Monday, March 29, 2010

Chicken and Button Mushroom Pie (and Hobs)


Yes, I love puff pastry. And I love nice hot pies from the oven. So for Sunday dinner I followed this Chicken & Mushroom Puff Pie recipe from the Good Food website. As suggested, I also prepared a side dish of gently cooked spinach with pine nuts and garlic - the spinach is inexpensive (£1 for the bag) but the cost of pine nuts is sinful.

But, before we get started, I wanted to say a bit about the word "hob." I'm familiar with stovetops, ranges, and ovens but "hob" (as it says on the appliance in our kitchen) was new to me. I'm assuming that it refers to the stovetop and so, until I figure out otherwise, will use the word in that way because it's shorter and cuter than "stovetop." Which leads me to mention Aga cookers. I've read about these (we don't have one) and, I have to say, I'm intrigued.

Serves 4
Prep: 10 minutes
Cook: 90 minutes

Ingredients
1 tbsp vegetable oil
6 boneless chicken thighs
8 rashers streaky bacon
1 red onion
250g pack baby button mushrooms
handful fresh rosemary sprigs
handful fresh thyme sprigs
2 tbsp plain flour
2 cups chicken stock
1 cup milk
1 roll of puff pastry
1 egg
salt and freshly ground black pepper

1. Prep
Roughly chop the onion.
Wash and dry the mushrooms.
Gather rosemary and thyme from the garden and mince.
Set puff pastry out to come to room temperature.

2. Stovetop - frying pan
Heat the oil in a large frying pan.
Gently season the chicken with rosemary, just half the thyme (saving the other half for later), and a pinch of black pepper. Fry for 5-8 mins until golden brown. Transfer chicken to a separate bowl so that you can reuse the pan.

3. Stovetop - frying pan
Separate the bacon rashers into the pan and fry until crisp.
Add the onion, mushrooms, and the remaining thyme. Cook for another 3-4 minutes.
Add the flour, mixing well to coat all ingredients.
Remove from hob.

4. Stovetop - large saucepan
Transfer onion and mushroom mixture to a large saucepan and return to hob on medium heat.
Slowly stir in the chicken stock.
Slowly stir in the milk.
When sauce starts to thicken, add the chicken.
Simmer for 30 minutes.

5. Oven - deep dish pie plate
Preheat oven to 190°C.
Spoon the chicken mixture into the baking dish (use a slotted spoon).
(Save most of the sauce for gravy in a later meal.)
Cover pie with roll of puff pastry.
Brush with whisked egg.
Bake for 30 minutes.

6. Serve with fresh spinach and enjoy!

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Ham Salad Sandwich and Gingerbread

We were in Coniston on Saturday, running the Coniston 14, so there wasn't much time or energy left to think about food. Thankfully, the John Ruskin School PTA offered a marvelous selection of sandwiches and sweets for hungry runners and race supporters.

Dave chose, for me, a ham salad sandwich. Now, back in the US, a "ham salad" sandwich is one in which the ham is finely chopped and mixed with mayonnaise. We also have "ham and cheese" sandwiches (a slice of ham, a bit of mustard, and a slice of cheese).

This is different. Evidently, a ham salad sandwich (UK style) is a nice slice of ham, a dollop of salad cream (more yellow than mayonaisse), lettuce, sliced tomatoes, and sliced cucumber. Fantastic.

Along with that, we bought two squares of gingerbread (one for Dave and one for me). I think they're more likely called ginger sponge pudding as it was a very moist cake. I assumed that it was the type of gingerbread that could be found in nearby Grasmere - home of the Grasmere Gingerbread Shop but find I'm probably wrong about that. The gingerbread found there "... looks like a biscuit, rather than a traditional ginger sponge, crunchy and chewy and so very, very moreish!"

I had no idea what "very, very moreish" meant so had to look it up. "Moreish" (also spelled "morish") means (with reference to food) addictive. As in the Lays Potato Chip ad: I bet you can't eat just one.

I suspect that this might be a good ginger biscuit recipe. I wonder how it would compare to McVitie's Ginger Nuts? Must make a note to try it sometime.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Tatie Pot

Everywhere you look in the Lake District, there are sheep. They're adorable! Back in the states, I thought there were just two kinds of sheep: black ... and white. The National Sheep Association (UK) website lists 85 breeds. Who knew?

Now I know next to nothing about sheep farming and assumed that while a few lambs may be sold for Easter dinners, lucrative earnings come from the sale of fleece. I still know next to nothing about sheep farming but I've recently learned that farmers "will get an average of £1 per fleece, which for the first time in years will cover a farmer’s shearing costs." I'm guessing the sale of lambs for meat is far more profitable.

To honor those Cumbrian sheep farmers, today's dinner is prepared using a recipe that calls for lamb, black pudding, and potatoes: Tatie Pot.

Now if you haven't heard of black pudding, I urge you to google it first so you know what you're getting into. I bought a package of "Real Lancashire Black Pudding" (as small a package as I could - 250g - and even then only used 1/4 of it).

The original recipe also calls for "middle neck of lamb cut into chunks" - I wish it wasn't quite so graphic. I selected a benign "lamb neck fillet" from Booths deli and pretended it was something else.

Serves 2
Prep: 10 minutes
Cook: 1 hour, 45 minutes

Ingredients
300g lamb neck fillet
60g black pudding
1 bunch fresh thyme

6 potatoes
1 red onion
1 tbsp sunflower oil

1 bayleaf

1 cup chicken stock

salt and freshly ground black pepper

1. Prep
Preheat oven to 180°C.
Cut the fillet into bite-sized chunks.
Cut the black pudding into littler chunks.
Collect thyme from the garden and snip it to fine bits.
Slice potatoes.
Mince the onion.

2. Put it together
Coat the bottom of a casserole dish with oil and add lamb, black pudding, onion, bayleaf, thyme. Season with salt and pepper. Add stock.
Arrange the potato slices on top, overlapping them like slates on a roof. If desired, add a few bits of butter on top.

3. Oven
Cover with foil and cook in the preheated oven for about 60 minutes. Remove the foil and cook for a further 45 minutes until browned on top.

4. Serve with pickled red cabbage (as per tradition).

I know you're wondering. Did we actually eat it? Yes, we did. The flavors were quite strong and the meaty smell of the stew hung in the air for a day or so (it seemed) but it was good. The pickled red cabbage cut the heaviness and complemented the casserole quite nicely. I'm not sure that I'd make it again but it was definitely worth trying once.

Friday, March 26, 2010

The Scotch Egg

We lead off the new-food-a-day challenge with a UK favorite: the Scotch Egg.

Now, I'll confess, I didn't actually make these eggs myself. The thing is, there are only the two of us and most recipes call for a minimum of 8 eggs. I thought it best to try one or two first, see if we like them, and if they pass the test, make some when we next have visitors.

Ours came from the deli at Booths. I bought two (they're big) for £1.20. Essentially it's a hard-boiled egg, coated with ground sausage, rolled in breadcrumbs, and fried. Sounds like breakfast but it's meant to be eaten cold, as a snack or light lunch. These are probably available in any deli in the US but I'd never noticed them or knew what they were; certainly had never eaten one.

Eating them cold sounds gross but, I have to say, they're quite good. Use a knife and fork. Sprinkle with a bit of sea salt. Actually quite yummy. Future visitors beware!

For more information, ask the experts at The Handmade Scotch Egg Company (Herefordshire UK). And as the video below will teach you, "Scotch" eggs were actually invented in London.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

30 Day Meal Challenge

Now that I know I'm being stalked ("followed"), I feel compelled to pay more attention to posting regularly. To that end, I've devised a plan to keep my interest and motivation going ... a challenge.

Beginning today, I will plan and prepare and serve at least one new recipe (perhaps traditionally British but almost certainly with local ingredients) every day. There. I said it. Something that I haven't prepared before.

The weekend that we'll be in Glasgow, the challenge will be to choose something different from the menu.

The days that I'll be in San Diego, the challenge will be ... ignored until my return.

This challenge will culminate on St. George's Day (23 April) with a medieval banquet and feast served at the Braddylls Arms in Bardsea. I'm told that we'll have just a dagger for utensils. What to wear??

Now - it's time to plan tonight's dinner!

Thursday, March 11, 2010

McVitie's Ginger Nuts


Move over Digestives. These are my new guilty pleasure. McVitie's Ginger Nuts. They're quite like ginger snaps - a bit larger - excellent if you take a small bite and let it melt in your mouth. Now that I think about it, they're very much like Sweetzels Ginger Snaps that we used to buy when we lived in West Chester, Pennsylvania. The cookies in the black and orange box. Dip the cookie in a cup of hot coffee - the perfect work break.

On a separate note, I see that I posted about dog food. Yes, we're still using James Wellbeloved and the dogs still love it. The problem is that they've all just been to the vet and all have teeth that need serious attention. I've been giving my dogs dry food for years but no bones or other chew toys. This vet seems to think that dry food isn't good enough and that they need to chew raw bones - and that this will help to keep their teeth cleaner. So we've started Maggie and Cooper on one raw chicken wing a day and we're on the lookout for some marrow bones for Desi.