Monday, 5 March 2018

Creamy Chicken and Mushroom Pot Pie

Today marks the start of British Pie Week, a celebration of the humble pastry coated dish and to kickstart a week of flaky (and otherwise) posts and re-posts here is the recipe for our classic Creamy Chicken and Mushroom Pot Pie.

With just a puff pastry topping, it is slightly less calorific, but still has all the comforting qualities; a rich and satistfying filling with a golden flaky pastry ton top, and more importantly it’s universally popular. I’ve added a little thyme here as it such good friends with both chicken and mushrooms, but tarragon instead makes for a beautiful variation too.

The below feeds a family of four comfortably and you can serve with just a selection of vegetables, or the classic mash potato or even chips of you’re really feeling naughty.

Here’s how:
  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil 
  • 2 rashers smoked bacon 
  • 1 red onion 
  • 1 clove garlic 
  • 2 tbsps plain flour 
  • 2 large chicken breasts 
  • 250g mushrooms 
  • 1 tbsp dried thyme 
  • 350ml chicken stock 
  • 200ml milk (use full fat for the rich and creamy texture) 
  • Black pepper 
  • 1 pack pastry 
  • 1 egg Firstly peel and dice the onion and mince the garlic and set aside for the moment. Wash and slice the mushrooms and set aside.

Now pour the vegetable oil into a pan and place on a medium heat.

Now cut the bacon into small squares and add to the pan until crisp on both sides, turning as you need to.

As the bacon cooks, cut the chicken into small, bite-sized pieces.

Remove the bacon from the pan and set aside and now add the chicken to cook in the bacon fat and oil. Just allow to colour to white in each side, and remove from the pan and sit with the bacon.

Now add the onion and garlic to the pan and allow to saute. As soon as the onion is soft stir through the flour, which will make a bit of a paste, which will act as the thickener for the sauce.

Now add a few tablespoons of the stock to the onions and keep stirring rapidly, for a minute then repeat until all of the stock is added, then do the same with the milk, keeping the rapid stirring up constantly to ensure the sauce comes together. It will be quite thin at this point, but don’t be tempted to add anything to thicken, it will do so in the cooking process.

Now return the chicken and bacon to the pan, and season with black pepper (you can season with salt here, but the salt from the bacon should be sufficient, particularly if you’re cooking for children like I am) and add the thyme and give a good stir.

The filling for the Creamy Chicken and Mushroom Pot Pie

Now pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees.

Put on a low heat and cook for twenty minutes, by which point the sauce will have started to thicken up.

After twenty minutes, spoon all of the chicken mixture into a pie dish and allow to cool for fifteen minutes, again, this will allow for the sauce to thicken slightly more.

Now roll out the puff pastry, or if you have bought a sheet, simply place over the pie dish, and then use your hands to scrunch the pastry underneath the rim of the dish, then cut away the extra.

Now use your thumb all the way round to squeeze underneath and ensure it doesn’t fall off during the cooking.

With the excess pastry, you could make any pattern you choose, Bridget wanted to use her biscuit cutters and we added four hearts to ours.

Now crack an egg into a mug or small bowl and whisk. Then brush it all over the pie with a pastry brush to ensure it goes a lovely golden brown. The final thing to do is to make two or three slashes in to the pie topping to ensure the steam from the pie filling is able to escape, and so the puff pastry rises well and is flaky rather than soggy.

Place into the oven for 25-30 minutes, or until the pastry is well risn and a lovely shade of golden brown. Enjoy!

Creamy Chicken and Mushroom Pot Pie 

Here’s some other pie recipes:

Squash and Goat's Cheese Pot Pie

Beef and Lentil Beef Pie

Steak and Ale Pot Pie

Cheese and Vegetable Pie

Leftover Chicken and Mushroom Pie

Sunday, 4 March 2018

Haddock Fishcakes

Fishcakes are incredibly versatile; you can make so many different variations, whether it's the fish, the filling or the flavourings, and my family just love these haddock ones that use some smoked and unsmoked haddock. They're also a fantastic way to use up any leftover mash potato - we hate waste.

For these ones, I use Asian flavourings of chilli, ginger, garlic and coriander, but these are also great with chopped capers, parsley and a little mustard too.

These are a lovely meal to make with your children, they can get involved with chopping, mixing, making breadcrumbs, shaping the fishcakes and then the fun of dipping into egg, flour and breadcrumbs. Bridget helped me throughout making these yesterday, and was so proud to present her cooking to Daddy and her little sister (who devoured the lot). Children are always more open to trying things when they have been involved in the cooking process and my two never turn their nose up at fish - I just love cooking with my children.

I used a green chilli here as Glen and I love some spice in these fishcakes, however I make the girls fishcakes first, to avoid them getting a big hit of spice; but you make up your own mind. If you're not keen on spice, omit the chilli.

I served with a side salad, a handful of chunky chips and some sweet chilli sauce and the below makes four generous ones, or eight smaller ones.

Haddock Fishcakes

Here's how:

  • 200g haddock
  • 175g unsmoked haddock
  • 200g mash potato (I used Maris Piper here, but any will work)
  • 3 spring onions
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 3cm piece of ginger
  • Half a bunch of coriander
  • 1 green chilli (optional)
  • 1 egg
  • 3 tbsp plain flour
  • Sea salt and black pepper
  • Bowl full of breadcrumbs (I blitzed 2 slices granary bread in a blender)
  • Drizzle vegetable oil

Firstly pre-heath the oven to 180 degrees and then prepare the flavourings, finely slice the spring onions, mince the garlic clove and grate the ginger and add to a large bowl.

Roughly chop the coriander and add to the bowl. Finely slice the chilli and set aside if preparing for small children, or throw in the bowl.

Add the prepared mashed potato into the bowl too.

Now chop the haddock into bite sized pieces and throw into the bowl. Mix everything together until everything is well combined.

Now get three bowls and add to the first, the flour and a generous seasoning. To the second bowl crack in the egg (give a quick whip) and into the third and final bowl add the breadcrumbs.

Now is time to make each fishcake and there is no other way than with your hands. Take a generous handful and shape with your hands into thick rounds. Once you are happy with the shape, place onto a plate or a piece of parchment paper, and repeat the process until happy with all of the fishcakes. 

Haddock Fishcakes

Now drizzle the oil into a non-stick pan and place on a low heat to allow to heat up before a quick browning of each fishcake.

Now to complete the fishcakes, take one and dip into the flour first and turn around so it becomes coated in the seasoned flour, then dip into the egg mix, and then finally the breadcrumbs so they are fully coated, then return to the plate or the parchment paper and repeat until each fishcake is coated.

Now wash your hands - by now they will probably be duly coated in an eggy, breadcrumb mix. 

The pan should now be warm enough for you to quickly fry the fishcakes for a few minutes on each side, until golden brown. 

Then place onto a baking sheet and into the oven for 15 minutes to cook through. Enjoy!

Some other fishcake recipes that might be of interest:

Spiced Tuna Fishcakes
Mexican Style Salmon Fishcakes
Thai Salmon Fishcakes
Lightly Spiced Salmon Fishcakes
Colcannon Mackerel Fishcakes

Wednesday, 28 February 2018

Busy Parent's Cooking Hacks

I try to cook from scratch for my family most of the week, but with work, various family activities and let’s face it, the challenges of every-day family life thrown in, some days it doesn’t happen and we reach for freezer favourites or order in.

As it’s a universal issue and I’ve realised that in my guise of ‘working Mum’, I have a few tricks and tips in my armoury to help make midweek meals easier to produce when time and energy supplies are dwindling.

Be a smug batch cooker
Family life is hectic, and aside from the uber organised, not everyone has a stash of pre-prepared, labelled and homemade meals in the freezer. But actually, most of us cook the family classic dishes, the crowd-pleasers on a regular basis, so why not cook an extra-large batch, and portion up to freeze? Meals that lend themselves well to this include Bolognese or meat ragu, chilli, curries, casseroles and homemade pasta sauces that double up as a quick pizza sauce too. It is honestly such a great feeling coming home from work, or a busy day out with the kids to a home-cooked meal ready and waiting for you to warm up at home.

Slow Cooked Beef and Lentil Curry

Greek Chicken One-Pot Casserole

Multiple meals
When batch-cooking, you need not feel restricted to constantly having the same meals time and time again, I mean, I get bored easily, let alone my kids, so I make things that work in a multiple of ways. A Bolognese doubles up as a lasagna filling, chilli makes a mean burrito or enchilada filling, and a casserole such as chicken and mushroom makes for a banging pot-pie filling.

Perfect the leftover dinner
Transform your leftover roast dinner meat into a variety of delicious dinners; the possibilities are honestly endless. Make a mean noodle soup with any meat, stock, ginger, garlic, spring onions and chilli, sliced greens or lettuce, soy, a dash of fish sauce and sesame oil and a handful of beansprouts and coriander at the end. Other ideas are to serve the leftover meat with herby couscous, salad and a yoghurt dip, rehydrate in a BBQ sauce and serve in wraps with sour cream and salad or make a quick potato-topped pie.

Pork Noodle Soup

Leftover Roast Chicken & Mushroom Pie

The beauty of a sandwich
After a heavy day at work or school a simple sandwich might not cut it, but if you elevate it to a club sandwich (3 layers baby), with all of your family’s favourite fillings, think roast chicken, deli meats, cheeses, pickles and salad and throw a skewer in the top, this is a lot more exciting. Serve with a few oven chips, or dare I say it, crisps. It might not be the most nutritional thing they eat that week, but it will be fun.

Throw it in a bun
So, so, so many things can be served in bread rolls, ciabatta, brioche buns or my personal favourite stand-by, part-baked baguettes. This is great for when patience, time or energy is lacking for peeling potatoes or cooking up rice or pasta. I’m not just talking about burgers and sausages (though these work too), but any kind of meat works here with coleslaw and salad as would fish fingers. You could really mix it up and serve chilli or Bolognese in a bun too (hello sloppy Joe).

Quicky pizzas
These pizzas are such a standby fail-safe meal in our home, popular with all. The base can be anything from tortilla wraps, naan bread or even pitta. A simple tomato sauce (defrosted from the freezer) is smeared over the top and then add any fillings you like and that you have in stock. Peppers, onions, mushrooms, sweetcorn, sliced meat, olives; the options are endless, and you know what, just throwing on some grated cheese works too.

Pitta Pizza

Eggs is eggs
My Mum always said ‘you can always make a meal out of eggs’ and this is a rule to remember. You can serve eggs a whole heap of ways on toast, but the good old fashioned omelette or frittata is another winning meal you can prepare in five, and have on the table in another five using simple ingredients you have in your vegetable rack. Another egg-concoction that can be savoury and goes down a storm with kids is crepes or pancakes. Easy, cheap and quick – winner!


Base bags
OK so this might be taking kitchen organisation a step too far, but if you are truly time-poor, it’s a great shortcut midweek, when resources are minimal. Get a ton of onions, garlic, celery and carrots and finely dice and equally distribute between a few bags for the ‘base’ of many a meal. These work as the start of many stews, pasta sauces, ragus, soups and loads more. They freeze well and are super useful when you’re in a hurry.

Flavour saviours
As cheesy as it sounds, having a few additional ingredients to hand at any given time in the kitchen, can rescue the bland, enhance the mundane and generally improve meals in a mere moment. As well as your usual olive oils and balsamic vinegars, I’m talking about flavoured oils such as chilli, garlic and truffle to drizzle over pasta, soups, stews or even pizza. Spicy sauces are another way of injecting a quick-fire hit of heat into any dish, sriracha and hot pepper are my favourites.

Monday, 26 February 2018

Asian Style Pork Burgers with a Ribbon Salad

We absolutely love burgers in our house, in all their glorious guises, and even when dieting, these feature regularly on our weekly menus, minus the buns and with a salad instead of chips and slaw.

They're only Asian in the sense that the main of the flavourings; sesame oil, lime juice, fish sauce, soy sauce, garlic and ginger and I serve with a little salad of carrot, cucumber and radish ribbons with a quick Asian dressing; delicious, fragrant and very satisfying. 

The below makes four adult sized burgers; or in our case, 3 plus two smaller ones for my two little ones.

Asian Style Pork Burgers with Ribbon Salad

Here's how:

  • 750g pork mince
  • 5 spring onions
  • 3cm piece of ginger
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 green chilli
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • Handful of chives
  • Big handful coriander 
  • 1 tbsp sesame oil
  • 1 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp fish sauce
  • Black pepper

For the salad:

  • 1 carrot
  • 1/2 cucumber
  • Handful raddishes
  • Handful sesame seeds
  • 1 tsp sesame oil
  • 1 tsp soy sauce
  • Drizzle honey
  • 1 tsp garlic oil
  • 1 cm piece of ginger

Firstly make the burger patties; finely slice the spring onions and chilli, peel and grate the ginger and crush the garlic into a large bowl. Chop the chives and coriander and add to the bowl.

Pop the minced pork into the bowl and then give a generous seasoning with black pepper. Squeeze in the lime and add the soy, fish sauce and sesame oil.  

Now use your hands to mix the meat, mix well to ensure all of the flavourings become evenly distributed; be careful not to overwork the meat. 

Now pull out evenly shaped mounds of the meat and shape into patties with your hands, and set onto a chopping board or a piece of parchment paper. 

Now place a sheet of tinfoil over the grate in your grill, and place each patty on there and place on a medium heat for seven minutes, then turn each patty over and cook for a further seven minutes, or until cooked through.

Now ensure to wash your hands and clear the bowl that the raw meat has been in, and prepare the salad.

Peel the carrot and use a vegetable peeler to make thin ribbons of carrot, and set aside. Do the same with the cucumber, and then the raddishes; be careful if they're small ones, that you don't cut your fingers, and assemble all of the ribbons on a plate.

Now make the very quick salad dressing by simply combining the soy, sesame and garlic oil and the honey and grating in the ginger and give a good whisk. Drizzle over the salad ribbons and then toss over 1/2 tbsp sesame seeds over each salad.

Once the burger is cooked through, and nicely browned on each side add to the plate with a little drizzle of sweet chilli sauce, or if you're serving with buns, add the chilli sauce to the bun first. Enjoy!

Sunday, 18 February 2018

Prawn and Chorizo Carbonara

This is so simple it barely counts as a recipe, but it's a satisfyingly delicious meal for mid-week, when time is precious and few. It can be on the table in under 12 minutes which is impressive.

With a smoky, warming flavour from the chorizo plus the comforting pasta stodge, it really does tick all the boxes.

As I'm on what feels like a never-ending 'diet' to shift the remaining baby weight, and Glen is  attempting to shift a few pounds  before holiday season, portion sizes reflect this. You may want to increase for larger appetites.

I've omitted from using any additional olive oil, relying on the oil released from the chorizo instead, to shave off a few extra calories, but you may want to add this if you're not watching your weight.

The below makes enough for two:

Prawn and Chorizo Carbonara

Here's how:

  • x2 chorizo cooking sausages
  • 150g raw prawns
  • 1 red chilli
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 40g Grana Padana cheese
  • 1 egg
  • 100g dried pasta (I used penne)
  • Salt and pepper to season

Firstly fill and boil the kettle and then fill a large pot with the water and place on a low heat with the pasta. Place a frying pan on a low heat too.

Finely slice the garlic and chilli, and cut the chorizo sausages into rounds of about the thickness of a £1 coin, and then half them. Add to the frying pan.

Now into a bowl crack the egg and grate in the cheese and season generously with salt and black pepper. Give a good mix.

Two minutes before the pasta timer goes off, add the prawns to the pan, they will cook in no time at all, and you'll know they're cooked through as they will become pink all over.

Before draining the pasta, scoop out a mugful of the pasta water and set aside.

Drain the pasta and add to the chorizo and prawn mix on the heat, mix and then remove from the heat completely.

Now pour over the egg mixture and stir well, the heat from the pasta will cook the egg, as with carbonara, so don't feel tempted to place back on the heat or you'll end up with scrambled egg in your pasta.

Make sure you stir well to ensure all of the pasta gets a good coating and add 1-2 tbsp of the pasta water to loosen up the consistency.

Serve with just a smattering of grated cheese and a final seasoning. Enjoy!

Super Green Pasta Sauce

My kids love anything with pasta, and particularly homemade pesto. They do love their greens, but Bridget, my three year old, can be lazy with chewing and even with using her knife and fork at times.

We regularly make a batch of my Walnut and Basil Pesto, as it always satisfies, but this special green pasta makes use of all the greens hanging around the fridge. This super green sauce can be made in minutes, the below makes a batch big enough for 4-5 portions, it freezes well, is packed with nutrients and goodness and most importantly is very child-friendly. It's a perfect quick fix for those days when real 'cooking' is a little out of reach.

You could use pretty much any green vegetables, but I tend to use broccoli, spinach, kale or cavolo nero and frozen peas, as they all blend well and avoid the bittiness from some vegetables.

Once again, this is a super simple recipe but is one where the little ones can help to assemble. I've used Giant Fusilli in the picture as it's easy for Beatrice to pick up as finger food, but any pasta would work.

Super Green Pasta Sauce

Here's how:

  • 2 heaped tablespoons Walnut and Basil Pesto (or any jarred green pesto if you're in a real rush)
  • 1 head of broccoli
  • Handful of green leaves (I use spinach and/or cavolo nero)
  • 3 tbsp frozen peas

Firstly get a large pan of water on to boil, or fill with water from the kettle, and place on a low heat.

Chop the broccoli into florets, and add to the water, This will need about 5 minutes.

After two minutes, add the frozen peas and in the final minute the green leaves.

Then roughly drain off in a colander, and add to a blender or a Nutribullet. Add the Pesto, then the lid and blitz to a smooth consistency.

Super Green Pasta Sauce

Portion up into little tubs or food bags.

If you're using right away, simply cook the pasta to your taste, remove 1 tbsp of the cooking water before draining, then return to the pan after a good shake. Stir through the one portion of the Super Green Pasta Sauce on the heat for 1 minute and then serve with a little grating of Parmesan. Enjoy!

Saturday, 17 February 2018

Kid Crepes

Crepes, or rather pancakes, are an absolute staple food in our house when it comes to the kids. I make a vast variety of types and fillings, mostly sweet, and mostly for breakfast or weekend brunching; but these savoury ones are a great favourite for a fast lunch or dinner.

You could use any number of fillings, but for my two the clear winning choice is ham, Cheddar cheese and sweetcorn, very beige basic, and very appealing to the under fives.

This is another simple recipe that is more assembly than anything else, so do recruit your little ones to help you - cooking with children is such an important activity, that can be messy but is mostly fun and will equip your kids with life skills.

I always serve with some vegetables or salad fingers, such as peppers, cucumber, radish etc. to make it feel slightly less 'lazy Mum', but the fact is these are super simple and quick to make, cheap, you're likely to always have the ingredients for them and they're universally popular.

The below makes a batter for about six pancakes, and 1 per child is more than sufficient, but the batter keeps well overnight in the fridge (win, win).

Kids Crepes

Here's how:

  • Drizzle vegetable or rapeseed oikd
  • 125g plain flour
  • 2 eggs
  • 300ml milk (full fat is always best for pancakes)
  • Pinch salt
  • 2 slices ham
  • 2 tbsp Cheddar cheese
  • 2 tbsp sweetcorn kernels

Make the batter by mixing the flour, milk and the eggs with a fork or whisk.

Add the oil to a frying pan on a low to medium heat and in the meantime chop the ham and grate the cheese.

Now use a ladle to pour in the amount needed for x1 pancake into the pan. Allow it cook for 30-seconds to one minute until it has gone from a liquid batter to s solidified pancake, now use a fish slice to slowly ease it off the pan, all the way round the edge, then flip it over to do the other side.

On one half of the pancake, scatter over the ham, cheese and sweetcorn and after about 1 minute, flip the empty half of the pancake, over the filled side and cook for another 30 seconds, press down with the fish slice. Now flip again, and cook for 30 seconds to a minute more to allow the cheese to melt a little.

Kids Crepes

Remove from the pan, and repeat the process.

Slice into fingers and serve with your selection of veggies. Enjoy!

Here are a mixture of other sweet and savoury pancakes that might appeal:
Classic British Pancakes
Berry and Yoghurt Pancakes
Salmon and Dill Potato Pancakes
Banana and Oat Pancakes
Courgette and Corn Pancakes