I finally treated myself to a Le Creuset french oven which I’ve been wanting for ages, and of course had to cook with it the day it got delivered. I have a smaller pot but wanted something with a bit more room (to cook more food).
I was planning on making a slowly braised beef stew but had leftover chicken from the previous night, so decided to make a similarly comforting chicken and vegetable pie.
I get so much satisfaction from something as simple as the pure weight of the pot while cooking, and the way the heat is so evenly distributed.
Anyway, my recipe for the pie below. Of course you could do this in any pot you have.
Ingredients for a large pie to feed 4-6
- 1-2 sheets of shortcrust pastry – to make a base that will fit your pie dish, I have a 28cm pie dish that needs 2)
- 1-2 sheets puff pastry
- 4 rashers streaky bacon, diced
- 1 large onion, finely diced
- 1 large carrot, cut into 2cm chunks
- 1 cup frozen peas
- leftover chicken meat, removed from the bone and shredded
- 8 baby potatoes, halved and cooked
- handful of tarragon leaves, chopped
- 2 bay leaves
- 2 tbls plain flour
- 1/2 cup white wine
- 1 cup chicken stock
- salt and pepper to taste
- 1 egg, beaten
- Begin by making the base. Line your pie dish with the shortcrust pastry and blind bake in a preheated oven at 180C/350F for 20 minutes until golden brown. Remove from oven and cool
- Fry the bacon lardons in a little olive oil until they are brown and crispy. Remove and set aside
- Fry the onions on low heat in the bacon fat until translucent
- Add the carrots, cover and cook on low heat for about 5 minutes, until the carrots have softened
- Add the peas, chicken, potatoes, tarragon and bay leaves
- Turn up the heat, add the white wine and cook till the alcohol cooks out and the wine is more or less gone – you just want the flavour of the wine
- Sprinkle the flour over the chicken mixture and cook out the flour for 3-5 minutes on medium heat
- Add the chicken stock and stir – it should be the consistency of thin gravy. This will thicken as the pie cooks
- Cover and simmer on low heat for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally
- Remove from heat and let cool slightly (this helps to prevent the base from getting soggy)
- Preheat oven to 180C/350F
- Assemble the pie – pour the chicken filling into the prepared and cooled pie base, cover with a layer of puff pastry, cut a few slashes in the puff to allow steam to escape while the pie cooks
- Brush the puff pastry with the beaten egg to give it that lovely colour when the pie cooks
- Bake in oven for 20-30 minutes until the puff pastry is golden brown
A wonderfully fresh and versatile sauce that you can simply toss through some pasta, or add a touch of cream to tszuj up pan-fried chicken. One jar will keep in the fridge for two weeks. Easy-peasy as pie to make as well.
Ingredients makes enough to fill a jam-sized jar
- 60g basil leaves
- 60g toasted pine nuts
- 60g grated fresh parmesan
- 1-2 garlic cloves
- 1/2 – 3/4 cups extra virgin olive oil
- Generous pinch of salt
- Pop the basil leaves, pine nuts, parmesan and garlic into a food processor and slowly add the olive oil to help loosen the mix until you have a thick sauce consistency
- Season to taste with salt
- Store in a airtight jar in the fridge or freeze portions so you always have something fresh and green when you want
Chicken quesadillas with jalapeno peppers and Monterey Jack cheese
Quesadillas are so quick and simple. You can even use leftover chicken or beef for these, which makes them even easier, and of course add whatever you want or have in the fridge. I would have added in slices of red capsicum and avocado but my fridge is bare and it’s late.
Ingredients for one serving (one quesadilla)
- 2 wraps or similar round flatbread – I use wholemeal
- 1 single chicken breast
- sliced jalapenos
- Moneterey Jack cheese slices
- salt and pepper
- Butterfly the chicken breast at the thickest part so that it’s an even thickness, season well on both sides and pan-fry till cooked through and golden brown
- Slice and arrange on one of the wraps, along with the jalapenos and any other fillings you fancy
- Top with a few slices of cheese
- Cover with the second wrap
- Heat up a skillet on high
- Pop the wrap sandwich into the middle of the pan and cook for about 2 minutes – you want to get the cheese melting
- Flip over with the help of a flexible spatula and toast the wrap on the other side for 1-2 minutes until the wraps are crispy and golden
- Slice and enjoy while still warm so the cheese is still gooey
I really do like pies. There’s something special about being able to peek under the edge of a crisp pastry lid to let the aroma of the flavours that have been cooking away in there, escape in wispy tendrils to your nose.
I found some gorgeous leeks in the supermarket so decided to make chicken and leek pie (my supermarket also had fresh thyme – bonus! It always seems that the herb I want is always the one herb they didn’t stock that day).
Ingredients makes one large pie
- 4 rashers of streaky bacon, diced
- 1 double chicken breast, skin removed and cut into bite sized pieces
- 1 large or 2 small leeks, washed and sliced
- 1 glass dry white wine
- 1 tbls flour
- 1 cup hot chicken stock
- fresh thyme
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 1 sheet short crust pastry
- 1 egg, beaten
- Preheat oven to 200C
- Fry the bacon in a large pan until crispy, remove from pan and set aside – keep the bacon fat in the pan
- Brown the chicken pieces in the bacon fat, remove from pan and set aside
- Lower the heat and gently sweat the leeks until soft
- Turn up the heat, add the chicken and bacon and sprinkle the flour over, coating all the ingredients and cook for about 3 minutes
- Add the white wine and bring to the boil for 2-3 minutes, stirring out any lumps of flour
- Add enough stock to just cover everything and add the thyme (you can just put the whole sticks in and then remove them later, or pick off the leaves, which I prefer)
- Cover and simmer for 20 minutes – the stock should have reduced and become a nice gravy
- Pour the mix into pie dish and cover with the sheet of short crust pastry, pressing down the edges with a fork
- Slash a few cuts into the pastry to help the steam escape while it’s cooking and to prevent the pastry from going soggy
- Brush beaten egg over the top
- Put into preheated oven for 20-25 minutes or until golden brown
- Serve hot
I was a little apprehensive with my attempt to make Chicken Kiev – would I be able to ensure that all the butter is securely enveloped and won’t sneak out of a gap in the chicken ? Will I be able to fry the chicken fillets so they come out crispy and crunchy, not greasy, without burning myself (or letting the oil bubble over and ruin a saucepan like my first disastrous attempt at fish and chips)?
A lot of recipe research and I ended up with the recipe below.
Final verdict – some of my chicken fillets didn’t flatten to nice even shapes, so I didn’t wrap the chicken around the butter well enough on some of them, so some leaked out while roasting (boo). I had to finish off the chicken in the frying pan as it was still not golden brown after 18 minutes in the oven, and I didn’t want to overcook the chicken in the oven. I think the panko helped to keep the outside crispy though, and the chicken meat was tender and juicy. Not sure I’d try making Chicken Kiev again in a hurry, but I would consider just frying the crumbed chicken fillets and serve them with a drizzle of herbed garlic butter and a squeeze of lemon juice.
Ingredients (for four)
- 2 Skinless boneless chicken breasts (1 single breast per serving)
- 100g butter
- 3 cloves garlic
- 2 tbl fresh tarragon
- 1 tbl fresh lemon juice
- 1 egg
- 3 tbl plain flour
- 1 cup breadcrumbs (I used Japanese panko)
- Oil for shallow frying
- Begin by preparing the herb butter. Mix all of the ingredients together in a small mixing bowl until thoroughly combined. Some of the lemon juice may remain separate from the butter. Mound the butter on a piece of plastic wrap and mold into a log. Cover completely in plastic wrap and refrigerate until hard
- Preheat the oven to 200C/400F/Gas 6
- Flatten the chicken breasts between plastic wrap with a rolling pin until they are about 1/3 inch thick. Don’t mangle them – just get them on the slender side
- Prepare three shallow bowls for dipping: one with flour, one with the beaten egg, and one with the bread crumbs.
- Remove the hardened butter from the refrigerator and slice into four equal portions (each piece should be a little less long than the chicken breast is wide). Place a piece of butter towards one end of each chicken breast and then roll the meat up tightly round the butter. Tuck in the edges and any stray bits as you roll. Press firmly together
- Dredge each chicken roll thoroughly in flour, then egg, and finally in bread crumbs. Be sure everything is well coated. Place the chicken rolls on a plate and refrigerate for 1/2 hour before frying
- Heat the oil in a frying pan and fry the chicken breasts on all sides until lightly browned. Transfer chicken to a wire rack and bake in the oven for 18-20 minutes, or until golden-brown and completely cooked through
- I served mine with steamed broccolini but you can serve it with any vegetable that would work with that herby garlic butter
We picked up a free-range, antibiotic-free and hormone-free Empress chicken from Huber’s yesterday. I haven’t had easy access to any other chicken than what’s available at Cold Storage and at $22 for this chicken, it’s about three times the price of what I can get at Cold Storage. And that’s not even an organic chicken, which I was hoping to buy yesterday.
But preparing the Empress chicken tonight for roasting really reminded me why we should all try to avoid cage-reared chicken.
It didn’t have that awful slime that I get with the Cold Storage chicken when I took it out of the bag and the chicken looked so plump-breasted and firm. Even the shape of it made me think that this chicken had to work at walking around, perching, stretching its wings, and that made a really “nice”, for want of a better word, visual in my head – that the bird had a good, natural life, before it was prepared to be cooked in my oven (I know that sounds odd, but I’m not quite ready to go meat-free yet).
Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, one of our favourite TV chefs and a firm supporter (along with Jamie Oliver) of free-range chicken really made an impact with his chicken run series.
Now I am trying to find out if Sakura chicken, which apparently is only available through NTUC, and is hormone/antibiotic-free, is also free-range.