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Blueberry & Almond Pancakes

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Ordinarily, I’m a fan of pancakes with sugar and lemon. It’s reminiscent of my childhood, when mum and dad would goof around in the kitchen and more of the pancakes would end up on the wall, the ceiling and the floor than on the plate. But we’ve all made bog standard pancakes right?

If you are one of those people who buy the ‘pancake mix’ already made, this is the part where you should hang your head in shame, for you are essentially buying overpriced flour. Pancakes are not difficult to make – flour, eggs, milk and vegetable oil. It doesn’t get much simpler than that, does it?

We decided to make our pancakes over the weekend, for one of two reasons really. We had Richard’s children and we knew they would want a piece of the action, and secondly because I barely have time to feed myself in the week now, let alone lark about making pancakes and photographing them for my blog. Oh and of course, so that I can strategically post this on my blog the day before Pancake Day.

We managed to find a spare hour on Sunday, so we set about making them; of course everyone wanted something different. I had to be the odd one out and decide I didn’t want plain pancakes. I wanted to make something a little more interesting – I decided on American style blueberry and almond pancakes. They are that bit more substantial, not great for the diet mind. This recipe makes around 10 pancakes.

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Blueberry & Almond Pancakes
 
Author: 
Recipe type: Dessert
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Ingredients
  • 50g plain flour
  • 75g ground almonds
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 3 large eggs
  • 150ml milk
  • Pinch of salt
  • 150g fresh blueberries
  • 1tbsp powdered sweetener
  • Maple syrup (optional)
Instructions
  1. Separate the egg whites from the yolks, placing each in their own large mixing bowl. Add the almonds, flour, baking powder and milk to the yolk. Mix well to form a thick batter.
  2. Add the salt to the egg whites and whisk until you have stiff peaks. Fold this into the batter.
  3. Heat a pan on a medium heat. Using a ladle pour your batter into the pan, topping the pancake with 5-6 blueberries. Once the pancake starts to look golden around the edges, flip the pancake using a spatula. These pancakes only take about 1 minute on each side in a hot pan.
  4. In a separate saucepan, place 100g blueberries over a high heat, sprinkle with 1 tbsp powered sweetener and allow to cook until the berries have burst and are a deep purple liquid.
  5. Serve the pancakes stacked and drizzled with blueberry sauce. You can also add a splash of maple syrup if it takes your fancy.

 

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Batch cooking for the entire family – baby and all

Now I’m not talking hundreds of portions of shepherd’s pie that will take up your entire freezer space and leave you, well quite frankly, fed up with shepherd’s pie. But, picture this. You come home from a long day at the office, the kids need help with their homework, they need bathing – oh and there’s that jigsaw puzzle you promised to help your child finish. You then spend an hour cooking dinner, washing up and by the time you sit down in the evening you’re frazzled and falling asleep. Sound familiar? Sometimes, there just aren’t enough hours in the day.

Batch cooking will make your life a little easier. I love to make extra portions that I can pop in the freezer for those times when I’m rushed and cooking is the last thing I have the time or energy for. Not only does batch cooking save you time and energy, it generally works out to be much cheaper, and it can even help you to eat healthier, more nutritious food.

My boyfriend would probably say I have an obsession with batch cooking; I’m always saving ‘a bit for lunch tomorrow’, or cooking extra to see us through the week. Recently, this obsession has stepped up level. I’ve just started weaning my daughter Jemima, something I think I’m enjoying more than her. She is actually a really good little eater and I’m determined to ensure that she tries as many new foods as quickly as possible. Having done my research on the subject, it would appear that this approach is less likely to result in a fussy eater. I’m not sure I’d cope with having a child that is a fussy eater.

To ensure I’m giving my baby the very best start in life, I’m applying a ‘no jarred or packet food rule’ – if it isn’t fresh, she doesn’t have it. Both Richard and I are in agreement on this. We often comment when we see parents giving their babies chocolate buttons and such. Why on earth would you feed a baby chocolate? They don’t know what it is until you introduce it, so why subject your tiny baby to so much sugar so early in their eating experience? It will most likely put them off wanting other things, such as broccoli. Who wants to eat broccoli over chocolate given the choice? I’m certain this will provoke a lot of debate, but ultimately it’s your choice as a parent what you feed your child; I just want to make sure she’s getting the healthiest start I can give her. Chocolate buttons can wait until she’s that bit older.

I digress. I’ve made the decision to go back to work fairly early. Jemima is not even five months old, so I had to ensure that she had enough meals at the ready and that jarred food wouldn’t become a quick go to for the childminders. She’s spending her week between nursery and various family members, so being prepared is the way forward. I’m not going to be getting the blender out every night to make her lunch for the next day! To make up a months worth of various vegetable and fruit purées probably took me less than 90 minutes. Surely that’s worth spending the time over a weekend. You’ll save a shed load of money too!

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If you are beginning the process of weaning, I’ve found that some of the best foods to start with are potato, sweet potato, butternut squash, carrot, broccoli, stewed apple and pear. And, you can start by mixing any of these with baby rice or breast/formula milk to create more of a familiar taste for baby too. Sweet potato is definitely Jemima’s favourite so far.

Happy batch cooking folks!

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Tuscan Fish Stew – a firm family favourite

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Tuscan fish stew; the ultimate favourite in our house, well amongst everyone except Max (Richard’s son, the fussy eater) who opted for sausage and chips over this delicious feast… I despair I really do. We also had a rather heated 20 minute debate about him not wanting a vegetable with his sausage and chips, he was given the option of beans or peas – “neither”  he stubbornly exclaimed. Now this just doesn’t wash in Miss Friday’s house, everyone has to have vegetables and that’s that! Daisy (Richard’s daughter), on the other hand, well she devoured the fish stew.

You may recall that I have posted this recipe before, but as it’s so popular I’ve tweaked it a few times and thought there was no harm in sharing it once more. I honestly think that each time I cook this dish Richard falls in love with me a little bit more. I joke. But he does love it, and he always comments and makes sure I know how much he enjoyed it – then again they do say that the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach. In this case, I think it’s true. Few things make me happier than pleasing Richard with food. Given that he’s an excellent cook, there is often stiff competition – but he will never cook this one as well as I do. Note: that’s confidence, rather than arrogance.

What I love most is the lightness of the dish, it has such a fresh delicate flavour. It’s really not the sort of meal that sits on your stomach for hours after, which is a welcome relief after all the heavy festive foods that we’ve experienced over the past couple of months. Let’s face it, we all have leftover Christmas cake – and it has to be eaten right?

I’d advise you to buy the freshest fish you can afford, the flavours in the stew are so simple because it’s really all about letting the fish shine through. We bought the fish from a local market in Saffron Walden. Known for being a market town and famous for it’s rich heritage of buildings dating back to the medieval times, Saffron Walden is well worth a visit if your in the area. The market is held every Tuesday and Saturday throughout the year and hosts a wonderful array of stalls for foodies, everything from olives, meats, breads, fish and a huge fruit and vegetable stall (if you can bear the noisy del-boy esque market trader).

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Tuscan Inspired Fish Stew
 
Author: 
Recipe type: Fish
Cuisine: Tuscan
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Ingredients
  • Fresh fish (such as haddock, mussels, clams and king prawns)
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • Small red onion, finely chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 200ml white wine
  • 400g chopped tomatoes
  • 500ml fish stock
  • 2 medium red chillies, finely chopped
  • Juice of half a lemon
  • Parsley to garnish
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • Ciabatta loaf, sliced
  • 1 garlic clove, chopped in half
  • A handful of grated parmesan cheese
Instructions
  1. Heat the oil in a large casserole dish. Fry the onion until softened – around 5 minutes. Add the garlic and salt and pepper, fry for a couple of minutes.
  2. Add the wine and let it reduce for a couple of minutes, then add the tomatoes, fish stock and chillies and cook for 10 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile lightly toast the Ciabatta slices on both sides, rub them with a clove of garlic, pressing down firmly on the bread to flavour it with garlic. Top each slice with a little parmesan and return to the grill to melt.
  4. Meanwhile, add the seafood starting with the white fish, followed by the shellfish, lemon and parsley. Place the lid firmly on the casserole dish and allow to cook until the mussels and clams have fully opened and the fish is cooked through (this doesn't take long). Serve in warmed bowls with the cheesy garlic croutons.

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Puttanesca Mussels Recipe – and why I don’t diet in January

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I sit for what can only be described as a rare moment in time. I am alone in the house. No boyfriend, no baby and no boyfriends children – and I don’t even feel guilty that I am utterly enjoying my own company. Something very strange has happened to me since becoming a mother. My camera roll on my phone is filled with baby pictures, rather than foodie ones. I’ve found it impossible to find time to blog lately – something any new mother will surely understand. But I’ve missed it. Once Jemima is asleep I begin the long task of washing and sterilising her bottles, tidying away her toys and bath things, washing her clothes, making my dinner, clearing and washing up – there is just no time. Giving up my blog isn’t an option. It’s my one hobby that’s wholly mine – something I can get lost in, and really it’s an excuse to eat just about anything that takes my fancy. That’s not something I’m prepared to give up just yet.

Speaking of eating anything you like. I am probably in the minority as I’ve decided that starting a healthy eating regime in January just doesn’t make any logical sense. You’re already feeling blue, given that the glistening lights of the festive season are a distant memory and the bank balance is looking somewhat dire. Not to mention the fact that the cupboards are stacked with indulgent unhealthy leftovers. What’s a girl to do? Struggle through the entire month trying to resist the last few Quality Street or that delicious cheese that calls my name every time I open the fridge? No!

Rich and I decided that we’d eat our way through what’s left of Christmas and start our health kick when I return to work (after five months of maternity leave) on the 1st of February. So, I have about two weeks left to enjoy being that smug person that isn’t having a ‘dry’ January and eating salad every night of the week.

Today I wanted to share with you a recipe that I happened upon because of leftovers. This week I made a huge batch of my favourite pasta dish – spaghetti puttanseca and used the left over sauce with mussels. It was utterly delicious. Puttanseca is a wonderfully pungent tomato based sauce – with ingredients like anchovies, chillies and capers it really packs a punch.

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Puttanesca Mussels
 
Author: 
Recipe type: Main, Starter, Snack
Cuisine: Fish
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
This recipe will serve two as a main meal with bread and butter, or four as a starter.
Ingredients
  • 1kg Mussels
  • 50ml dry white wine
  • 75ml Scrumpy cider
  • 2 shallots, finely shopped
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 3 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
  • ½ tsp of chilli flakes
  • 1 medium heat red chilli, roughly chopped
  • 5-6 canned anchovies in oil (reserve the oil)
  • 2 tbsp chopped parsley
  • 2 tsp of capers, drained
  • 10 black olives, roughly chopped
  • 400g chopped tomatoes
Instructions
  1. Start by cleaning and de-bearding the mussels in cold water. Discard any mussels that don't fully close when tapped. Place the mussels aside in a bowl.
  2. For the puttanseca sauce:
  3. Heat the olive oil in a pan over a medium heat and add the garlic, fresh and dried chilli and and anchovies (along with the oil from the anchovies). Allow to cook for a couple of minutes until the anchovies have melted away. Add the parsley, capers, olives and chopped tomatoes, turn the heat down to a gentle simmer and cook the sauce for about 20 minutes allowing the flavours to infuse.
  4. Place a separate large saucepan (with a lid) over a medium heat, add a little oil and fry the shallots until translucent. Add the mussels, wine and cider. Spoon in about 150ml of the puttanseca sauce and pop the lid on. Cook until all of the mussels have fully opened.
  5. Serve straight from the steaming pot with a stack of buttered bread and a sprinkling of freshly chopped parsley.

If shellfish isn’t your thing, you could always use up your leftover puttanseca sauce with grilled chicken and salad – that’s also great. And perfect if you’re watching your weight.

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Spicy Vegetable Rice with Prawns

I figured that if it’s good enough for Jamie Oliver and his 15 minute meals, it’s good enough for Miss Friday’s midweek meals. I’m talking about Uncle Ben’s Express Rice; I had a pouch of his Wholegrain Tomato and Basil Rice with Quinoa lurking in the back of my cupboard, which was the inspiration behind tonight’s dinner. Of course I had to pimp it up a little.

I’m a huge fan of short cuts, and I make no bones about it either – especially during the week when time is tight, or for those evenings where you’d rather not be slaving over the hot stove all night. Yes, even I have days like that.

So, using what I could find in my fridge (a few random left over vegetables) and store cupboard (herbs and spices) I created a speedy midweek meal that also happens to be wonderfully healthy. I had some jumbo king prawns to use so I decided to make this delicious spicy rice dish. It reminded me of a jambalaya, now I realise the ingredients are quite different, but you’ll appreciate what I mean from the picture.

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Spicy Vegetable Rice with Prawns
 
Author: 
Recipe type: Dinner
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Ingredients
  • Uncle Ben’s Express Tomato and Basil Wholegrain Rice
  • 225g cooked jumbo king prawns
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 red pepper, small dice
  • 1 red onion, small dice
  • 1 courgette, small dice
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • Knorr herb infusion stock pot
  • 600g chopped tomatoes
  • 1 tsp balsamic vinegar
  • ½ tsp sugar
  • ¼ tsp spicy smoked paprika
  • ¼ tsp dried chilli flakes
  • Salt and freshly cracked black pepper
Instructions
  1. Heat the olive oil in a large pan over a medium heat. Add the chopped vegetables and garlic, cook for about 10 minutes stirring until the vegetables have softened. Season generously with salt and pepper.
  2. Then add the chopped tomatoes, stock pot, and vinegar, allow to cook for a further 2 minutes before adding the sugar, paprika and chilli flakes.
  3. Meanwhile, heat the rice in the microwave and add it to the pan, mix well to incorporate all of the vegetables.
  4. Finally, add the jumbo king prawns and simmer for 5 minutes. Serve immediately.

 

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Fillet Steak with Whisky Peppercorn Sauce, Creamy Mustard Mash & Wilted Spinach

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One thing I really missed when I was pregnant was steak, since I won’t eat it unless it’s very rare (practically blue), I didn’t really eat it at all. So last week when Richard asked for fillet steak, I was more than happy to oblige.

Ordinarily, I wouldn’t choose fillet; I find the fatter cuts have much more flavour, but I must confess this particular steak was utterly delicious and really melted in the mouth. It was also reduced to about £2.50 per steak, a real bargain not to be missed. I have a slight obsession with the reduced section of the supermarket.

I’ve been making the same whisky and peppercorn sauce for some years and it never fails me. Rich even said that he had never really liked peppercorn sauce until he tasted mine – high praise indeed. I’ll take that.

So I figured, if we were pushing the boat out and having fillet steak, we should serve it with the whisky peppercorn sauce and not worry about calories, hence the accompaniment of creamy mustard mash. The spinach adds a much needed touch of colour to the dish as well as offsetting the sweetness of the mash.

For the peppercorn sauce:

In a small saucepan, heat 300ml of beef stock and 1 tbsp of freshly cracked black peppercorns over a medium heat, allow to simmer (stirring frequently) until it has reduced by a third. Add 60ml of whisky and 100ml of double cream continue to simmer until it has reduced by a third again. Do not boil.

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For the mustard mash:

Place the cooked mashed potatoes into a bowl; add 1 tsp of Dijon mustard and 1 tsp of wholegrain mustard, a pinch of white pepper and 60ml of double cream. Stir well to combine and ensure the mashed potato is a very smooth texture.

Serve with wilted spinach and steak cooked to your liking.

This recipe would make a lovely dinner party dish over the festive season, perhaps for that New Year’s eve dinner?

Now, you may have noticed an improvement in the quality of my photographs, well I certainly hope you have. I finally got round to buying an SLR camera (I’ve only wanted one forever), I just need to learn how to use it properly now. I’ve often thought that a photo doesn’t do a dish justice, so hopefully now I have more chance of truly capturing the deliciousness of my recipes and enticing you to cook them yourself. That, after all is the purpose of this blog, to get others cooking and sharing recipes.

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Crunchy Coconut Biscuits

Generally speaking, I’m not the best baker. In fact, if truth be told, I’m terrible. Richard often makes fun of the fact that most of my bakes end up with some deformity or another – soggy bottom, flat cake – you see where this is going. For someone who has such a passion for food and cooking I suck at baking! That said, I persevere time and again – I figure one of these days I’ll create something wonderful.

This week I decided to make coconut biscuits. If you’ve ever tasted coconut rings, they are fairly similar, perhaps just a little crunchier. They actually turned out well, much to my own surprise – so I thought I’d share the recipe with you. Coconut is one of my favourite ingredients, it’s the versatility of it that I love – use it in sweet and savoury dishes, either way it’s delicious.

This recipe is an adaptation of Coconut Biscuits from a book called Biscuiteers Book of Iced Biscuits, which despite it’s very un-snappy title is a wonderfully illustrated book packed with fabulous looking (and tasting) biscuits. The book has everything from old fashioned favourites, such as custard creams and bourbons to iced baby shower, birthday, Easter and Christmas themed biscuits.

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Coconut Biscuits
 
Author: 
Recipe type: Sweet
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Delicate coconut flavoured biscuits with a crunchy texture
Ingredients
  • 350g Plain flour
  • 100g self raising flour
  • 140g granulated sugar
  • 100g desiccated coconut
  • 125g butter, diced
  • 200g golden syrup
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
Instructions
  1. Place the flours, sugar and coconut into a mixing bowl and stir to combine the ingredients.
  2. Add the cubed butter and tub together with the dry ingredients using the tips of your fingers until you have a fine breadcrumb consistency.
  3. Make a well in the centre and add the egg and golden syrup, bring the mixture together using your hands, drawing in the flour from the sides of the bowl until you have a dough that comes together.
  4. Transfer the dough to your worktop and flatten into a disc, cover with cling film and chill for 20 minutes before rolling out.
  5. Preheat your oven to 160 degrees (fan). Place baking paper onto a baking sheet ready for the biscuits.
  6. Roll out the dough until it is the thickness of a pound coin, cut out your biscuits using a cookie cutter and bake for 13-14 minutes (until lightly golden).

And of course, no biscuit would be complete without a hot beverage for dunking…

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Meeting Matt Tebbutt at Cressing Temple Autumn Food, Home & Craft Fair

There are a whole host of celebrity and TV chefs out there, but few of them that have that laid back simplistic approach to cooking that I love. Matt Tebbutt definitely falls into that category, despite his training at Leith’s School of Food and Wine, he remains fairly grounded when it comes to food. He is probably best known for co-presenting Market Kitchen alongside Rachel Allen.

I was lucky enough to meet him at the Cressing Temple Autumn Food, Home and Craft Fair last week where he was hosting a cookery demonstration. He cooked a delicious glazed salmon dish with soy, sugar and Mirin (Japanese rice wine) with a sweetcorn fitter and pickled cucumber salad. Unfortunately, we only had a tiny taste as there was quite a crowd, but what we did taste was delicious. Even Rich, who isn’t a fan of salmon said it was very nice.

I’ve enjoyed watching Matt on many TV programmes on Food Network, particularly 12 Chefs of Christmas, not least because I love Christmas, but also because he really does have a great way of ensuring that his recipes are easy to replicate – one of my pet hates being pretentious food. Matt happened to mention that he isn’t a fan of MasterChef for that very reason. Well done that man – it’s refreshing to hear a TV chef say this.

As well as his loathing of MasterChef, Matt also talked about a few things he has been up to recently, including a new restaurant project Schpoons & Forx for Hilton in Bournemouth opening in December this year. He’s also been busy filming a new six part series ‘Lost and Starving’ (a cooking in the wilderness type show) with Kiwi survivalist Josh James which is due to air on the Discovery channel in January – the show sees the pair foraging for food in challenging environments in order to survive. I’ll certainly be popping that one on series link, I do love a good new foodie series to watch.

And here we are (Jemima and me) meeting him – couldn’t resist a cheeky photo opportunity!

Matt Tebbutt

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My Baby – Jemima Dolores

Meet my beautiful baby girl Jemima Dolores – future Miss Friday!

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So you may or may not have noticed my absence and lack of posts over the past few weeks. This is due to me having my baby. She was born on the 20th September 2015 at 8.18pm weighing just 7 lbs and she really is the light of my life. I can’t get over how gorgeous she is.

Finding the time to cook is somewhat difficult at the moment, let alone write up blog posts – Heck, I’m congratulating myself on the days I manage to get dressed in the morning. So, I appreciate your patience during this time, but I’m hoping to be able to snatch away some time to sit and write the odd post here and there and I’m sure once we’ve all settled into a routine normal blogging service shall resume.

As we are moving in to the swing of autumn I start to get rather excited about the foods that this season brings, comfort foods, pies, stews, casseroles and pumpkins – what’s not to love? Perhaps I’ll manage to share with you a few of my favourite seasonal dishes and experiment with some new ones too.

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Chicken & Mushroom Pie

I’m really rather fond of pies, especially when the weather is as wet and gloomy as it’s been today. There is something oh so comforting about pie, whether it’s steak, chicken or apple… you just can’t beat the deliciousness of buttery flaky pastry on a cold day.

Chicken Pie

Given that today has been rather horrid on the weather front, I thought I’d share one of these recipes with you to really get you in the autumnal spirit of things. I’m feeling rather autumnal myself, I’ve spent the entire day cleaning my home (yes it’s that bloody nesting instinct as baby still hasn’t arrived), I figured that there wasn’t anything else to do seeing as it was so wet outside.

I digress, here is my delicious home-made chicken and mushroom pie recipe made using left over roast chicken, so it makes a perfect Monday night treat that’s really cheap to make.

Chicken & Mushroom Pie
 
Author: 
Recipe type: Main
Cuisine: British
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Chicken & Mushroom Pie
Ingredients
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 medium onions, roughly chopped
  • 3 sticks celery, roughly chopped
  • 2 carrots, roughly chopped
  • 300g mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 tbsp freshly chopped thyme
  • 1 tbsp flour
  • 2 tbsp tomato purée
  • 500ml chicken stock
  • Left over roast chicken, pulled off the bone and shredded
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 400g shortcrust pastry (either home-made or store bought - I won't judge!)
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
Instructions
  1. Heat the olive oil in a large casserole dish and add the onion, cook until translucent. Add the other vegetables and thyme, stir well to coat the vegetables with the oil and cook for 10 minutes until they have softened.
  2. Add the flour and stir well to coat the vegetables, then immediately add the tomato purée and chicken stock. Season generously then add the shredded chicken. Turn the heat to medium and simmer for about an hour until the pie mixture has thickened.
  3. Once the pie mixture is cooked remove it from the heat and allow it to cool for about half an hour.
  4. If you are making pie with a base you'll need to blind bake the pastry crust first (see notes below). However, you may only wish to add the pastry on top, in which case follow the steps below.
  5. Fill your dish with the pie mixture and pop the sheet of rolled pastry on top allowing about 2cm of pastry to over-hang the dish. Use cutters to decorate the top.
  6. Brush with egg wash, poke a few small holes in to let the steam out and bake for 40 minutes.

Instructions for Blind Baking a Pastry Crust

If you wish to make a pie crust (which I think is best), roll out your pastry to the desired size, depending on the size of your dish. Use a small ball of pastry to push the corners into place so you don’t tear the pastry.

Ensure that you roll the pastry out so that you have about a 2cm overlap on the dish (sometimes the pastry shrinks in the oven). Place a sheet of baking paper over the pastry and fill the dish with ceramic baking beans. Pop into a pre-heated oven (180oC fan) for 15 minutes, then remove the baking beans and baking paper and bake for a further 5 minutes.

Once you have blind baked your pie crust allow it to cool slightly before adding the chicken mixture and complete the recipe from step five above.