Tuesday, 30 April 2013

Is a Korma boring? Would you laugh at me if I had a Korma?

The title is from the wonderful, incomparable Gavin & Stacey which, with its story lines about an English/Welsh couple sometimes struck very, very close to this home.

But yes, a Korma does usually have boring connotations.  Right up there, in my Book Of Curry, with the obligatory omelette and chicken & chips that curry houses would have for the non-curry consumers that for some reason ended up in an Indian restaurant.  The mass-produced Kormas that I have been unfortunate enough to experience have been bland and creamy, and utterly pointless.  For this reason I've never made one.  Why would I, when there is a wonderful world of Jalfrezis, Dopiazas and, my absolute all-time favourite, Lamb & Spinach Karahi, to explore?

Until the day comes when, faced with a load of leftover roast chicken, cream in need of using up, a familiar craving for curry to deal with and a bell ringing in the back of your mind that you have heard wonderful things about the Korma from the Hairy Dieters book.  Ach, why not, what's the worst that could happen?

So, this really took us by surprise.  I ramped up the chilli powder to the max recommended by the Bikers, and possibly even added a bit more for luck.  It tasted - and I mean this in the best possible way - like a cross between a boring Korma and a chip shop curry.  It was really lovely.  Still not mega spicy, so wouldn't work on those nights when you really want to be blasted to kingdom come, but definitely spicy enough to quell the craving.  And as a bonus, it uses much less cream than a regular Korma, and so, if you were the sort of person who is inclined to give cream a wide berth, it would suit; although you would never guess, not in a million years, that it came from a diet book.  Yes, it is yet another recipe to use up leftovers, but sometimes I feel that's where recipes can be the most useful.  

So, please don't laugh at me for having this Korma.  It's definitely not boring.

Non-Boring Chicken Korma

300g cooked chicken
1 tablespoon flavourless oil
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves of garlic, sliced
2cm piece root ginger, peeled and grated
6 cardamom pods, seeds crushed
0.5 tablespoon ground cumin
0.5 tablespoon ground coriander
0.25 teaspoon ground turmeric
1 teaspoon hot chilli powder
1 bay leaf
2 cloves
0.5 tablespoon plain flour
1 teaspoon sugar
150ml cold water
3 tablespoons cream

In a non-stick pan, gently heat the oil then fry the onions, garlic, and ginger.  Cook over a low heat for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Stir in the cardamom, cumin, coriander, turmeric, chilli, bay leaf and cloves.  Cook for 5 minutes, and keep on stirring occasionally.

Stir in the flour, salt and sugar, making sure everything is evenly coated with the flour.  Gradually, and stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, stir in the water, to make a smooth sauce.  Bring to a simmer and cook, gently, for 10 minutes.

Remove the bay leaf and blitz in a food processor, blender, or with an immersion stick blender, until everything is smooth, thick and fragrant.

Return the sauce to the pan over a medium heat, and stir in the cream.  Add the chicken and cook until the chicken is piping hot all the way through - about 10 minutes.

Served with steamed rice.

Serves 2

Thursday, 25 April 2013

Nostalgia Baking: Bakewell Tart

For this month's Bake Club, we were challenged to make something nostalgic. "Maybe the first thing you baked? A favourite from childhood? Whatever it is, bake it and bring it and tell us the story." The trouble was, I had too much choice and I am chronically indecisive. Not the best combination. So I turned to Mum for help.

I've mentioned before on here what a great cook Mum is - she really was my first teacher, inspiration, and mentor in the kitchen. But where she really, really shines is baking. She is one of those wonderfully gifted intuitive bakers. As much as it is drummed into us that baking is a science; follow the rules, you'll be ok - and indeed, this is how I bake - Mum goes by instinct. Her tablespoons are older than me, and I don't doubt certainly aren't the strict 15ml measure that I use these days. She can look at a mix that I'm messing up and instinctively know what I've done wrong, and how to fix it. She can knock up the best batch of scones that you've ever tasted as soon as look at you. In fact, one of the strongest, most prevalent memories of my childhood is coming home and seeing a batch of scones cooling on the kitchen counter, with Mum saying "Oh, this milk was going off so I wanted to use it up" (did you know that sour milk makes the best scones?). We were wonderfully, wonderfully spoiled on the baking front. There is a family story that happened after I went off to University and was living on cheese toasties (super cheap, you see) - our neighbour gave Mum some bags overflowing with windfall apples, so Mum set to, making apple crumbles and apple pies and apple sauce. My brother, still at school and unaware of the joys of student cooking that lay in front of him, one night said "sorry Mum, I'm just really fed up with homemade apple pie". This story was relayed to me in my weekly phone call, and I wept into my cheese toastie at the thought of that apple pie.

So you may understand that, with such a wealth of baking memories behind me, it was more than a little difficult to pick just one that represented nostalgia. I turned, as so many times before when faced with a kitchen dilemma, to the one person who knows best. Mum's reply:
"Definitely the honey cake was a popular one, as was apple pie or apple crumble. Also Bakewell Tart and things like Rice Krispie squares. I also used to make chocolate éclairs quite often and coffee cream cake (with walnuts if I had any in the cupboard). There was also a fruit loaf that was made by soaking the dried fruit in a cup of tea!"
(It might tell you a lot about both Mum and me that my next message from her simply read "Bread and Butter Pudding xxx")

Now all of these stood out, but one that had very strong nostalgia factor was Bakewell Tart. It was associated with tea times with visitors. Special times. We had a French exchange student staying with us once when I was quite young, a shy girl called Delphine, and this was the one thing that we found that she absolutely loved to eat, so I think Mum made it just about every day for her. The recipe comes from the same place as the Hot Cross Buns - the McDougall Flour cook book, that, like the tablespoons, has been round longer than I have. I had to multiply the recipe a couple of times to fit my pie dish, and the weights are in ounces, so this is as close to the original as I could get. It is truly a thing of wonder - the almond sponge is light and airy, the pastry crisp, and the combination of jam and lemon curd is a match made in heaven. Please, please try this.

I made this in a hurry so my pastry skills were patchy and not up to Mum's standards. Nevertheless, it tasted of happiness and childhood.

This is for Mum. 

Bakewell Tart
Adapted from McDougall's Basic Baking 

For the pastry:
6oz flour
3oz cold butter
1 teaspoon caster sugar
1 egg yolk
Orange juice

For the filling:
2-3 tablespoons jam
2-3 tablespoons lemon curd (optional - but it does taste wonderful)
1oz self raising flour
2 eggs
2oz ground almonds
4oz caster sugar
4oz butter

Make the pastry.  If you are a gifted baker like Mum, rub the butter and sugar into the flour, mix in the egg yolk, and add just enough orange juice to bind.  If, like me, you need some help, blitz the flour and butter in a processor then, with the motor running, drop in the egg yolk and just enough orange juice to bind.

Theoretically you should leave it to rest in the fridge for an hour.  I suspect Mum wouldn't do this and would still get great results.  I was time-bound and impatient so just carried on and the pastry was fine.  Needed a bit of patchwork, but it's a filled tart, so no biggie.

Preheat your oven to 190C.

Grease an 8" pie plate.  Line it with the rolled-out pastry.  Trim the pastry so no excess hangs over the edges.  Spread the jam on the base of the pastry, to cover it generously.

Then do the same with the lemon curd.

The recipe now reads "Prepare the rest of the ingredients by Method 2 (see page 17)", to which Mum adds, 
"Page 17 is missing - probably fell down the back of my kitchen drawer years ago (my booklet goes from page 12 to page 29 but fortunately for us the Hot Cross Buns are on page 32)."
However, Mum assures me, the method referred to is to cream the butter and sugar, beat in the egg, then beat in the flour and ground almonds.  Spread this mixture over the jam and lemon curd.

Bake for 40 minutes - check after 30 to see if the top is getting too brown - if so, cover it with greaseproof paper.

When cool, you can either leave it plain or, as I did, ice it with a simple mix of icing sugar made into a thick paste with water, then spread on top.  I also trimmed off the excess pastry again from the top - mainly because it had browned a bit too much.

It needed something on the top but as I'm not a fan of glacé cherries, I used some of my edible rosebuds as décor.

Serves 6 ("Or one if you are French and your name is Delphine")

Tuesday, 23 April 2013

Idle Hands

I am, without doubt, a comfort eater.  I would love - absolutely love - to be one of those people who, when under stress, lose their appetite.  Reclining on a chaise longue like a Victorian heroine, sniffing smelling salts and shuddering, "Oh no, I really couldn't" when there is the mere suggestion of a consommé for supper. People who, in the midst of a break up or a house move or a broken nail drop half their body weight overnight.  

Not me.  I am of a more, shall we say, robust, constitution, and my reaction to anything in life, but especially to stress, is to eat.  The phrase comfort food takes on even more significance as it is comfort I am seeking, in its most basic form.  As we were preparing to emigrate, packing up houses, saying goodbyes, both Andy and I came down with what we now suspect was swine flu and felt just horrific.  Yet still, I ate on.  Anything that is pleasant and can take my mind, if even for a second, off the strains around me.  That is my version of coping.

As we're now on our fifth (or sixth? I've genuinely lost count) move in seven years, I wish I could say I've got better at this but no; I am a walking testament to the fact that moving house is one of the most stressful things in life to live through.  BUT! We have finally, finally managed to find somewhere that is not even "that'll do" but is, in fact, just lovely.  I will be boring extensively on this subject over the next month, but suffice to say, we're happy, and I'm sleeping better than I have done in a couple of months.

So, I am still eating, but I've regained my sanity enough to know that if I do insist on continuous refuelling, I should at least make an effort to make it the good stuff.  I made a lovely pumpkin soup the other day (3 litres for the bargain price of $2 for all the ingredients - it really did tick all the boxes) and, in my favourite spirit of waste not, want not, I roasted up the seeds to be my snack of the day.

Who am I kidding?  Of the day?  They didn't last 10 minutes.  But, as they were so nutty and delicious and moreish, it was for the right reasons rather than the wrong ones.

Roasted Pumpkin Seeds

Seeds from 1 pumpkin
1.5 teaspoons olive oil or similar (I used chilli & lime infused macadamia oil)
1.5 teaspoons coarse sea salt
0.5 teaspoon smoked paprika

Remove all the pumpkin flesh from the seeds and rinse well.  Soak overnight in salted water - this makes the seeds easier to digest.

The next day, preheat your oven to 160C.

Mix the oil, salt and paprika with the seeds.  Spread them in one layer on a baking sheet.

Bake them for 20 minutes, shaking them half way through.

Serves 1.

Thursday, 18 April 2013

The best day of my life

A couple of days ago we went to view a house for rental that bore more than a passing resemblance to the house in the video for 'Thank You' by Dido.  Very old by Wellington standards, about 1870, it was a little pink cottage, replete with wooden floors and fireplaces and fruit trees in the back garden, surrounded entirely by industry, retail and car parks.  And yet once inside, it was so utterly, utterly charming I could feel its bewitching pull on us.  Despite being so absolutely impractical, and despite Andy banging his head on the staircase that we had no chance of getting any of our furniture up, I tried desperately to imagine our life in the little pink cottage.

Not to be this time; practicality must be the way forward.  So we're still looking, and still in a state of flux, and Andy, in all his wonderfulness, must daily talk me down from the edge of "andwe'regoingtohavenowheretolivepanicpanicpanic".  In addition to all this flux, we're having to tighten our belts quite spectacularly at the moment, to prepare for moving costs and cope with the costs of an ancient campervan.  Treats are few and far between - my contribution is to make meals out of virtually nothing in the Mother Hubbard-esque cupboards; Andy's contribution is to reassure me it's lovely.  Which he does, even when I know we're eating nothing more than a conjuring trick.

So in this time of flux, when we do have a treat, it takes on a special significance.  A perfectly cooked steak (blue for me; wave a match at it and call it done, medium for Andy) with great sides is just such a treat.  And I can think of few things that would pair up with a great steak quite as well as these garlic wedges.  Doused and dredged in an aromatic mixture of garlic oil and tickle-the-back-of-your-throat spices, these are so heavenly that, even on their own, they would do an excellent job of keeping the wolf from the door and turn even the most scary, hide under the covers kind of day into the best day of your life.  Even if only for a short while - which, let's be honest, is sometimes all it takes.

Baked Garlic Fries
Adapted from Lottie & Doof

Note: the original recipe uses the microwave for this, as do I.  If you prefer not to use it, it would be very simple to heat the oil in a pan, and to steam the wedges on your hob then mix them with the oil.  

4 garlic cloves, crushed
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 large potatoes or 4 smallish, cut into wedges
1.5 tablespoons cornflour
1 teaspoon flaky sea salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
0.5 teaspoons garlic granules
0.25 teaspoons cayenne pepper

Preheat your oven to 225C.

In a bowl large enough to later hold the potatoes, mix the garlic with the oil.  Heat it in your microwave until warm and fragrant - about a minute.

Remove 2 tablespoons of the oil only, and put in a roasting tray.  To the remaining oil and garlic, add the wedges, tossing well to coat them.  Cover with clingfilm and microwave on high until starting to go translucent around the edges - about 4 minutes in my microwave.  Most will take about 3-6 minutes.  Give them a good shake halfway through.

In a small bowl, mix together the cornflour, salt, pepper, garlic granules and cayenne until well combined.  When the potatoes are done, tip in the cornflour mix and toss very well, coating them thoroughly.

Tip the potatoes into the roasting tray and bake for 30 to 40 minutes, flipping them halfway through, until crunchy and golden and delicious.

Serves 2, generously.

Monday, 15 April 2013

Baked Potato Soup with the Works

I think I am seasonally confused.  While my temparament and dreams thrive in the lazy heat of summer, and I have visions of us living somewhere untouched by seasons, my cooking and my palate are drawn to the cooler months.  I definitely find it harder to get excited about pared-down, cooler dishes than I do about unctuous, slow-cooked stews, big flavours, candle-accented nights with a bottle of red in front of the crackling fire heatpump.

Take this soup, for example.  It tastes exactly like a fully-loaded baked potato, but without having to plan what seems like hours ahead and heating the oven to full whack just to cook a couple of potatoes, which does always seem quite wasteful.  If I was better organised, or just better, I would cook them alongside something else, but I came to terms a long time ago with the fact that I am just Not That Person.  So, if I want to eat the buttery, indulgent loveliness that is a jacket spud, I had to come up with an alternative way.

This is a great way for feeding lots of people for a lunch, and always sells out when I do it at my market stall.  With the different toppings it's got a great DIY aspect that, I find, always gets people on board even before they take a bite.  It's a fairly uninspiring colour, but wow, it tastes good.  Sets you up for winter.

Baked Potato Soup with the Works

4 rashers of streaky bacon, chopped
1 large onion
4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
4 sprigs of thyme
1 heaped teaspoon smoked paprika
1 kg potatoes, peeled and chopped
1.5 litres chicken stock
few drops Tabasco sauce
salt and pepper

To serve:
Sour cream
Grated cheddar
2 spring onions, sliced
smoked paprika

In a large, heavy bottomed pan fry the bacon over a medium high heat until crispy.  Remove with a slotted spoon and set to one side on a sheet of kitchen paper to use as one of the toppings.

In the bacon fat, fry the onion until it starts to soften.  Add the garlic and thyme, stir for a minute or so, then add the paprika.  Give it a good stir.

Add the potatoes, stirring well so they get coated in the paprika, then add the chicken stock, scraping the pan well so all the bits from the bottom get stirred through.

Bring to a boil then reduce to a simmer.  Cook for about 15 minutes, until the potatoes are tender and the point of a knife finds no resistance.  Blend in a processor, blender, or with a stick blender, until smooth and velvety.  If you find it is too thick, add more stock to thin it out, though this is a soup that really suits being stick-to-your-ribs thick.

Add tabasco, salt and pepper to taste.

Add your own toppings - personally I go for the full whack of sour cream, cheese, bacon and spring onions; the mix of textures and flavours is wonderful.  Sprinkle over a small amount of smoked paprika at the end.

Serves 4

Wednesday, 10 April 2013

Violet! You're turning violet, Violet!

Do you believe in fate, kismet, meant-to-be?  Cynical old me would not, normally, indulge in such matters.  We are all just wandering round this planet, no plan, making our own choices and seeing where they take us.  And yet sometimes, just sometimes, something happens that makes me wonder.  Take, for example, my husband.  Before we met, we know for a fact that we were both in the same place at the same time at least twice - in two different countries.  We were both, at the same time, considering buying an apartment in the same block in a city that neither of us were living in.  We finally met in a hostel in Sydney, on a day that neither of us had planned to be there.  So, I don't know.  Maybe it is fate.  Maybe it is coincidence.  Maybe you could take most people in the world and figure out the same kind of connection.

But then, how do you explain this - when I used the brilliant gadget that Dom at Belleau Kitchen had given us to choose our Random Recipe this month, and after I'd dutifully counted my depleted stock of cook books and plugged the parameters in, and it gave me number 24, Nigella Lawson's Kitchen, and from there it gave me page 244, Blueberry Cornmeal Muffins, and it just so happened that I had every ingredient necessary sitting right there in my kitchen - well, tell me you don't believe in fate now.

OK, I know, tenuous link, but still, fate or not, take it from me that you should make these muffins, right now.  Go on, stop reading, go and look, and see if fate has delivered these ingredients for you too.  I know the world doesn't need another blueberry muffin recipe, but the differential here is the cornmeal.  Truth time: I'm not a fan of polenta, but used in baking I think is where it comes into its own.  These were, in the best possible way, unlike any other blueberry muffin I've ever eaten - and, let's face it, there have been many.  The cornmeal adds the most delicious texture, nubbly and homely and not at all dry - and on the top granular and chewy, akin to what happens when you sprinkle sugar on the top of cakes.

I had some warm, and I had some cold (in the interests of research, naturally) and can report they are definitely better warm, even if it means warming them through in a warm oven for a few minutes, or nuking them in the microwave for 20 seconds or so.  Oh, and just be warned too that the blueberries, as they bake, burst and when this mixes with the yellow cornmeal, can produce a couple of slightly alarming greenish patches.

Anyway, whether you want to hear it from me, or whether you want to hear it from fate, make these now.  They are your destiny.

Blueberry Cornmeal Muffins
From Nigella Lawson, Kitchen

150g plain flour
100g cornmeal
2 teaspoons baking powder
0.5 teaspoon baking soda
150g caster sugar
125ml vegetable oil
125ml buttermilk or plain yoghurt
1 egg
100g blueberries

Preheat the oven to 200C,

Mix together the dry ingredients - so flour, cornmeal, baking powder, baking soda, and sugar.

In a separate bowl, mix the wet ingredients - stir together the oil, buttermilk or yoghurt, and whisk in the egg.

Add the wet ingredients to the dry, stirring until just combined (with muffins you really don't want to aim for a completely smooth mixture), and stir through half the blueberries.

Line a 12-hole muffin tin with muffin cases, and divide the mixture equally between them.  Take the remaining blueberries and put them on top of the muffin mixture - aim for about 3 per muffin but this is, obviously, not an exact science.

Bake for 15-20 minutes (they only took 15 in my furnace of an oven) - try a cake tester and it should come out clean.  Leave to cool for 5 minutes in the tin before moving them to a cooling rack.  

Makes 12

Monday, 8 April 2013

Lamb Rogan Josh

My oven burns hotter than the hob of hell, and is definitely one of the things I won't miss about moving (what? I haven't bored you enough with our housing woes? We STILL haven't found anywhere to move to). After numerous cakes ruined, dinners burned, and tearful toddler-style tantrums, I eventually invested in an oven thermometer.  We used this to figure out that our oven - and this is no exaggeration - heats at 50 degrees C over what it should.  So to cook something at 200, we need to put it on 150, use the bottom shelf, and even then we still can't relax.  It was only recently that I figured out I should have used all of our two years here to be making awesome pizza, which needs a scorching hot oven, but I'm not that smart and keep torturing myself with slow-cooked food.

Including our lamb on Easter Sunday.  "I will do slow-cooked shoulder!" said I.  I couldn't find shoulder, so bought a leg.  "I will do slow-cooked leg!" said I, with visions of melty, garlic-and-rosemary-studded glistening, succulent meat.  But no, our oven had other ideas, ignoring the lowest setting I'd put it on, and cremating the lamb to within an inch of its poor young life.  Even with good sides - the creamed spinach was delicious ("the best you've ever made" said Andy between mouthfuls) it still made me sad, and feeling like I needed to perform a serious rescue mission.  And I knew exactly the woman to bring along with me on this mission.  Madhur Jaffrey.

This curry is a way of transforming even the most dry leftover lamb.  It has such an affinity with warming Indian spices - in fact, most of the meat curries I ate in India were either sheep or goat - the generic 'mutton' being much used and, in fact, referring to both these animals, so who knows?  Curry roulette.  It infuses the meat with spiced, perky liquid and is such a triumph in itself that you forget all previous disasters.

Lamb Rogan Josh
Adapted from Madhur Jaffrey, Indian Cooking

3cm chunk fresh ginger, peeled
4 cloves garlic, peeled
1 cup water
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
450g leftover lamb, cut into chunks, or fresh lamb shoulder, cut into chunks.
5 cardamom pods
1 bay leaf
3 cloves
5 peppercorns
1 stick cinnamon
1 onion, peeled and finely chopped
0.5 teaspoons ground coriander
1 teaspoon ground cumin
2 teaspoons paprika
0.5 teaspoons cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons plain yoghurt
0.25 teaspoons garam masala
ground black pepper

Put the ginger, garlic and 2 tablespoons of water in a food processor, and blitz until it forms a paste.  You might need to add more water to get it all to combine smoothly.

In a big, heavy-bottomed pan, heat the oil.  If you are using uncooked lamb, brown it in batches then set aside.  (If you are using leftover roasted meat, ignore this step).

Into this hot oil, put the cardamom, bay leaf, cloves, peppercorns and cinnamon.  Leave for a few seconds until it gets really aromatic and the cloves start to swell.  Add the onions and cook, stirring frequently, for about 5 minutes, until they start to get tinged with golden brown around the edges.

Add the ginger and garlic, cook for about a minute, then add the coriander, cumin, paprika, cayenne and salt.  Add the meat, and any juices that have run off it.  Gradually stir in the yoghurt until smooth, then cook, still stirring, for another 2 or 3 minutes.

Add the water, bring to a boil, then reduce to a low simmer, scraping all the tasty browned bits from the sides and bottom of the pan.  Cover, and cook for about 1 hour if you are using uncooked meat, and about 30 minutes if you are using pre-cooked meat.  Stir a few times, and add a bit more water if it looks like it will burn.

When it is tender, take off the lid, turn the heat up to medium, and stir through the garam masala and black pepper.

Serve with steamed basmati rice and a sense of redemption.

Serves 2, generously.

Monday, 1 April 2013

The English Patient

There is nothing duller than reading about someone else's ailments, so I'll keep the dullness brief: the cold and fever I'd mentioned last week took a bit of a turn for the worse, and for a couple of days there I was really out of it, full on can't-get-out-of-bed feel bad.  I'm still woozy but as the doctor's haven't been open over the weekend and I'm so cheap and British I resent paying for a medical service (Go NHS! Whoooooo!), I'm self diagnosing and putting up with it, with only minimal whingeing.

After a couple of days flolloping around I was ready to eat something, so Andy made me my all time favourite, roast chicken with lots of lovely roast veg and gravy.  Heaven.  After a couple of days more, I was able to stand unaided and made this pie, which is my favourite thing to do with leftover roast chicken.  Originally from Nigella's How To Eat, I studiously ignore the fact that it is in the feeding children section.

This pie was so popular when I made it years ago for my friend EA that he asked for it for a Christmas present, and I am so unimaginative that I made it for him for years, until I moved to the other side of the world to avoid making the pie again.  The secret is in the sauce - adding extra savoury flavour to the white sauce really does make a difference.  And I've since seen Marco Pierre White doing it, so it must be true.  MPW wouldn't lie to us.  You do actually need a stock cube or liquid stock concentrate for this, rather than just stock, so make sure it's the best you can get hold of.

Usually I just make it with chicken and throw some frozen peas or sweetcorn in (or both, if I'm feeling especially rakish) depending on what I've got in; this time I made it using some ham from the freezer up as well.  Standing up and using up freezer items - I am quite the winner.

Chicken Pie
Adapted from Nigella Lawson, How To Eat

200g plain flour
100g cold butter, diced
1 egg yolk

1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon flour
1 chicken stock cube or 1 tablespoon liquid chicken stock concentrate
400ml milk (preferably full fat but I don't keep this in so used semi-skimmed)
1 tablespoon grainy mustard
Fresh nutmeg, grated
200g cooked chicken
200g cooked ham (or an extra 200g cooked chicken)
Handful frozen peas or sweetcorn, defrosted (optional)
1 tablespoon milk

Make the pastry: either rub the butter into the flour until it looks like breadcrumbs, stir in the egg yolk and add just enough ice cold water to combine, or in a processor blitz the flour and butter, add the egg yolk, and with the motor running, drizzle in some cold water to just come together.  Put the pastry on a layer of clingfilm, put another layer over it, squish it out into a flat disc, then put in the fridge while you make the filling.

In a heavy-based pan, melt the butter over a medium heat.  Crumble in the stock cube, or stir in the stock concentrate.  Add the flour and cook, stirring, for a few minutes.  Gradually add the milk, starting with a splash at a time, until it turns into a thick sauce, when you can add it a bit quicker.  Keep stirring, bring to a simmer then lower the heat, stirring regularly.  Stir in the mustard and give a good grating of nutmeg.

Stir in the chicken, ham, and vegetables if you are using them.  Taste for seasoning.  Set to one side.

Preheat the oven to 190C.

Split the pastry into two pieces, one twice the size of the other.

Take the larger piece and roll out on a floured surface, until it is large enough to fit your pie dish.  Drape it over your rolling pin and lay it out over the dish, pushing down gently.  There should be some extra pastry hanging over the sides.

Put your filling in the dish.

Roll out the remaining pastry until it is big enough to fit as a lid.  Place it on top, pinching the sides to seal the edges.  Trim off the extra pastry and, if you are so inclined, use these trimmings to decorate the top.

Make a few small slits in the pastry (mine were cunningly disguised just underneath the letters), and brush the top with milk.

Bake for 45 minutes, until the filling is hot and bubbling.

Eat while lying down, thoroughly exhausted (ok, I was lying when I said the boring whingeing would be brief).

Serves 4