Sunday, 5 September 2010

Weekend Cook

While cooking during the week has its rewards and is a worthwhile occupation, it can be fraught; keeping the family happy, the cook composed and the suicide hour as peaceful as is reasonably possible.  Weekdays find me looking for shortcuts, quick solutions and recipes for the all-important slow-cooker.

Weekends are another matter, though.  I am rarely more at peace with myself than pootling around in my little kitchen at the weekend; baking for the week ahead, preparing bits and bobs in advance for the week's meals and just generally idling hours away planning lovely meals...

Saturday night was pie night for us and, while I would usually make a pie like this with leftover roast, or otherwise cooked, chicken, his one was a scratch pie from start to finish.  Poached chicken has such a beautiful succulence in a pie and the liquid provides a tasty sauce with little work.

Chicken & Leek Pie

Obviously you could use leftover cooked chicken, as detailed above and just steam the leeks while you make the sauce with a pint of stronger chicken stock (and I would recommend the Knorr Stock Pot stock gel if you have no homemade stuff to hand)

4 chicken breast fillets
60ml dry vermouth
3 leeks, trimmed and sliced thickly
light chicken stock or water, to cover
1 tsp black peppercorns
2 bay leaves
1 dried whole chilli pepper
40g butter
40g flour
1 sheet ready-rolled puff pastry

Put the leeks and chicken breasts into a large saucepan and pour over the vermouth.  Pour the stock or water into the pan and add the peppercorns, bay leaves and chilli.  Bring to the boil, reduce the heat and simmer gently for 10 minutes.  Remove the chicken and leeks from the pan with a slotted spoon and strain the liquid into a jug.  Pour the liquid back into the clean pan and boil it, reducing it to a pint.  Leave the liquid to cool.  Chunk or slice the chicken breasts as you like and put them, and the leeks, into a pie dish.  Put the butter and flour into a saucepan with the poaching liquid and bring to the boil, whisking continuously.  Turn the heat down and simmer, still whisking, until the sauce has thickened.  Pour this into the dish and gently mix to coat the other ingredients.  Top the dish with the puff pastry and bake at 180°c for 30-45 minutes until the pastry is cooked and everything has had chance to heat through completely.

This weekend has been boosted by my acquisition of Kitchen, the lovely new offering from Nigella Lawson.  Filled with all sorts of good things and the sort of perceptive, evocative writing she is so well-known for, I have been sofa-bound, armed with this book, whenever time allows.

Today, I decided to try out a few of the recipes; the Everyday Brownies (p.217) and the Crustless Pizza (p.26) and the Ham Hocks in Cider (p.368).  The brownies were very popular with the children, being more 'cakey' and considerably less opulent than my usual Fabulous Chocolate Brownies.  The pizza was a delicious kind of  'Yorkshire Pudding' pizza and went down very well with all of us at lunchtime.

Ham Hocks in Cider are now simmering on the stovetop in readiness for our supper this evening.  Happily, the ingredients are things that I generally have in the house (apart from the fennel seeds, so I left those out and added a couple of bay leaves instead).  Two large hocks cost only £3.00 from the butcher yesterday, so hardly extravagant.  To that end, I plan to serve the hocks with extravagantly buttery mashed potatoes and, I think, the last of the purple sprouting...

Cath xx

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