Springtime in Wales.
So, as we flutter and flex through life, there are but a few simple pleasures that should be relished, watching clouds no matter what time of the day, sitting in the sun even when it’s cold, and enjoying what you eat.
It’s so common how many people seem to overlook it, be it from lack of time, energy or budget. It’s amazing to have all these talented professional people to develop all these time and money saving ways of eating, but I don’t think it’s down to just these factors, there’s got to be something else. And that’s when I thought of the best meals i’ve ever made, and what they stemmed from, it’s all about inspiration! If you think about something that really inspired you, and how determined you were afterwards, and how you strived that little bit harder? It’s all about the state of mind. If you are feeling pants, you aren’t going to want to be extravagant and push yourself, it’s a matter of motivation!
It’s like having an amazing text book, you have the resource, you have the capability to read it, it’s just that final nudge over the edge that you need to leaf that page over and start. Being positive in life doesn’t just benefit you, excitement, passion about a subject is infectious, it spreads and implants curiosity in others’ mind. It makes me immensely happy when somebody says that they read this humble-little-thing-I-like-to-call-a-blog and it inspired them to do something different. Because I am passionate about what I do, otherwise I wouldn’t do it, it’s as simple as that! So smile about food for a day, think about a cuisine you love, that you haven’t eaten for a while and cook it. Just try it, this ‘internet’ that everybody’s been raving about is a wonderful thing and its expanse of recipes is vast. And if you find you’re struggling, put my blog to good use, go to my post about favourite recipe sites, or leave me a comment and i’ll find/develop you a recipe to make! It is writing for pleasure, yes, but there is a tonne of stuff that can be used!
Onwards to the main part of this post, Spring is-a-coming and I will be doing my utmost to avoid doing a spring clean, I might love cooking but I am probably the furthest you can get from being a housewife in all other aspects, so time for more cooking! Hooray!
Sorry to the Veggies and Vegans among us but some of the best meat comes around this season, lamb is one, and chicken. Now, I must say this, I was a little hesitant at mentioning spring lamb today, because after travelling home from Wales, it’s inevitable you are going to see parades of the cutest lambies bambi-ing around on their new-found legs. It’s like a Disney movie, they’re so cute, it’s not fair! Even more heartbreaking though is that returning from home, the fields were bare of baban sheep…
It did make me a little sad though, so I am going to stick to chicken today because not only was in mourning for the lambies, there is something else that’s coming into season that goes pretty damn sexily with it! Leeks – now, i’m not sure if you felt that but I think that shimmering air you just felt is a collective shudder at the idea of leeks, I will not let you down! I used to absolutely hate leeks when I was younger, because they looked like onions, another vegetable I used to hate. And if the thought of creamed leeks makes you gag (I actually full on just shivered myself), then you will be reformed with the recipe that’s coming up shortly.
They are a very forgotten about vegetable, but living in Wales it’s difficult not to acknowledge them when they are so abundant here! And they are good for tonnes of styles of cooking, not just stews, casseroles, pies, though they are perfect for leeks. They need to be cooked for a decent amount of time on a very low heat, with a spoon of butter and a pinch of salt and pepper to taste amazing, and you must absolutely never burn them. They you can add it to anything. Case and point. Cock-A-Leekie soup. Or pie, or stew for that matter. But soup is the more traditional Scottish way. Apart from sounding like a dog taking a piss, this soup, when properly made, is absolutely delicious, full of fresh flavour and with this earthy greenness that is hard to replicate without our good friend the humble leek. Don’t scoff at it until you’ve tried it!
This is a proper Spring food for me, I love chicken pie, (not the creamy ones, vom!) they chicken-ey, vegetable-ey pies that are fresh and uplifting, with a tonne of veg on the side and a crunchy puff pastry crust. It is seen as such an unfashionable, boring old food that few people really make it anymore. It’s such a shame, because it’s really quick to make, it’s good for you (bar the butter pastry that is…) and when in season, it’s very cheap! I am very aware about speed today, so hopefully this’ll be a good recipe for a quick dinner. It’s not exactly from scratch, some of the things are packeted (I apologise to the purists amongst us), but it’s still yummy.
Cock – A – Leekie Pie
4 Chicken Breasts
3 or 4 leeks, trimmed and chopped.
3 or 4 carrots – chopped
1 packet of Knorr thick vegetable soup (it needs to be thick soup!) – diluted in about a pint of water
2 bay leaves
Pinch of thyme
1 Tblsp butter (real butter, not margerine)
Veg of your choice to serve – Green beans, broccoli and carrots are good!
Assembling – I say assembling because it requires no real effort – is super easy.
– Preheat your oven to about 200C degrees/gas mark 6.
– Heat your pan to a low heat and melt the butter, then add leeks. Cook them down slowly for about ten minutes, season with just pepper (you won’t need salt because there’s already salt in the soup!). Remove from your pan and set aside in your pie dish – no need for any extra washing up!
– There should be a good coating of butter still on the bottom so no need for more oil. Add your chopped chicken and cook until slightly browned (don’t worry if it’s not completely cooked it’s going in the oven in a minute). Add the chicken to the leeks in the pie dish
– Add the carrots, thyme and bay leaves and pour over the soup, stir a little to get everything mixed.
– Roll out your pastry if you’re not lucky enough to have a kind machine do it for you, and cut to size.
– Stick it on top of your pie, make some pretty patterns with the offcuts (or save for home made pasties for tomorrow lunch), brush with a little melted butter for shiny-ness and bake in the oven until it’s risen beautifully!
– Chomp this down with some fresh steamed veg with a smidge of butter on the side. Yum!
The Leek: A big scary spring onion? Or a misunderstood soul…you decide.
Detouring a little from the Spring-themed issue, a little update with cake news! I mentioned last week about a practice run for my friend’s 21st birthday. It turned out rather well, from the feedback I got, I guess everyone enjoyed it. You heard it here first, on Cake News. I jest, but it did disappear pretty fast so I guess people liked it. I ended up making 3 cakes:
One monster chocolate cake.
…It was pretty huge i’m not gonna lie, it was reminiscient of Bruce Bogtrotter in Matilda, well, maybe not quite that big but it’s definitely the biggest cake i’ve made so far! It consisted of three layers of rich chocolate sponge cake, filled with milk chocolate ganache, with an outer icing of milk and dark chocolate ganache, finished with simple cocoa powder!
One black forest gateau – this consisted of 2 layers of dark chocolate sponge, filled with fresh stoned cherries (that were soaked overnight in Kirsch) and fresh whipped cream, topped and iced with whipped cream, home-made Kirsch jelly and fresh cherries.
…and some mini ginger tea loaves. Just because they’re so simple!
Cooking cakes is like crack for me, it really is. It’s so rewarding to produce something so pretty! I love it. If I was rich enough to set up my own cake and tea shop, I really really would.
On that aspirational note, I bid thee farewell. Because it is so beautifully sunny outside today, I would seriously recommend taking a walk in the sun to go, enjoy the weather and pick up your dinner. That’s exactly what i’m about to do.
Next Week: Tackling the Orient!