Thursday 28 January 2010

Killing Two Birds With One Stone...

'H' is coming home for the weekend and I've promised to cook up a couple of her favourite chicken and mushroom pies to take back to London with her. She's a great cook but it's good to have something in the freezer for those days when she's got an essay deadline to meet.

When I make a chicken and mushroom pie I don't roast the chicken but poach it. That way you get really moist meat and it can take being cooked again when you bake the pie without drying out. The good thing is that you can kill two birds with one stone by making up a big batch of chicken noodle soup at the same time! Actually one bird will suffice!
Here's how I make mine:-


Chicken portions or a whole chicken. I buy the best that I can afford. Buying a whole one works out so much cheaper than portions and means the money you save can be used to get better quality chicken. Today I got a corn fed free range chicken which was very tender. It cost me about £7 but I was able to make food for two to three people for at least four days.

For the cooking stock:

  • A leek
  • One or two sticks of celery
  • One or two potatoes
  • One or two carrots,all washed, peeled and sliced very thinly
  • A handful of baby spinach leaves
  • A little thyme
  • A bay leaf
  • Sea salt and fresh ground black pepper
  • Fresh lemon to serve with the soup

For the pie filling:

  • Milk
  • Butter
  • Mushrooms
  • Cornflour
  • Egg or rice noodles
  • Salt and pepper as above
For the pastry:

  • SR flour (most recipes use plain flour for biscuits or pastry. I think that SR flour makes the pastry less crunchy...but it depends on your taste)
  • Butter use double the amount of flour to butter
  • Salt to season we like our food quite salty and so about half a teaspoon to 8oz of flour (225g)
  • An egg to bind. You can use water to bind if you don't have an egg but it does make it much nicer and richer and also prevents the pastry becoming too hard. Water evaporates from the pastry more readily than the egg hence it hardens a little.....I suppose it depends how biscuity you like it to be.


  1. Wash the chicken and remove any extra fat an then place in a large saucepan. I find my oval Le Creuset pan perfect for this.
  2. Add all the other stock ingredients. Cover with boiling and cook until the vegetables are tender and the meat cooked. This can take from half an hour to an hour depending on the size of the chicken. The juices should run clear when the flesh is skewered
  3. Remove the chicken from the liquid. Take off skin if you haven't removed it before cooking and take out bones. Return some of the meat to the saucepan for the soup and add the noodles and cook for the appropriate length of time.

If you aren't going to eat the soup straight away I would wait and put the noodles in when heating it up to serve. This soup is like a clear broth and should be gently seasoned. You could add ginger or soy sauce but I think that it would overpower the aromatic herbs and vegetables. It isn't intended to be spicy or heavy unlike my North African inspired soup which is very hot and has a real chilly zing. This is a very light refreshing soup and is lovely served with lots of fresh lemon squeezed into it.

To make the pastry for the pie:

  • Sift the flour into a bowl and add the salt
  • Add the butter and rub in until the mixture resembles bread crumbs
  • Beat the egg and add enough to combine the mixture together you can always add a little water if needed
  • For m into a ball, cover with clingfilm and chill for about half an hour
To make the pie filling:

  • Chop the mushrooms and cook in a frying pan with a big nob of butter (or reduced fat spread) till tender. SeasonAdd some milk and heat until it's warmed through
  • Place a heaped spoonful of cornflour in a bowl and mix with a little cold milk then add to the mixture in the pan. Continue to stir all the time to avoid lumps forming as the flour thickens the sauce. Leave to cool a little
  • Take the poached chicken and place in an oven proof dish. This time I used those horrible aluminium foil pie plates as they will be easier for H to take back with her.....last time she threw the pie pans away thinking they were disposable
  • Cover with the sauce and then leave to cool
  • Once pastry is cooled roll out. A hint that I picked up recently is to roll the pastry between two pieces of clingfilm. I don't like the idea of using plastic and when you've been baking I think that the kitchen, and my face, and my clothes should be snowed with flour just to prove that I've been baking but, apparently the added flour that you dust the rolling surface with mixes up with the proportions of the pastry and can make it tough.
  • Top the pie/s with your pastry, trim and decorate if you wish and then brush with egg or milk to give a nice shiny golden topping
  • Bake at about 180 degrees centigrade for about thirty minutes. Ensure the top is golden brown and the pie piping hot.......yummy
I managed to bake two medium sized pies that will do H for four days or with a friend for two, served with new potatoes and salad. 

I made a massive batch of chicken noodle soup. There was even enough poached chicken to serve with Persian rice stirred with butter and sprinkled with sumac a ground spice that has a lovely tart lemony flavour; accompanied with Salad Dezfuli a kind of salsa made with finely chopped cucumber, tomato and onion and dressed in lemon and live oil.

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