Challenge No. 46 – Chicken and Gravy Pie

This is another challenge suggested by my lovely mum.  I don’t really remember eating pie much as a child but during my teens, I remember mum and I getting excited about having some yummy chicken and gravy pie served with deliciously creamy mash potato.  My love of chicken pie wasn’t missed by Dave and on my first birthday with him, he bought me some frozen chicken pies 🙂

I started looking for recipes a while ago but I couldn’t find the right thing.  All of the recipes I found included vegetables in the pie or where with a really creamy sauce.  But this wasn’t right! I knew exactly the type of pie I wanted but I couldn’t find the right recipe.  And then, I stumbled across a chicken stew recipe in one of my cookbooks which looked perfect.  The recipe is from The Slow Cook Book by Heather Whinney.  This book is great because it gives you a slow cooker version of the recipe as well as a tradition method.  I’ve had this book for a while now and every recipe I’ve made has been delicious!  I would definitely recommend it.

Anyway, the recipe I decided to use was for a chicken and beer stew.  I decided to make the stew and then pop it into a pie dish to top with puff pastry.  I’ve had a bit of a disaster with pastry recently and so I decided to make my life a little easier by using ready to roll pastry.  So for this recipe, you’ll need the following ingredients:-

  • 4 chicken breasts
  • salt and pepper
  • 30g butter
  • 2tbsp vegetable oil
  • 750g (approx 3 large) onions, thinly sliced
  • 30g plain flour
  • 3-4 tbsp brandy
  • 500g mushrooms, quartered
  • 5-6 parsley sprigs
  • 2-3 thyme sprigs
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 tbsp juniper berries, gently crushed (I used my pestle and mortar)
  • 500ml beer
  • 250ml hot chicken stock
  • 4 tbsp double cream
  • 1 pack just roll puff pastry

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I started off by seasoning the chicken breasts with salt and pepper.  I heated the butter and oil in my big pan over a medium to high heat until it was foaming.  I then added the chicken and cooked for about 5 minutes on each side until browned.  I put the chicken to one side.  

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I turned the heat down to medium and cooked the sliced onions for 10 minutes. 

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Whilst the onions were cooking, I started to make a bouquet garni with the parsley, thyme and bay leaf.

Practical tip: a bouquet garni is like a floral bouquet but made with the herbs.  Simply take the herbs and tie them together with some cooking string.

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Once the onions were soft, I sprinkled in the flour, gave it a good stir and cooked it for around 2 minutes.  I put the chicken back in in a single layer before adding the brandy and letting it come to the boil for a few minutes.  During this time, I kept spooning the brandy over the chicken.

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I added the mushrooms, bouquet garni and the crushed juniper berries.  I added the beer and the chicken stock.  Once the liquid was boiling, I put the lid on and left it to simmer for 50 minutes.

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As I was approaching the end of the 50 minutes, I rolled out my pastry to ensure it had time to settle.  I lightly dusted the work top and rolled out a third of the pack into a rectangle.  I placed the pie dish upside down on the pastry and cut round it with a sharp knife.

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When the timer went off, I pulled out the chicken and used forks to shred it.  I then returned it to the pan and stirred through the cream.

I portioned out some of the stew into my pie dish and brushed the edge with some water. I then used the cutoffs to line the edges, brushed it with a little more water and then positioned the pastry lid on top.  I used a fork to seal the edges and then used a sharp knife to put a cross in the centre.

Ed - linedEd - fillingEd - pie

Practical tip: freeze the leftover stew and pastry to use another day.

I put the pastry in the oven on 200 degrees celsius for 20 minutes until the puff pastry was golden brown.

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I served up with some mash potato which I made using some of the double cream.

Ed - served up

This dish was absolutely delicious!! The pie filling was rich and full of flavour, the top was lovely a crispy and the mash was so creamy…the perfect combination.  I can’t wait to use the leftovers and I will definitely be making this again for my mum when she visits!

Coming up next, Challenge No. 47 – stollen.

Challenge No. 18 – Philly Cheese Steak

This dish was suggested by my brother who is a qualified cross-fit trainer, ex-triathlon athlete and all round fitness fanatic whose love of food sometimes wins out over the desire to be healthy (he’s only human!).  My brother doesn’t abide by the motto of having everything in moderation and if he’s going to do something he does it properly, including cheat days.  And so his suggestions for Challenge 52 include Philly Cheese Steak, BBQ chicken wings and, what he calls, “the mother of all milkshakes”.  Not exactly the picture of health but some great choices from my big brother!

I’ve already made the chicken wings and now its time for the Philly Cheese Steak – a wonderfully cheesy beef mess served on a lovely soft white roll.  Whilst I had heard of of the dish, I actually hadn’t ever eaten one.  I did a bit of searching online and was presented with a plethora of versions.  Some used mushrooms whilst other didn’t, some used leftover roast beef whilst others used fresh beef steak and so on.  The starting point was the beef.  I discussed the options with my boyfriend Dave and we decided to go for left over roast beef.  A common problem with roasts when there are only 2 of you is what to do with the left overs and this seemed like a great solution.

So on Sunday I cooked a roast dinner using beef brisket.  I slow cooked this until it was at a good carving point but not quite at a shredding point.  We had a 1kg joint and I cooked it for around 2hrs 30 minutes at 170 degrees celsius.  Once the leftover beef was cool, I got my sharpest knife and carefully cut it into very thin slices.

Practical tip: slicing the beef as thinly as possible seems to be key to this dish.  If you are using fresh beef steak, most recipes call for the steak to be chilled in the freezer for 30-45 minutes as this makes it easier to slice the beef as thinly as possible.

To make the full dish, I used the following ingredients:-

  • Oil
  • 1/2 onion, thinly sliced
  • 2 sweet red peppers, thinly sliced
  • Leftover roast beef, thinly sliced
  • 5 cheese slices
  • 3 hot dog buns

Edited - ingredients

This is a very simple ingredients list and it could be expanded by adding mushrooms, a bit of garlic and maybe even jalapeños if you like a bit of heat.  However, Dave requested we keep it simple and so I stuck with just the 6 ingredients listed above.

Edited - meat and veg

I started off by frying the onion for a few minutes and then adding the pepper to the pan.  I let this cook away for about 8 minutes over a low-medium temperature until the veg was nice and soft.  I removed it from the pan and added a little more oil before frying the beef. 

At this point I cut my buns in half and popped them under the grill to heat through.  They were under a medium heat for around 5 minutes which was just long enough to add a little crunch to the surface without loosing the fluffiness of the bread.

With the buns almost done and the beef heated through, I returned the onion and peppers to cook for a couple more minutes.  Finally, I added the cheese slices and once these had melted, I gave it a good stir to mix it all together.   I then added the cheesy-beef mix to the heated rolls and added a side of sweet potato fries.   

 Edited - in the bunEdited - served up

All in all, I enjoyed my first Philly Cheese Steak and this really was a perfect Monday night dinner.  It used up the sunday roast leftovers and was so quick to make. I am planning on making this again and next time I’ll give it a go with fresh steak and a few extra ingredients, just to see what its like.         

Coming up next week, Challenge No. 19 – rum raisin ice cream! 🙂

Challenge No. 16 – Cornish Pasty

This challenge was suggested by one of my good friends from University.  My friend Laura is by all accounts a vegetarian, cake lover (amongst many other wonderful things) and I hadn’t registered that one of her suggestions was not only not cake, but a meat filled pastry! It took me by surprise when I realised what Laura had asked me to make.  So thanks for the suggestion Laura and I’m sorry you can’t get to try this one 🙂

This dish is said to be an important part of the Cornwall county culinary history.  The first references to cornish pasties appeared in the 13th century and during the 18th/19th century, it was a staple part of the diet of working men in Cornwall.  The wonderful thing about a Cornish pasty; it contains a meal within its golden crust.  When handled by miners/farmers, the thick crust could be held with dirty fingers and thrown away at the end. Today, it is enjoyed by many people (not just the miners/farmers) and we don’t throw the crust away – I mean come on, its one of the best bits!

I did a quick search and found a recipe by one of my favourites, Paul Hollywood.  You can find the recipe here.

For this recipe you will need:-

  • For the pastry
    • 500g/1lb 1oz strong bread flour
    • 120g/4oz vegetable shortening or suet
    • 1 tsp salt
    • 25g/1oz margarine or butter
    • 175ml/6fl oz cold water
    • 1 free-range egg, beaten with a little salt (for glazing)
  • For the filling
    • 350g/12oz good-quality beef skirt, rump steak or braising steak
    • 350g/12oz waxy potatoes
    • 200g/7oz swede
    • 175g/6oz onions
    • salt and freshly ground black pepper
    • knob of butter or margarine

Edited - test

I started by putting all the pastry ingredients (except the egg) into my bowl and used a wooden spoon to combine the ingredients.  I then used my hands to crush everything together to form a dough.  It didn’t really form into a ball very well (it was so dry) but I tipped it out onto the worktop and started kneading to bring it together properly. 

Edited - dry ingredients

Oh my gosh, this was such hard work! I watched the video included on the recipe link and Paul Hollywood makes it look so easy.  I however was literally have to put my full body weight into the kneading and it was a real work out.  Dave even had a little go but he didn’t quite get the technique right and was just kind of squashing the dough.  Anyway, after I took over again and gave the dough a last few bits of vigorous kneading, I had my smooth and glossy ball. 

Edited- dough ball

Practical tip: develop your own method of kneading.  This may sound silly but when I first starting making bread, I tried to replicate other people’s kneading styles.  Unfortunately, I have bad joints, particularly bad in my hands and I found it painful to use some of the methods I’d seen on TV.  Instead I found I rolled and stretched the dough between my two hands, using more of the heel of my hand than my fingers.  It takes a little longer for me to knead like this but I always get there in the end and it is less painful 🙂 So find a method that works for you and just go with that.

With the kneading done, I wrapped the dough in cling film and popped it into the fridge for 60 minutes. 

I then got started on the filling ingredients. I chopped the potato, swede and onion into what I thought were reasonable sized cubes.  I knew Dave was going to be a bit funny about eating this dish (he likes Cornish pasties but he hates chunky vegetables) and to try and keep him happy, I asked him to ‘approve’ the size on my cubed vegetables. He said they looked too big and was concerned they wouldn’t cook properly.  I re-read the recipe and sure enough, I’d cut them to about double the size suggested.  So I re-chopped to make them smaller.

I cut my braising steak to similar size cubes and put all the ingredients into a bowl, mixed and seasoned with salt and pepper. 

 Edited - vegEdited - beef

I divided my dough into 4 pieces and took the first piece to roll into a disc of approximately 25 cm.

Practical tip: in case you missed Challenge No. 11, when rolling out pastry (or fondant, or pretty much anything you want to roll), always roll from the middle up and middle down.  If you roll from top to bottom you’ll end up with a really fat bottom, whereas rolling from the middle helps to keep an even thickness all the way through.

Edited - rolled out

I then spooned a quarter of the seasoned mixture onto one half of my pastry circle.  The recipe says to add a knob of butter/margarine before folding over the pastry but I accidentally missed this bit.  Paul doesn’t add any butter/margarine in the video so I decided it wasn’t a problem that I missed this stage. 

Edited - filling

Next, I set about crimping; I used my fingers to make twists all the way along the round edge.  I put the pasty on my lined tin and made the remaining three pasties.  I put one more on the baking tray and then wrapped the remaining two in baking paper and cling film before putting them in the freezer for another day.  I’ve read mixed reviews about freezing cornish pasties before cooking them, so I’ll give a little update in the future to let you know if it worked 🙂

Edited - crimped

With two pasties in the freezer, I brushed the remaining two with the egg and salt mixture before putting them in the oven for 45 minutes.

When the timer went off, Dave and I tucked into these glorious looking little (okay huge!) parcels of goodness. 

Edited - golden brown Edited - centre

We both really enjoyed them, strangely Dave a little more so than me.  I have to admit the first few mouthfuls left me a little disappointed but the flavour soon developed and I started to appreciate it more.  To improve it, I think it could have done with more seasoning – I was probably a little too cautious with this.  Also, I thought it was a little dry in the middle and I wonder whether putting the knob of butter in with the filling would have helped with this. 

Whilst the filling definitely had room for improvement, Dave and I thought the pastry itself was great and overall it was a very tasty dinner.

Coming up next week, Challenge No. 17 – passion fruit cream profiteroles and hot chocolate fudge sauce