Upside-Down Chicken Pie

In the summer months, we may not feel like a warming pie for dinner, but turn that pie upside-down and you have a perfect summer dinner.

Start with ready-rolled sheet of puff pastry and score a margin, around 1.5inches around the edge. Don’t cut all the way through, you just want to fine where the edge is. Prick the centre many times with a fork, line it with greaseproof paper and weigh it down with baking beans. Give the edge of the pastry a milk wash and pop in the oven at 200C for 10minutes.

Whilst the pastry is cooking, toss two chopped chicken breasts into a large, deep frying pan and start to brown the meat. After a couple of minutes, add a chopped aubergine, courgette and onion to the pan and start to cook the veg through.

In a separate saucepan, melt some butter and mix in plain flour, to form a rue. Slowly pour in some milk, whisking all the time to avoid lumps. Allow a chicken stock pot to melt into the sauce.

When the pastry has had its 10 minutes, take it out of the oven and very carefully, remove the baking beans and paper – hopefully you should now have a big well, like a giant vol-au-vent! Lay the meat and veggies in the well, add a few cherry tomatoes and pour the sauce over the top.

Pop back into the oven for another 10-15minutes and then serve it up. You could, of course, ditch the meat for a veggie option and bulk out with any veggies you like.

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Vegetable Soup

I love whipping up a soup. It’s so easy, you near enough just throw everything in a pan and let it take care of itself.

I had a mountain of veg that was just crying out to be used up.

Very simply, I peeled and very roughly chopped:

2 small potatoes
a handful of carrots
a red onion
a white onion
a cabbage
a good handful of sprouts
2 leeks

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I add the potato as a thickening agent. Otherwise, any veggies you have begging, just throw them in! I also put in a chicken stock pot (use veggie stock if you’re keeping it all vegetarian), some course black pepper, paprika, onion salt and dried basil.

Top up the pot with water and allow to simmer until all the veggies are soft, then liquidise to your liking with either a handheld whizzy thing, or blender.

Once smooth, I allow some blue cheese to melt in. Again this is optional, depending on your taste or dietary requirements.

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Happy New Year!

Happy New Year to you all and may 2018 be everything you hope it can be.

Coming into the new year with me, is the remnants of the Christmas turkey, which today will join the ham in making the second pie of the season – I like to buy a big turkey that will really stretch. So far, the turkey has, of course, provided Christmas dinner (which we had Boxing Day this year), many, many sandwiches, and the two pies, with the bones already boiled up as stock, ready for some meat and stuffing to go in for a tasty soup. Of course, it also served for the general ‘picking’ at cold meat. I also like to collect the juices after roasting the bird, which separates into jelly and dripping – these can be used for gravies, roast potatoes, adding flavour to sauces and in my case, eating on toast – don’t knock it until you try it!

turkey

The ham – also a good size – has joined the turkey in sandwiches and the pies. It was just too big for the pan, so I cut some off to freeze before cooking, which will go to a lovely split pea and ham soup.

We also have a tonne of vegetables, so veggie soup will also be on the card, which will probably be joined by some of the cheese mountain we amassed over Christmas. I really don’t like waste, so I will do all I can to stop anything from being thrown away.

It’s been a truly lovely festive period for us, which properly began on Christmas Eve, when my now-fiancé proposed!

engagement ring

We had family down to stay for the Twixmas part of the season, before a party and then New Year. Now, we start the busy task of planning the wedding and juggling work.

Have a truly lovely 2018 and I’ll be back with more posts very soon!

Lamb & Apricot Stew With Dumplings

It’s certainly the weather for winter warmers. I’ve seen friends posting that snow has arrived in parts of the UK and where I am, it is freezing today.

With that, I wanted to share a lovely lamb stew, that I cooked up the other day. I must apologise that we were so hungry, I completely forgot to take a photo of it on the plate all served up, but if you make it, you’ll see for yourself!! This is best made the day before you want to eat it.

I found some really lovely looking lamb neck in the butcher, so I started by just browning the meat in the bottom of a deep saucepan, before removing it to a plate and adding some oil to the pan, followed by a couple of small chopped red onions, three cloves of minced garlic and a chopped leek.

In a frying pan, dry roast a cinnamon stick and three cloves for round a minute or so, just to help release the flavour, then add them into the pan with the softening veggies. Stir in a good splodge of tomato puree, before returning the meat and any juices to the pan, along with two bay leaves.

Pour in enough chicken, vegetable or lamb stock to cover the meat and bring the pan to a low simmer, before putting the lid on. Give it a good hour or so, stirring occasionally, before throwing in some chopped mushrooms and covering again. I let mine have a slow cook for around 3-4 hours, stirring every now and then and checking to make sure there was still enough stock in there. To help thicken the sauce, I added a few teaspoons of cornflour and mixing it in well.

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Once the meat is nice and tender and trying to fall off the bone, turn off the heat and leave the stew to cool overnight. The next day, you’ll notice a layer of fat on the top of the stew, which you can skim off quite easily with a spoon.

Add in a tin – yes, a tin! – of apricot halves and the juices and re-heat the stew to a low simmer again and give it another hour or so to heat through properly. At this point, I like to remove the bones, spices and bay leaves. Mum always added the tinned fruit, so I’m sticking with it!

When you have 20minutes left, mix up 250g self raising flour with 140g cold butter, cut into cues and a good handful of mixed dried herbs. You want the mix to resemble breadcrumbs, before adding a splash of water and mixing together with a table knife. Keep adding splashes of water, until you form a sticky dough. Take small pinches and roll them into balls, before popping them in the top of the stew for your dumplings.

You can either serve just with the dumplings, or boil up some rice and have the stew with that – or even some mashed potatoes.

Farewell Tomato Plants

Today, I sadly had to bid farewell to my tomato plants.

They were all doing so beautifully and many still had flowers coming, but thanks to the very strong winds overnight and torrential rain, the time had come to say goodbye, as they just weren’t going to recover from this latest bout of weather.

I’d become quite attached to my little ‘babies’, having nurtured them from seedlings.

They were producing lots of fruit and were really tasty.

Now, I have a windowsill full of green tomatoes, which I’m hoping will ripen. If not, I shall be making a lot of green tomato chutney!

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This is a great book for help growing veg at home.