Normally, when the Husband is away, I descend pretty quickly to the "can't be bothered" level of cooking. Why his presence or otherwise should matter, and what that says about me is probably something I should spend some time considering, but not here. The kids are happy to eat pasta till it's coming out of their ears, and I'm happy to oblige, supplementing it with various cheap and cheerful vegetable combinations with the occasional bit of left-over meat or, prize of prizes, some bacon. If he's away for a long time, I might offer some mood boosting fajitas mid-week to lift the gloom, but like my housekeeping generally (which is scratchy at the best of times) it can pretty much all go to hell in a handcart, there's so much else to get done when it's just me at the helm. I salute people who do this on a more permanent basis for what ever reason.
Normally he's only away during the week which means there are the easy distractions of school and other activities. However, he snuck off at 6 on Sunday morning this time leaving me with a whole day of them potentially dwelling on his absence. With the help of some friends, we got through most of it, and I headed off the late afternoon melancholy that I was fearing with a DVD session and roast chicken. Desired effect (happy children) achieved, it has also meant I have had superior pickings in the fridge to see us through the beginning of the week.
The kids were out on Monday anyway, and so last night, armed not only with some left over chicken, but also some chorizo, I put together a particularly tasty version of my cold chicken standby. This is basically a one pot meal - dry couscous, cold meat, chopped tomatoes, frozen peas, whatever you have to hand, to which you add stock flavoured with ground coriander, ginger and smoked paprika (because I didn't have any harissa), cover the whole lot with foil and bung in the oven for 30 minutes. I didn't have quite enough couscous, so supplemented the carbs with a can of chick peas. Pink loved it - she can be fickle and picky but I have never seen a plate clear so quickly. Blue, he of the bottomless stomach and hollow legs, picked out the meaty bits then started pushing it around his plate, trying to engage me in ever more spurious conversations. Then we got the 'If I don't finish this, do I get any pudding?' - this when he still had half a plateful left. He ate on, reluctantly, and we eventually compromised at '9 more mouthfuls' (it would have been 8, but he was 9 on Saturday so the number of mouthfuls goes up!).
"Please tell me you will never cook that again" he said.
I was tempted to tell him we were going to have it again this evening, but without the chorizo, but I refrained. Instead, I stripped the chicken carcass, made stock with the bones, and got the little darlings into bed as soon as I could manage...
Anyway, the Husband came back this afternoon, a day early. Instead of rushing round tidying up the house and doing other wifely things, I focussed on the most important issue - how to use up the last of the chicken in a manner that would please everyone. In view of the available ingredients - cold chicken, the stock, a couple of leeks and some lovely thyme in the garden, I made a chicken pie inspired by a recipe in Jamie's Dinners, a book that I picked up by chance this morning. I get a little annoyed when famous chefs start name-dropping about the tips they've had from other famous chefs/foodies, but in this case, I'm feeling fairly sanguine about it. I mean, if Fay Maschler, the food writer, suggested adding little balls of sausage meat to a chicken pie, who am I to argue?
Jamie uses raw chicken to start with, so I've added my cooked chicken at a later stage in the process and using the lovely stock instead of wine and milk. I've got less chicken than him, so I've added in extra veg, and probably a little more sausage...
Chicken & Sausage Pie
2 leeks, cleaned and sliced
3 carrots, peeled and chopped
leaves from a handful of thyme
2-3 tbsps flour
1tsp dijon mustard
approx 1 pint of stock
200g cold cooked chicken
1 small can of sweetcorn
200g frozen peas
4 sausages (300g)
500g pack puff pastry (you may have leftovers)
Pre-heat the oven to 220/200 fan
Heat a lug of olive oil in a parge pan or casserole, and add in the leeks, carrots and thyme leaves. Cook, stirring for 10-15 minutes, then increase the heat, stir in the flour and keep stirring for a minute or so. Add about a wine glass or so of the stock, stirring as you slowly pour it in to the pan to incorporate it with the flour and prevent lumps, then stir in the rest of the liquid, the mustard and grind in some salt & pepper. Bring to a simmer then cover and cook for 30 minutes or so, stirring every so often to stop the mixture catching on the bottom of the pan.
If the sauce is too loose for pie, you can mix up a little more flour with some of the sauce in a separate bowl then tip it back into the pan and stir - don't just sprinkle in more flour as it will just lump up.
Mix in your cold chicken, sweetcorn and peas to the sauce, and tip into your pie dish.
Squeeze the sausagemeat out of the skins, and divide up into 12-16 balls. heat some olive oil in a small frying pan, brown off the sausagemeat balls, and scatter over the top of the chicken mixture, then top your pie with the puff pastry. I don't have what I'd call a 'proper' pie dish, so I rub some water round the rim the pyrex dish I use, and put some strips of the rolled pastry on first before laying on the proper sheet of pastry.
Once you've laid the top sheet of pastry on, trim and crimp the edges down so they look pretty, and beat the egg and brush it all over the pastry. Bake the pie for 30-40 minutes when the pastry will be golden brown and flaky and the filling piping hot. There was so much veg in the pie, I only needed to boil some potatoes.
Clean plates all round.
This month's Herbs on a Saturday is hosted on Blue Kitchen Bakes for Karen at Lavender and Lovage and I'm linking up because of all the lovely thyme that went into this pie.
I'm also linking to the Season of Soups and Stews hosted by Lancashire Food. The requirement is to use stock in your recipe - I made my own chicken stock for this pie.
And last, but not least - This post is part of the #FaveFamilyRecipes Competition with BritMums and Tilda Rice. Every pack sold will provide a meal to an expectant mum in need in support of the World Food Programme’s Mothers Helping Mothers initiative in Bangladesh.