This year D and I have been eating a lot less meat. There were several reasons for this but the best thing to come of it (apart from feeling so much better) was the opportunity to try a whole host of new recipes.
Considering D is not really much of a vegetable eater he actually enjoyed this recipe. Alongside having a great many health benefits, spinach is one of the most versatile vegetables. This is also a pretty easy thing to put together after work and packs a punch in terms of fruit and vegetable portions.
To make a pie to serve 4 you will need:
1 pack of lighter puff pastry
450g frozen spinach
50g Parmesan cheese
200g garlic and chive soft cheese (the lighter option)
Salt and pepper
Herbs de provence
4 large tomatoes cut into segments
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 onion, diced
Preheat the oven to 200°C. Lightly fry the onion and garlic on a medium heat until soft. Add the spinach, tomatoes, herbs, salt and pepper and fry until the spinach has cooked down. Once the spinach is cooked; add the cream cheese, Parmesan and egg. Reduce the heat and make sure the cheese and egg is distributed through the mixture.
Place the spinach in a pie dish and top with the (rolled out) pastry. Glaze with the egg. Bake for approximately 20 minutes or until the pastry is golden.
This pie also makes excellent leftovers or vegetarian picnic food.
There’s nothing more comforting on a colder day than a homemade pie. There’s just something about the hearty filling and crisp pastry which makes it a favourite in our household (and across Yorkshire). Filo pastry makes this slightly lighter and less calorific than your average pie without compromising on the pie. I had to bat D’s hands away when I was photographing this as he kept stealing pieces of filo pastry to eat. Chicken pies are also a great way to use up leftover cooked chicken and to use cheaper bits of meal, I tend to use boneless chicken thighs in pies are the meat doesn’t dry out during cooking.
To make a filo pie you will need:
Approx 6 sheets of filo pastry
6-8 filleted chicken thighs, cut into small pieces
1-2 handfuls leftover chicken (optional)
A large handful of cooked ham
1 onion, diced
2 leeks, sliced
1 clove garlic, crushed
Half a head of brocoli
200ml chicken stock
1/2 glass white wine
2 sprigs rosemary
Salt and pepper
1 large teaspoon low fat crème fraîche
Fry your onion, garlic and leeks on a medium heat until soft. Add your chicken, salt and pepper and cook for about 5 minutes until the chicken starts to look pretty much cooked. Add the ham, stock, wine and rosemary and cook for a further 10 minutes on a low to medium heat. Cut your brocoli into small pieces and cook for about 2 minutes (too much longer and it will be squishy in the pie). Take the filling off the heat and stir through the crème fraîche.
During this time preheat your oven to 180°C. Put your pie filling into a pie dish. To top your pie brush a thin layer of butter over your filo pastry, then scrunch up the pastry so that it partially covers the pie. Repeat until the whole pie is covered.
Bake for about 15 to 20 minutes. Here is my pie baking in my brand new oven! (Major household appliance excitement!)
Once the pastry looks crispy and golden remove from the oven and serve. This pie is extremely pretty and doesn’t take too long. Perfect for those nights when you want to make a bit of effort, but you also sort of want to sit in your slippers watching tv.
Buying a whole chicken and using it to make different dishes is so much more economical than buying, say, individual packs of chicken breasts. Whether you joint your chicken and use it that way, or cook if first and use the leftovers to make different things you cannot deny that is works out cheaper (and sometimes the brown meat just works better in some things).
This pie recipe can be knocked up in around 45 minutes with minimal effort and is incredibly tasty. I made this for my boyfriend and every time my back was turned he couldn’t resist having a bit more pie.
To make your own pie you will need:
1 pack puff pastry
A knob of butter
Approx 200g streaky bacon diced
Around 1/2 a small cooked chicken, it depends on the size of the bird, cut into small pieces
2 teaspoons cornflour
150ml chicken stock
1 tablespoon low fat mascarpone or creme fraiche
Peel and slice your leek and onions and fry in your butter until soft.
Add your bacon and fry for a couple of minutes and then add your cooked chicken for another couple of minutes.
Add your chicken stock and allow to reduce for about 5 minutes. Add your cornflour and mix well. The sauce should have chickened by now.
Stir in your mascarpone/creme fraiche once your chicken sauce mixture has thickened and add to your pie dish.
Roll out your pastry and use this to top the pie. Remember to add steam holes to the pie and decorate the pie as you wish. Beat your egg and use this to glaze your pie.
Bake in a 180°C oven for about 20-25 minutes until the pastry is golden brown. Serve with the vegetables of your choice – we had this with green beans and brocoli.
If you have any leftovers these can be taken to work (or your partner’s work) to be eaten while watched by envious pie admirers.
So a couple of my friends and I have started a baking club. We all love to bake, but have experience in different areas of baking and having regular baking sessions gives us all a chance to learn from each other (and also have girl time).
This week, in line with the Great British Bake Off we made different types of pastries. The main (and by far most delicious) thing we made was a big savoury short crust pie. This pie is a wonderful thing to bake as the weather gets colder and wetter and you want something warm and filling for your evening meal. The pastry can be made in advance, or you could use ready made pastry – I think there is something nice about making your own though. This pie isn’t exactly quick to make, so you might want to make it when you have a few hours free. The sensational flavour and texture of the pie makes it well worth waiting for though (and your kitchen will smell wonderful).
To make this pie you will need:
For the pastry
500g plain flour
A pinch of salt
250g chilled unsalted butter
4 egg yolks
100ml cold water
For the filling
6 skinless, boneless chicken thighs
4 chicken breasts
900ml chicken stock
60g butter (plus extra to grease your pie dish)
3 tablespoons oil
1 finely diced onion
2 large leeks
2 cloves of garlic
2 finely chopped celery sticks
1 tablespoon dried tarragon
300g panchetta or any other type of bacon
40g plain flour (plus extra for dusting the pie dish)
150ml white wine
200ml low fat crème fraîche
1 egg to glaze (we just used the whites leftover from the pastry making)
Salt and pepper
Put the flour, butter and salt into a large mixing bowl and rub together to form breadcrumbs.
Add the egg yolks and mix in with your hands. Slowly add the water and mix until a dough has formed that leaves the side of the bowl clean.
Tip the pastry out onto a lightly floured surface and shape into a ball. Wrap in cling film and leave to cool until needed.
Cut the chicken into chunks (2.5cm) and set aside. Prepare all of the vegetables and place to one side.
Put the mushrooms into a large frying pan. Add 400ml of the stock, bring to the boil and simmer for 15 minutes. Strain and reserve the mushrooms and cooking liquid separately.
Wipe out the frying pan. Melt the butter with a tablespoon of the oil. Add the chicken pieces and cook until slightly browned on every side. Do this in batches so as not to overcrowd the pan. Remove from the pan and put to one side in a bowl.
Add the remaining oil to the pan and cook the onion, leek, celery, garlic and tarragon. Cook gently until soft but not brown. Remove from the pan into a bowl.
In the frying pan cook the bacon in the frying pan until browned. Remove from the pan and put to one side.
Add the wine to the frying pan and bring to a simmer. Deglaze the pan by stirring and scraping the base of the pan. Return all the ingredients back into the pan (or put everything into a larger saucepan) cover everything with the flour, add the stock and mix well. Cover and cook over a low heat for approx. 35 minutes. Preheat the oven to 180°C.
During this time cut your pastry in half. Roll out one half for the base of your pie dish. Grease your pie dish and dust with flour. Place your rolled out pastry into the pie dish and allow to rest for a few minutes to prevent the pastry shrinking. Trim the pastry to the size of your pie dish, line the bottom of the tin with baking beans and blind bake for 10-15 minutes (to prevent the fabled soggy bottom).
Going back to your pie filling, remove the meat and vegetables from the pan using a slotted spoon and put into the pie dish. Reduce the liquid in the pan by half. Add the crème fraîche, whisking gently with a balloon whisk. Pour this sauce into the pie dish.
Roll out the other half of your pastry. Top your pie with it, remember to cut steam holes into the pie to stop it exploding in the oven. Seal the edges of your pie by washing the edges with egg, then press the edges together with your thumb. Decorate the pie with the excess pastry then glaze with the eggs prior to baking.
Bake in the preheated oven at 180°C for 25 minutes. Turn the oven down to 150°C and bake for a further 20-25 minutes until golden brown.
Serve with the vegetables of your choice. Feel instantly warmed and comforted.
So, as I think I mentioned it was my birthday on Monday. It was also a bank holiday and once again I applaud my parents for managing to have me at the beginning of May near to a bank holiday weekend. I mean, it is pretty amazing that I rarely ever had to go to school on my birthday.
Anyway, my parents, J and I spent a happy afternoon having afternoon tea at the Opus reserve bar which is part of the Radisson Hotel in Manchester. It was a gloriously sunny bank holiday and we had a completely lovely time sitting by the windows in the sun drinking tea and eating cake.
My parents and I all had traditional afternoon tea – which included the tea of our choice; sandwiches; freshly baked scones with jam and clotted cream; and a selection of cakes and Prosecco and fruit jelly.
J (who had been making the most of the weather on a bike ride) chose the Gentleman’s afternoon tea. This is a great one for people who might not like traditional afternoon tea as they prefer savoury items. This one included – the tea of your choice; mini fish, chips and mushy peas; pork pie; Yorkshire pudding with gravy; freshly baked scones with jam and clotted cream; and rustic sandwiches.
We spent a good while basking in the sun and drinking cups of tea.
Now, it always surprises me how full you can get on all the cake and sandwiches, but the staff were so helpful and happy to box up the remaining cakes for us to eat at home.
You can find out about afternoon tea at the Radisson here.