Chicken pies

Today I decided to prepare for what will be a busy run up to Chrismas, by getting some freezer dinners lined up. Chicken pie is a winner, always popular, quick and easy, and actually quite fun.

Chicken, bacon, leek pie


  • 1 Tablespoon of butter
  • 3 leeks, cut in rounds
  • some fresh thyme
  • A little oregano
  • 6 died rashers bacon
  • About 300g of chicken- you can take it from breasts, thighs etc
  • 2 Tablespoons of wholemeal flour (plain is ok too)
  • 1 cup white wine
  • 250ml crème fraiche
  • Salt and pepper
  • Puff pasty (I suggest cutting corners with the packet, pre-rolled kind)

The how to bit:

Set your oven to 180.

Start with the leeks, sweat them gently in the butter with salt and pepper, for about 12 mins. Then add the flour and wine with the thyme and oregano until it thickens.

In another pan fry up the bacon, then and died chicken parts until they are soft and cooked through. Add the crème fraiche and mix though, then add the leek mixture.

Put aside to cool.

Add the filling to the baking containers, either line with pastry first, or just add lid if you’re willing to keep the carbs down!

Beat and  egg and brush the pastry top, and bake for 25-30 mins. Tah-dah!


Lemon curd & memories

I found I had a surplus of lemons, and although usually I would congratulate myself on this happy accident and crack the gin, on this occasion I refrained.

I remembered a family friend that would leave a jar with a checkered cap filled with lemon curd on our doorstep once a month, the jar of yellow happiness that would mark the start of badgering my mother to make lemon meringue pie.

I realised that I have never attempted to make lemon curd (or lemon butter as I knew it), assuming it came form the dark caverns of cooking knowledge that only the experts of the past possess (include here christmas pudding brandy sauce and bearnaise sauces that were made with much fuss at family dinners).

Turns out that I was completely wrong, and this simple addition can be added to the ‘look mum no hands’ category of cooking, where you feel quite cocky that it is hard not to get right and for others to be impressed.

There are a number of recipes kicking about, but the easiest one I found went thus:
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Posh Brownies… with mayonnaise?

I shall begin this tale of cookery back to front, not to try my hand at revealing a recipe Memento style (although I can see that being very funny) but actually so that I can assure you that these brownies were an insane hit.

I gave them to ten people for taste testing, and all ten not only liked them, but also complimented them… and were quite impressed with the fact they were eating mayonnaise sweets (nothing like a bit of novelty).

This will now be my preferred recipe, mostly because they stay moist and fluffy, and I can feel guilt free because the butter version had 55% more saturated fat than the mayonnaise replacement.

Rewind to the beginning and as if by magic, a hamper of brownies-to-be arrived on my doorstep, complete with a lovely pink mixing bowl and spatula.

I strongly recommend you try this recipe at home:
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Le Cafe Du Marche in London

I was taken out of London and into a very culinary focused village in France, when I stepped through the doors at Cafe du Marche. The interior is warm and friendly, coats tidied away, tabled white clothed, exposed brick work and wood working together harmoniously to bring a bustling and relaxing environment.

The French provincial menu changes every 5 weeks, with a strong focus on seasonal ingredients.

Some items are consistently available (for the routine monster in you), one worth of note is the 2 person Cote de bouef with béarnaise.

I tucked into a Moules mariniere starter- very generously served, with a lovely balance of herbs in the pots, so much so that I considered drinking from the bowl (serves me right for dining with ladies- I had to miss out on that!). Others had the
melanzane parmigianna, a delicate layering of aubergine with parmesan, and ate their way through it with full smiles.

For mains I had pheasant, which was a first for me, so this comparison is purely about taste. There was far too much for me, cooked perfectly, seasoned softly, and served on an apple choucroute. There was an odd addition though, a lone sausage. I assume this is a tradition of some kind, but I wasn’t even close to half way through my dish before I was full, so sadly I can’t say what it added to the meal.

One of the other girls had the poisson du jour, and for this day the fish was bass. She cleaned her plate, praising the a subtle flavour, and well prepared dish.

Somehow we managed dessert. My eyes lit up for the dessert du jour, a baked alaska. Having had this is dubious restaurants as a child I was really keen to see how the professionals do it. Pipped meringue crowned the dome of still cold ice cream, sitting atop of a perfect pasty base, with raspberry coulis spilling over the surface. I may never be able to eat it elsewhere!

Also worthy of note was the more sophisticated bavarois du jour. It is basically “made in a hermetically-sealed mold that was plunged into salted crushed ice to set”, as it was created before electric refrigeration. So really it’s pre ice cream, ice cream? Anyway it was tasty and well worth a try. Perfect for a romantic evening or a lazy lunch with friends.


Samarqand in London

I loved delving into the unusual cuisine in this little underground gem.

The thing is, when I was told I was off for a foody adventure into Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan delights I came up blank. I really had no idea what was going to be coming my way.

Turns out that like all other things in life, the food has some sister dishes rooted in other cultures I was familiar with. I had the chicken noodle soup- that was pretty much as you would expect, but with handmade yogurt sides. Really well balanced broth, no bitterness whatsoever, and soft noodles with large chunks of chicken. Clay oven cooked bread, to boot. I was already sold!

I also had a main of Beef dumplings. They are onion riddled- but I love that! Looking a lot like the South East Asian equivalent of dumplings, they came with a chili sauce created from scratch on the premises. This was something really unique, full of chili chunks, infused oils and something subtle but tasty that I couldn’t define.

I was also incredibly impressed with the Napoleon Cake. Reminded me of vanilla slice in the UK, but with less of the heavy custard and icing, and more delicate pasty. We also had a tea, with a special warmer, to be served by women (see? we got a bit of local culture while I did my best not to raise eyebrows at the delight of my fellow diner).


Fifteen Restaurant in London

Recently, I was in the Trattoria area of Fifteen for a lunch meeting. I love the vibe in this place, it’s rustic without being pretentious. The open kitchen is the first thing you see upon arrival, and that really says it all about the ethos behind this place. The chefs are the stars after all. They serve a variety of antipasti, patas, as well as smaller main meals, and larger ones.

Sitting with the Jamie Oliver Team meant that I could ask about what was really good and get a well informed answer. Each of them swore by all the pastas, so that was it for me!

I chose the thick Linguini carbonara with guanciale, marjoram, free range egg, garlic and parmesan. It was a small size (and to be honest I think you would really have to push to get a large in!) and perfect for me. I loved the fresh pasta and the balance of flavour in a dish that can often miss the mark.
I would definitely be keen to return and try out the downstairs dining area that is more formal in style, and pair that with the dinner menu to get the full experience.


The Hansom Cab in London

I rarely find myself in this area without a destination in mind, and in the past it’s been all about activities nearby, facials, nail salons, and more recently… indoor golf.

So as we wandered the streets post game we were all at a bit of a loss for where to have a drink and a bite, until we stumbled upon the Hansom Cab.

Quite a cute little pub, with nooks and crannies about, friendly staff and what looked to be pretty good food (my friends were eating their dinners like little orphaned children!).