Wednesday, 4 November 2009

Autumn Picnics

We think of picnics as belonging to the warmer months of summer, but it can be just as wonderful to bring our food outside in the the autumn. Surrounded by the rich colours of the changing leaves and the fresh cool air, something delicious to eat is just the thing. I made these little chicken pies as my portable feast, along with some local apples which are in such abundance here in the countryside. I've given the recipe for the pies at the end of this post.

Little Chicken Pies

These little pies are very quickly and simply folded into a pasty shape and crimped at the top to seal. They make a wonderful portable snack and really hit the spot on a chilly day. You can vary the vegetables according to what you have available. Here I am using leeks and carrots, but peas or mushrooms are great too. Or chestnuts...
Sometimes I use potatoes and peas and a spoonful of curry powder - so as you can tell, there’s plenty of room for improvisation!
Makes 4 individual pies (or 6 slightly smaller ones)
Easy shortcrust pastry

Sift 400g of plain flour into a food processor. Cut 200g of butter roughly into cubes and add  to the flour along with a pinch of salt. Whiz this mix until it breaks into breadcrumb size bits, then with the machine running, gradually drop 4-6 tablespoons of cold water into the bowl through the top. When the mix forms together as a ball, immediately stop the machine. Knead the pastry very lightly on a board to bring it all together and then wrap and let it rest for half and hour. Roll it out to about 2mm thickness and cut out circles using an upside down plate as a guide. This will yeild 4 circles of about 20cm or 6 of 15cm.


1 T olive oil
1 small onion, finely diced
1 small leek, washed well and finely sliced
2 carrots, diced into small cubes
250g chicken fillet, diced
1 scant tablespoon flour
125ml chicken stock (or water and organic stock cube)
2-3 T double cream
pinch of salt and sprinkle of black pepper

1 beaten egg for glazing

Warm the oil in a large frying pan and add the onions, gently frying to soften. Add the leeks and continue to cook until these soften and colour a little (but careful not to brown too much) and add the carrots. Push the vegies to one side of the frying pan and then put the chicken into the empty side and sautee for a moment or two, then cook together with the vegies for a couple of minutes. Sprinkle over the flour and stir it in, then add the stock and cream, salt and pepper, and allow this to thicken for a minute or so. Then take the pan off the heat and allow the filling to cool.

Spoon the filling on to half of each of the pastry circles, leaving a 2cm border. Brush the border with water and fold the pastry over the filling to form a semi circle. Press around the edge to seal. Turn the pie, pasty style, so that the seal goes over the top and crimp it to give a nice finsih. My pies always look very homemade!
Brush the pies with beaten egg and prick each lightly with a fork.
Bake on a parchment lined baking sheet in preheated oven, 200c for 25-30 minutes and until pastry is nicely golden.

Enjoying Supper for a Song


I was delighted to receive, quite recently, a copy of this gorgeous new book by Tamasin Day-Lewis and have been enjoying it tremendously. The philosophy behind this book is about getting back to a purer appreciation for our food; being mindful of savouring it without waste. The message strikes the right note at a time when we are much more conscious of economic hard times and the worrying consequences of excess and waste on our environment. But this isn't a gloomy or preachy book in any way, it is a celebration of what we have, how to make the most of it, and share our bounty with our friends and families - what could be better?
Tamasin's first chapter is about making our dishes, and our time spent cooking go a bit further. It's a concept I am very familiar with - my granny has always known how to "make it stretch" and that has served us all well!!
The next section of the book is called The Saturday Bake, and I absolutely loved this part. Tamasin's account of busy, happy afternoons spent in the kitchen, family involved, radio playing, is so heart warming and enough to inspire anyone to get their pinny on.
There are some wonderful recipes throughout the book, big on flavour and satisfaction.
As a photographer, I always study the pictures in cookery books in detail. James Merrell did the photography in Supper for a Song and his work is beautiful and evocative.
Really lovely book.

Published by Quadrille Publishing October 2009.

Warming up with Caribbean Spices

The summer feels like a long distant memory now, with the blustery autumn winds swirling the leaves off of the trees and a sharp cold bite in the air. It is a beautiful time of year even so. Still, we all felt in need of some warming up and what better way to do that than with a dose of chilli pepper and warming spice.

This West Indian curry has been our little boy's favourite dish since he was tiny. He likes his curry quite spicy, but you can adjust the heat to suit. Just leave out the chilli pepper and use a mild curry powder for a gentle version of this fragrant, yummy curry. You can also add potatoes or other veggies like carrots or peas if you like. We serve the curry wrapped in large flatbreads called roti, but it is also great with rice.

1 onion

2 spring onions or a small bunch of chive

a sprig of fresh thyme

1 garlic clove

juice of 1 lime

1 small chilli pepper, choose mild or hot to suit - or leave out if you prefer

a pinch of salt

600g chicken, boneless and skinless, breast or thigh, cut into large pieces

3 tablespoons olive oil

1 tablespoon brown sugar

3 tablespoons mild curry powder (madras)

1 cup of chicken stock – or a cup of water and one organic stock cube

How to prepare the curry:

  1. Finely chop the onion, herbs, garlic, lime, chilli (if using) and salt to make a thick marinade. I often use a mini chopper or blender to do this quickly. In a large bowl, mix the chicken pieces together with this blend and allow to marinate for half and hour, or longer.
  2. Warm the oil gently in a large heavy based pot. (I use one that can also go in the oven as I like to let the curry simmer slowly in the oven later – although you can do the whole thing on the stovetop.) Add the brown sugar and curry powder and gently fry in the oil for a minute or so to release the flavour of the spices.
  3. Add the chicken and marinade mixture to the pan and stir well together. Add the chicken stock and stir well again.
  4. Bring the curry to a vigorous simmer and then immediately turn the heat down very low, cover and simmer gently for about an hour. Or, bring it up to a simmer, cover, and put the pot in a low oven (160 degrees C) to simmer for about an hour.
  5. Check occasionally to make sure the curry is not getting too dry - if it is, just add a bit more water.
  6. Serve with rice, (or roti bread if you can find it). Garnish with chopped fresh herbs, flaked coconut, and/or raisins if you like!