Chicken and leek pie

We still had a handful of leftover chicken to use up… we throw NOTHING away food-wise!

Today I decided to send it out in style, by transforming it into a chicken and leek pie… so simple, but so delicious.

First up, I heated a little oil and butter in a pan and tossed in two cloves of finely chopped garlic. I added a couple of sliced leeks and a good glug of white wine. After the wine had cooked off, I added a good glug of cream and the leftover chicken. We also had a handful of leftover onions and roasted purple sprouting broccoli from the weekend, so that all went in too. Once warm, I spooned the mixture into a pyrex dish, rolled out some puff pastry and made a lid. This I brushed with beaten egg so it will go lovely and brown.

I then cooked for about 35 minutes at 180 – just until the lid had puffed up and was brown.

Verdict? Delicious!20170412_120832[1]

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Sesame chicken and warm salad

The weather was blooming gorgeous this weekend, so as the garden is looking so good at the moment, we had an impromptu barbeque. The tripod barbeque came out of hiding and we proudly set it up on the decking, along with chairs for our guests and outside table laden with condiments, cutlery and the family favourite: spinach and water chestnut dip.

The menu was simple: a couple of chickens started off in the oven and finished on the barbeque, sausages and onions cooked in a pan outside. In addition, we served┬ároasted purple sprouting broccoli in garlic and a huge salad. The food went down a storm, our guests had a great time, and we congratulated ourselves on turning a party around with a moment’s notice.

After everyone had gone, we had leftovers. A large tub of salad and another of chicken. The chicken went into a couple of sandwiches for lunch, but last night we wanted to use it up… and this is where the good bit happened!

The majority of chicken was heated up in a pan with some garam masala and a good spoon of sesame seeds (there’s still a handful of chicken left, but we’ll come to that in a later post). The baby gem lettuce leaves were griddled in the griddle pan so they were slightly wilted but with scorch lines across them. Next, the leftover sliced radish, cucumber and cherry tomatoes were tossed around a pan with some chopped garlic so they were warm but still had a crunch. The whole lot was tossed into a bowl and we tucked in. A sprinkle of coriander leaves and the dish was complete. The verdict? Absolutely blinking delicious – warm salad is so tasty!

Sesame chicken and warm salad

Sesame chicken and warm salad

Spinach and water chestnut dip

This is a really easy dish that goes down a storm at gatherings. The dip is made and served in a hollowed out bloomer loaf. Guests then eat the dip with the bread, cutting or tearing the loaf until there is none left.

Ingredients
approx 300g frozen spinach
1 cup mayonnaise
1 cup soured cream
1 small tin of water chestnuts (finely chopped)
3 spring onions (finely chopped)
1 vegetable stock cube (crumbling variety)
Small bloomer loaf

Defrost and drain the spinach – squeeze out as much moisture as you can. Chop up the spinach so that it comes apart easily in the dip.

Add the mayonnaise, soured cream, water chestnuts, spring onions to a bowl and stir together. Crumble in the stock cube and stir again. Add the spinach and mix well. Refrigerate for a couple of hours to allow the flavours to blend together.

Cut the middle from the loaf, and take out the excess bread – you should be left with the shape of a bowl. Put the spinach into the bread, slice up the excess bread into chunks and arrange these around the side.

A guaranteed showstopper at parties ­čÖé

Seabass and leek bake

There’s a chap in our town who’s a keen allotment keeper. He grows so much stuff that often he will put a basket outside his house where you can buy vegetables. Driving past last week, I noticed the piles of booty and pulled over for a good old rummage. I snaffled up a bag of purple sprouting broccoli, a bag of leeks and a bag of parsnips – for the grand old price of ┬ú1.50. Dutifully posting the money through his door, I whizzed off home with my haul.

Last night we decided to do something with the leeks. I also had a bag of spring greens that needed using up. The leeks and greens were chopped up and soaked in cold water – this both cleans them up and brings anything slightly on the wilty┬áside back to life.

 

Leek and spring greens

Leek and spring greens

The leeks and greens were then sweated down with garlic and white wine, and a tub of creme fraiche was added at the end. This mixture was transferred into an oven-proof dish. We then added two seabass steaks to the pan and lightly cooked them with some lemon slices, for extra flavour. These were then laid on top of the leeks.

 

Seabass steaks

Seabass steaks

Last weekend I made a batch of cheese scones – so to use these up, they were sliced and laid on the top – a bit like dumplings. A generous scattering of cheese was added to the top, and the whole lot was popped in the oven at 180 for 30 minutes.

Seabass and leek bake

Seabass and leek bake

The result? Absolutely blooming delicious! And there is enough leftover for my lunch today!

The cost: Leeks 50p, Greens 65p, Seabass steaks reduced to ┬ú1.50, creme fraiche 60p… so well under ┬ú3 for three portions. And who said you couldn’t eat fab food on a budget!

Supermarket scavenging

We all love a good bargain, right? Well, currently I’m taking this to another level. I’ve set myself a challenge on how much we can reduce our grocery bill. But it’s not eating cheap food… it’s being creative with cut price food.

You know the stuff – the ones with yellow labels on at the end of the day in the supermarket. The stuff that attracts a milling crowd who have an overwhelming urge to touch everything before they snaffle it up and triumphantly add it to their trolley.I

I am now one of those supermarket scavengers… Oh yes! And I love it!

So as well as bringing you highlights from the garden, I’ll be sharing creative ways of transforming cut-price food into gourmet delights*

*Actually I’ll be having a bit of help with that… my chap trained as a chef so he’s pretty handy in the kitchen

Turf wars

My lawn has been the topic of much discussion over the past couple of years. When I first moved to Chook Cottage, the garden was nothing but a scrappy bit of grass with a horrible path through the middle.

how it looked then

I swiftly got rid of the path, but then I had chickens for a while. And they absolutely trashed the lawn… so much so that the only thing to do was to dig it all over and start again…

Right hand side - flattened

Right hand side – flattened

This even prompted one of my fans to comment “Is that it? How much can you write about a bit of bare earth and patchy grass???… well, read on, ‘dan@dansworld.com’… and stick this lot in your pipe and smoke it!

The area was reseeded, but it never quite looked like the lush area I had in mind. This was highlighted when lovely chap brought along his man beast of a mower, which promptly destroyed everything in its path that wasn’t completely level.

So we decided to start again.

First job took A LOT of sand to level it out

Next job was to re-surface the whole thing. After humping all the rolls of turf into the garden, we set to work. Well… I say ‘we’… my job was mainly watering the area to lay, making sure there was turf nearby and general fannying about. HIS job, on the other hand was laying it all down, whacking it and levelling it. He worked like a demon!

Here are some before and after pics… I think you’ll agree it looks tons better. Roll on the summer… I predict many garden parties out there now!

Turfing the lawn part 1

Turfing the lawn part 1

Turfing the lawn part 2

Turfing the lawn part 2

Turfing the lawn part 3

Turfing the lawn part 3

The cheat

Remember a week or so ago… I dusted off the heated propagator from the shed, excitedly whizzed it upstairs, and planted my first crops of the year: Kale and Tomatoes.

For it was February. Spring is on its way. And these crops can be started early.

Alas, I slightly cocked up on this one. Yes, it’s February, yes, Spring is on its way, and yes indeed, Kale and Tomatoes can be started early. Only not really… You see, there’s just not quite enough natural light yet. The seedlings all popped up, but as soon as they saw a sniff of the window, they scarpered off towards it.

Spindly seedlings

Spindly seedlings

So I’ve ended up with comically long and spindly seedlings that have little or no chance of forming a second set of leaves and growing into healthy, bushy plants.

An executive decision has therefore been made here at Chook Cottage.

I am going to CHEAT!

I know, I know… we all hate a cheater, but needs must. The vegetable plot here is more of a hobby – we’re not trying to live off the land – we just want a couple of fresh bits and bobs to harvest.

So this weekend will find me at the garden centre, snaffling up a couple of trays of veggie plants where someone else has already done the hard work. These will go in the beds, leaving me much more time to chillax in the garden and admire the fruits of my..’ahem’…labour ­čśë

Curried parsnip soup

Earlier this week, lovely man came striding home, clutching a rather large bag of parsnips. Waggling them under my nose, he announced, “20p… 20p!”. He continued “20 blinking p! For ALL THESE”. He then waggled them at me again, just in case I hadn’t seen them the first time.

“Brilliant!” I trilled… whilst thinking “What the actual chuff are we going to do with ALL THOSE? We’ll be living off parsnips FOREVER! We will smell of parsnips, FFS!”

I repeated… “Brilliant…. whatever shall we do with all those, darling?”

“No idea – but we’ll think of something,” he said confidently.

For a couple of days, the parsnips sat on the kitchen counter, looking at me. I glared back, trying to summon up some inspiration. Today I decided that they were going to have it… I was going to rustle them into something delicious. A quick Google later, and I had a recipe for curried parsnip soup. It went a bit like this…

  1. Peel and chop the parsnips into cubes
  2. Sautee two onions in some butter, and add ALL THE PARSNIPS
  3. Add about a litre of chicken stock, two teaspoons of medium curry powder and a teaspoon of crushed chillies
  4. Simmer until the parsnips are cooked
  5. Blend until smooth and stir in a big dollop of double cream
  6. If it’s too thick, add a bit of cream, milk or water

I now have four pots of the stuff ready to freeze. I’ve just had a taste, and, Oh My Goodness – it’s a taste sensation. Seriously one of the best soups I’ve ever made… and I’ve dabbled with a few.

My life is now complete

AMEN to curried parsnip soup!

 

Kale

Whoopee! Great news!

The kale seeds only went in the propagator on Sunday, and THEY ARE GERMINATING! We absolutely love kale, and get through bags of the stuff… to be able to pick straight from the plot will be an absolute treat.

I can’t express how excited I am to be growing stuff again. ┬áSpring is most definitely just around the corner, as the mornings and evenings are growing gradually lighter – I love this time of year, as it seems to tingle with anticipation of the start of a new season.

We just need the pear tomatoes to pop up their little heads now… I will be watching them intently!

Kale seedlings

Kale seedlings

Level lawn

The work has officially begun in the garden. Our chap came and built us a decked area earlier in the year, and I dutifully rescued the plants that were in its path… all forty of them! Last weekend we set about replanting these (happy to report there were no casualties) and levelling the lawn.

Decking area

Decking area

The lawn has been a bit of a problem since I moved in. It started life as a scrappy bit of grass with a god-awful slab path chucked down the middle. I got rid of the path and created some borders – but the lawn has always been a bit uneven. This was highlighted when lovely chap brought his man-sized petrol mower over. The beast just tore up anything that was slightly on the lumpy side. He’s not happy about this and seems determined to have a bowling green.

So… off we went to buy sand… a lot of sand… to bring the lawn up to the same level ready to turf in a week or so. A better shape was cut into the lawn while we were at it, and I’m pleased with the result and can see that the garden will look amazing when everything starts shooting again.

Levelling the lawn

Levelling the lawn

Next job was to put some horse muck into the raised bed compartments. The veg in there was pretty much an afterthought last year, but we have big plans for this year. A trip to our local farm later, and a bit of shovelling and raking later, and the beds were ready for the first house guests. 50 onions and 25 garlic plants, which were popped in this weekend.

Last up, we fired up the heated propagator and we’ve planted cherry tomato seeds and kale.

Bring on the spring… we’re ready for you!