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Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall

Food & Drink

Leek and Chicken Pie/Pastie Recipe

November 19, 2010

(our children’s favourite!)

As I’m on a roll with the recipes, a very adaptable, economic, family favourite here is Chicken and Leek Pie or Pastie. I usually cook it with lots of leeks, but sometimes with mushrooms and/or sweetcorn – whatever’s in the cupboard or garden.

I use the term ‘pie’ loosely too….

Depending upon what’s in the cupboard, how much time I have, or how ‘good’ I’m being, the topping could be made of mashed potato, shortcrust pastry, or this week a very delicious (but off the scale in weight watchers points!), pastie. You could also use the filling for vol-au-vents too.

The reason I use the term economical is because I always poach a chicken for this recipe, getting enough meat off of a carcass for two dinners (that’s 10 good sized portions in our house) and use the liquid for soup stock. So the free range chicken I bought from Aldi this week at €5.99 worked out at about 60c per portion.

I prefer to buy free-range chickens whenever I can and, as they can be a lot pricier than factory chickens, poaching makes them go further.  If you’ve never poached a chicken it’s very easy….

Place the chicken in a casserole dish or large saucepan with a lid, cover with water, add a roughly chopped carrot, onion, bay leaf and salt and pepper. Bring to the boil, put on the lid then simmer for an hour – to an hour and a half – depending upon the size of the chicken. You can test when it’s ready by checking with a fork – if the meat isn’t pink and it’s starting to come off the bone you know it’s ready! Let it cool for a while then remove the chicken from the pan, reserving the liquid.  When the chicken’s cool enough to handle, strip it of all it’s meat. You’ll be amazed at how much you get.

Put all the old bones and bits of skin left back into the pan with the reserved liquid, bring to the boil and simmer again for another hour or more to reduce. Sieve and save the liquid. This will give you a tasty stock for soups and gravies.

So for the filling…

Ingredients for Leek and Chicken Pies

(will make about 5 portions)

1 onion, peeled and sliced
Half a coarsely chopped chicken (as above) or about 400g (1lb) cooked chicken
250ml (1/2pt) semi-skimmed milk
1 chicken stock cube
Bay leaf
Salt and pepper
2 tsp cornflour
2 cleaned and chopped leeks
Optional: flavourings to taste (it doesn’t need them but tarragon is tasty with this), sweetcorn, mushrooms


Place 200ml of milk in a saucepan with the stock cube, onion, bay leaf and salt and pepper to taste. Gently heat then cover the pan with a lid, simmering for 5 minutes to infuse the flavours.

Mix the cornflour with the remaining cold milk and add this to the mixture, stirring all the time until the sauce begins to boil gently. Add the chopped chicken and leeks. The sauce should be a creamy, thick consistency – if it’s too thin add a little more cornflour and milk until it thickens.That’s it, filling made. As I said you can use it with any of the toppings, and if you’ve poached a chicken double up the ingredients list above and make a big batch.

If you’d like to expand your waistlines and make the pasties, I made a rough puff pastry (this takes about 10 mins) a la Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall.

(Heat oven to 200oC)

Ingredients for Rough Puff Pastry:

400g plain flour
200g cold butter
8-10 tbsp very cold water
pinch salt
1 egg yolk beaten or milk to glaze

Sieve the flour into a bowl, add the salt then chop the butter into small chunks and mix together until all the butter is coated with flour.  Add a little iced water and bring the dough together with your hand until you have a medium to firm dough that isn’t sticky that has large bits of butter in it.

Sprinkle some flour onto a clean surface, remove the dough from the bowl and using your hands shape the dough into a rectangle shape.

Roll it out by rolling it away from you in one direction to keep it’s rectangular shape. When it’s about 2-3cm thick, fold the far third towards you and fold the near third over that (a bit like folding a letter), so you have a rectangle a third of the size and three times as thick. Repeat this folding and turning at least four times, six or seven if you can, dusting it lightly with flour as you go. Fold the pastry up for a final time and chill it for 30 mins to an hour before using.

When you’re ready, roll the pastry out again and cut enough 20cm circles for your pasties, about 3mm thick.

Place the filling onto one half, dampen the edges of the pastry with water and fold in half, crimping the edges to seal.  Brush the beaten egg or milk over the pastie and place in a pre-heated oven for about 25mins.
Hope you enjoy it… In my next blog I’ll be explaining how to grow leeks.
Food & Drink

Pumpkin Rice and Pumpkin Soup Recipes

October 27, 2010

It’s that time of year when we’re all scooping out the flesh of our juicy pumpkins and wondering what to do with them. Here’s a couple of our favourite recipe ideas…..

Like many of you I have a bookshelf full of cookbooks. I love cookbooks.  A good cook book is my ideal Christmas present.  I can curl up by the fire on Christmas day whilst the Children are watching a movie and lose myself in a book full of delicious sounding foods.

I especially like the books with a bit of a story to tell. Explanations on basic techniques for example, or in the case of Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall’s Everyday book, learning lost techniques.

A couple of times, when I’ve been feeling a bit cheeky, I buy my hubby a cook book too (which is a bit like buying myself an unofficial present.)

The first time I wasn’t sure of the reaction but as he’s a big fan of Rivercottage I took the risk and bought him the Everyday cookbook mentioned above.  To my slight surprise he absolutely loved it – told his friends about it (it seems that men don’t just talk about football!), and loves choosing and cooking recipes from it. One of his top 5 recipes of all time comes from this book – Beef with Soy Sauce and Ginger, and some of our friends that he’s cooked it for loved it too! 

Recently, instead of the noodles recommended with this dish, he tried out another recipe from the second cook book I bought him: Pumpkin Rice from Caribbean Food Made Easy by Levi Roots.  This is a great alternative to the usual soups and roasting methods we’ve used in the past for the pumpkin flesh as the flavours are very delicate. This is the recipe as written by Levi in his book.


Available from Amazon

Pumpkin Rice (serves 8-9)

550ml (just under a pint) water
400g (14oz) pumpkin flesh, deseeded and cut into small chunks
2-3 sprigs of thyme
1 tsp salt
450g (1lb) basmati rice
15g (1/2oz) butter

1. Put the water, pumpkin, 2 sprigs of thyme and salt in a saucepan.  Put on a lid.  Bring to the boil, turn down the heat and simmer, covered, for 10 minutes or until soft.  Remove the thyme and very roughly mash the pumpkin into the liquid with a potato masher.  You’re not after a smooth puree, more a rough mix.

2. Wash the rice twice to remove some of the starch, swishing it round a bowl and running cold water over it until the water is almost clear, and add it to the pumpkin mix in the saucepan.  You want the liquid to cover the rice by about 2 1/2cm (1in).  Add a little more water if necessary (or pour off some if there’s too much).  Add the butter and stir it in as it melts.  Put the lid back on the pan.  Bring to the boil and turn down to a simmer immediately.

3.  Leave to simmer gently for around 20 mins.  Do not uncover the pan to take a peek as you want to keep in the heat.  The bottom of the rice will brown a little; this is how it is meant to be.  Just make sure it is on the lowest heat.  Turn off the heat and leave for a few more minutes, or until you’re ready to eat.  Add the remaining spring of thyme and, if you want to serve it with lots of style, pack into a lightly oiled dish and turn it out in a neat mound on to a serving plate.

The second recipe we use for the flesh is a lovely Pumpkin Soup from another favourite, The New Covent Garden Food Co Book of Soups. I’ve also adapted this recipe when I’ve been trying to follow the Weight Watchers Diet by leaving out the butter, and just throwing all the ingredients together in a pan, cooking until soft then blending.  Here’s the original version though:

Pumpkin Soup (serves 6)

25g (1oz) butter
1 medium onion, finely chopped
200g (7oz) potatoes, peeled and chopped
900g (2lb) pumpkin, diced
250g (9oz) carrots, diced
1.2ltrs (2pints) vegetable stock
150ml (1/4pint) milk
demerara sugar to taste
finely grated nutmeg to taste
salt and freshly ground black pepper

Melt the butter and cook the onion gently for 5 minutes in a covered saucepan, without colouring.  Add the potato, 700g of the pumpkin, the carrots and the vegetable stock.  Cover, bring to the boil and simmer gently for about 20 mins until the vegetables are tender.  Cool a little, then puree in a liquidiser.  Return to a clean saucepan and stir in the milk.

Meanwhile, add the remaining pumpkin to a saucepan of boiled salted water and cook for 2 minutes.  Drain and add to the pureed soup.  Add the sugar, nutmeg and seasoning to taste.  Reheat gently.

The most effective way to serve is in a hollowed-out pumpkin.  Take a pumpkin, slice off the top quarter, scoop out the seeds, place slices of toasted baguette in the base together with grated Gruyere cheese.  Fill with the soup, put on the lid and serve at the table.

Yum Yum. Enjoy!

This is part 1 of 3 blogs I’ll be writing on pumpkins this week, so keep an eye out for what’s coming next.

        Happy Halloween!