We went foraging for wild garlic in London last weekend, stuffing two big bags with pungent green sprays. After sifting through for buds (now pickled), we found ourselves left with an entire binbag-full. It triggered flashbacks to the time we ended up with 34kg of spring onions.

So it’s wild garlic in everything. I’ve put it into my easy everyday flatbread recipe, smearing them with extra wild garlic butter while still warm from the skillet. D has made batches of wild garlic kimchi and wild garlic pesto, and we had wild garlic buttered soldiers with our eggs this morning (recommend). Yesterday I made the wild garlic and cheese börek recipe below, and I’m still staring down a half-full bag.

Here are the recipes for the wild garlic flatbreads and the börek – enjoy! You, too, could stink of garlic 24/7. Oh, and before you ask: I got the stuff in Mile End, not Camberwell. Sorry! I believe Dulwich Woods is full of it, though.

Wild Garlic Flatbread Recipe

Makes 8-12 depending on how large you want them.

500g strong white flour plus a little extra for dusting and mixing
2 teaspoons salt
30ml olive oil
300ml warm water
1 packet of instant yeast
150g wild garlic leaves, washed and chopped
Extra wild garlic chopped and mashed into butter is recommended for serving!

Mix everything together in a bowl and give it a knead on a lightly floured surface for a few minutes, until smooth and springy. You may need to add a little more than 500g flour (just a dusting), as the wild garlic adds moisture but just mix it together and see how you go. You want a nice, smooth, springy dough.

Leave the dough in a warm place for an hour or so until it has roughly doubled in size.

Knock back the dough and divide into 8 balls for larger breads or 12 for small.

Roll the dough balls flat and cook for 2-3 minutes in a properly hot, dry pan (I use a cast iron griddle) until a little charred on each side. They will start to puff up when ready. Keep them warm inside a clean tea towel while you cook the rest.

Wild Garlic and Cheese Börek Recipe

150g wild garlic leaves washed and chopped (don’t worry about them being *too* finely chopped as they will wilt and it’s nice to have some slightly larger bits I think)
200g white Turkish cheese (I bought ‘beyaz peynir’ which literally means ‘white cheese’ in the Turkish Food Centre but you could use feta if you don’t have a similar shop nearby)
1 packet yufka pastry (again I buy this in the Turkish Food Centre – you could use filo if you like but it will be a much crisper result as filo is thicker)
Around 100g butter, melted
1 egg, beaten
A sprinkle of za’atar and chilli to serve (optional)

Preheat the oven to 180C.

Mix the chopped wild garlic leaves well with the crumbled white cheese.

Have your melted butter ready, then lay out a double sheet of yufka on a work surface. Brush all over with butter. Lay another two sheets overlapping the edge on the right-hand side of the first sheets. Brush with butter. Repeat this four or 5 times (depends how much surface space you have, to be honest.

On the bottom edge of the sheets, make a long strip of the wild garlic and cheese mixture, as if you are making the largest spicy cigarette of your life. Carefully roll it up into a long sausage, brushing the edge at the top with a final layer of butter before sealing. Curl it around into a snail shape, then add to a cake tin, brushing again with butter (bit of a theme, the butter thing). Finally, give it a quick wash with the egg – this makes it nice and golden.

Bake for 35-40 minutes, or until golden brown. It tastes best when still slightly warm from the oven.

Regular readers will know I have much love for retro and unfashionable food. I warmly recall hastily scoffed Findus Crispy Pancakes after-school, hot, greasy pasties on holidays in Cornwall and cold rice salad eaten curled up in Dad’s armchair, glued to Ready Steady Cook. These are, of course, comfort foods for me but I think they have merits in the taste department too and I often find myself defending the likes of the steak slice and cod in parsley sauce. They are basic yet satisfying dishes which seem to warm me until I glow like the Ready Brek Man. They hark back to times when my tastebuds were simpler to please and a sausage roll with a takeaway packet of ketchup followed by a snail bun from the school canteen really was the highlight of my day. Still sounds pretty rad, to be honest.

In a slightly different category of retro foods, you’ll find the vol-au-vent. These were not consumed at home but appeared at family events by which I mean weddings or funerals. Here one would encounter what I (and I think, probably, most people) call the ‘brown buffet.’ A trestle table is laid with platters of triangular sandwiches (ham, cheese, chicken, prawn mayo, tuna, that kind of thing), those tiny wrinkly sausages, tiny wrinkly sausage rolls, mini (wrinkly) quiches, pork pies etc. And so we come to vols-au-vent.

I’ve always adored vols-au-vent because what you have is pastry + creamy savoury filling which is an objectively good combination. The most common flavours were 1) creamy chicken and 2) creamy mushroom but I occasionally encountered a slightly leftfield creation involving fish or perhaps even a brown, steak-appropriate sauce. In recent years, the vol-au-vent made a comeback and I’ve had some decadent snackette versions in restaurants filled with soft, pudgy garlic snails (yes, yes and thrice yes!) or lip-coating braised oxtail.

You’re probably not too surprised to see crab filling mine (again, regulars will smile or groan) which I’ve combined with creme fraiche, lemon and curry powder, for extra throwback points. They’re so easy to make too: cut pastry, bake pastry, cut pastry again, combine filling and dollop into pastry. The perfect party snack (there’s no denying the festive bellyache season is nearly upon us) or just a way to show off at your next brown food buffet.

Curried Crab Vols-au-vent Recipe

Makes around 15

500g ready-made puff pastry
1 egg, beaten
1 dressed crab (this will give you white and brown meat)
1 heaped tablespoon creme fraiche
A squeeze of lemon juice
1/2 – 1 teaspoon medium hot curry powder (these vary wildly so it’s best to add a little then taste)
1/2 teaspoon paprika

You’ll need two pastry cutters (or in my case, two glasses) which are a few cms different in size. So one cutter (glass) had an 8cm rim and the other had a 4cm rim.

Preheat the oven to 190C

Roll out the pastry to a thickness of approx 5mm. Cut circles using the larger cutter then, use the smaller cutter to partially cut smaller circles in the centre of each large circle – don’t cut all the way through the pastry. You can reroll the remaining pastry but it won’t rise as well so try to be economical in the way you cut the circles.

Place the circles on two large baking trays and brush with the beaten egg. Bake for 15 minutes, or until risen and golden. When cool enough to handle, cut the centre circle out, leaving the base intact.

Combine the crab, creme fraiche, lemon juice, curry powder and paprika. Taste and adjust the amount of lemon juice, seasoning or curry powder as necessary. Divide between the pastry cases and top with a sprinkle of the chives.

Cavolo nero and feta cheese borek

The origin of börek is uncertain but here’s an undisputed fact: I am unable to walk past the Turkish food centre in Camberwell without going inside, buying a dirty little spinach and cheese börek and stuffing it into my face so fast all that can be seen to the keenest of peepers is my greasy hands and lots of little flakes of pastry, gently floating to the ground.

I call those börek dirty because they really are the scrag end of the spectrum. You can taste the margarine. I mean, I’m still going to eat them but you get what I’m saying. They are made in a factory (I’m guessing) with less than excellent ingredients and I’m ok with that.

Cavolo nero and feta cheese borek

When I was asked to write a börek recipe for Great British Chefs, however, I saw it as my chance to make amends with the world of Turkish pastries and I think I’ve done that rather nicely. Say so myself. Cavolo nero is a brilliant substitute for spinach with its iron-rich flavour and in fact, I think it’s a better choice, particularly now it’s cold and ‘orrible and we need fortifying in every way possible. A woman cannot live on Chocolate Orange alone.

Cavolo nero and feta cheese borek

Cavolo Nero and Feta Cheese Börek Recipe

This recipe first appeared on Great British Chefs

300g cavolo nero, (weight with stalks, which yielded 150g without stalks)
8 sheets yufka pastry, or filo pastry
200g feta, or Sütdiyarı Picnic Börek Cheese if you can find it (or another white Turkish cheese)
100g butter, melted
1 egg, and 1 egg yolk, beaten lightly with a fork

Preheat the oven to 180°C/gas mark 4

Strip the cavolo nero leaves from the stalks (the stalks can be saved for other dishes, and are particularly good finely chopped and added to fried rice), blanch them for 1 minute in boiling water, then drain.

Dry the leaves thoroughly by pressing them between two clean tea towels and placing something heavy (like a wooden chopping board) on top for a few minutes. Chop the leaves finely and mix with the cheese and a small pinch of salt (if using feta, skip the salt).

Take a sheet of yufka, place on a clean work surface and brush with melted butter. Lay another on top. Then, on one side of the pastry, brush a little more melted butter and lay a fresh sheet of yufka on top, so that it overlaps slightly with the two sheets already there (the idea is to make one long strip of yufka). In the end you will have four pieces of double layered yufka, overlapping in a line.

On the bottom edge of the yufka, begin to lay out your filling in a long snake, continuing right to the other end of the pastry.

Then, carefully roll the pastry up and around the filling until you have one long snake of pastry filled with the cavolo nero and cheese. The snake can then be curled around and placed on a baking tray. Don’t worry if your tin isn’t the right size or shape.

Brush the borek with the egg and cook for 25–30 minutes or until golden brown.

Pork and venison sausage rolls

This is the first of two sponsored posts in partnership with Vitamix, who have just launched the new Ascent Series. 

How do you guys feel about Christmas? We’re supposed to love this time of year. My Instagram feed has been saturated with baubles and bristly trees for a couple of weeks now as people get carried away on an avalanche of boozing, socialising and eating.

Festive food is definitely the highlight of the season. Pork pies, pickles, mince pies and trifle. Christmas, for me, is a time to celebrate traditional British food. I like to emerge in January, whiffing faintly of Silton and mulling spice, like a crumpled party napkin discarded among the glitter of the staff Christmas party. The feasting needs to be full throttle – even paper hats should feel snug come the new year.

A lot of Christmas food is about pork and you know it. Stuffing, pigs in blankets, pork pies and of course, sausage rolls. Some of the most popular recipes of all time (ALL TIME!) on Food Stories are these sausage rolls with whisky caramelised onions and this very quick and easy ‘cheats’ version, to use the language of today’s food magazines.

Pork and venison sausage rolls

This recipe sounds like it’ll take an age to make as it involves mincing two types of meat and grinding spices but guess what? Yup, the Vitamix does all that for you. I’ve worked with Vitamix before, you may recall, and the reason I’m doing it again is that these blenders are genuinely brilliant. They are the nuts. They will blend just about anything and they take a lot of work out of a lot of recipes. I use mine constantly, even when they’re not paying me to do it.

These sausage rolls are an excellent variation on the traditional pork, with the gorgeous wintry flavour of venison but enough pig in there to keep the mix nice and fatty. I’ve added a gentle hum of mace, juniper and white pepper and a batch of sweet, golden onions, caramelised with sherry to really tick those jingle boxes. Festive AF.

Pork and Venison Sausage Rolls with Sherry Onions Recipe

Makes around 24. These are perfect served with a blob of English or Dijon mustard.

400g pork belly, trimmed of excess fat, skin and bone
500g venison haunch, skinned
4 onions, peeled and sliced
25g butter
2 generous pinches good sea salt
2 pinches of mace, ground
1 teaspoon ground white pepper
12 juniper berries, ground
2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves
175ml Amontillado sherry
2 packs of ready-rolled puff pastry
2 eggs, beaten lightly with a fork (to glaze)

Roughly dice the pork belly and venison haunch, then pop in the freezer while you get the onions going.

Slice the onions, and cook gently with the butter (and a drop of oil) until golden, taking care not to burn them. They’ll need regular stirring, even on the lowest heat. Once they’re nicely caramelised (around half an hour), add the sherry, turn the heat up a little and cook until the liquid has evaporated. When the onions are done, spread them out on a plate to cool, then chop roughly.

In the Vitamix, process the cooled meat in handfuls on setting No. 3, until it looks like sausage meat.

Mix the spices, thyme, salt and onions well into the meat. Remove a teaspoon or so and fry it in a pan to check the seasoning.

Preheat the oven to 200C/Gas 6.

Divide the meat mixture into four. Unwrap the pastry sheets and divide each lengthways into two pieces. Make a sausage of meat down the centre of each strip of pastry, then brush one edge with the beaten egg, fold over and seal. Cut into two-inch lengths or whatever you fancy.

Use scissors to snip the tops if you like (I just think this looks nice), put on a baking tray and glaze with egg. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until golden and cooked through. Serve with mustard.


I am around seven years old, standing in a car park somewhere in the South of England, crying hot tears onto a cold steak slice. Standing over me is a woman with desperation in her eyes, a woman who would do anything for this strange little girl to stop making a scene and get into the car so we can leave.

It’s not my mother but someone else’s. I’m on holiday with a friend – we’ll call him John, even though he won’t read this – and it is their family holiday. I have no idea why I was so upset (maybe homesick?) but the memories are flashbulb moments of his mum leaning over me – bewildered, frustrated and at times, downright angry.

Steak slice, ready for the oven.
Steak slice, ready for the oven.

She had a thing about hot Ribena for the duration of this holiday or rather, her kids did. Hot Ribena is the single most disgusting beverage in the world, right up there with warm snake’s blood and coconut water. For some reason, I felt like I had to drink it anyway, that reason most likely being that I was seven years old and didn’t have the confidence or bad manners to tell her otherwise.

I remember standing in the driving rain, feeling the sickly burn combine with nausea in the pit of my stomach. There was a time when I was being particularly difficult (perhaps bawling at the prospect of another purple blackcurrant juice scalding its way down my oesophagus) and The Mum had all but given up. Enter the steak slices. I remember clearly the moment when she popped the boot of the car, pushing aside the wellies, cagoules and carrier bags to reveal a pile of Ginsters, the black and red wrappers garish, her face grimacing as she handed them out. This was a woman who used to force feed us consommé from a tin and once had a go at me for using the wrong knife on a piece of cheese. She had aspirations.


I remember her apologising for the fact there was nowhere to heat up the slices but I couldn’t have been happier. She wouldn’t believe me. I really loved a cold steak slice, see, along with a cold steak and kidney pie, or a cold cheese and onion pasty. She was giving me a huge hug from home with one hand while trying to take it away with the other. I gleefully ate it, all the wobbly peppered steak inside gummy cold pastry.

I was reminded of all this when I made these toasties because the filling, when eaten straight from the fridge, tasted just like a steak slice. It transported me instantly to the inside of a rustling raincoat, tiny red fingers clutching a packet. I had to make them. They went a little wrong because I over-filled (rookie mistake) and one burst open in the oven. Coincidentally, I did this because I was upset about something and I simply cannot cook when my mind isn’t on the job. The past few months have been stressful, which is why I had just a little taste of a freshly baked slice, before letting it cool and putting it carefully to rest in the fridge. The next day, it emerged as the perfect comfort food, no tears necessary.

Enjoyed this trip down memory lane? You may also like my Horse Meat Crispy Pancakes in the style of Findus.

Steak Slice Recipe

I tried a couple of variations on this including one with cheese and pickled onions. It was nice, but in the end I preferred just the steak filling.

1 quantity of  this steak filling (I added a handful of tiny button mushrooms too)
1 x 375g puff pastry, ready rolled (why not, eh?)
1 egg, beaten

Once the filling has been made, allow to cool and refrigerate, I left mine overnight. It needs to be completely cold and jellified otherwise it will run everywhere.

Preheat the oven to 180C.

Do this next bit fairly quickly, because the pastry needs to stay cold. Cut the sheet of pastry into 4 pieces, and place two of them on a baking tray. Divide the steak slice filling between the sheets leaving a 2.5cm border (that’s a guess) around the outside and brush it with beaten egg.

Roll out the remaining sheets of pastry so they’re slightly larger than the bases. Put them on top of the steak filling and press the edges together with a fork. Score the top if you like, using a butter knife (don’t cut all the way through). Brush the whole thing with beaten egg and cook for 20-25 mins until golden.

If you’ve got any taste at all you’ll let them go cold before eating. Maybe.

Sausage Rolls with Whisky Caramelised Onions

Last year, I was all about the quick and easy sausage rolls. This year, I have about a third of the spare time and yet I’m spending it caramelising onions with whisky. Such is the power of procrastination. Still, they’re no bother once you get them on and I’m definitely going to make a massive batch next time, to add to pies, sandwiches and, ooh! HOTDOGS!

Anyway, they’re incredible in these sausage rolls too, together with re-plumped dried apricots and a good pinch of chipotle chilli flakes to play off that smoky thing going on with the whisky. At first I was worried the rolls might be a little on the sweet side with the onions and fruit but god damn if they weren’t just boss. So good in fact that we ate all 12 between the two of us in the space of a few hours and the boyfriend claimed they were the best sausage rolls he’s ever eaten. High praise indeed.

Sausage Rolls with Whisky-caramelised Onions and Apricots

(makes about 12)

3 regular, brown-skinned onions, chopped in half and sliced
500g good quality plain sausage meat
A good slosh of whisky (I mean generous)
12 dried apricots
320g pack ready-rolled puff pastry
1 generous teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
A generous pinch of chipotle flakes
1 egg, beaten
Butter, for caramelising the onions

First, make the onions. Melt the butter in a large pan and add the onions plus a good pinch of salt, tossing them around to coat them evenly. Set the pan to the lowest heat and put a lid on, leaving a small gap at one side. Let the onions cook down for at least an hour but preferably longer, stirring occasionally. They’re ready when they’re very soft, golden and not too wet. At this stage, turn up the heat and add a really good slosh of whisky (the amount you add obviously depends on how much you want them to taste of whisky) and let it bubble down until there’s almost no liquid left. The onions are now ready, so set them aside on a plate to cool completely (this happens faster if you spread them out in a thin layer).

Soak the apricots in warm water for 20 minutes or so, then dice them. When you’re ready to make the sausage rolls and the onions are cool, preheat the oven to 200C. Give the onions a quick chop then add them to the sausagemeat mix, along with the thyme leaves, chipotle flakes, the apricots and a good seasoning of salt and pepper. Preheat a frying pan and make a tiny patty from the sausage meat mixture; fry it in the oil and taste it for seasoning. You may want to add more salt or chilli, depending on how it tastes.

When you’re satisfied with the mix, unwrap the pastry and lay it out on a lightly floured surface. It should be almost the right size, but I like to roll it out just a tiny bit thinner, making it easier to wrap around the meat. Cut the rectangle into two, lengthways, then make two long sausages with the meat down the centre of each strip of pastry. Brush one side of each pastry strip with the beaten egg, then fold each one over to make two long sausage rolls. Cut into two inch pieces and snip each twice in the stop, using scissors. Brush each with more beaten egg and cook on a baking tray for about 20 minutes, or until golden brown and cooked through.

Jamaican Patties
Jamaican patties are a product of English colonialism and East Indian migration into the Caribbean: the former brought the idea of pastry while Indian slaves brought cumin. Both mix well with the Caribbean flavours: thyme, spring onion, scotch bonnet pepper and allspice.

The patties are highly savoury and perfect if you’re growing tired of snacking on mince pies, deep fried brown things and crisps, as I am. The way to eat a Jamaican patty is to pick it up and dunk it gleefully into your favourite hot sauce. Wash it down with a Red Stripe.

Jamaican Patties Recipe

This recipe makes 8-10 patties.

For the crust

250g plain flour
1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
1/2 teaspoon curry powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
125g fridge cold butter, cubed
5-6 tablespoons cold water
1 egg, beaten

For the filling (I have a bee in my bonnet about doing a slow-cooked goat filling next time).

250g minced beef
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 inch piece ginger, finely chopped
1 heaped teaspoon thyme leaves
5 spring onions, finely chopped
1/2 scotch bonnet chilli, finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon allspice
1/2 tin chopped tomatoes

Preheat the oven to 170C

Heat 1 tablespoon vegetable or groundnut oil in a pan and add the ginger, garlic and chilli for 30 seconds. Add the beef and cook until brown. Add the spices and stir for 30 seconds. Add the tomatoes, spring onions and thyme and let simmer for 10 minutes or so, stirring every so often, until nearly all the liquid has evaporated.

While the beef is simmering, make the crust. Sift the flour, turmeric, curry powder and salt into a bowl. Add the cubes of butter and rub it in with your fingertips until the mix resembles fine crumbs. Add 5 tablespoons of cold water (add another if it’s too stiff) until you have a stiff dough then turn it out onto a lightly oiled surface and knead until smooth. Do not over work the dough, knead it just enough until it is smooth.

Grease two large baking trays. Roll out the dough until a few millimetres thick and use a saucer to cut circles from it – as many as you can. You can re-roll the trimmings to get more circles. Lay the circles on the baking tray (they will be too hard to move once filled) and brush the edges of each with the beaten egg. Dollop some of the filling in the centre of each then fold over to form a patty. Seal the edges by crimping with a fork.

Brush the patties all over with more beaten egg and bake for 20 minutes, or until golden brown. Serve with hot sauce and beer.

The crust recipe is adapted from the Waitrose website.

Chicken Pie for Lurpak

I have been asked many times to name the ingredient I cannot live without. The answer has always been the same: butter. Fat makes things taste good and we all know it. Crumpets oozing with butter that dribbles down your chin; a roast chicken smothered and crisped and dipped in the pan juices; a fresh hot paratha smeared generously with ghee. You get the idea.

I get approached a lot by people wanting me to help them promote things –  e-mails ping into the inbox with the opening line, “I think this may be of interest to your readers.” This one was different though. For a start they actually wanted me to go and cook something which, you know, I’m quite keen on doing and secondly, well, I really love butter don’t I. Would I come and make a pie for the new Lurpak ad campaign? Damn right I would.

And so I found myself at a studio in Shoreditch one sunny afternoon cooking up a chicken and fennel pie. There was also a home economist there who, thankfully, was very entertaining. I usually can’t stand sharing a kitchen with anyone. We made two pies, just to make sure that they could capture ‘the shot’. The idea was to make the pie look as ‘epic’ as possible. It had to be a beast – a tall, proud, epic beast. This was where the home economist came in, employed as she is to make food look ‘right’ for ads and mags and books etc.

Photographing the Pie

The result was a shiny domed beauty; a steaming, puffy, bubbling pot of meat and pastry. I wanted to eat it but of course, couldn’t. It was whisked away to be lit and snapped and lit and snapped again. It was a whole new world to me, this advertising business. The main thing I learned is that there is a huge amount of hanging around. All in all though, a fun day and an experience I’d definitely repeat. They also asked me to come in for a casting for the TV ad, but sadly I couldn’t make the date, being as I was on my way to Lisbon.

In the end, that perfect shot was achieved and it was time for me to go home and for Jeanne to start baking her cupcakes. The ad campaign is featured on billboards around the country – I’ve already seen it in Old Street and last night spotted one on my own turf in Peckham! It’s rather nice to see my little pie all big and out there on its own in the city, doing its best to encourage people to cook and use more butter. Now that’s a message I can really get behind.

Chicken and Fennel Pie

(fills an 18-20cm pie dish)

1 free-range chicken, cooked (I used a roast chicken but you could use cooked chicken pieces if you don’t want to roast one).
2 bulbs fennel, tops, bottoms and core removed and finely sliced
1/2 large onion, sliced
4 rasher smoked bacon, diced
1 large leek, sliced
3 cloves garlic, crushed
1 small handful of chopped parsley
Splash of white wine
A dollop of wholegrain mustard (optional)
Oil, for cooking

350 – 400ml bechamel or white sauce (bought or home made)

For the pastry

The pastry is puff but I prefer shortcrust so here’s my recipe. Just use whichever you prefer.

100g Lurpak, at room temperature
220g plain flour (not strong white bread flour)
A large pinch of salt
1 egg, beaten

Prepare the pastry by sieving the flour and salt into a large bowl. Cut the softened butter into cubes and add it to the bowl. Using a knife, start cutting the butter into the flour until it is fairly well mixed. You can now use your hands to start rubbing the butter into the flour – do this as lightly as possible. If you try to squidge the butter between your fingers too much the pastry will become tough. When it resembles fine crumbs, get some cold water (the colder the better) and add a tablespoon at a time, cutting it in with the knife each time, until it starts to come together. When it starts to form large lumps, use your hands to bring it together into a ball. It should leave the bowl clean. Rest in the fridge for 30 minutes.

Heat a splash of olive oil in a pan and add the bacon to it. Once the bacon is cooked add the leeks, garlic, fennel and onion (plus the wine if using) and cook on a very low heat with the lid on for around 15 minutes.

Preheat your oven to 200C.

To assemble the pie divide the pastry into two portions – one portion should be two thirds of the total amount and this will be the base and sides of the pie. The remaining pastry will form the lid. Roll out the base pastry into a circle shape on a lightly floured surface. The shape will need to be larger than your dish as it needs to form the sides of the pie also. Carefully lower this into the dish. Roll out the lid and set aside.

Mix the chicken, fennel mixture, mustard (if using), parsley and bechamel together. Take care when adding the bechamel. Add a little at a time to get an idea of how much you will need. Season the mixture with salt and pepper then fill the pie and top with the lid. You want the lid to overlap the sides of the pie dish. Crimp it down to make sure it is sealed. Cut a cross in the top with a knife and brush with the beaten egg.

Bake for 20-30 minutes at 200C until golden brown.

The other bloggers involved were Jeanne, who made these cupcakes and Mary-Rose, who made a roast chicken.

The photos above are used with the kind permission of Wieden and Kennedy and thanks to the whole team who were nothing but a pleasure to work with.

Pork Pie

I am now officially 80% pork fat. My Dad reckons that the other 20% is made up of beer. Yet again I have stuffed myself to the button-popping threshold of what is socially and physically acceptable and gained more than I care to mention. It all started with this pork pie.

Every year mum and I have a Christmas cook-off – the entire day is spent in the kitchen churning out essentials such as sausage rolls, glazed ham, bread sauce and this year, an absolute monster of a pie. She was big, golden brown and stuffed with three cuts of pig. She was beautiful; bubbling and spluttering with porky juices as we sat there and actually watched her cook and yet, she would also prove rather tricksy.

First I had to contend with a smelly trotter. Worried I wouldn’t have time to pick one up back home, I boarded the coach with a previously purchased cloven hoof for my companion, but when I came down to making the stock, the thing seriously kiffed and had to go in the bin. I’d been sold a funky foot. Unable to find another, it was a very small hock which eventually came to the rescue; we simmered it as you would the trotter, with some bones, herbs and onion, and it made a stock which set to a rich savoury jelly. Phew.

Jelly crisis averted, things looked up with a hot water crust which came together easily despite the fact that the recipe in front of you reads contrary to everything you know about making any kind of pastry. Butter and lard are heated with water then added to the flour; it comes together into a very soft and pliable play-doh like ball, before being stuffed to the brim with three kinds of pork; 1.3 kg of diced shoulder, 250g minced belly, and 250g back bacon.

A proud little bay leaf preserved a hole through which to pour the jelly later, and she went in the oven for an hour and half, before coming out of the tin for glazing and going back in for a further 15 minutes to go all shiny. The re-heated jelly stock is then slowly funnelled into the top of the pie once cooled and, if you are unlucky like me, three hours later it bursts out the bottom. My mum discovered the pie on her way to bed, sitting in a clear pool of partly set liquid and, thinking it would make the pastry soggy (as would I), tipped the jelly away and crossed her fingers. In the end though, a pie that blew any shop bought version out of the water. At one point, we got so emotional that the pie was actually described as ‘resplendent’. Annoyingly, the jelly in particular was incredibly tasty; some at least was retained around the base and quivering gems studded the meat where the liquid had seeped into every available space.

I will be making another pork pie, certainly next Christmas, if not before. The meat inside was seasoned just how I like it, because obviously I made it; heavy on the white pepper, hints of mace, sage and thyme in the background. Most of all it’s full-on pork. The remaining jelly was savoured and a lesson learned: there is only so much pork one can ever get into a pastry case. You’ve just got to accept it. A big fat wedge made a very welcome addition to the ‘pork plate’ alongside my mum’s glazed ham with Cumberland sauce and a couple of crisp, buttery sausage rolls; pickles must of course be close at hand. A porky goodbye to 2009 and here’s to a slightly less porky me in 2010. Stranger things have happened.

I hope you all had a delicious Christmas too and a very Happy New Year!

Pork Pie

(makes one absolute beast of a pie which fills an 18 or 20 inch cake tin)
It is easiest to start the pie the day before you want to eat it.

For the Stock

A few pork bones
A pig’s trotter or a very small hock
1 onion, halved and studded with six cloves
A stick of celery, chopped in half
Six black peppercorns
Parsley, thyme and bay leaves
Roughly 2 litres of water

Put all the ingredients in a pan and then gently simmer for 3-4 hours, skimming off any scum as necessary. Strain the stock then leave in the fridge overnight or until well chilled and set to a jelly. Scrape off the layer of fat on top and the stock is then ready to be re-heated. You will need about 250ml for the pie (don’t try to get any more in, trust me). The rest is a very valuable addition to your freezer.

For the Crust

The crust recipe I used comes from this site.

100g butter
100g lard
200ml water
550g plain flour
1.5 teaspoons salt
2 large eggs, plus another for glazing later
1 bay leaf

Melt the butter and lard with the water over a gentle heat. Meanwhile, mix the flour with the salt in a large mixing bowl then add the eggs. Use a knife to start cutting it together as you normally would when making pastry. Begin adding the melted fat and water mixture a little at a time until it starts to all come together like this. Then go in with your hands and bring it together into a ball. Knead very briefly until smooth then wrap in cling film and refrigerate while you make the filling.

For the Filling

1.3 kg pork shoulder
250g smoked back bacon
250g belly pork, minced
1 heaped tablespoon chopped sage
1 tablespoon chopped thyme leaves
1 generous teaspoon salt (don’t go overboard as the bacon is salty)
1 generous teaspoon black pepper or to taste
1 generous teaspoon white pepper or to taste
Half a teaspoon of ground mace (substitute nutmeg if you don’t have it)

First, finely dice the pork shoulder, removing any sinewy bits. I went for quite a coarse dice, about 1/2-1cm square. Then finely dice the bacon too and mix all three meats together in a large mixing bowl. Add the rest of the ingredients and combine well. Take a little bit of the mixture and form into a small patty about the size of a 50p piece, then cook in a frying pan to check the seasonings and adjust to taste as necessary.

Assembling the Pie

Preheat the oven to 180C. Cut off a third of the pastry and set aside for the lid (back in the fridge), then roll out the remaining two thirds on a lightly floured surface. You want a circle big enough to cover the base and edges of your cake tin. Mould the pastry into the tin, making sure that there are no gaps, then stuff with the filling. You can pack it down well as it will shrink during cooking, leaving room for the jelly.

Roll out the remaining pastry to make the lid and brush the sides of the pie with beaten egg before putting the lid on top and crimping and sealing well with your fingers. Use a bay leaf to make a hole in the top of the pie and bake on the centre shelf for 30 minutes. After this time, reduce the heat to 160C and back for another hour. Then remove the pie from the tin and brush all over with beaten egg before baking again for 10-15 minutes.

Leave to cool for 30 minutes before removing the bay leaf, then re-heat 250ml stock and slowly funnel it into the top of the pie. This takes some time as you have to do it bit by bit. Allow to cool completely and refrigerate to allow the jelly to set completely.