Baking a chicken and mushroom pie.

Since it’s a glorious bank holiday weekend, I felt very much in the mood for some home baking. The result: A sumptuous, rich and creamy, aromatic lunch (or dinner if you’re cutting into big quarter slices!) I’m quite literally a disaster magnet in the kitchen, so if I can successfully bake this pie – anyone can.

Here’s how I made this chicken pie, following a basic recipe with some added improvisation and personal tweaks. By keeping the flame down whilst cooking the recipe, this will allow you more time to prepare and combine your ingredients, therefore preventing you from overcooking things and messing it up!

You will need:

  • 4 medium-sized chicken thighs, sliced into bitesize pieces.
  • A heaped handful of mini closed cup mushroimage39.jpegoms, thinly sliced (normal size mushrooms are fine – adjust the amount accordingly)
  • 1 small tub of low-fat Creme Fraiche (Greek yoghurt is an excellent alternative)
  • Half a large onion, finely diced (or 1 whole onion if medium-sized)
  • 4 small spring onions with the outer green stems removed, thinly sliced
  • 300ml of vegetable stock (chicken stock is fine by the way)
  • A few of sprigs of Sage, Thyme and Rosemary.
  • A sheet of ready-rolled puff pastry.
  • Colman’s English Mustard
  • Plain flour from the cupboard, and a pinch of Nutmeg (entirely optional)

To make the pie filling…

In a large pan, gently sweat the diced onion and spring onions on a low-medium flame until softened, don’t brown them! After a minute or so, add the sliced chicken thighs and fry on a medium heat for five minutes until they lose their initial raw appearance. I then added the sliced mushrooms and continued to fry the ingredients for a further 5 minutes. Leaving the ingredients on a low flame, I ripped off a few leaves of rosemary,¬† thyme and sage – just enough to be a generous pinch – you don’t want this flavour to overwhelm the dish. Toss this into the pan, along with a light seasoning of nutmeg, and some salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste.

In the meantime, prepare the vegetable stock. I purchased my vegetable stock in the new jelly-like form, as opposed to the dry/ powdered cubes you can typically get. Place this in a Pyrex measuring jug and dilute in 300ml of boiling water. Since the Korr vegetable jellies are supposed to make 500ml of liquid stock, I cut a small tip of the jelly to adjust the ratio for the purpose of the recipe. In order to make the gravy, pour the vegetable stock into the pan with the chicken and mushrooms and on a high flame heat the mixture until it’s reaches boiling point. Reduce the pan to a simmer, add a generous tablespoon of Creme Fraiche (or Greek yoghurt – which I’ve found is pretty much the same thing), a small teaspoon of strong mustard, and a slightly heaped dessertspoon of plain flour to thicken the sauce. Mix in and simmer for a few minutes to reduce the liquid down to a slightly thick sauce.

Once finished, allow the mixture to cool slightly and then transfer into an 8″ enamel pie dish, spreading it out evenly. If you don’t have this, a Pyrex or china ovenproof dish will work just as well. Unroll your sheet of puff pastry and lay it gently over the top of the pie dish to form a lid. Trim the edges with a sharp knife and if you’re feeling confident, crimp the circumference of the pastry with your two thumbs placed in opposite directions, and applying a little pressure to the dough. Next, poke two small steam holes into the centre of the pastry with the tip of the knife. For some decoration, I made two small roses by slicing off two, thin strips of dough, rolling them up into a swiss roll, and then pushing the centre upwards to form the centre of the bud. Then using the tip of my knife, I made small flicks in the layers to give the appearance of petals. Finally, I cut two small leaves and gently scored some veins into the pastry to finish them off. I arranged all this in the centre of the pie lid to give the appearance of a small bouquet.

Before placing in the oven, I made gentle indents in the lid of the pastry and brushed the lid with a double layer of whisked egg & milk wash. The general rule of thumb is to cook the pie until the pastry has puffed up and baked golden-brown. This took about 15 minutes at gas mark 6 in the centre of the oven. Keep checking at regular intervals, as it can burn very quickly! Once done, serve immediately with buttery mash and boiled mixed vegetables. Bon appetit ūüôā

Let me know if you try this recipe, and please like and follow my blog if you’d like to see more posts like this ‚̧

Sarah.

Things to see and do in May.

I decided to hitch a long drive to Chingford plain in Epping Forest …

Hello everyone and happy Monday! I hope everyone has been enjoying the fine weather, not¬†to mention the Royal Wedding (which admittedly I slept through, being on a weekend.) Aside from reading books, I’ve been up to a few things this month…

 

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Days Out—— Since I’ve been stuck at home all week due to illness, I decided to hitch a long drive to Chingford plain, in Epping Forest – which is located on the outskirts of East London. The park is not far from the quaint high street which has a church, an antiquarian bookshop, a small Budgens and a Costa, a charity shop, an art studio, a primary school and a couple of cafes. It is also a mere 2-minute walk along Bury Road from Chingford station, on the Overground line. Up a steep hill, passed the grazing cows adjacent to Chingford plain and golf course, is the local Tudor-built hunting lodge; perhaps unsurprisingly named after Queen Elisabeth II. The lodge also has two wooden deer displayed at the front. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to climb the hill this time round, but here is what the hunting lodge looks like. I’ve learnt since that it is open to the public for inside tours¬†– free of charge!

Gardening—- It seems that the month of May is a time when the garden starts to fully¬†reawaken! I’ve been making use of our old plastic egg crates for sowing a selection of poppy seeds, before I decide to plant them out next month. If you read my recent post on plant purchasing, you may remember that I brought home a selection of Poppy seeds to experiment with. I recognise that the weather has been pretty changeable too,¬†with some wild winds and showers, and so the mini greenhouse effect of the egg crate will keep the seeds warm and moderately¬†watered.

Television & Film—- And finally, across two consecutive evenings I watched the 2014 film ‘Testament of Youth’ on BBC iPlayer which is based on the published memoirs of Vera Brittain, a young woman who lived through the First World War. In the film, Vera is a young country woman who dreams of attending Oxford University to study English – which she delightedly achieves. However, when WW1 breaks out and her lover Roland tofy.jpgLeighton and brother Edward Brittain enlist, her world is flipped on it’s head. The film stars a plethora of well-known actors, including: Kit Harrington, Colin Morgan, Jonathan Bailey and Alicia Vikander. As a lover of history, I found the story incredibly moving and regard it very much to be a coming of age film. I’d definitely recommend a watch, whilst it’s currently on the iPlayer.

In factual television, I’ve been watching¬†‘Britain’s Most Historic Town’, presented by Professor Alice Roberts on Channel 4. In this series, Professor Roberts visits six historic toImage result for britain's most historic townwns across Britain and Northern Ireland, with each episode focussing on a particular period of British history. Britain is rich with historic secrets and in this series, Professor Roberts meets with local historians in order to find out how historic sites and monuments¬†were shaped and developed¬†by¬†the social forces of¬†their time. My favourite episode so far has been¬†a visit to Tudor Norwich. Other episodes include: Roman Chester, Viking York, Norman Winchester, Regency Cheltenham, and Victorian Belfast. And the entire series is currently available online… And just as I finish typing this, here comes the rain.

If you enjoyed this read, please leave a like and comment. If you’ve just chanced upon my blog – why not follow to receive regular posts, as well as book reviews! You can do so by clicking ‘follow’¬†next to my profile or by¬†visiting the About Me page on my website. Best Wishes, Sarah.

Blog talk : April 2018

Hello to my intimate group of followers!

It seems I have been running this blog for little over a month and things are settling in quite well. There are currently nine of you who are actively following my blog; I’m so pleased you could join me! And I didn’t expect to achieve quite so much positivity this early on – it’s all relative, haha!

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I thought it might be helpful to share a modest amount of personal info, so you – or anyone can get a better concept of me as I blog. I’m nineteen, rolling on twenty in June (tragic). People I meet tend to say that I’m way older than my years, which probably comes as a result of numerous family stresses. We all have baggage, don’t we?

I’ve been experiencing some serious medical issues lately, which means I’m not at Uni. And this leads me on to the blog – my new hobby – since I’m predominantly housebound. For now, let’s just say I’m extremely introverted; I read a lot of books and I enjoy writing about them, I like gardening, baking (mostly sweet things), a country lass at heart, I tend to get fired up when it comes to Politics and the NHS, I enjoy popular television shows, and I spend pretty much 100% of my time with my family.

Thank goodness for the internet and Twitter¬†because since I don’t have any close friends, I would have otherwise become very lonely – which can still be the case sometimes, but hey-ho!

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Spring has sprung! Pear tree blossom in the garden ‚̧

Spring 2018: Plant shopping!

Aside from my main interest which is reading, I also enjoy gardening, which is what today’s post is about. If you’d like to see more posts like this and my gardening activities throughout the year, please do Follow my blog for regular insights and updates ūüôā

Spring is officially here, even if the weather may not be showing it.¬†And for the first time in months, I’ve felt a renewed sense of optimism and a desire to stock up on garden plants. I live in a terraced corner house, so we have a side exit which leads onto a self-contained patio, which in turn leads onto our¬†relatively spacious¬†back garden. It’s still very early on¬†in the season and right now we’re only¬†focussing on plants to¬†soften the perimeter of the patio. So on a cloudy Friday the 13th, up to the B&Q superstore, we went.

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Hanging baskets.

I’m wheelchair-bound but mum was willing to push me around, so long as I didn’t mind being piled high with stuff. Despite the time of year, the gardening department is pretty quiet, perhaps because the weather¬†has been¬†so drab lately.

Before we even started the outdoor section hunt, we picked up three £4 coconut fibre basket liners for our brackets, which overhang the patio from the side wall of the house. Not the cheapest, but biodegradable nonetheless. I also picked up two 150L green waste bags, costing £2.98 each and a packet of Suttons mixed Poppy seeds, with five varieties within. They typically flower from July to August, so long as I sow them this month.

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Spot the variety packet…

There’s currently a limited selection of small pot plants currently available: Pansies, Lobelia, Geraniums and a few Primroses – most range from ¬£1.50 to ¬£3.50.

We settled for two pink and white Sweet Peas, which we’ll train along our bamboo canes, in the shade of the house.

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One of the two Sweet Pea plants we brought home.

On the other hand, we found there were plenty of edible plants: Carrots, Cucumber, Salad Leaves, Tomato, Kale, Chillis, ‘Atlantic Giant’ Pumpkin, ‘Elsanta’ Strawberry, Seed Potato, Garlic – we bought. Gooseberries, Blackberries, Rhubarb and – Citrus plants!

 

B&Q currently has reduced Narcissus Daffodils as well as Foxgloves, Hardy Patio Roses, beautifully fragrant Lavender tubs, Clematis climbers, Pink Tiger Lilies, a selection of Box hedges, Gold / Black stem Bamboo, Grasses and Evergreens.

 

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Grasses and Evergreens in the Hardy Plants section.

After wandering around the outdoor aisles¬†for some time we were¬†getting pretty cold in the bleak misty air, so we had a quick look at the indoor plant’s section.¬† I noticed the cutesy, miniature cacti and succulents which you typically place on the window ledge or work desk, and I’ve always wanted one; these were cheaper than the ‘Instagramable’ ones you find in IKEA. Cacti-phobic Mum said no.

The cacti and succulents range between £1.89 and £3.20.

Before making it to the checkout, I finally picked up a tall ‘Peckish’ bird feeder with a two-year guarantee, and a 2kg bag of ‘Peckish Mixed Bird Seed’. I don’t have a specific place in the garden to hang this from, but we can always tie it to the washing line!

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All in all, we didn’t even tackle half of the annual plant-buying project, so I’m sure we’ll make future trips to other garden centres and nurseries. I’ll be sure to blog about these in coming weeks, as the weather improves!

Thank you for reading, and please follow my blog if you want to see more posts like this!

I made a Rainbow Loaded Pi√Īata Sprinkle Drip Cake.

I have always been pretty terrible at baking; the oven¬†is my greatest foe. No matter how many adjustments I’ve made to the cooking time, temperature and the height of the shelf, every cake comes out like a slab of concrete. That was until I tried¬†ready-mix. I know, call me Delia Smith – but I have to say that incorporating olive oil into the batter as per the instructions, makes a vast difference! Apart from this small cheat tactic, all decoration and design were done by me. I even sketched a Great British Bake Off style design before embarking on this project! If you want to attempt your own, here’s how I assembled it:

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About three weeks before the day of the cake-worthy occasion, I purchased two boxes of Betty Crocker’s Velvety Vanilla cake mix from Tesco. I simply followed the instructions and divided the batter into four bowls. To each of these, I added the smallest drop of Pro-gel food colouring: Sky Blue, Bright Green, Yellow and Pink. I then poured two colours each into two parchment-lined 7″ baking tins. Using a fork, I swirled the batter through to create a cream slice icing effect. I repeated this process for the second box. After baking, I allowed them to cool, then wrapped in cling film and stored in the freezer.

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A day before the occasion, I thawed the cake halves out, trimmed the lightly-browned tops off with a serrated knife, and then the edges by placing a quarter plate on top of each half and cutting around it. Using a small egg cup, I punched a hole in the centre of three of the four cake halves. Then I began layering with buttercream, using a palette knife.

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After sandwiching, crumb coating, chilling and final-coating three cake tiers, I filled up the centre hole with smarties. I found that three cardboard tubes were sufficient to fill the cake to the top. Please excuse my cold, red hand as I model this!

 

I finally placed the final hole-free cake tier on top of the smarties funnel to complete the pi√Īata and then again double coated it in buttercream and chilled for 15 minutes.

After removing from the fridge, now was the time to do the real decorating. I bought two different 100 gram bags of vibrant sprinkles off of eBay and I was sure to choose something which would accentuate the colours of the cake tiers inside. I simultaneously poured and pressed the sprinkles into the side of the cake – though I’d advise against chilling the freshly butter-creamed cake for any longer than 7 minutes, as this made it difficult for the sprinkles to stick to the cake…

 

At this point, I was exhausted and there were seemingly hundreds of microscopic sprinkles in every corner of the kitchen! If you attempt this, I definitely recommend rolling the cake in a tray of sprinkles instead. I chilled the cake again for 1 hour.

Unfortunately I don’t have many pictures from around this point as my camera went flat, but next, I made a ganache with three parts white chocolate to one part cream.

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And then quickly whisked in a generous drop of Pink Pro-gel food colouring. Keep whisking until smooth and if needed, adjust accordingly with more double-cream until slightly viscous. I poured this on top of the cake from the centre outwards. And whilst the ganache was still warm, I pressed in a few ‘pick and mix’ sweets as well as half a creme egg, and Cadbury’s mini chocolate eggs since it’s Easter. (Camera recharged…)

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You can see the jelly beans, fried eggs, jazzies and fudge pieces here. You’ll see in pictures below that I later added pink foam shrimps and dolly mixtures to create a fuller, more ‘loaded’ appearance.

 

I also tried adding a giant rainbow lollipop but the outer layer came loose and broke away. The cake didn’t need this anyway. The smarties fell out just enough to create a pi√Īata effect but not too much to spill off the cake board. This has to be the most vibrant cake I’ve made. And instead of blowing ¬£60-¬£80 on an online order, I spent about ¬£12 total making this. The family said it was moist and colourful and ultimately a triumph! I definitely recommend making your own multi-tiered cake. If I can do it – anyone can.

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Om, nom, nom…

Thanks for reading! Another book-related blog post is on the way…

Shopping list:

  • Betty Crocker ‘s Velvety Vanilla Cake Mix 425 grams } x2
  • Betty Crocker’s Vanilla Buttercream Style Icing 400G } x2
  • Pro-gel food colours: Sky Blue, Bright Green, Yellow and Pink.
  • 1 single cake board (can be found in the baking section of the supermarket)
  • 100 grams vibrant sprinkles strands/balls purchased on eBay } x2
  • Your own choice of ‘Pick and Mix’ sweets.
    3 tubes of Smarties or similar to fill the cake funnel.
  • 100 grams of white chocolate and 30ml of double cream.

Every story starts with a blank page.

If you have been interested enough to open the link that has led you to this blog page, then congratulations! You are part of a small minority of people who are not exclusively engaged by visual media – but the power of the written word, too. I myself am not the most prolific writer, but I hope I can sustain your interest with the musings of a humble young person. This space is yet to take shape, but we’ll see how things go. Every story starts with a blank page and this blog will always exist so long as there’s someone reading it.

Good company in a journey makes it seem way shorter. ‚ÄĒ Walton

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