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!

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Determination and deprivation

(A post which deals with food and writing at the same time, in which I make two scary resolutions, but both for good reason.)

 

So, it’s been November for a week already. This brings me to the first of my resolutions:

NaNoWriMo!

Thousands of crazy writers, professional and otherwise, wow to try writing a 50 000 word novel in 30 days. It might not be for every writer, but I think it’s worth giving it a shot. This is how I discovered I could actually finish something. Some people use it as an opportunity to hammer out a first draft of something they need to write anyway, others will see it as an ‘holiday’ from their normal, ‘serious’ writing – a month where you give yourself the license to write something without thinking too much about it, while others (most of the participants, I suspect), do it for the sheer fun of it, just to create something, even if no one will ever read it.

I’ve done NaNo twice before, but this year it will be a quite different challenge for me. Cause this year, I’m also doing rewriting/ revisions on a manuscript that my editor is waiting for. Yes, proper, ‘serious’ writing that I’m getting paid for and stuff. (A first for me.) I’ve decided to try doing NaNo as well as working on my MS. For NaNo, I’ll be trying to finish another novel that is half-finished, and has been sitting around in a drawer for ages waiting for me to rekindle my enthusiasm for it. I’m hoping NaNoWriMo will help with that. It’s been a week already, and although I’m way behind on the word count, I’m optimistic and starting to care about those old characters again (while not losing interest in my other MS either, so I’d call the experiment a success for far).

To any writers who has never tried the wonderful November madness; I highly recommend it. It’s wonderful what deadlines and optimistic pressure will do for productivity. Also, they run @NaNoWordSprints on twitter, and sprinting is fun, and awesome! Also, the NaNoWriMo community is fun and supportive. Check out the website.

Now, anyone would think that this would be enough of a challenge for one month, but I figured I might as well use the November momentum for a food-related challenge as well. Which brings us to my next scary resolution:

 

Wheat-and-dairy-free Month

I’ve been thinking about this for a while, and it seemed the right time for it. One challenge can propel the other along, so to speak. The (rather uninteresting) background for this, is that I’ve had some pain in my joints for over a year now, and so far the doctors have been unable to tell me what it is (except that it’s NOT arthritis). After some googling, I’ve seen that many people experience relief from similar symptoms after cutting wheat and dairy, so I’ve decided to try it for at least a month to see if there’s any difference. (I tried just going dairy-free for a month, and while there wasn’t much difference to my joints, my skin was noticeably clearer and healthier.)

 

So far, so good. I’ve been doing this for almost two weeks now, and so far, no big difference to my joints, but a huge one to my skin (and also some improvement in digestion).

I’d like to think that I don’t really see this as something scary and restricting, but rather as an exciting opportunity to try something new, and cook in ways I wouldn’t have tried otherwise. But the big challenge here is of course, TREATS. (Hey, if you’re going to write a novel in 30 days, you’re going to need a LOT of treats. You know, stuff you can nibble while typing, that will fuel you through sleepless nights when your characters won’t let you go to bed (ok, maybe not, after all, I have another MS to work on, and a normal day job every other day)). So because the job that really pays the bills (for now, anyway), is only every second day, so I’ll have time for writing in between, this means I’m not exactly rich. I’m on a rather tight budget, so there’s no money for lots of expensive gluten-free baked goods (3 times the normal price for a packet of Jaffa Cakes that taste less than the normal ones? Are you kidding me?). This means I had a big baking day, where I tried to make my own treats and breakfast foods (but mainly treats, to be honest), without dairy or wheat.

No real butter? No cream, milk, cheese, yoghurt, or white flour? How can you bake anything yummy with these restrictions challenges?

Very soon, there will be a big, bold Baking Bonanza Blog post, in which you will find out whether I succeeded in making anything edible.

 

 

PS. Bedtime reading!

I’ve finished The Book of Negroes (which, I’ve discovered, is called Someone Knows My Name in the US, because the word Negro just wouldn’t fly there, even though the title is lifted from a historical document which is vital to the story). The last time I mentions it, I said it was a bit of an anitclimax after The Book of Night Women (written by the extremely talented Marlon James), and I know why -the latter is written in such a rich, evocative, almost hypnotic language, that it makes other books seem almost simplistically written in comparison. However, that is not the case with The Book of Negroes, which is actually written in a straighforward, et sometimes lyrical style. It just took some ‘acclimatizing’ to normal English again after the ‘vernacular’ of The Book of Night Women. (I think the language and writing style might merit its own blog post at some point, because it made me think a lot about writing voive.) And I highly recommend both books – the suck you into their worlds and make you care about their (very different) protagonists.

Now, I’m going to start The Long Song by Andrea Levy, and hope it lives up to these two! Also, I’d love reading recommendations! (Not just about slavery! Although it might seem like I read about nothing else at the moment. I’m open to anything, although I have a fondness for well told historicals, magical realism, and realistic/urban/historical fantasy.)