Monthly Archives: November 2014

Pie Time! Chicken & Vegetables cooked with Cider & Cream

There is nothing more warming and satisfying, on a winter’s day, than a homemade pie filled with freshly prepared ingredients. I enjoy making pies and pastry and find it quite therapeutic. I like to experiment with different fillings, giving vent to my creative side and also like to have fun with pastry decorations. One of the pies, pictured here, I made for a friend’s anniversary and delivered it with a candle which is a great gift for anyone preferring savoury to sweet. In preparation for an intensive pie-making week, in aid of the church Christmas Bazaar next Saturday, I will be making several varieties, such as – salmon and leek – beef, Port and cranberry and turkey, ham and chestnut. Recipes to be posted as I create them!

Before I get to the recipe for this post, just a word or two about shortcrust pastry and the frustrations that I have encountered with it recently. I came to pastry and pie making relatively late in life as, alas, I did not learn any culinary skills at the knee of my mother or grandmother. What I do remember of my grandmother’s food (on visits back from Africa), is unquestionably grim – spam fritters with baked beans and to drink, dandelion and burdock. My mother, who clearly inherited this disability and never having the need or desire to cook herself, fed us on factory made concoctions that were often inedible, tasteless and I dread to think how many ‘e’ numbers we must have ingested. The effects of passive smoke are well known. There should be equal concern for children regarding passive food!! Like many things that are denied, they become more alluring with the advent of freedom and so, my brother and I learnt to cook creatively. Firstly, out of necessity and secondly, because we both developed a ‘taste’ for proper food having experienced such deprivation during our childhood years. Sympathy not required – I’ve made up for it since!


Pastry made and pie filled. A good coating of egg wash and into the oven for 25 minutes at 190 degrees centigrade.

All that said, back to the subject of pastry. I was taught to make pastry, of various kinds, by a very good friend and pastry chef (you know who you are), who was generous enough to share some of her knowledge with me. To date, I have followed her recipe precisely and it has given excellent results allowing me to produce hundreds of pies. Just recently, however, I have had a few problems with the pastry being too ‘crumbly’ to work with. It has caused me huge consternation and frustration as I get very irritated when things don’t work as I want them to, when I believe there is no reason for them not to. Does that make sense? Anyway, having resorted to internet sources for a technical reason, I have discovered just how critical temperature and changing the brand of butter or flour can be, etc, etc. So, the long and short of all this is, that you have to find what works for you by sometimes tweaking the ingredients and measures. In my case, the flour and butter combination that I am currently using, needed a little more water than I had previously added. That small discovery has ensured that the rolling pin has no secondary use other than to roll out the dough!

Shortcrust pastry: 9oz / 270g plain flour; 5oz / 140g butter; 1 egg yolk, 1 to 2 tablespoons of water. I use a food processor because it’s quicker but you can ‘crumble’ the flour and butter by hand. Cut the cold butter into cubes and put this and the flour into the bowl of the food processor. Whizz until the ingredients combine to a crumbly texture. Add the yolk of an egg and a tablespoon of cold water. The mixture should come together in a clump. If this fails to happen, add a little more water until you have a workable dough that is not too dry and not to wet. I’m sorry that I can’t really explain it better than this – as I have experienced, it’s a learning process that just requires patience and practice. So …… with the dough rolled out to about a thickness of 3mm, line a pie dish of approximately 18cm diameter. Egg wash the edges of the pastry and fill the pie with the filling. Secure the pastry lid by crimping with the side of your thumb. Trim the pastry and egg wash the surface. Have fun with the decoration!

My recipe is based on filling a deep pie (5cm) to feed four or five hungry people. It’s a pie filled with chunks of meat and wholesome vegetables on which to feast. I don’t promote meagre helpings. I’m compensating for my childhood!!

Pie filling – Chicken & Vegetables in Cider & Cream


  • 3 large chicken breasts, cubed (Pie for 4 people)
  • 2 leeks, sliced
  • 2 carrots, sliced
  • 2 tbsp olive oil, salt and pepper
  • 1 cup of chicken stock
  • 300ml cider
  • 200ml double cream


  1. In a heavy based pan, add the olive oil.
  2. Add the leeks and carrots.
  3. Season well. I will leave the quantity up to you, as I tend to over salt!!
  4. Add the cider and chicken stock. Cook for 5 minutes to reduce the liquid.
  5. Add the chicken and cook gently for about 10 minutes.
  6. Add the cream and combine together well.
  7. If the sauce has too much liquid, mix a little corn flour with cold water and add to the mixture to thicken.
  8. Allow to cool before filling the pie base.

Stuffed Squid with Garlic & Roasted Red Peppers

This is amazingly easy, but just a little ‘fiddley’, to prepare! The ‘fiddley’ part is the stuffing of the squid, but I have concocted a method to hold the end of the squid tube open; and that is by using the large open ring of a piping nozzle.

I love this meal at lunch time (ten squid tubes like the ones pictured here are perfect for two) – it’s light (so long as one is not tempted to mop up all the delicious juices with wedges of crusty bread), healthy and will unquestionably tantalise your taste buds. The roasted red pepper zings with colour and sweetness; the squid is tender and succulent and the stuffing can vary, depending on the ingredients you fancy. I find being good difficult and often can’t resist the temptation of dunking chunks of freshly baked bread into the scrumptious oily, peppery, salty, garlicky sauce. It’s utterly Mediterranean and could only improve, if polished off with a chilled glass of white or rose wine!!


Pre-cooking. The squid cleaned, de-veined and stuffed.

I bought fresh squid with the tentacles attached, which for this recipe, I removed. It is important also to remove the translucent spine – this is quite easy and just needs a firm tug. For the stuffing, I simply mixed couscous (just follow the instructions on the packet) with finely chopped garlic, red peppers and sultanas. Once these ingredients were combined with the couscous, I mixed in a few drops of olive oil, a good pinch of sea salt and freshly ground pepper. I filled the squid (this is a little time consuming and can be ‘fiddley’) by using the nozzle of a piping bag without any attachments. Once filled, a wooden tooth-pick was used to secure the squid tubes. I chopped a red pepper into pieces and placed them in an oven dish with the prepared squid and sprinkled them with some more finely chopped garlic. Finally, I drizzled over a good quality olive oil (making sure that everything was well coated), then added a generous pinch of sea salt and a good twist or two of ground pepper. Covered with tin foil and baked in a preheated oven – 180 degrees centigrade for 20 minutes, before removing the foil and baking for a further 5 to 10 minutes to brown.

Red Thai Turkey Curry ………… to Spice Up the Festive Season!

We are fortunate living here in Portugal that delicious ‘plumptious’ turkeys are readily available all year round and at very affordable prices. Before I go further – apologies to all English language purists for the neologism- I just think my word aptly evokes a scrumptiously, succulent and plump bird! And, as the festive season approaches, that is exactly what we want at Christmas time, a ‘plumptious’ bird with which to celebrate!! With the traditional Christmas day meal lovingly and painstakingly prepared, cooked to perfection and devoured in minutes, we are often left with sufficient meat for at least another meal or a mound of dull, dry turkey sandwiches. But ….. hold your horses (or turkeys, in this case), I have a spicy proposition to put to you! Try my Red Thai Turkey Curry – it’s simply delicious and so amazingly easy to make. As it cooks, the aromas are sensational and the spice combination will add an exotic dimension to your holiday menus. I have used a red Thai paste for this recipe because my family like their curries hot! If your preference is for something milder, reduce the amount of red paste or try a yellow Thai paste. A ‘dollop’ of plain yogurt or sour cream, on the side, is also a good companion.

Strip your festive bird of meat or, if you can’t wait for the Christmas day remains, buy a turkey leg or breast and cook it slowly, in a litre of chicken stock which will keep it succulently moist. Cover the roasting pan with foil and place in the oven at 170 degrees centigrade for 90/100 minutes. Cooked through thoroughly so as to avoid the ‘turkey’s revenge! Strip the meat from the bone, or cube the breast, and set aside. By using a shop bought paste, it makes this dish so simple and quick to prepare – and having slaved over a hot oven for hours on Christmas morning – why not? Just choose a good quality brand like Blue Elephant!

Red Thai Turkey Curry

Prep Time: 20 Mins Cooking Time: 40 Mins Total Time: 1 Hour


  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • Salt and pepper
  • Turkey meat (approx. 200g per person)
  • 1 small red onion, sliced
  • 3 cloves of garlic, sliced
  • 500g sweet potatoes, cubed
  • 1 sweet red pepper, sliced
  • 1 sweet yellow pepper, sliced
  • 1 leek, sliced
  • 100g small cherry tomatoes
  • 70g Thai red curry paste
  • 2 x 400ml tins full fat coconut milk
  • Chopped fresh coriander to garnish
  • Chopped Spring onions to garnish (optional)
  • A generous handful of Cashew nuts


  1. In a large frying pan or wok, add and heat the olive oil.
  2. Add the onion and garlic and season.
  3. Gently fry the onion and garlic for 2/3 minutes, then add the curry paste. Combine with the oil.
  4. Add all the vegetables, coating them with the oily paste.
  5. Add the coconut milk and simmer for approximately 20 minutes, until all vegetables are cooked.
  6. Add the turkey meat and cook for a further 10 minutes to heat through.
  7. Serve with rice and garnish with the coriander, chopped Spring onions and Cashew nuts.

Normandy Chicken

This recipe combines some of the most iconic ingredients that are synonymous with Normandy in Northern France, where we lived for seven years. It is in my top ten meals because it is rich, creamy, gently aromatic and simply satiates the most ravenous of appetites. Moreover, it is incredibly easy and quite quick to prepare. It is equally delicious using pork, instead of chicken. My years in Normandy enhanced my culinary passions – we lived in a land of gastronomic plenty – with local markets providing the freshest fish, meat and vegetables, more often than not, grown in the fields and gardens that surrounded us. When I think of Normandy (or ‘Gourmandie’ as it is also known), I think of dairy produce – thick farm cream and full fat milk from the indigenous ‘Normande’ cow, a host of the most delicious cheeses, free range poultry, wild game, fresh sea caught fish, hearty root vegetables, wild mushrooms, cider and Calvados (apple brandy). From this bounteous store, an amaranthine variety of dishes are created.

My Normandy Chicken is ‘lush’ (my son will be impressed that I have quoted him) and the aromas of the cider and garlic are tantalising. Here, I have used field mushrooms but wild mixed mushrooms would make it more special for a dinner party. Served with creamy mashed potatoes, it’s just fabulous as the potato soaks up the extra sauce. C’est gastronomique! Tout simplement delicieux!!

Normandy Chicken

Prep Time: 30 Mins Cooking Time: 25 Mins Total Time: 55 Mins


  • 6 Chicken breasts, halved lengthways (provides 4 hearty portions)
  • 3 large leeks, sliced into 1cm pieces
  • 3 cloves of garlic, chopped or sliced
  • 250 ml of cider (I like to use a slightly sweeter cider)
  • 300g mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 cup of chicken stock,
  • 200ml double cream
  • 3 tbsp of olive oil
  • Salt & Pepper


  1. Cut the chicken breasts in half, lengthways 
  2. In a large heavy based pan, add the olive oil and bring up to full heat
  3. Pan fry the chicken breasts to brown the outsides. Remove and put aside
  4. Add the leeks, garlic and salt/pepper to the pan and soften, being careful not to burn the garlic
  5. Add the mushrooms and the cider. Simmer for 5 minutes
  6. Add the chicken stock and allow the juices to infuse and reduce.
  7. Add the cream and mix well.
  8. Into an oven dish, add the browned chicken breasts. Pour over the cream sauce.
  9. Place in a preheated oven at 180 degrees centigrade (350 degrees fahrenheit) for 20/25 minutes. Cover with tin foil.

Cured & Smoked Tuna

Smokey, silky, robustly rich and fishy. Cured and smoked tuna is delicious – serve as a starter or with a green salad, simply dressed! We marinated a two kilo loin with kosher salts, brown and white sugar, rum, juniper berries, mace, pepper, cloves and bay leaves. It was then placed in the fridge for 4 days before being cold smoked for 4 hours over maple and apple wood briquettes. All our curing salts and smoke house were bought from


Raw tuna.


Cover in kosher curing salts, brown sugar and the spices. Marinate in the fridge.


Four days later!


This is the tuna after 4 hours of cold smoking.



Smokey Salami, Spicy Chorizo & Cheese Puff Pastry

This is simply delicious, scrumptious and richly satisfying but definitely not going to help, if like me, you should be battling the bulge!! It is so easy to make and great to share. I have cribbed it from a recipe sent to me by an American friend. You could use different fillings but I like the combination of spicy chorizo, smokey salami   and runny cheese. I used a ‘raclette’ cheese but it would also be good with Brie or Camembert. Shop bought puff pastry makes it even easier to put together. So, here’s how!


Roll out 6 oblongs of puff pastry and arrange them like this on a baking tray covered with baking parchment.


Make a circle of salami, then place a circle of cheese (that becomes gooey and runny when cooked), then another circle of salami.


Then I added a circle of spicy chorizo sausage, salami and a little extra cheese.


Fold the oblong pasty strips over the contents. Seal the pasty together with egg wash, then brush all over with the egg wash. Score the pastry lightly with a knife. Bake in a preheated oven (190 degrees centigrade / 370 degrees fahrenheit) for 20 minutes.


Ooooooh sooooo good!