18th December 2009
Chicken Pie Mark 2
After my first watery chicken pie disaster I've been reluctant to subject the girlies to a second round, but seeing as how I have a lot of spare chicken since I had to roast one up because I need the bones to make stock to make gravy for Christmas dinner, I'm going in....

First time I attempted a chicken and leek pie with the girls I left the fried shredded leeks and onions whole, and just covered them with cream and milk, without mixing this up into a roux. Damn those internet recipes.
This curdled during cooking and the resulting stringy, runny mess totally alarmed the girlies, who don't like to see too much of what they're eating.
We also made the mistake of making our own pastry, which was fun, but took all bloody evening.
This time I decided to try blending all those nasty vegetables away so as not to spook the horses, to make a really thick roux to make damn sure the sauce is going to thicken, and cheat outrageously by buying the pastry ready made.
It would have helped if I'd bought enough pastry to line the dish as well as making a top, but we made do by blind-baking the offcuts from shaping the pie top which almost covered the bottom of the pie dish. Personally I like the way pastry gets soggy with pie juices, but you could always skip the base if you think soggy pies are gross.

You can serve with boiled potatoes and the lemony carrots Ricard if you don't want the girlies to eat any, or with a nice winter salad if you are desperately trying to make room in your belly for Christmas.

Ding Ding! Round Two.
Chicken Ham and Leek Pie
main meat fowl
Chicken Ham Pie
Serves Eight Eldoradoes

1 roast chicken, meat shredded
½ lb ham, thick-sliced, cut into pieces
2 leeks
1 onion
4 cloves garlic, sliced
6 mushrooms, sliced
1 pint milk
4 Tablespoons cream
3-4 Tablespoons plain flour
1-2 teaspoons mustard
cheese, grated optional
salt. Plenty of salt.
2 packs puff pastry
Preheat the oven to Gas Mark 7/220°C.
Line a large pie dish with the puff pastry and bake the dish blind (you probably don't need to use baking beans as the puff pastry seems to stay down pretty well) for 15 minutes or until the pastry puffs and starts to turn golden. Don't bake it too dark or it will be difficult to scoop the pie off the bottom of the dish.

Meanwhile sweat the leeks, onions and garlic in butter until they soften, then add the sliced mushrooms and cook until they start to shrink.

When the vegetables are cooked through, add enough milk to blend this mixture and purée the fuck out of it to completely disguise all those horrible vegetables, especially the mushrooms, which no one likes.
I'm not really sure the mushroom flavour really worked - I used those anaemic white button ones - maybe something a bit meatier like shitake might have been nicer?
They actually taste a lot better if you fry them separately until they lose most of their moisture and colour up nice and golden before adding them to the sauce.

Shred all the meat off a medium roast chicken and cut up the ham into bite-sized pieces.

Melt another four tablespoons of butter and add around 4 tablespoons or so of plain flour, fry it up until it begins to colour, then gradually add milk, whisking to make a nice roux. When you have a reasonable paste, next time start adding the vegetable purée and continue whisking in until all the purée is used up, adjusting the consistency with extra milk as necessary.

Add the shredded chicken and ham pieces, a teaspoon or two of english mustard (I considered using Dijon, but I was rather afraid the horrible "bits" might scare the girlies) to taste, and finish off with a generous slop of double cream.
Season with plenty of sea salt
You could probably add grated cheese here too. Though then you wouldn't need so much salt.

Reduce the oven to Gas 4-5 (180-190°C).
Fill the pie dish with this mixture and cover with the remaining puff pastry sheet. (You will have bought enough pastry, of course).
The crust will try to shrink if you give it half a chance, there are a few things you can do to combat this:
  • Rest the dough for 5 minutes after rolling it out - this allows the gluten to relax again after working.
  • Rest the pie in the fridge for 15 minutes after you've laid on the crust for the same reasons.
  • Trim the crust slightly larger than the pie dish to allow for a little shrinkage.
  • Firmly crimp the edges of the pie to the dish with a fork or your fingers, or fold the crust over the edge of the dish to secure it.
Bake until golden on top (you can glaze with milk or beaten egg if the girlies haven't yet lost interest and wandered off to play on their Wii) for 30-45 minutes whilst you ruin the vegetables.

Sophie described the pie as "Quite nice - not runny and curdled like the last time".

Winter Salad
Serves 4

½ red cabbage, thinly sliced
4 sticks celery, thinly sliced
1 red onion, thinly sliced
1 red pepper, thinly sliced
½ dozen gherkins, thinly sliced
dozen green olives, pitted, halved
small pack mangetout, sliced diagonally into pieces
4 carrots, grated
red chillies, seeded, sliced
thyme (or other fresh herbs - tarragon might be nice)
thick-cut smoked bacon slices
3 cloves garlic, sliced
feta cheese

juice of 2 limes
1 clove garlic, crushed
green olives
2 teaspoons capers
olive oil
Slice your vegetables
Cut the bacon in to strips and fry them until they start to crisp up. Throw in the sliced garlic towards the end of the frying to colour. Dry this on kitchen paper and mix with the other salad ingredients, adding the cheese last so it doesn't break up too much.

Process the garlic, olives, capers and gherkins with the lemon juice, then whizz in the olive oil to make a thick pungent dressing and season.

Dress the salad and serve on the rocket.
Nice Dressing!

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