The sun has set and I step in to the apartment shortly before 8pm covered in dust.
I take a shower whilst the various things I need to tick of my to-do list this evening run through my mind. The list is long, but top of that list and there is no avoiding it now…. I have to bake.
The team has had 81 unique bakes for 81 villages visited. I can not break this impressive feat so close to the end.
When cooking for others, Madeleine and I have always been a good team, I do main meal, Madeleine the pudding so I’ve never really needed to bake.
I’d like to think I’m a pretty good cook but baking is undoubtedly out of my comfort zone. I decide to play to my strengths and bring out some chicken that I picked up from the butchers, spice it up with chillies, garlic, onion, cumin, coriander, pepper and add some sweetcorn. It tastes great but I’ve procrastinated long enough, this is not baking, I have to turn this in to a pie…
I find a pastry recipe that is suitable for children and it goes surprisingly smoothly. I pulse blitz some flour and butter in the blender till it forms a breadcrumb like structure then roll it in to a ball and wrap it in clingfilm, leaving it in the fridge to cool for half an hour. Feeling pretty proud of myself, my confidence growing, I make a cup of tea and bask in the glory of making homemade pastry. Madeleine is peppered with messages and pictures of how well it is going and I plan out the final simple steps in my mind… Roll out the pastry, line a greased tin, lay the pastry in the tin and save a piece to go over the top once the delicious filling is in. The oven is warming up nicely and I return to the kitchen, a baking warrior ready to complete the task. I unleash the rolling pin, the ball of pastry ready to submit to my culinary powers.
Following the final steps in the book with some nice pictures showing a few rolls of the pastry with moderate pressure on the rolling pin resulting in an even sheet of pastry. As I applied pressure to the golden buttery ball of pastry it spectacularly fell apart, back to the crumble like state before I massaged it in to a ball a little earlier. It was making no attempt to obey the laws of baking and stick together, instead becoming a pile of floury, buttery mess. I never really understood how baking could leave Madeleine in a state of meltdown but now it was making sense… I had to finish the task, the pressure was mounting, it was getting close to midnight and it still needed 20 minutes in the oven, I had to be up at 5.45am so I had to make a decision. Despite the pastry’s best attempts to spite me I could not be defeated, it had become personal! Taking clumps of pastry mess I plastered them to the wall of the baking tin with a few gaps as I hadn’t made enough to cover the whole tin. Thankfully one piece had rolled out nicely to go on top, so at least it would resemble a pie, I carefully started lifting it from the work surface but it stubbornly decided it didn’t want to be parted with the kitchen surface. The behaviour of this pastry had now become highly unacceptable, it refused to stick to itself so I could roll it out but was more than willing to glue itself to the work top! I found I was talking to myself and brandishing a knife, if anyone had seen me they might have considered me a risk to myself and had me sectioned. With some surgical precision I amputated the pastry from it’s best friend the kitchen surface and in five pieces haphazardly placed it on top of the chicken mix. With a finale of glazing the mess in front of me with some egg, defeated, I placed it in the oven, set the timer and slumped on to the sofa. My mind temporarily wandered to preparing for fieldwork the next day when the timer cruelly reminded me that the mess was ready.
To my surprise, it actually resembled a pie, not something you’d spend money on but by most definitions, I had baked and this was a pie!
The next day the team politely looked at my effort, their actions speaking louder than words, an uncustomary stop on route to the clinic was made to stock up on food supplies… I hadn’t worked out how the pie would actually be eaten, given it was actually a chicken stew with pastry on top and we had no cutlery but the general feedback was positive, not that they would have told me otherwise…
Fortunately there are some pre-prepared bakes so the team and I won’t have to suffer for the next few days.
Recipe – Chilli Chicken and Sweetcorn Pie
I wont be offended if you choose not to replicate this masterpiece
For the pastry
- 200g plain flour or all purpose flour
- Pinch of salt
- 110g butter, cubed or an equal mix of butter and lard
- 2-3 tbsp very cold water
- Makes approx 300g
For the filling
- 3 chicken breasts – diced
- Half tin sweetcorn
- Chicken stock (50ml)
- Milk (50ml)
- 2 finely chopped onions
- 3 finely chopped cloves of garlic
- Spices to taste – chilli (don’t be shy), cumin, coriander, pepper and salt
For the pastry
- Place the the flour, butter and salt into the bowl of the processor.
- Using only the pulse setting, pulse until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Avoid over mixing if you can,
- Through the funnel on the top of the processor, slowly add the water a little at a time until the mixture comes together in a ball.
- Wrap the pastry in Cling-film and leave to cool for 30 mins
- Roll out (not how I did it) and line the baking tim and place on top
For the filling
- Sauté the onions and garlic in a little olive oil
- Add the chicken and cook on a slow heat for ten minutes
- Add the spices
- Finally add stock and milk and leave the flavours to get to know one another for around ten minutes
- Add in to the pie
I wasn’t too sure about that pie…