Petite pie post

(In which I make a small detour and a questionable pie.)

So, the promised Big Baking Bonanza is coming up, really! But suddenly, it was Pie Week! Since I’m a bit of a pie fanatic, who am I to argue with that?

So, since I had a bit of chicken I needed to use, I decided to make a chicken pot pie in honour of pie week.

Pie without wheat? Not great, to be honest. I did a bit of googling for pie pastry without wheat, but since it called for a bunch of weird stuff that I didn’t have in my cupboard (such as xanthan gum, whatever that is), I just improvised.

I mixed rice flour, barley flour, and oat flour with dairy-free butter (sounds like a contradiction in terms, doesn’t it?), and 5-6 tbsps of ice-cold water. (Don’t really know how much I used of everything, I don’t usually measure. Maybe 3 cups of flour and 1 cup of butter? Basically, if it looks to dry, add more water or butter, if it looks too wet, add more flour. Just keep adding stuff until it looks like pastry dough.)

Yay, food processor!

I usually mix with my hands, but I have a new food processor, and I kind of love it! Imagine, making pastry without getting your hands all sticky or floury! The mind boggles!

(I wouldn’t be surprised if there’s an entire post soon constisting of some sort of ode to the food processor.)

After mixing, I wrapped it in plastic and popped it in the fridge for a bit.

Since I’ve never made chicken pot pie before, I based my filling loosely on comfortablydomestic’s recipe.

Pretty vegetables. Yes, colourful food makes me happy.

I chopped some carrots finely, and added whatever vegetables I found in my freezer that would go with it; onions, green beans and peas.

You all know what chicken looks like. What's the point of this photo?

The reason for making this pie; some leftover roast chicken, which I picked and shredded. Not a lot of chicken, but it’s a small pie just for me, it’s not like I’m feeding a family.

I made the gravy with dairy-free butter, soy milk, cornstarch and vegetable stock (and salt, pepper and thyme).

I know. Doesn't look like a pie, does it?

Because I didn’t have a lot of chicken, and my pie plate was far too big, I baked it in my bread pan (for half an hour or so at 200 Celcius – maybe a bit longer, at least until it looked brown and crispy).

So. There’s a reason they put wheat flour in everything, people. Beacuse it’s tasty. Especially in pastry. When I scooped it out onto my plate, it all fell apart and was more like a crumble than a pie. (And that’s just wrong. Crumbles shouldn’t be savoury! There should be berries involved! Or apples, or raisins, or all of these.)

Chicken pot...crumble?

The taste was really good (the gravy worked great, even with soy milk and all of that stuff), but the texture was just wrong. Yep, I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. It was really wrong and crumbly and strange. If only the pastry had worked out, this would have been great.

I’m really looking forward to ending my experiment, having wheat again, and making proper chicken and mushroom pie with fluffy, flaky pastry.

The thing is, I’m an amateur in the kitchen, just starting out exploring all the exciting tastes out there. Stuff isn’t going to be perfect. My kitchen isn’t spotless, I don’t wear an apron, I don’t take my pictures on pretty china, and not everything I make will turn out great. I’m not that kind of blogger. But I think it’s important to share the less successful ventures as well. That’s the whole point of cooking! (Except that you have to eat to live, and all that.) Be adventurous! Try something new! Don’t worry if you have a few disasters – how else will you learn?

 So, here’s one of my less successful experiments. It’s highly unlikely it’ll be the last!

An ode to vegetables

Welcome to the first new, shiny post of my combined writing/cooking blog! Strange combination? Perhaps. But they’re both things I love, and while it’s impossible to write something good without proper fuel, words are food for the soul. So you see how it all fits together.

This first post concerns food, but there will be writing/reading/publishing related ones later. I’ll try to tag everything so it can be sorted easily. Now, onto the subject o this first-ever post:

VEGETABLES!

Don’t you just LOVE vegetables? Crunchy, colourful, varied, good-for-you vegetables? Not to mention humourously shaped veg. (If you hate veg, you’re gonna have issues with this blog. I’m not likely to stop writing about them.)

 What’s the big deal?

  • Cheap! They are so much cheaper than meat. (At least if you’re the least bit health-conscious and try to avoid the worst processed cheap meat products.) Great news if you’re on a limited budget (maybe a student, or like me, a poor writer or other starving artist) but still try to be healthy.
  • Pretty! They add colour to your food. I don’t know about you, but I find a plate full of greens, reds and yellows more inviting than a plate of, well, just different shades of brown (meat, rice, fries, pasta…you know). 
  • Healthy! I actually notice a difference in my wellbeing when I’m eating lots of veg vs. eating little. I just feel better in general, better skin and hair, more energy, better digestion, etc.
  • Varied! There’s just so many different types of veg and sooo many ways to cook them. I’m 30 and still trying new vegetables (recently; plantains and okra. Success). If you’re not afraid to try something new, you’ll never suffer from culinary boredom.

Hate vegetables?

Like a lot of people, I grew up with a standard dinner of meat/fish, boiled potato and two boiled veg. There were a lot of vegetables I really loathed, but now I absolutely love most of them! How? I learned to think differently.

The solution is probably not to avoid vegetables altogether (I won’t go on about how good they are for you and all that, cause I’m sure you know).  Instead, view this as an opportunity to discover new flavours as you search for alternative ways of preparing veg. There are several ways to ‘trick’ yourself into eating more veg, or getting used to a vegetable you don’t like.

  • Pinpoint what it is you don’t like about a specific vegetable. Is it the texture? Maybe you’ve had it cooked wrong (soggy, overboiled carrots, anyone?). Try it cooked a different way – stir-fried, raw, mashed, roasted, grated in salads, etc.
  • Is taste the problem? Try adding flavours that mask or complement the vegetable. (To continue with the carrot theme; this carrot, chili and coriander soup might make you see carrots in a new light).
  • Which brings us to: soups. A blender and some cream can work wonders with a boiled vegetable. This works with a huge variety of vegetables: Boil veg, drain, add some stock and spices, whizz in blender, add a bit of cream and bring back to the boil. If you’re a fan of spicy food, you’re lucky to have an easy way to mask unwanted vegetable flavours, if not, adding more cream will soften the veg taste. This site is a soup goldmine (or gold pot, if you will).
  • When making stews and casseroles, substitute some of the meat for veg. About half the mince in spaghetti bolognese can successfully be swapped with -you guessed it – chopped carrots. (If you don’t like the texture, try grating it.) Onions, mushrooms, bell peppers/capsicums are also great in spag bol.
  •  Salads! It doesn’t have to mean limp salad leaves and soggy tomatoes. In fact, it doesn’t have to contain any leaves at all, just put in whatever you want. A friend of mine barely liked any veg, but learned to like them after having lots of salads with just about any vegetable on earth, topped with olives and feta. The key is variation; throw in enough different veg so that you have different textures and colours and it looks pretty and colourful.
  • Raw veg! It’s great. (I could have written ‘crudites’, but I’m not that fancy, really.) Try dipping sticks of carrot (I know, just shut up about the carrots already!), celery, bell peppers, swede, cucumber, zucchini or anything else you fancy, in dips like tzatziki, hummous, etc.
  • If anything else fails, grate some into stews and casseroles, and because it’s grated into tiny pieces, you’ll hardly know it’s there. You’re not learning to like them, which is a shame, but at least you’re getting some of the nutrients.

Other people have written about this before me, much better too. Here’s a few great tips.

Over at cheaphealthygood, there are loads of exciting dishes that uses vegetables in ways I never would have thought of myself. Plus, cheap! That’s a good bonus, right?

Of course, I deliberated for a long time what my first post of this exciting new blog would be, and I landed on this.  Purely because I had an extremely tasty dinner of cabbage and carrots, both of which I used to hate, and I wanted to share the love.

 Sautéed cabbage & carrots

A pile of unphotogenic goodness

(Really, how appetising can you make cabbage and carrots look? Just imagine what the smell of garlic and chili would look like and then pretend this is a picture of that.)

 I used:

About 1/6 of a whole cabbage

1/2 yellow onion

1 large carrot

1 garlic clove, finely chopped

1/3 of a fresh red chili (deseeded)

Pinch of pepper

Chop everything finely, cook in a bit of oil (and maybe some butter – I like to add some for flavour) over a medium high heat, in a wok or frying pan/skillet. (It’s also a good idea to add the garlic towards the end so it doesn’t burn.) Stop cooking when it’s glossy and slightly softened, but still has a bit of crunch left – taste as you go along to find your own perfect texture. Season to taste with salt and pepper (but really, with chili and garlic you don’t need a lot of salt – good news for your health).

I had this with two types of buttered roll. One was a sort of improvised wholemeal rye roll which turned out ok, but nothing out of the ordinary (the small one to the right in the photo). The other roll, I have to tell you, was THE BEST ROLL I’ve EVER had! Yes, so amazingly good that the caps are almost justified. Big balls of crunchy, fluffy, soft, golden, tasty goodness.

The recipe for these AMAZING cornmeal rolls are over at comfortablydomestic. I’ve only just discovered her blog, but she seems to be somewhat of a domestic goddess who has lots of lovely, comforting, ‘proper food’ recipes. American measurements and temperatures, and I don’t have a good metric one, unfortunately. To be honest, I’m so crap with numbers that I can’t be bothered with conversion tables or calculators – I simply try to get the measurements right in relation to each other (i.e. if a recipe calls for 2 cups of water and 1 cup of cornmeal, I make sure I use twice as much water as cornmeal). If the measurements are more complex, I just use some educated guesswork, and it usually turns out fine.

Now, off to bed, to read On the Way Home, a diary by Laura Ingalls Wilder. A fascinating look ‘behind the scenes’ of the world of the Little House books (and, coincidentally, it has a few interesting food mentions).  Any bedtime reading recommendations for me, people?

Good eating and reading, everyone!