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.

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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.

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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. 45 – Egg Custards

I’m starting off with an apology for the lateness with this post.  I’ve been having trouble uploading the photos.  I’ve finally managed to add the photographs to the blog, although I don’t like the new way of doing it!

This suggestion caused a bit of confusion to start as my friend Laura asked me to make “egg custards”.  I’d never heard of these and wondered what on earth she was talking about.  This isn’t uncommon in our friendship.  I met Laura on my first day at University and had the pleasure of living with her for two years.  During this time and in the years of friendship since, Laura and the other University girls have taught me many things. In particular, I’m never allowed to forget the time that had to explain to me what a Wendy House was or the time I didn’t know what an onion bhaji was.  Most recently I managed to get confused between crème brûlée and tiramisu and the Laura and one of the other girls have affectionally named our group messenger chat “tiramisu” 🙂 So it was nice to see Laura teaching me something new again in Challenge 52 with her suggestion of “egg custards”.

After a little bit of research, I discovered that what Laura called “egg custards” is what I knew as custard tarts.  I found a recipe by Paul Hollywood who actually called them egg custard tarts and so I decided this was the one I had to use this one.

I amended the quantities slightly and for this recipe, you will need the following:-

  • For the sweet pastry
    • 165g/5¾oz plain flour, plus extra for dusting
    • 25g/1oz ground almonds
    • 120g/4¼oz chilled unsalted butter, cubed
    • 55g/2oz caster sugar
    • 1 free-range egg
  • For the custard filling
    • 400ml pint full-fat milk
    • 4 free-range egg yolks
    • 52g caster sugar
    • freshly ground nutmeg

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I started off by making the pastry by stirring together the flour and ground almonds.  I added the cubed butter and rubbed it together to form breadcrumbs.

Practical tip: warm hands will begin to melt the butter and the mix will become too wet.  If, like me, your hands are prone to being warm, run them under a cold tap for a while and dry them thoroughly before you get started.  Repeat this cooling process periodically to make sure your hands don’t warm up too much.

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Despite having used the rubbing technique a number of times over the last year, for some reason the breadcrumbs didn’t form as they should have done this time.  I tried keeping my hands cool but it still didn’t work.  I don’t know whether the flat was a bit hot or whether I just overworked it but whatever the reason, my butter didn’t rub in very well. 

I got to a point where I decided I didn’t want to keep working the mixture as it was starting to become to moist.  I tried to stir through the sugar and added the egg.  I mixed it with my figures and tried to form a soft dough.  The dough was really wet and just didn’t quite seem right.  However, I persevered and turned it out onto a floured surface to work together.  I managed to form a ball and popped it the fridge for 30 minutes.

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Once the dough had chilled, I chopped it in half.  As there was only me and Dave to eat the results of this challenge, I decided to half the custard filling quantity and just use half the pastry.  The plan was to freeze the second half of the pastry, however, as you may have picked up, this challenge didn’t quite go to plan.

I took half the pastry and on a floured surface tried to roll it out so I could cut out 6 circles using an 11cm flutted cutter (as specified by the recipe).  There is no way I could get 6 circles out of this dough.  It was too fragile to roll out to the necessary size.  I decided to just get as many as I could but the dough was too ‘wet’ to lift up and pop in my muffin tin. 

After a little bit of a stress, I decided to use my smaller tin and a smaller cutter.  In hindsight, this wasn’t the best decision and I should have just persevered with the muffin tin and large cutter.  Instead, I ended up with tiny tarts which didn’t really have the filling they needed to constitute a proper egg custard tarts.

Anyway with my pastry in the smaller tin, I got start on the custard.  I put the milk into a pan over a medium heat and waited for it to nearly reach a simmer. 

I used a balloon whisk to bring together the egg yolks and sugar until pale.  I then poured in the warm milk and whisked it together.

I transferred the custard mixture to a pouring jug and tried to carefully pour this into the tarts.  DISASTER struck! I managed to spill the mixture all over one side of the tin, ruining at least 4 of the tarts.  I was on the verge of giving up, had a little strop and shouted at Dave for trying to help.  I then calmed myself down, apologised to Dave and cracked on to see just how badly these would turn out.

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I grated some nutmeg on top and popped them in the oven on 180 degrees celsius.  I set the timer for 10 minutes to then keep an eye on them.

When the tarts were in the oven, I decided to use the remaining pastry to push into two of the muffin tin holes.  There was no way I could roll it out but I thought I’d give this a go.  I then filled the pastry with some of the custard mixture and added the tin to the oven.   

When the 10 minutes timer went off, I sat in front of the oven and watched until I got a very slight dome on the custard.  I don’t really know what this meant and just guessed.  I mean, it couldn’t get much worse.

I took the tins out of the oven (at different times as the muffin tin tarts took a lot longer to dome) and left them on the side to cool for 30 minutes.  I then removed them from the tin and braved a taste.

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They weren’t as bad as I thought they were going to be but they were far from a success.  Dave loves custard tarts and was really looking forward to this challenge.  He tried some (before I’d even managed to get my photos – hence the half eaten one below) and said they were okay but didn’t quite taste right.

So not a total failure but definitely not something to write home about.  Laura was really disappointed she wasn’t going to get to try her suggestion but after reading this, she’ll probably be glad to have escaped the experience.

Coming up next week, a hopefully less stressful Challenge No. 46 – chicken gravy pie.

Challenge No. 19 – Rum Raisin Ice Cream

Have you ever made home-made ice cream without an ice cream maker? Better still, have you ever tried to find a recipe online for making ice cream without an ice cream maker?  It is not easy – finding a recipe that is!  My mum suggested this challenge and I thought it was a great idea.  I set out trying to find a recipe and a few times thought I had got one only to get to the last instruction and the recipe would say to “put it in your ice cream maker and follow the manufacturer’s instructions”.  It was very frustrating! And then I remembered, my many (and I mean many!) recipe books in the flat.  I had a quick rummage and found Jamie Oliver has kindly provided a recipe which works with or without an ice cream machine. Yay 🙂

Although I had found a recipe for vanilla ice cream, I kept having a sneaky look online and do you know what I found? One of my new blogging friends has blogged about the same recipe.  You can see read about Laura’s experience at Feast Wisely

Jamie’s book (Jamie’s Comfort Food) not only gives you a lovely recipe for vanilla ice cream, it also gives 4 delicious flavour variations. One of my mum’s favourites is rum and raisin ice cream – she say’s its her ‘holiday ice cream’ but I think she would have it all the time if she could 😉 I know I would!

So for the rum raisin ice cream you will need the following ingredients:-

  • 100g raisins
  • 150ml dark spiced rum
  • 2 vanilla pods
  • 500ml whole milk
  • 250ml double cream
  • 7 large eggs
  • 150g golden caster sugar

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These quantities make 1 litre of ice cream and Jamie helpfully tells me that 1 scoop is 106 calories.  I however like to believe that anything which is homemade is guilt free, so we don’t need to worry about the calorie content 🙂

Anyway, on with the recipe.  I started off by putting the raisins in a bowl and covering them with the spiced rum.  I covered the bowl with cling film and left it on the side for around a couple of hours.

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Once I had about half hour left, I got on with making the vanilla ice cream.  I halved the vanilla pods lengthways and scraped out the seeds.  I’ve seen chef’s do this on TV and it looks really simple…it wasn’t! I got in a bit of a mess but I managed to scrape most of the seeds out and get them in the pan.  I added the pods to the seeds and poured over the milk and cream.

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I put the pan on a low heat to gently warm for 15 minutes and then took it off the heat.

Whilst the vanilla cream mixture was cooling slightly, I separated my eggs and put the yolks in a bowl.

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Practical tip: Jamie advises to freeze the egg whites in a sandwich bag to make meringues for another day.  I therefore dutifully put the whites in a plastic container and put in the fridge so I could later make room for it in the freezer – I then promptly forgot to do this and ended up throwing away the whites! Silly me!

I whisked the yolks and caster sugar with a balloon whisk until pale.

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Before combining the vanilla milk with the egg/sugar mix, I sorted out the soaked raisins.  I took out around half and put them to one side.  I then used a hand blender to blitz the remaining raisins and rum together until it was a smooth purée. 

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I then took the vanilla cream mixture and poured it through a sieve into my egg/sugar mix.  I added a bit at a time and whisked thoroughly between each addition.  At the end, I made sure to push through as many vanilla seeds as possible – I mean come on, the more true vanilla flavour you can get the better!

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I added the combined mixture back into my pan and put it over a very low heat.  I stirred constantly, patiently waiting for the mixture to thicken.  Jamie’s says this should take about 15 minutes but it took me longer.  I had my pan on a very low heat and perhaps I could have turned it up slightly but I didn’t want to burn it.  When it was finally thick enough to coat the back of a spoon, I was happy it was done.

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I poured the mixture in to a clean bowl and left it to cool – this took about a couple of hours.

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Time to add the rum/raisin to my vanilla ice cream.  I poured in the purée and whole raisins into the cooled ice cream base and gave it a good stir. I then poured it all into my ice cream contained (a simple klick lock storage box).

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I put the container into my freezer and set the time for 30 minutes.  According to the recipe you need to whisk the ice cream every 30 minutes for about 3 to 4 hours to help break up the ice crystals. The aim is to do this until the ice cream is nicely set. 

When I read Laura’s blog, she mentioned that she stopped stirring too soon and ended up with some ice crystals.  I therefore tried to preserver and when I had reached 4 hours and it still was set, I just kept going with my 30 minutes schedule. 

I got to 5 and a half hours and it still wasn’t set! It was also time for bed so I just left it for the night and hoped it would be okay in the morning.

So here it is…

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It looked okay – except that the whole raisins had definitely all sunk to the bottom of the container!  It’s a nice treat for when you get to the bottom 🙂

Now, I don’t know about you but if I am going to have ice cream, it clearly has to be served with either hot chocolate fudge cake, a cone or perhaps best of all, cookies!  So I also made some chocolate chip cookies to sandwich together with the ice cream. 

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Be sure to come back after the end of Challenge 52 when I will be sharing my foolproof recipe for these delicious cookies.

This was absolutely delicious! Dave tried a TINY bit and said “whoaa, you can taste the rum in that!”.  Well that’s what we want – rum, raisin and vanilla galore.  I’ve now got to be controlled and make sure I don’t eat the whole lot before my mum next comes to visit!

Coming up next week, Challenge No. 20 – maple syrup glazed ham! Hope to see you then.