Chicken, Mushroom and Asparagus pie!!

Way aye man!! Back in the UK and desperate to cook myself a good bloody meal, whilst being knackered through being thrown straight back into my day job. Urgh!

Italy reignited my passion for prosciutto (crudo) and sun-dried tomatoes, but after two weeks of it, I was craving the diversity and wealth of flavours that English cuisine has to offer.

During my stay in the lovely La Spezia, I failed to consume a single vegetable. Something that seemed to elude the Italian diet,  or should I say the diet of those my colleagues and I were staying with. Living on a diet of meat, carbs and dry sandwiches (butter anyone?!) I craved something a bit more saucy than olive oil and balsamic dressing.

Don’t get me wrong the food was great, it just lacked the sauciness that I am beginning to associate with British food. Gravy on a Sunday dinner, Birmingham’s native Tikka Masala, stews, shepherds pie, baked beans.. in England I do believe we like our food with that lil something extra. As for Italy, I can only speak from experience to say that this is something we all found wanting in the dishes we were offered.

So I endeavored to cook something lovely, non dry and British, with some lovely vegetables sneaked in to nourish my wanting body. Nothing spectacularly creative here, just simple, hearty loveliness. I also wanted something as easy as pie (mind the pun). Exhausted much!  I did the bad thing and bought ready made and ready rolled pastry (I will not be concocting a flaky crust with any success after a hard days work)! Along with ready sliced mushrooms! They were reduced what can I say!!! Booo!!!

Many a chicken pie recipe calls for a cooked roast chicken with all the meat taken off and made into bite sized, pie filling chunks.  All well and good but when your after a quickie, skinless and boneless chicken thigh (or breast) will do.

As always my measurements are a bit scatty, I do things by eye a lot, something inherited from my mom and dad, (much to the annoyance of my partner when giving recipe instructions), I have done my best to quantify the ingredients here, feel free to do what feels and looks right, I find that often works for me :).

I used garlic powder here because I had run out of garlic. Always great to have on standby. Feel free to use fresh garlic, although it is nice sometimes to have the flavour without the bits, especially in a saucy pie, I guess it would help if I had a garlic crusher!!

All purpose seasoning again rears its lovely flavoursome head in this recipe, I use it instead of salt due to its high salt content (roughly around 75%) . By all means use salt or even celery salt in its place.

Chicken, Mushroom and Asparagus Pie

Chicken Thighs (I used about 4)

Button Mushrooms (About 50g)

1 Onion

Garlic Powder (I’d say a bit but for those who like to measure half a teaspoon).

2 tbsp Wholegrain Mustard

1 pack of Asparagus

25g Butter

25g Flour

175 ml chicken stock

2 tbsp Elmlea Light (or double cream, I like to use the light stuff so I can use and abuse the calories elsewhere)

Sprinkling of Sage

1 pack ready rolled Puff Pastry

Olive oil (for frying)

Black Pepper

All Purpose Seasoning (or salt)

Cube chicken. Coat with black pepper and all purpose (or salt).

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Fry onion in olive oil until translucent. Add chicken. Cook for a bit. Add mushrooms. Cook it all down until chicken and mushrooms cooked through. Steam asparagus for a couple of minutes. (I made a makeshift steamer with a colander over a saucepan of simmering water and a lid).

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Make sauce in separate pan. Melt butter. Add flour. Roux it up (cook slowly over low heat until colour of straw). Pour in chicken stock a little at a time.  Turn up heat and stir until simmering. Add cream and mustard and lower heat. Cook until reduced and thickened. Sprinkle sage. Pour sauce over the chicken. Add asparagus. Stir it up. Transfer to pie dish. Add magical ready rolled pastry lid. Cook for around 30 minutes. Serve with mash and broccoli. Nom Nom!!

piiiiie

Do not start watching Breaking Bad in the midst of making this pie, may cause one to forget about it resulting in burnt pastry disaster.

Easy peasy! My partner said this was the best pie he ever tasted. I do often think he says such things with ulterior motives… That is quite the accolade! I am forever the cynic!!

Chocolate and Chilli Brownies

Chocolate and chilli. All the rage with food fashionistas, a combination which, at first glance seems a teeny bit ridiculous (why taint something as perfect as chocolate with something as aggressive as chilli?) but, once the surface has been scratched this is a wow flavour pairing that seems so natural one wonders why everyone isn’t doing it. All the time.

Chocolate brownies are a product of my dreams. An American export worth keeping. My lust for these ungodly specimens aroused by my American exchange Year 7 maths teacher Mrs Butler. What a battle axe she was. We all sat to attention for this one, no throwing of paper or hurling of spit in her lessons, for her we all stood to attention, sitting in fear of the time she was to call us up to the board for the ritual humiliation that was writing the answers, which were (in my case) inevitably going to be wrong. Her effictiveness as a maths teacher aside, the lasting effect she had on me was the memory of her American treats. Chocolate brownies were to me an unknown gem, a little taste of gluttonous heaven flown over directly from the states into my humble, deprived lap. In these short snippets of joy, the light was shining down upon my measly brummie soul. Made from the fabric of heaven itself, fudgy, gooey, melt in the mouth indulgent, rich chocolate squares of unadulterated pleasure. Where had these been all my life?

Ever since this defining moment I have set to work finding the perfect brownie recipe. A labour of love of mine it has taken many non perfect (cakey) attempts to come out with what is for me the perfect brownie. This recipe really does work every time (providing you don’t overcook them), a shiny crisp top layer with dark, sensual, gooey under bits. I do believe this is achieved through the whisking of the eggs with the sugar, incorporating the secret ingredient to brownie perfection, air. Knock this out in the later stages and your brownies will be a goner. Treat these with tenderness and affection and with careful folding and attention these will not disappoint. (I cannot take credit for this recipe it can be found here

As a rule it is safe to say one should use best quality dark chocolate. 70% cocoa solids preferable. Look for chocolate that does not contain vegetable oil (although if and when strapped for cash I do have to admit to using Tesco’s no frills 30p dark chocolate and getting good results).

Chocolate and Chilli Brownies

185g Dark Chocolate (broken into small pieces)

85g Plain Flour

185g Unsalted Butter (cut into cubes)

40g Cocoa Powder

100g White Chocolate/Milk Chocolate or mixture of both cut or bashed into small chunks

3 large eggs

275g Golden Caster Sugar

Put dark chocolate and butter into bowl (big enough to fit over top of saucepan without touching the bottom). Fill saucepan quater full with water and put over low heat until reaches a simmer. Place bowl over pan and stir until melted (make sure the bowl does not touch the water in the pan).

Bain marie

Bain marie

Turn oven to 160 (fan), 180 (conventional). Line 20cm square tin. Sift flour and cocoa butter into bowl. Break eggs into bowl. Add Golden Caster Sugar. Whisk until light and creamy (I recommend an electric whisk, although if alike me one is not to hand the resulting dead arm is worth the end result). It should be double it’s original size and should leave a trail for a few seconds when the whisk is wiggled. Pour cooled chocolate over egg mixture.

Food art!

Food art!

Fold (carefully) with spatula using figure of 8, plunging  in at one  side, taking it underneath, bring up at opposite side and again at the middle. Move bowl round after each folding. This part is crucial so as not to knock the air out that you spent all that blood sweat and tears to incorporate!! Sift already sifted dry ingredients mix into wet ingredients. Fold carefully to incorporate. Carefully add chopped white/milk chocolate. Bake for 20 mins.

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Cool in tin then foist out carefully trying best not to crack perfect shiny top bit.

Please note it is always better to under cook brownies than over cook, when removing from the oven they will still have a slight wobble, this is a good sign. They should still be shiny and crisp at the top.

Enjoy!!

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Steak Glorious Steak! Co-Starring, roasted broccoli, spiced potato wedges and garlic mushrooms.

I apologise in advance for my lack of exact measures, with meals like this I don’t tend to work like that, so any measures I do give are approximations. I usually just rely on eye adding if needs be and being stingy with things like salt that wield the power of ruining a meal with one shake too many, tasting as I go along.

So anyway I shall kick off with a lovely simple meal, rather a treat for my manfriend and I the ubiquitous Sirloin Steak!! (This sumptuous piece of meat wholly deserving of the capital letters it has acquired!)

The Sirloin is of course one of the greatest cuts of Steak one can acquire, and is without a doubt one handsome piece of meat. Something often eyed up, but seldom purchased due to the ever present lack of funds that usually besieges me. But not this week! The window shopper (food perv) in me was delighted to find fifty percent off in my local Co-Op, thank you there is a god!

After getting the steak home and eyeing it lovingly as it rested on my counter (bringing it down to room temperature ready to be cooked), I prepared my sides, which are of cause lesser in comparison, but just as important to the success of my meal. If I’m going to eat steak I’m going to do it properly!

First of all a couple of red skinned potatoes for some spiced potato wedges. I say spiced, in this case I am using my one stop, go to spice mix for these which is Caribbean Everyday Seasoning (or All-Purpose Seasoning depending on the brand). This seasoning saves a lot of dishes from the throwaway fate of the bland, perking it up with a mixture of salt, chilli, paprika, onion, celery, coriander and cumin (in no particular order). This should, however, come with a disclaimer as it can easily be overused, it is generally around 72% salt and so one should not be too liberal with this. I often mix it with extra paprika if I am going to use it for potato wedges, which I have done in this case. I have in the past made my own version of the spice mix in order to have control over the salt content using the spices listed above.

I recommend red skinned potatoes for everything!! They are especially great for wedges.

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Spiced Potato Wedges

3 tbsp Olive Oil

Carribean Everyday Seasoning

Paprika

Freshly Ground Black Pepper

couple of potatoes chopped into wedges

Put oil into largish bowl. Pour in seasoning (to taste). Mix to create seasoning coloured oil (red in this case). Add chopped potatoes. Dig your hands in and get messy until all potatoes are evenly covered. Transfer to baking tray in single layer. Cook on about 200 for at least 20 minutes. Poke with sharp object to check if cooked.

Next in my line up of sexy sides is roasted broccoli. This bits pretty simple just wash it, cut it, put it on a baking tray, drizzle with oil of choosing and roast until looks done, after about 10-15 mins (I am a little ad-hoc with these things but usually seem to get it right without looking at my watch, some might call it intuition, I call it a nose for smelling the almost burnt). Roasted broccoli is something only recently discovered by myself and has been gracing many a plate of mine ever since. This takes broccoli to a whole new level that I didn’t even know existed, silly me.

My final addition to this extravagant for the likes of me meal is a classic player in the sides game, the somewhat obvious choice, garlic mushrooms. Mushrooms and steak go together like, well mushrooms and steak, no analogy needed here to explain my choice, its pretty damn simple, yet always effective. Nevermind the fact that mushrooms are full of lovely nutrients such as selenium, copper, potassium and vitamin D and magically manage to retain them whether fried, grilled or microwaved, Oh My!

Garlic Mushrooms

4 tbsp Butter

Mushrooms, (about half a punnet)

2 Garlic Cloves

Parsley (fresh or dried, in my case dried)

Celery (or table) Salt and Freshly Ground Black Pepper

Slice mushrooms. Melt butter in pan. Add Garlic (crushed, or in my case grated due to lack of a garlic cutter). Add Parsley Add salt and pepper. Fry for a bit. Smell the nice smells. Add mushrooms. Stir until coated. Cook for around 5- 10 mins on low to medium heat (for me this is number three on the biggest ring of my electrical hob) until done.

Now for the Steak. This was cooked in a griddle pan so I could achieve the lovely liney effect Burger King is so good at. The griddle pan was then placed on the hob with the heat on high (about 5). I stroked my (room temperature) beauties in a little Everyday Seasoning and black pepper (black pepper will do if no Everyday Seasoning graces your cupboards). When the pan was hot I mercilessly threw my lovelies in and cooked them until medium rare. This is said to be around 3 mins on each side but a trick  as suggested by Harold McGee in his miraculous work of food reference and general knowledge, On Food and Cooking, is to turn the steak frequently in order to prevent overcooking, as this ensures neither side has the time to absorb or release large amounts of heat. This method unfortunately did not bode well for my of fancy lines (doh) but it does produce excellent results every time.

Steak glorious steak. A perfectly cooked Sirloin Steak is enlightenment ingested.Image