In my previous post with Homesense (see it here), I talked about inexpensive, good quality kitchen essentials and functional basics that every home needs. Today I thought I would continue with the kitchen theme, put those items to work and actually cook something – with an easy, simple recipe for a heartwarming chicken and pale ale one-pot pie (try saying that quickly!). Perfect for autumn as the temperatures start to dip and the urge for cosier evenings in gets greater.
Because did you know that Homesense – part of the TK Maxx family, it offers homeware with savings of up to 60% off RRP – is a great place to pick up cookbooks with lots of yummy recipes. On my recent visit to the new Greenwich store, I popped in my basket Crumb: The Baking Book by Great British Bake Off finalist and Guardian columnist Ruby Tandoh, for just £5.99 (RRP £20). Add to that some quirky paint splatter-effect plates (£3.99 each) and an enamel cooking pot (£14.99), and I was ready to roll up my sleeves and get cooking!
Tandoh’s cookbook is a celebration of the simple joy of baking with easy-to-follow recipes for everything from croissants and custard doughnuts, chocolate tarts and cherry pies, classic steamed sponge puddings and jam role-polys, to buns and bagels, spelt loaves and flatbreads, pasties and pies. A heap of inspiration for everyday cooking – there’s literally everything you would ever need to bake.
I was immediately drawn to the savoury dishes and decided to try my hand at her quick puff pastry and make a humble chicken, pale ale and chicory pie. As with most of my cooking, I decided to use the cookbook as a guide and essentially make it up as I go along. So there are some adaptations, but I think that’s all part of the fun of being creative in the kitchen. And what I learnt: always have a roll of shop-bought ready-rolled pastry in the house just incase!!
Tandoh’s quick puff pastry was really easy to make – you simply use chunks of butter, combined with flour, salt and water, and a few folds of the pastry with a rolling pin to create lots of flaky layers. I enjoyed making something from scratch and seeing it come together into a recognisable form. It’s really important to keep chilling the dough so the butter doesn’t get warm, because when the pastry heats in the oven, then the butter melts, the pastry rises and the layers are forced apart by steam.
That was all going well until I put the pastry on the warm filling that I had cooked on the hob. She warned me about this in the book and I didn’t listen: if you don’t let the filling cool a little the butter in the pastry will melt and you’ll end up with a sunken, raw pastry mess. Oops, I guess I’m not very patient!
But it was salvageable and with a new, separately cooked pastry lid, the pie looked better than ever. And I think it’s actually a great idea cooking the pastry separately – some purists might not agree but it does mean there’s no soggy bottoms, the pastry is lovely and crispy and people can dig in and have as much or as little filling or pastry as they like. It also makes for far prettier plate to have a nicely cut triangle of pastry on top. Masterchef eat your heart out!
So here’s the recipe:
Deconstructed chicken, fennel, pale ale and mustard pie – serves 4 (adapted from Ruby Tandoh’s chicken, pale ale and chicory pie in her book Crumb)
1 pre-rolled pack of puff pastry or homemade quick puff pastry
1 large egg, lightly beaten to glaze the pastry
Knob of butter for frying
1 onion, diced
A pinch of dried Herbes de Provence or thyme (my addition)
150g lardons or diced unsmoked bacon
250ml pale ale
250ml chicken or vegetable stock
6 skinless chicken thighs, chopped (Tandoh recommends cooking them on the bone and then taking the meat off, but I found it easier and quicker to use boneless thighs)
3 tablespoons plain flour
150ml double cream (I used Lactofree double cream as I’m lactose intolerant, you could probably also use creme fraiche for a lighter version)
2 head of fennel (Tandoh uses chicory, but I love the aniseed taste of fennel)
1 tablespoon of wholegrain mustard (my addition, I think it adds an extra depth of flavour)
Salt and pepper to taste
– Preheat the oven to 200C/fan 180C/gas mark 6
– Melt the butter in a large pan and fry the chopped onions until they begin to soften
– Add the lardons and herbs and cook until they’re slightly brown
– Add the chopped fennel and cook until it has started to soften
– Then add the ale, stock and chicken pieces to the pan. The chicken needs to be covered in the liquid so top up with extra stock if needed
– Bring to a simmer, lower the heat and let it gently bubble for 30 minutes
– Add the flour to the mixture and whisk until smooth and there’s no lumps. Increase the heat slightly and simmer, stirring for a couple of minutes to thicken the sauce
– Take off the heat and stir in the double cream and mustard
(If you like doing it the traditional way, this is the time to let the filling cool and roll over the pastry to cover the pie, using a sharp knife to create a hole for steam to escape)
– Transfer the pot to the preheated oven and cook for 25 minutes, or until the filling is piping hot and the fennel and chicken deliciously unctuous (I have an induction hob so had to cook the mixture first in a pan and then transfer to the enamel pot, I guess it makes for better presentation in a big old fashioned pot)
– Meanwhile, cut out your pre-rolled pastry into the shape of the pot, place on a piece of baking parchment, decorate how you like and brush over the beaten egg for a shiny finish
– Cook in the oven, separately to the pie, for 10-15 minutes until wonderfully golden
– Serve straightaway while it’s hot, if you like with fine green beans, get everyone to dig in and voila you’ll have some happy customers with full bellies!
And there we have it, certain to be a crowd pleaser. I love the addition of mustard, the beautiful jar of which I found in the deli section of Homesense for £1.99.
Jackson Pollock-esque plates add a little wow-factor to this humble pie. They look artisan and handmade but come at a fraction of the price of something more bespoke. The burnt orange rim gives a rustic look that’s matches well with a cosier setting for autumn.
I hope that’s inspired you to uplift the everyday by making something tasty from scratch and sharing it with the people you love. I’m not the best baker but I love being in the kitchen and cooking from the heart.
Items featured in the post:
Circular mango wood chopping board, £14.99
Enamelware pot and lid, £14.99
Crumb: The Baking Book by Ruby Tandoh, £5.99, RRP £20.o0
Silicone spatula spoon, £3.99, RRP £6.00
Two paint splatter effect plates, £3.99 each
French serving set, £5.99, RRP £14.99
Pot of mustard, £1.99
Herbes de Provence, £2.49, RRP £3.50
Glass storage pot for herbs, £2.49
Large glass storage pot, £2.99, RRP £6.50
Striped oven gloves set, £4.99
Set of two striped pot holders, £2.99