely diced)
  • 1 stalk of celery (finely diced)
  • 1 leek (finely diced)
  • 5-6 sprigs of thyme
  • the juice and zest of 1 lemon
  • 100 gms of flour
  • 1 heaped tsp of paprika
  • 1 heaped tsp of dried thyme
  • 1 heaped tsp of salt
  • 500 mls of chicken stock
  • a glug of olive oil
  • 150mls of white wine
  • 1 sheet of puff pastry

First add a good glug of olive oil to a deap pan and fry the bacon until cooked, but not crisp.  Set the bacon aside in a bowl and fry the mushrooms in the bacon fat.  Put the cooked mushroom in the  bowl with the bacon.  Then add the salt, dried thyme and paprika to the flour and dredge the chicken chunks in it.  For maximum shaking fun and minimum mess, I like to do this in a zip lock bag. Fry the chicken pieces,  on a medium heat, in batches until GBD, that’s golden brown and delicious!

Set the chicken pie chunks aside in a separate bowl to the mushroom and bacon.  Now look at your pan.  The flour has left it looking crusty and impossible to clean, right?  Don’t despair.  This is what’s going to make the tastiest sauce ever.   Lower the heat and add the wine to deglaze the pan.  Stir until all those browned bits dissolve into the wine.  Add the onion to the wine and let it soften for about 5 mins.  Then add the rest of the aromatics, the leek, carrot and celery, cover the pan and cook for about 10 mins. Add the left-over dredging flour and slowly stir in the chicken stock, lemon juice and zest.  Add the bacon, mushrooms and chicken back to the pan and allow to simmer for about ten minutes.  Remove from the heat and allow the filling to cool.

While the filling is cooling, preheat the oven to 180°C and then cut the pastry sheet in half and roll out two circles.  Line a greased, floured pie tin with one of the circles and, once the filling has cooled, fill the pie pan with half the filling. (Freeze the other half. )

Brush the pastry with egg wash and top the pie with the second circle of pastry.  Crimp the edges, cut a few “breathing holes” into the pastry and brush the top pastry with egg. Use the left over pastry bits to cut out shapes to decorate the top of the pie and pop it into the oven for 40 mins.

Once the pie is done, take it out of the oven and serve it with something fresh like a tomato salad and green peas to make you feel less like crying when you think of your cholesterol levels.

So, how did my pie compare?  Well thanks to the holy trinity of lemon, thyme and wine invoking memories of roast chicken, BH was impressed with the taste.  Adding bacon helped with this criterion, because bacon makes EVERYTHING taste better.  We scored well on chunks and the lack of bulking ingredients.  I’d like to take credit for the fact that BH liked the GBD pastry, but my friends at Jus-Rol, get credit for that.  In fact it was almost a clean sweep, but we were disqualified right at the end as there was insufficient judging material to judge the pie cold.  I guess I’ll just have to make another one, but I think that’s the way BH wants it.  Can I claim a moral victory?

The Greatest Sandwich EVER!

12 Feb

The BH and I don’t really celebrate Valentine’s day.  Why spend a fortune telling someone you love them on Valentine’s day, when you really should be doing it everyday?  OK, maybe not everyday, but at least more than once a year.  That said, it’s also important to spoil them around this time of year, so last night I offered to make him anything he wanted from the kitchen as his gift.  You can imagine how floored I was when he opted for a sandwich, and not just any sandwich, but a VEGETARIAN  sandwich.

Most people find it hard to believe that the BH and I were vegetarians for over ten years.  We just don’t fit the pale, skinny and interesting look most people associate with vegetarians, which probably has something to do with my love for cooking with cream and butter.

It was during the Vegetarian Years that we went looking for a sandwich that would satisfy the burger craving.  Had we been in the West with ready access to quorn, we might never have discovered it. Even though we are now hardened carnivores with all the meat-eating zeal of the reformed, we still enjoy this at least once a month.  I hope you do too.

There are no exact measures on this one, so go with your gut and eyeball it, to mix metaphors.

You’ll need:

  • Aubergine/Eggplant (depending on which side of the pond you live)
  • Olive Oil
  • Garlic
  • Rosemary
  • Cheese (the meltier, the better)
  • Bread
  • Sun Dried Tomato Pesto

First chop the garlic as finely as possible, pour the olive oil in a cup or ramekin and allow it to infuse for about 15 min

Preheat the oven to 200 ° C.  Slice the aubergine in 1cm thick slices an place on an oiled baking tray. Brush with the garlic infused oil making sure at least one piece of garlic finishes up on a piece of aubergine.   In Taiwan I used to use Japanese eggplant which are longer, thinner and less bitter than the aubergines found here, but with the advances we’ve made in food cultivation,  I don’t think it’s necessary to peal, salt or soak, this vegetable.  Tear up the rosemary and scatter about the tray.

Place the baking tray in the oven and cook for 30-40 minutes until they are soft and golden brown.

Slice open the bread and spread the SDT pesto on the bottom and then top with as much cheese as you can.  Place the hot from the oven aubergine on top of the cheese and close the sandwich and leave for 3-4 mins so the aubergine melts the cheese.

Serve with potato wedges and a green salad.

For the potato wedges, mix canola oil (or any other oil that has a high smoke point and a mild flavour) in a large bowl with a tsp of smoked paprika, pinch of salt and a tsp of dried thyme.  Cut your potatoes into wedges and toss in the oil.  Bake at 200° C for 30-40mins, until soft and fluffy on the inside and crispy on the outside.

Tarte Tatin

5 Feb

I am constantly amazed by the number of different ways  we have come up with to combine apples and pastry.  From danishes and strudels to pies and tarts and all the crumbles, buckles, crisps and cobblers in between, we seem to have a serious soft spot for this scrumptious little pairing .  The moment the weather starts turning chilly I have a deep set need to throw some spices at apples, cover them in dough and fill the house with the smell of them baking. I definitely get this from my father.  Now sometimes I can spend the whole day mixing, chilling and rolling pastry.   On these days I’ll spend hours  macerating fruit in sugar and spices to create that perfect pie, but lets be honest, most days, like today with the snow piling up and a couple of good DVDs waiting,  I just want a quick fix.   In this instance a crumble will usually satisfy, but when friends are coming over it has to be a Tarte Tatin.  It’s just as easy to throw together, but the difference is , well, it sounds French!

So to start, take:

  • Six Apples
  • 1 Packet Puff Pastry
  • 4 Tbs of Butter
  • 150 gm Caster Sugar
  • a Splash of Vanilla
  • a Sprinkle of Cinnamon and Nutmeg
  • the Zest of one Lemon
  • 1 Stick of Cinnamon

The hardest part of making this is peeling and coring the apples.  Once this is done, turn the oven on to 180 ° C and then melt the butter in a pan.  Add all the apples and let them bubble away for few minutes. Add the vanilla, cinnamon and nutmeg and stir.  Then sprinkle the sugar into the pan and leave it to slowly melt and caramelise.  You want to finish up with soft apples and a gooey toffee sauce.

This is where I deviate from the traditional Tarte Tatin. Rather than baking it in the pan I used to caramelise the apples, I transfer it to a pie tin.  Not really sure why I do this, I just always have.  I put the cinnamon stick in the middle of the pie tin and then place the apples around it.   Then I grate the zest of a lemon over the whole lot.  This sounds like an easily skip-able step, but please don’t.  This is what brings the dish to life.

Roll out the pastry into a roughly round shape just a little larger than the pie tin you’re using.

Then place the pastry on top of the apples and tuck it in around the edges.  This can be made a couple of hours before your guests arrive and then popped in the oven while you’re eating your mains. Bake for about 25-30 mins until the pastry is puffed up and golden.  Leave it to rest for about 10 min and then run a knife around the edges of the tin.  Place the plate you’re going to serve it on on top of the pie tin and turn out the Tarte Tatin. Serve it with a sprinkle of icing sugar and a dollop of cream or custard.

So, to misquote Matt Damon,”How do you like them apples?”

This one’s for you Dad.

oh.four.one.

the port elizabeth blogger

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