And you should absolutely take that warning seriously because the biggest mistake I made with this pie was to make it on a Wednesday morning just in time for lunch. After our first wet dog walk of Autumn, followed by a very gloomy morning catching up with chores and work, it seemed a pretty good idea to polish that all off with a piping hot fish pie. Oh and it was. It was warm, it was creamy, it was buttery… but it was so comforting that I could have very happily curled up on the sofa under a blanket and slept for the rest of the day after shoving in that final mouthful. It’s not that it was really that filling, it was just an incredibly cosy pie – something that would be absolutely perfect on a gloomy, snoozy Saturday or Sunday afternoon, not on a Wednesday afternoon when you’ve got back to back Zoom calls for the rest of the day.
Packed with everything you’d expect in a traditional fish pie (except the mash topping), this one gets a subtle glow up with the addition of a little fish sauce and lager, giving it a richer and slightly saltier flavour (but strangely, without making it taste too fishy). The sliced leeks and shallots balance by bringing a little sweetness to the creamy sauce, while the golden puff pastry lid adds the flaky, crunchy texture you’ll miss with the traditional mash topping. Do yourself a favour and serve it up with some tender stem broccoli – you’re not going to want to miss out on dunking them into the sauce!
Cosy Fish and Lager Pie
1 tbsp olive oil
1 banana shallot, sliced
handful of spinach leaves, sliced and stalked
half a leek, sliced
handful of parsley, sliced and stalked
1 tbsp fish sauce
100ml cold water
150ml pale lager
25g plain flour
150ml double cream
250gfish pie mix (pick one with plenty of smoked haddock)
enough puff pastry to cover your chosen pie dish(es)
splash of milk
Set your oven to 180°C (fan)
Add your oil and chopped shallot to a deep frying pan and fry on a medium heat until translucent. Add the chopped leek and spinach and fry together for about 5 minutes.
Next, pour in a tablespoon of good quality fish sauce, 100ml of cold water and 150ml of pale lager. Bring to the boil, then turn the heat down to low and pop on the lid– leaving it to simmer while you make the roux.
To make the roux, melt the butter in a saucepan on a medium heat then whisk in the flour until combined. Add the cream, stirring until any lumps are gone. Pour the sauce base into the frying pan and then stir to combine with the other ingredients. Pour in the parsley and fish, then leave to bubble without the lid for about seven minuteswhile you get on with preparing the puff pastry lid.
Pour the fish pie mix into your chosen pie dish (I used two large ramekins), then seal with your puff pastry lid. Brush with a little milk, then cook in the oven for 25 minutes.
Serve hot with with tender stem broccoli (great for dunking!) or peas. (…Then prepare to fall asleep on the sofa for the rest of the day because – fair warning – this is the cosiest of all the cosy pies!)
Blimey, it’s been a while! Back at the start of Lockdown (have we seriously been doing this since March???) I was buzzing with creative energy and had the full intention of knuckling under and making the most of being holed up at home for the foreseeable. I had plans, man. Big plans. I was going to finally sit down and write the book I’d been researching and planning during February, I was going to redecorate and reorganize half the house, I was going to whip up a storm in the kitchen and create lots of new and exciting recipes… and yeah that didn’t really happen, the reason being – among a couple of other things – that I thoroughly underestimated how hard being isolated from the world and “normality” (whatever that is going forward) would be. And while I’m luckier than most in that I’m not really alone – I’ve had my husband and Bungle for company – and a garden where I’ve been able to enjoy the hot weather (I honestly can’t remember the last time Wales went without rain for so long), and I’ve been able to see my Mum and Dad every week when I drop off their shopping, being stuck at home for weeks on end hit my mental health in a way I really wasn’t expecting. In between some really positive, productive days where I’ve reorganized the kitchen cupboards, mucked out in the garden, learned to cook proper chips and revamped some IKEA Billy shelves, I’ve done my fair share of moping around on the sofa and binge-watching box sets (if you’d told me at the start of Lockdown that my crowning achievement was going to be watching seven seasons of Mad Men in less than three weeks then I’d have been pretty bummed given all my grand plans). And with each week that dragged by where I felt like I’d accomplished absolutely nada, I became harder and harder on myself – and that didn’t do my mental health any favours either. In fact, it made things even worse.
Then, a couple of weeks ago I decided to give up on my grand plans and just go with the flow – to enjoy the sofa time (that I’m probably never going to get again) and the down time and to just take each day as it comes and this weird pause in “normal life” for what it is. The truth is, it doesn’t matter how you’ve spent the past few months – or what you’ve accomplished or not accomplished in that time – what does matter is that you’ve made it through this far. And if your way of making it through has involved a lot of sofa time, then that’s absolutely okay.
Anyway, now that there seems to be an end (of sorts) to Lockdown on the horizon I’m feeling a lot happier and a bit more myself, and have been back in the kitchen experimenting. 🙂 If there’s one thing I’ve really enjoyed during the past few months, it’s been lunch time. Having a little bit more time in the middle of day meant that very early on Sunny and I decided to switch our main meal to lunch time. We’ve had some amazing lunches out in the garden in the sunshine, and then snacked our way through our favourite TV shows at night. A definite winner that emerged from this new and improved meal routine was definitely this very easy recipe for Sticky Miso Chicken. Sweet and salty, and perfect served up on some steaming egg fried rice – it’s one of those dishes that can be prepped ahead of time, then cooked and plated up in under 20 minutes (plus, the marinade makes for some cracking BBQ kebabs). I’ve been making up the marinade and rice after breakfast, then by the time lunchtime pounces, all I have to do is cook it all up in a hot wok. Yum!
Sticky Miso Chicken
2 chicken breasts, diced
Handful of chopped spring onions
1 tbsp vegetable oil
Chopped parsley to garnish
Sesame seeds to garnish
Egg fried rice to serve
For the marinade:
2 tbsp runny honey
1 tsp ginger paste
1 tbsp sesame oil
2 tbsp white miso paste
1/2 tsp garlic paste
1 tsp soy sauce
1 tsp rice wine
1 tsp chilli flakes
Combine all the marinade ingredients in a bowl to make a sticky, runny paste – then stir in the uncooked chicken, coating evenly. Cover with clingfilm and leave in the fridge to marinade for a couple of hours.
When you’re ready to cook, gently heat your wokwith the vegetable oil then add both the chicken and the marinade. Cook the chicken on a medium heat until cooked through, then crank up the heat right up at the end for five minutes to create a caramelized, sticky finish.
Take the chicken off the heat and stir though the chopped spring onions and sesame seeds. Serve up with egg fried rice and fresh parsley.
I think I’ve mentioned this before, but I somehow ended up marrying a man who hates soup. I know! I mean, I love soup in all forms and all its glory. From chicken noodle to ramen to country vegetable, you’ll be hard pressed to find a week this time of year where I don’t whip up a bowl and slurp away to my heart’s content. I love it because it’s warming, I love it because it’s easy (…and – I’m just throwing it out there – it kind of helps that it usually comes with a hulking chunk of crusty bread). But according to Sunny, it’s not food, it’s (get this…)SUSTENANCE. Apparently it’s boring. It’s bland. It’s… bleughhh (whatever that means). You get the point.
So I kind of made it my mission this Autumn to find a soup that he will eat, so that I can eat more of the stuff (win-win, right?). And I think I’ve found it! We’re both big fans of Mexican Food, it’s our weekly jam; Burrito Bowls, Quesadillas, Chilli con no Carne (Quorn Mince, yo; it’s brilliant) are foods we can definitely agree on. He loves the beans and the smoky chipotle heat, I love the tomato and pepper based sauces and – let’s be honest – all the cheese. So I thought, why not throw all that (minus the cheese) into soup form? And that’s exactly what I did. Roasted tomatoes and peppers, chipotle chilli paste and coconut milk make up the stew, while the added onions, borlotti beans and butter beans bring in a little texture. It doesn’t look like much, but it’s absolutely delicious (and vegan friendly) – and best of all? The hubs totally agrees. Boo-ya. 😉
Creamy Mexican Red Pepper and Bean Stew
So good you’ll want seconds…
1 red romano pepper, chopped
250g mixed baby tomatoes, sliced
1 white onion, diced
1 can of butter beans
1 can of borlotti beans
good glug of olive oil
2 tbsp chipotle chilli paste
1 tsp garlic paste
1 tbsp smoked paprika
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp chilli flakes
1tsp barbecue sauce(oh yes…)
1 can of coconut milk
salt and pepper to taste
sour cream to serve
fresh coriander to garnish
Set your oven to 180C. Throw the chopped red pepper and sliced tomatoes into an oven proof dish with 1 tbsp of the chipotle chilli paste, season with black pepper and then roast for 30 minutes.
Pop a deep cooking pot on the hob on a medium heat with some oil. Fry up the garlic paste and 1 tbsp of the chipotle chilli paste with the diced onion – until translucent.
Pour in the roasted pepper and tomatoes, then add the paprika, coriander and barbecue sauce. Stir until well-combined. Pour in the butter and borlotti beans, and then the coconut milk and water. Stir well to combine.
Crank up the heat and allow the stew to boil. Pop on a lid, turn the head down and allow the stew to simmer for about 20 minutes – stirring occasionally.
Season, then serve with fresh sour cream and chopped, fresh coriander. Yum!
You can watch a video of me making this soup over on IGTV. Have a lovely week everyone – keep warm! 🙂
We’re wellies deep into Autumn now, aren’t we? I mean for a start, there hasn’t been a single dog walk in the past week where I haven’t trudged back soaked right through to my knickers (note to self: stop lusting after extra af fur coats and buy an unfashionable, dorky anorak instead…), and I keep waking up in total darkness every morning thinking that it’s 3am only to discover that – oh no! – it’s 7am and waaaay past time to get up. I sound like I’m complaining, but actually, I love dark and dingy Autumn weather. For a start, it’s an excuse to hole up at home with the central heating whacked right the way up, and also it’s finally the season to scoff plenty of roasts, pies, puddings and crumbles with custard. Finally! You see, pies and roasts tend to go on a bit of a hiatus over the summer in my house because they’re just a little bit too hot and heavy, and although they make a spectacular comeback when October rolls back around, I still can’t eat them everyday and I have to mix things up midweek with something a little lighter and a little bit spicier. And this very, very easy Thai Yellow Curry really hits the spot.
Would you believe me if I told you that this recipe came back with me from Florida? Yep, from Florida. There’s a fab Thai restaurant that Sunny and I love hitting up when we’re out there. It’s a tiny place and looks nothing special from the outside, but inside – as is the case with most unassuming restaurants – they serve up some of the tastiest food I’ve ever had. This year, my father-in-law ordered a sizzling chicken platter that had everyone salivating over the table because it came in the most stunning yellow sauce that was unlike anything any of us had ever tasted. After twenty minutes of stealing spoonful after spoonful and scraping the plate trying to suss out the ingredients, I had to ask the waiter what the sauce was and exactly what was in it because there was absolutely no way I was leaving Florida without a shopping list. Turns out, it was a Thai Yellow Curry Sauce – which I’d never heard of before, and has a completely different flavour to its Red and Green counterparts – the ones you can easily buy pastes for in your local supermarket. It’s much tastier and warmer, with that particular takeaway curry sauce flavour that you’d expect from a Chinese Curry or Singapore Noodle. It’s sweetened ever so slightly with the addition of Palm Sugar(the only ingredient that’s a little bit trickier to come by, but you can pick up a jar online from Amazon) – and that adds a unique flavour by itself. As soon as I got back home, I set to work trying to come up with a workable recipe for whipping up a Thai Yellow Curry from scratch, using (mostly) basic ingredients from my kitchen cupboard – and I finally came up with a winner. This Easy Thai Yellow Curry is the perfect recipe for gloomy Autumn nights in; it’s not going to win any prizes for its looks, but it’s easy peasy to make and takes less than half an hour from wok to table. It’s tasty and warming, with plenty of texture from the added fresh greens and crunchy cashew nuts. Plus, that bright yellow sauce is bound to put a smile on your face… even after a soggy dog walk. 😉
Easy Thai Yellow Curry
A little bit sweet, a little bit spicy, a little bit of what you fancy…
1 tbsp vegetable oil
1/2 a white onion, sliced
1 tsp turmeric
4 tsp curry powder
1 tsp ginger paste
1 tsp chilli paste
250g chicken breast, diced
400 ml coconut milk
2 tsp palm sugar
1 tsp salt
1 tbsp chilli flakes
1 lemon grass shoot, sliced finely
1 green pepper sliced
2 spring onions, sliced
50g cashew nuts
rice to serve
Get your wok smoking hot (on a medium heat), then add the oil, turmeric, curry powder, ginger paste and chilli paste. Sweat the onions, then add the diced breast.
Once the chicken is cooked on the outside, pour in the coconut milk and stir until it takes on a creamy yellow colour. Stir in the palm sugar, salt and sliced lemon grass. Bring to the boil, then turn down the heat and leave everything to simmer for 5 minutes.
Just before serving, throw in the cashew nuts, green pepper and spring onions.
I’ve said it before, but I tend to steer clear when it comes to cooking pasta at home (…and yet I’ve got a whole cupboard full of dried pasta…). Why? Because it’s TOO HARD, and I’m too fussy. Anyone who says that Italian Food is one of the easiest foods to make at home has never eaten great pasta. FACT. The truth is that I can never seem to replicate the simple perfection of really great pasta in my own kitchen. I’m convinced that it’s the culinary version of Natural Look Makeup; sure, it looks simple – but actually, it takes time and skill to pull off. So I don’t bother trying… much.
The problem is that I really love eating pasta (who the hell doesn’t? My husband, that’s who. Weirdo.); I really want to be able to eat it at home. So occasionally, I give it a go and sometimes – whaddya know – I get it right. Or as close to right as possible without having three generations of Italian passata pulsing through your veins. Slightly spicy, slightly sweet; the sneaky ingredient in this cupboard-ingredients friendly Tagliatelle Arrabiata is baby food. Not kidding. Turns out that puréed carrot does a really great job of balancing out the acidity of the chopped, tinned baby tomatoes. Clever huh? And so easy!
Tagliatelle Arrabiata (serves 2)
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 tbsp garlic paste (no need to peel and chop garlic, yay!)
1 white onion, diced
100g roasted red peppers, thinly sliced
3 chilli peppers, diced
1 tbsp tomato paste
70g carrot purée
250g chopped, tinned cherry tomatos
tagliatelle (fresh or dried, you decide)
salt and pepper to taste
freshly chopped basil to serve
Pour the olive oil into a deep frying pan, and gently heat up on a medium heat. Add the garlic paste and then fry the diced onion until soft and translucent. Stir in the tomato paste.
Throw in the chopped chilli peppers and the roasted red peppers (I like to use the pre-roasted ones that you get in a jar because they’re usually preserved in a mix of water, grape musk and red wine vinegar that’ll slightly sweeten the sauce – cool tip).
Pour in the chopped tomatos and puréed carrot and stir. Bring to the boil, then simmer on a low heat for twenty minutes to reduce a little.
While you’re waiting, cook up your tagliatelle.
Toss the tagliatelle in the sauce, season and serve with fresh basil leaves.