Chicken, bacon and mushroom pie with Marsala

Chicken, bacon and mushroom pie

It may not be the healthiest of suppers, but there are some times when only a pie will do.

My go-to pie of choice is so often a chicken, bacon and leek pie, but this week, I thought I’d try something a little different. My concern with using mushrooms instead of leeks was that it would be bland, so I added a hefty splash of Marsala to compensate. The result was a rich and deeply flavored pie, which tasted as though it was the result of much more slow, careful cooking than was in fact the case, and as a consequence, has definitely become a firm favourite in our house.

Please let me know if you make this – and I really hope you enjoy the recipe.

Chicken, bacon and mushroom pie

Chicken, bacon and mushroom pie with Marsala

Serves 4-6

Ingredients

30g butter

2 tbsp garlic inflused extra virgin olive oil

500g skinless chicken breast or thighs, chopped into 1” chunks. Shredded roast chicken can be used, too

4 rashers smoked back bacon, cut into strips

150g mushrooms – flat or button – cleaned and sliced into 2-3mm slices

1 heaped tablespoon plain flour

1 tbsp fresh thyme leaves

Salt and pepper

350ml hot chicken stock

A good glug or Marsala

400g ready made all-butter puff pastry

1 egg yolk

Method 

Preheat the oven to 190C Fan. Set aside a large ovenproof dish.

Place the butter and oil into a large frying pan over a moderate to high heat to melt the butter. Add the chicken, bacon and mushrooms and fry together for around 10 minutes until all ingredients are lightly browned.

Add the flour and stir in to evenly coat the ingredients in the pan.

Next, add the thyme leaves and season well.

Finally, pour in the stock and Marsala and allow to bubble away for a few minutes.

Meanwhile, roll your puff pastry to the appropriate size to fit your dish. Leaving the pastry on the worksurface or on a board, brush the egg over the pastry.

Transfer the contents of the pan into your ovenproof dish. Quickly top with the pastry, cutting a cross in the centre to let any steam out.

Bake the pie in the oven for 35-45 minutes until golden brown and the filling is bubbling.

Serve immediately, accompanied by fresh steamed vegetables.

Tuscan sausage and rosemary ragù

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I spent last week in Tuscany. My base for the week was Radda in Chianti, and I spent the week travelling round the entire Toscana region learning about their food, their wine, their best ingredients and methods of cooking. It was a genuinely fascinating week, and I have so much to share with you about it.

This recipe is one I cooked before I went over to Italy, and it was son interesting to compare it to the food I ate out there. When writing this up back at home, I was debating whether or not to call this recipe Tuscan. It is quite different to the sausage and rosemary pasta I ate near Colle di Val d’Esta. There, extra virgin olive oil was warmed and infused with fresh rosemary, and then the sausage was crumbled into the warm oil, cooked briefly and stirred through pappardelle.

It may not be very authentic, but we tend to prefer a little more sauce to go with our pasta in our house, so I added tomatoes and garlic to make more of a sauce. I retained the Tuscan name in the title as it was made using Tuscan sausages – made, of course, from 100% pork (adding nothing to bulk out the meat), Chianti Classico, spices and seasonings.

I’m not entirely certain what the Tuscan cooks would have to say about this, but it is a delicious, quick and easy supper, served topped with a generous grating of fresh parmesan.

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Tuscan sausage and rosemary ragù

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • A generous glug of extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 large sprig fresh, fragrant rosemary, plus a little extra to serve
  • 3 cloves fresh garlic, peeled and crushed
  • 4 large Tuscan sausages, casing removed and crumbled
  • 1 tin San Marzano tomatoes, either chopped or crushed
  • Sea salt and pepper
  • Approximately 300g pasta

Method

Place a large pot of salted water on to boil for the pasta.

Meanwhile, pour the oil into a large frying pan. Add the rosemary and turn the heat on to a moderate temperature, allowing the rosemary to infuse for a few minutes.

You can now remove the rosemary sprig if you like, or keep it in for a more intense flavour.

Now, add the crushed garlic and cook gently until fragrant. Crumble in the sausage and cook for 5 minutes or so until lightly browned. Don’t turn the heat up too high or else the garlic will burn.

Next, add the tomatoes, season to taste and allow to cook for around 10-15 minutes until thickened.

This is the time to cook your pasta now, according to the instructions on the pack. Most will take around 7-12 minutes.

Once the pasta is cooked, drain well, retaining a cup of the cooking water.

Put the drained pasta back into the cooking pan, which will still be hot. Add the sausage sauce, cooking water and stir together well.

Serve immediately in warmed bowls with some extra rosemary as a garnish, and plenty of freshly grated parmesan cheese.

What’s in your fridge? With James Morton

James Morton (c) Andy Sewel

With Great British Bake Off fever gripping the land yet again this year, I recently caught up with James Morton, to see what he’s been up to, and to find out what he keeps in his fridge.

James was a finalist in the third series of GBBO, and published his first cookery book Brilliant Bread in 2013, which won the prestigious Guild of Food Writers Award earlier this year for Best Cookbook.

I started by asking James what it is that excites him so much about baking? “Baking does excite me. It’s a combination of the satisfaction, chemistry, biology of it – the way in which yeast can be manipulated and played with ties into medicine” which James studies at University.

Brilliant Bread is James’ first cookbook. A collection of creative bread recipes, published in August 2013, provided James a wonderful opportunity to explore his love for bread baking, particularly looking at what is going wrong when it comes to bread baking, and advising bakers at home on how to improve what they’re doing – something James finds endlessly exciting.

Life right now is good for James. The last couple of years have been a whirlwind experience, so I asked him what he has enjoyed the most about the whole experience. “It’s the people I’ve met” he says, whilst telling me about the team who have worked with him at Ebury, including his publisher Sarah, and Tim Hayward, who also worked with him on the book, not forgetting Will and Andy, the designer and photographer part of the project, too. It’s clear that they make a fantastic team, producing a great book, and all thoroughly enjoying the process along the way.

Surely having worked on so many recipes, James must have a couple of favourites amongst the collection? “Each recipe has a different purpose’ he says, revealing that the sourdough pain de campagne recipe and the bread made from leftover flour are the recipes which he particularly likes. The pannetone recipe is the one he is most proud of, as it took a really long time to get right. And when baking for people, it’s the brownie he likes to make the most.

In terms of every day baking, James reiterates that making bread on a day-to-day basis is simple, something which he urges readers to do using any ingredients they may have to hand. When it comes to giving out advice, James encourages readers to take a more relaxed approach, rather than worrying about following a recipe too closely, or worrying about doing things in a certain way.

Seeing his books on shelves up and down the country is something James tells is “nice” and brings a smile to his face. Winning the Guild of Food Writers Award earlier this year is James’ proudest achievement to date – seeing it as justification.

What’s next in store for this busy young man? A new baking book, which is due to hit the shop shelves in Spring 2015.

James has very kindly agreed to share his recipe for Gluten free brownies from his blog with you all. It is excellent.

And as for the fridge? Here are James’ top 5 things to have to hand in his fridge:

  • Siracha – because it improves everything
  • A good craft beer
  • Lea and Perrins Worcestershire sauce
  • Beer yeast which is occasionally used to make bread
  • Sourdough starter – it keeps fairly dormant in the fridge, so you’ll need to bring it to room temperature before using. It can also be added to yeast bread for flavour.

For more information, please take a look at James’ blog here.

I’d like to extend my sincerest thanks to James for participating. Watch this space for the next instalment very soon!

Thank you to James’ team for kind permission to reproduce the photo taken by Andy Sewell.