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Suffolk chef Gemma Simmonite, co-creator of Gastrono-me, believes nothing says warmth more than a pie and gives us her recipe for a ‘cuddle worthy’ dish to enjoy over the cold winter nights



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With the clocks going back my comfort cravings almost naturally accelerate forward.

Whether it’s the dark nights closing in earlier or the weather turning chillier, I find myself completely yearning for a pie and all the warmth and cuddle it gives. This pie I guarantee is completely ‘cuddle worthy’ – warming, creamy and full of bite and flavour. It feeds a horde and quite frankly there’s something about the act of whisking a pie out of the oven that immediately elevates the cook to veritable hero status by anyone who eats it – and this one will definitely achieve that. . . with very little effort afforded, but, sshhh, don’t let on.

I decided to make this pie a veggie one for this month’s column because as you probably all know by now my brood and I are veggie, well except Mike who has to lump it a little! But after all these years together sans meat he may as well be. Mind you, the amount of bacon he snaffles from Gastrono-me’s kitchen when no one’s looking probably rules him out of becoming a veggie full time. But with this epic pie even a hardened chicken fan would be hard pushed to miss its presence.

No cluck chicken and vegetable pie (52977328)
No cluck chicken and vegetable pie (52977328)

There’s just so much more to enjoy in this pie than just chicken – the pop of the petit pois, the bite of the leek and carrot and the freshness of the asparagus, plus, of course, the prerequisite satisfying chunk of the veggie protein.

I used Quorn and double cream on this occasion, but it could be adapted to vegan so easily, simply by switching the cream to a dairy free one – happily the choices in the supermarkets are endless nowadays. That’s not to say that this pie is a no chicken zone, not at all. It would be utterly delicious with some leftover chicken pieces, or even as a vehicle for leftover Christmas turkey (which is always an issue!). Ideal for when a still hungry crowd needs feeding and the festive nibbles are starting to wane.

So, this is exactly what I’ll be making this weekend, and just to emphasize the comfort factor, I’m going to match it with an oldie but definitely goodie film – see my definitive top ten list of feel-good film recommendations. Guaranteed to make your entire experience cuddle perfect.In no particular order. . .

When Harry Met Sally

A Matter of Life and Death

My Neighbour Totoro

Moonstruck

Parenthood

The Apartment

Some Like it Hot

Meet me in St Louis

Dirty Rotten Scoundrels

Little Miss Sunshine

NO CLUCK CHICKEN AND VEGETABLE PIE

Ingredients:

375g pack of ready rolled puff pastry

1 tablespoon of olive oil

1 large knob of butter (leave out if vegan, or use a butter substitute)

2 cloves of crushed garlic

6 leeks, cleaned and chopped

1 chopped onion

250g of chestnut mushrooms, cleaned and chopped into quarters

500g of frozen chicken-style pieces

4 carrots, chopped

Small bundle of asparagus, trimmed and chopped

125g of petit pois

45g of plain flour

150ml of white wine

100ml of vegetable stock

2 teaspoons of Dijon mustard

150ml of double cream (Elmlea and Oatly do a good vegan substitute)

60g of grated pecorino, or a parmesan substitute

A few sprigs of chopped fresh tarragon

1 teaspoon of celery salt

1 teaspoon of dried parsley

Salt and pepper to taste

1 beaten egg and a good pinch of salt for the egg wash (if vegan you can glaze with a little coconut oil, or plant or nut milk)

Method:

Preheat the oven to 200C.

Put a pan of salted water on to boil, when bubbling add the carrots and cook for 8 minutes, then add the chopped asparagus, petit pois and boil for a further 2 minutes. Drain and blanch in cold water to retain their colour and bite. Put aside until needed.

In a large cooking pot, heat the olive oil and butter, then add the garlic.

Add the leeks and onions and sweat gently until softened, but still retaining their colour.

Add the chopped mushrooms, celery salt and season with salt and pepper and cook for 5 mins.

Tear the Quorn bag slightly and put in the microwave for two minutes – this is my cheat to half defrost the Quorn before adding to the pot, cook for a further 5 mins.

Pour in the white wine and give everything a good stir, cook for another 5 mins, then add the flour and give everything a really good stir.

Followed with the Dijon mustard, hot vegetable stock, and cook for a few more minutes.

Add the double cream, tarragon, parsley and season to taste again.

Cook for a further 5 minutes before adding the grated cheese, now add the blanched carrots, peas and asparagus, stir well to combine.

Pour the filling into a large ovenproof casserole dish.

Cut thin strips of pastry off the rectangle of your pastry to line the rim of the casserole dish, brush with a little egg wash.

Carefully lay the pastry over the dish and make two slits for the steam to escape. If you fancy, you can cut out shapes as I have done and arrange decoratively.

Pinch and crimp the sides of the pastry, and then brush the egg wash all over.

Bake for approximately 30 minutes, until the pie is bubbling, and the pastry is golden.

Gemma is executive chef and co-creator of Gastrono-me, Abbeygate Street, Bury St Edmunds

Call 01284 277980

Visit gastrono-me.co.uk