Recipe: Chicken & Chorizo Pie

Irrational it may be, I do love Pi…

 photo 04c6c159-9943-4bd2-8ecc-cdd621bcd520_zps32c5ee0b.jpgSorry, you can take a girl away from her maths lectures, but she’ll always be a maths geek at heart. Seriously though, I do love pies. They are filling, comforting, relatively healthy (I serve them with loads of veg and nothing else – hence they are superhealthy), freeze well and aren’t as time consuming as you’d first think. I do admit to grabbing ready-made pastry most of the time (I’m sorry, I don’t have time to make puff pastry!), but even whipping up a quick shortcrust isn’t too horrendous.

This recipe was originally inspired by a recipe in GoodFood. I’ve simplified it, making it quicker, and a lot cheaper. It would also be a great use of leftover roast chicken, and you could up the veg content by throwing in peppers if you felt like it. Either way, it’s a summery switch up of the classic pie.

Ingredients (serves 4, including two greedy men)

  • 1 pack ready rolled puff pastry
  • 1 onion, finely diced
  • around 15cm chorizo sausage, casing removed, chopped into slices then halved
  •  3-4 chicken breasts (5oog-ish)
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 1 litre chicken stock
  • 2 tablespoons of cream

 photo f33df65f-841d-42eb-9758-a64491b9be47_zps4920a5a0.jpgFry the onion in a little oil until softened, then add the chorizo. Fry until it smells yummy and has released plenty of its oils.

 photo fedef7e7-3df2-4b8c-be60-7328476edbff_zps2f713bfa.jpgTip in the chicken, and seal quickly until golden brown. Stir in the flour, cook (stirring all the time) for around two minutes, then gradually add the stock. Stir to avoid the sauce going lumpy.

 photo fd1126a3-2059-493e-b07d-0ed47e1407ce_zpsdd297e34.jpgSimmer and reduce for about 15 minutes, until thickened. Stir through the cream.

 photo 76bcd6b4-295c-4377-91bb-8eb4beea7b5d_zps121e4743.jpgTip into a pie dish, and top with your pastry. Bake at 200C for about 30 minutes. Serve with plenty of green vegetables.

 photo 45e045f7-f991-4055-a9b5-b4be2f468a51_zpsf529b307.jpgSunshine flavours under a crisp pastry crust, just enough cream to be comforting, but light enough not to need a nap afterwards. Perfect in my book!  And a great excuse to use up Stanley Pie Bird* from Cath Kidston too!

What’s your favourite pie filling?

What’s Occurring Wednesday: Charitable Acts

I’ve always had strange opinions of giving to charity. I have charities I actively support and donate to regularly, I put change into collection boxes at tills, at least 3 times a year I cart donations off to various local shops, I’ve helped organise events for particular charities, and if someone is doing something to raise money I’ll gladly support them. What I don’t particularly like is people shaking buckets in the street, and what I absolutely despise is the charities that have people stopping you in the street trying to get you to start a direct debit. It’s not going to happen. Cold calling is also an issue. I rang one notable charity to report a case of animal cruelty a few months ago. Since then I have had daily calls from them asking me to donate. “No” was apparently not a word featuring in their vocabulary.

 photo 2014-10-27094604_zps57fe405a.jpgWhat I find most admirable is people taking advantage of their talents and pushing themselves out of their comfort zone in order to raise some funds. My dad pushed himself to do 12 long runs in 2012 in aid of Alzheimer’s – he’s a natural athlete, but he chose obstacle courses that were slightly different to the usual half-marathons. It raised money (and he got hooked), and most important it also raised awareness for Alzheimer’s.

 photo 2014-10-27094545_zps2682de4d.jpgI also love it when companies get involved with charities. Which is why this Thursday I’m swapping my dual-screen computer for a till, Excel for bric-a-brac, and my professional voice to my dealing-with-children tone. Half of my team are taking over a charity shop in Teddington for the day. We will be running the shop as normal volunteers, as well as trying to create fun Halloween themed events for children. We’ve also been baking for the last few weeks to start money rolling in. Hence the mini Victoria Sponges you’re seeing dotted around this post. And we’ve collaborated with a local cafe (that does THE best hot chocolates) to form a sponsored coffee run in the mornings. Granted it doesn’t raise the most cash, but its put a smile on people’s faces and it’s something different.

So I’m all for donating to charity, I’m all for doing my bit. But I like it when there’s some effort behind the fundraising. I don’t like being pressured into anything, and donating money is the same. I always feel hard-hearted when I say no, but I’m not exactly well-off, I do my bit for charities close to my heart, and I spend time supporting their causes.

I’m not going to ask what you think of donating to charity, because (in case you haven’t guessed) I feel its a highly personal subject. So all I’ll say is – have a good day!

Fashion: A Satchel for Autumn

I’ve finally got round to showing you this satchel. Despite having had it since last Christmas (technically. A mix up with delivery meant it sat unloved in an empty student house for four weeks) I’ve only just managed to get some photos of it.

 photo 499b903a-2267-4e16-a528-b172e40b3cf7_zpsaf4a792b.jpgAn unexpected Christmas present, I actually won a facebook competition ran by Groupon to get this beauty. My favourite competition win of the lot! It’s from The Leather Satchel Co, who regular readers will know is my favourite satchel company. Extremely friendly staff, amazing customising options, free leather swatches, fast delivery – everything you want in a company. Pretty much customer heaven, and the bags are pretty gorgeous too.

 photo 4bb842e4-6d6d-4a83-96f7-5f147125e09b_zps700bea5b.jpgThe quality of their bags is second-to-none. Just look at that attention to detail! This has survived dropping to the floor on several occasions (including the middle of two roads) as the strap hooks are a little flimsy. That’s my one real complaint with this bag, my giant Oxblood has a completely difficult strap system which is far more robust – but I just switch the strap if I know my bag will get heavy. I wouldn’t take this climbing mountains, but I wouldn’t be so petty as for it to never leave it’s dust bag either.

 photo 01505198-e0e0-42cd-b812-63bd79cfe086_zps34ed7f50.jpgColour is gorgeous. Completely season appropriate, it looks like a bar of dairy milk with stripes of bournville. I’m on a diet, so chocolate is on the brain! If my foggy memory serves me right, the lighter colour is Chestnut Brown, the darker being Chocolate brown. I’m hoping Keith will correct me if I’m wrong! This is my go-to bag at the weekends – its big enough for all of my junk (phone, camera, keys, purse, kindle, and about five lipsticks…), without being too heavy on the shoulder. I love my Oxblood, but I can’t deny it’s heavy. At least twice the weight of this one when it’s empty.

 photo fa74284c-96a8-4be4-9cb2-bf0b88699644_zps137f182a.jpgNow, customisations. As with the Oxblood I’ve had the gusset extended on this guy, by about 1/3. I’d recommend this to everyone as it makes the bag so much more useable. I’ve had poppers put on instead of buckles fasteners too, but I’ve got to admit it can take me just as long to do them up. Obviously it’s a two-tone design, I’ve added a briefcase handle, and I also have a shoulder pad. Not sure I would ever order one without, my Yoshi and Cut Make Trim satchels feel uncomfortable as they are a plain strap. No embossing on this. Sizewise, this is a 14″. I can fit a pad of paper in there, but not an A4 folder.

Ah, a satchel for all seasons. I’m currently wanting a mini cream (Naked Taupe if at all possible!) one, possibly with black detailing. It would be the perfect accessory to my 21st outfit. You wouldn’t believe the difficulties I’m having ordering a dress, but thats another post. If my fifth one fits.

 photo 499b903a-2267-4e16-a528-b172e40b3cf7_zpsaf4a792b.jpgDon’t forget I have a discount code for The Leather Satchel Co - it is valid against all standard and customised bags. Just quote 2KVEAQQ3YXPJW when ordering to save yourself some pennies! Disclaimer: my Oxblood satchel was a PR gift, all opinions are my own, and this gorgeous satchel was a competition prize. 

Do you like the classic brown satchel look? What would your dream satchel be?

University: Surviving Nightmare Housemates

It happens at every university. Someone, somewhere has terrible, terrible housemates. Now this post is a little tongue-in-cheek, but it’s built on actual experiences that either I went through or was told about.

 photo 2014-09-03182139_zpsa66d8208.jpgUse your own chopping board. And disinfectant is your best friend.

I wish I had a picture of the chopping board in my halls kitchen to show you. Put it this way; it was white when we moved in. I binned it at Christmas and it was black. The only time I used it I got food poisoning.

You may end up housesharing with someone who’s hygiene isn’t quite up to scratch. Whether its just mildly annoying, like the person who does not, who will not take the bloody bins out, to something a little more risky to your health, it’s quite likely to happen. I witnessed things I would rather forget in my first year, and smelt things that I doubt I will ever leave behind. A BBQ Pizza left on the table for a week, then put in the fridge, then cooked a week later? Believe me, not pleasant. The same person also used to sellotape up the plug-hole every time they showered (around once a fortnight). Que a minor flood, and about ten handfuls of hair all over the bathroom. And the very obviously dirty underwear that hung in the bathroom for around two days. That was the unclean side. The dirty side resulted from the inability to wash up after handling raw meat, the refusal to empty their fridge shelf of old food before piling fresh stuff on top of it (I once could only identify a packet of green beans because thats what the label said they were), and the chicken that was defrosting behind the microwave for at least five days.

Moral of the story – stay clean yourself, and you’ll survive. I got by with only two extremely dodgy tummies in the year – and one could have been a restaurant meal. I kept all my cooking stuff upstairs, sprayed and wiped the surfaces before putting my things on them (even the sink before washing up!), and emptied out the fridge every term. Oh, and if their washing up stuff was left longer than a week, it went in a cardboard box. And then I chucked that in the bin at the end of the term. It killed me that once that included some Joseph Joseph kitchenware. Trust me, I tried my damn hardest to chisel whatever it was off. No luck.

 photo 2013-05-18205833_zps1c1190a2.jpgGuard your cutlery with your life.

Especially your teaspoons. I swear they must grow legs and walk off…I buy about 10 teaspoons a year and most of them disappear. I tell a lie…I have a habit of accidentally throwing them in the bin with my teabag in the morning. And having read the first point in this post you’ll understand why I didn’t want to retrieve anything out of the bin.

But anyway, a lot of people I know had housemates who like to “borrow” things. Most of the time it was a genuine borrow, but things didn’t get washed up, things got broken (plastic handled spoons and freezer-cold ice cream don’t mix). My advise is that if you have something you are really precious about, leave it at home. Take things that can relatively easily be replaced. Or just hide everything in your room. Simples.

CheesyPastaBake photo CheesyPastaBake_zps5b08a68c.jpgBe wary of food thieves. Especially around April Fools. 

On 1st April of my first year, I was met by a note on the fridge. Apparently the guy upstairs had heard a noise at 3am, gone downstairs to find the kitchen window wide open and his bacon missing from the fridge. Now I have issues with his story for a few reasons. Firstly, no way in hell could someone have easily got through that window. Secondly, what was wrong with my sausages also sitting in the fridge? Oh, and referring to the first point in this post – why would anyone want anything out of our kitchen?!

But food stealing does happen, unfortunately. Other than a bit of cheese I never had food stolen myself (probably as it was mostly upstairs!) so I was relatively lucky. I knew of a house where someone left the back door (leading to the kitchen) unlocked. A group of people snuck in, blocked off the kitchen door, and cleared their cupboards, fridge and freezer of everything. You have no idea how devastated I would be if I woke up to all my food gone.

So, stay clean, hide things and keep doors locked. 

They’re my top three student tips for surviving nightmare housemates, and probably my top few tips for surviving university in general. I’ve written this post to take part in #CurrysStudentHacks competition, which you can read more about here.

Have you ever had to live with ‘difficult’ people? How did you survive? Any top tips for university?

Restaurant Review: Steak & Co, Covent Garden

I love London. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a countryside girl at heart, but London gives me a real buzz, and more than anything it excites the foodie in me. I try to be relatively adventurous when eating out – recently I’ve had fabulous meals in a vegetarian pay-by-weight buffet place (I loved it, my boyfriend wasn’t convinced), a charming little Swiss place in Soho, and of course my go-to is the utterly delicious Wahaca. But this time we decided to follow up a recommendation and go pay to cook our own dinner…

 photo 2014-10-11185939_zps266fe77c.jpgWe had decided what we were eating before arriving; steak cooked on a hot stone. The only decision to make was the cut, the butter, the salt, the sauce and the sides. In the end we both went for a (massive) 8oz Rib-Eye. I had garlic butter, mustard salt and pepper sauce, he had chilli butter, chilli sauce and pepper sauce.

 photo ebcb545d-e1dd-42b3-ad6b-b835aa9cd6a8_zps23360018.jpgThe idea is your steak comes underdone – so as I like mine rare it comes to the table blue. You then cook slices to your liking on the hot stone provided, using your flavoured butter, sprinkling with the salt, and dipping into the sauce. A bit theatrical, but the steak is good quality and well-flavoured, and it’s not ridiculously expensive. Our bill came to around £40, which really isn’t bad for central London steak. Mustard salt is delicious, the mushroom sauce I ordered originally should be avoided (the pepper one is lovely!). I’d possibly suggest not getting rib-eye if you like your meat rare – its a cut better suited to being more cooked so the fat renders down.

 photo ff7cc94a-1b61-4889-aa8a-f3fb71fdaf74_zpse56743d0.jpg photo 7f9f8dbf-a96c-401b-891c-a332cffaff06_zps247ae66d.jpgSides were garlic mushrooms for me, sweet potato fries for him. The mushrooms were spectacular, garlicky and cooked to perfection. Only issue was there were so many I couldn’t possibly finish them all. I stole a few sweet potato fries, and surprisingly enjoyed them. Still a little over sweet for my tastebuds though.

 photo 2014-10-11160243_zps52409faf.jpgWe weren’t impressed with the desserts menu at all, instead opting for a wander to Ben & Jerrys at Leictester Square. We had eaten a massive brownie from Borough Market before dinner though!

Have you ever been to a restaurant where you cooked your own food? What do you think about the concept?

Life: Feeling Low

I normally get a little low in the dark and dull days that come after the New Year sets in. With a whole host of birthdays in December and early January, it’s always a little bit of an anti-climax when they’re over. And pretty much a good pep talk from myself, a bit of forcing myself to think happy thoughts, and everything is right as rain again. So when I sat in a pretty deep depression last week, it came as a little bit of a shock.

 photo 2014-09-13150354_zpsb756f772.jpgRegular readers will have noticed that only two posts went up. Colleagues noticed I had retreated into my shell. There were a few tearful nights, a few moments where I was perhaps a little short-tempered. But what worried me most of all was my lack of motivation. I didn’t want to do anything – not blog, not work towards a university deadline, no knitting, no cooking, no baking, it was even a no to online shopping. I pretty much just sat on my bed and was miserable. Luckily I have a great support network, and I was also able to recognise that I needed to do something quickly or it would only get worse.

I’ve started making an effort to get fresh air on my lunch break, which is easier now the local park is open again. On Monday I sat in my coat, in brilliant sunshine, eating my sandwich and reading a book. I then wasn’t tempted to nap at my desk, and I came home, cooked soup and was suitably productive.

A recommendation from his darkest days at university, my boyfriend told me to put the radio on if I’m feeling lonely. Surprisingly so much more effective than just music, I find myself feeling less alone even if there’s no one about.Still a student at heart (and remembering that’s what I will be again next September), I’m trying to learn that a little treat now and then isn’t bad. Whether it’s ingredients for my favourite meal, or even just a coffee on the way to work, little treats can really perk up my day. I treated myself to a hazelnut hot chocolate, topped with cream and marshmallows, last Friday. Best thing I’d done all week.

Helping others feel happy is also something which seems to give me a real buzz. The thanks I get when bringing a fresh batch of cakes into work puts a huge smile on my face, and it’s having double the effect this week as we’re raising money for a fantastic cause (you can read a bit more about our campaign here). 2014-09-28 10.14.21A fry up makes everything better. Fact. I went home this past weekend and had one both mornings. Bacon, eggs and toast are my staples, black pudding is a regular addition, though this weekend saw the return of a new favourite. Mushrooms fried in bacon fat. That size 8 dress I was dieting to fit into? I changed it for a 10… (in defence, it was tight on my hips which are stubbornly bony).

I’ve also tried to put less pressure on myself. Its not easy, as I’m such a perfectionist and I’ve never let myself off. Getting less than perfect marks? I’ll beat myself up about it for years (I can still get tearful about my A-Level results, and they were far from bad!). I forced myself not to type out a blog post I didn’t have the heart for. And to be honest, nothing bad happen. My views dropped by probably 20 a day, which is miniscule in the grand scheme of things. I still gained followers. So now I know the world doesn’t end when I don’t push myself to my limit, I can relax a little more. Have a long soak in the bath instead of rushing back to my laptop. Stand and cook a risotto without thinking of my to-do list. Eat a greasy fry-up without thinking of my hips…

 photo 2014-08-30143507_zps857050c4.jpgI’m now feeling much more happier having made some time for me. Sleep is coming slightly easier at night, though it would be great to not see midnight most nights. I’m still convinced the dull, dreary weather doesn’t help (if anyone wants a natural light box reviewing, I’m your SAD girl!) but making the most of my days is definitely helping keep me cheerful. I’m sure my laptop is grateful for the rest too…

What do you do when you’re feeling a little down?