Sunday, August 31, 2008

Chocolate Éclairs

This month’s August Daring Baker’s challenge is co-hosted by Tony Tahhan and Meeta K

As usual DBaker meets up to it’s usual high standards! This being my 4th DBaker challenge I’ve begun to expect the “unexpected” at the start of each month. August challenge is no exception and it’s a chocolate éclair recipe from Pierre Hermé - Chocolate Desserts!

I was pretty excited when I saw what was in store! Only 2 weeks ago I was watching Sugar hosted by Anna Olson and in that particular episode, she made chocolate profiteroles. It looked simple enough and I was all geared up to give it a try, so you can imagine what a coincidence this is. As with all DBaker challenges, I usually find the set of instructions lengthy, but good thing is that it can be broken up and made over a few days.

I did my challenge one week prior to posting date as I didn’t have time earlier in the month. Last weekend was miserable as it had been raining since Friday late afternoon. My husband and I had initially wanted to go out on Saturday but it poured again and continued doing so way into the night. We holed ourselves up in the apartment and with nothing else occupying my time, I thought I’d attempt the challenge. My hubby was curled up at the sofa watching the Olympics and golf!

I started with the choux which I had to beat by hand as my very inexpensive (ahem!) cake mixer would not be able to handle the stress. I tried using this mixer previously to knead bread dough and it was a disaster – the dough curled up the blades like a snake and almost lodged itself into the motor. At this point I was expected my mixer to start sending out smoke signals. However a quick flick of the “off button” stopped this from happening. Whew!

Okay I digressed a bit .... now back to my challenge! Everything went smoothly and I got my “unpaid helper” aka my husband to help me beat the choux after the addition of each egg (I needed some muscle power). I piped the pastry onto baking trays, pre-heated the oven and popped the trays in. I followed the initial recipe posted in the DBaker forum which said to leave the oven door slightly ajar by sticking the handle of the spoon against the door after 7 minutes of baking time at 180C. Followed the rest of the original instructions but after 20 minutes into baking and turning the trays around, the éclairs started to deflate. They went from puffed to phoofed!

Oh dear not another DBaker disaster! Every single éclair came out flat. I searched through the DBaker forum and discovered that a few DBakers also experienced the same “deflation”. I then did a Google search and the searches came back with choux not dry enough, too much moisture, should slit the éclairs and leave them to cool in the oven. I was a bit dejected by then and told my husband that I could probably salvage 2 or 3 éclair and use these for my posting. He told me to try again … and without trying I would not know why it happened. I did just that and made another batch.

This time round, I did not open the oven. I cranked the heat up to 200C for the first 25 minutes and then lowered it to 180C for the remaining bake time. I would anxiously peer into the oven every 10 minutes or so just to check on the rising. Once baked I left them in the oven to dry out for about 30 minutes. The 2nd batch faired much better than the first and I managed to slice each shell into halves. However I did realize that the centers were still slightly moist (they should in fact be dry and hollow) but they tasted good in any case. I left the éclairs to cool some more whilst I went about preparing the vanilla bean pastry cream and the chocolate glaze. After assembling all the éclairs I decided to refrigerate them for a while – I personally prefer them slightly cold and they tasted great. Only managed to bring five éclairs to the office for my regular tasters and they all thought I had bought the éclair shells instead of baking them from scratch! Ha-ha I guess it was that good!

Chocolate Éclairs
Recipe from Chocolate Desserts by Pierre Hermé
(makes 20-24 Éclairs)

Ingredients for the Choux:

1/2 cup (125g) whole milk
1/2 cup (125g) water
1 stick (115g) unsalted butter, cut into 8 pieces
1/4 tsp sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup (140g) all-purpose flour
5 large eggs, at room temperature


1) In a heavy bottomed medium saucepan, bring the milk, water, butter, sugar and salt to the boil.

2) Once the mixture is at a rolling boil, add all of the flour at once, reduce the heat to medium and start to stir the mixture vigorously with a wooden spoon. The dough comes together very quickly. Do not worry if a slight crust forms at the bottom of the pan, it’s supposed to. You need to carry on stirring for a further 2-3 minutes to dry the dough. After this time the dough will be very soft and smooth.

3) Transfer the dough into a bowl of a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Alternatively you can do this process by hand. Add the eggs one at a time, beating after each egg has been added to incorporate it into the dough. You will notice that after you have added the first egg, the dough will separate, once again do not worry. As you keep working the dough, it will come back all together again by the time you have added the third egg. In the end the dough should be thick and shiny and when lifted it should fall back into the bowl in a ribbon.

4) The dough should be still warm. It is now ready to be used for the éclairs as directed above.


* Once the dough is made you need to shape it immediately.

* You can pipe the dough and then freeze it. Simply pipe the dough onto parchment-lined baking sheets and slide the sheets into the freezer. Once the dough is completely frozen, transfer the piped shapes into freezer bags. They can be kept in the freezer for up to a month.

5) Preheat your oven to 200C. Divide the oven into thirds by positioning the racks in the upper and lower half of the oven. Line two baking sheets with waxed or parchment paper.

6) Fill a large pastry bag fitted with a 2/3 (2cm) plain tip nozzle with the warm cream puff dough. Pipe the dough onto the baking sheets in long, 4 to 41/2 inches (about 11 cm) chubby fingers. Leave about 2 inches (5 cm) space in between each dough strip to allow them room to puff. The dough should give you enough to pipe 20-24 éclairs.

7) Slide both the baking sheets into the oven and bake for 25 minutes in 200C. After 25 minutes, turn the oven down to 180C and bake a further 8 – 10 minutes. Remove from oven and using a sharp knife make a slit on the side of each shell. This is to allow the steam to escape and let the éclair shell try out properly. You can either place the shells onto a wire rack to cool or alternatively you can pop the trays back into the oven, with the door open, to cool down the éclairs. The éclairs can be kept in a cool, dry place for several hours before filling.

Ingredients for Vanilla Bean Pastry Cream:

2 cups whole milk
6 large egg yolks
1/2 cup of sugar
3 Tsp cornstarch, sifted
1 vanilla bean pod, inside scraped
3 1/2 Tsp unsalted butter, cut into bits at room temperature


1) In a small saucepan, bring the milk, vanilla bean pod and seeds to a boil . In the meantime, combine the yolks, sugar and cornstarch together and whisk in a heavy bottomed saucepan.

2) Once the milk has reached a boil, temper the yolks by whisking a couple spoonfuls of the hot milk into the yolk mixture. Continue whisking and slowly pour the rest of the milk into the tempered yolk mixture.

3) Strain the mixture back into the saucepan to remove any egg that may have scrambled. Place the pan over medium heat and whisk vigorously (without stop) until the mixture returns to a boil. Keep whisking vigorously for 1 to 2 more minutes (still over medium heat).

4) Scrape the pastry cream into a small bowl and set it in an ice water bath to stop the cooking process. Make sure to continue stirring the mixture at this point so that it remains smooth.

5) Once the cream has reached a temperature of 140 F remove from the ice‐water bath and stir in the butter. Return the cream to the ice‐water bath to continue cooling, stirring occasionally, until it has completely cooled. The cream is now ready to use or store in the fridge.


* The pastry cream can be made 2‐3 days in advance and stored in the refrigerator.
* In order to avoid a skin forming on the pastry cream, cover with plastic wrap pressed onto the cream.
* Tempering the eggs raises the temperature of the eggs slowly so that they do not scramble.

Ingredients for the Chocolate Glaze:
(makes 1 cup or 300g)

1/3 cup (80g) heavy cream
100g bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
4 tsp (20 g) unsalted butter, cut into 4 pieces, at room temperature


1) In a small saucepan, bring the heavy cream to a boil. Remove from the heat and slowly begin to add the chocolate, stirring with a wooden spoon or spatula.

2) Stirring gently, stir in the butter, piece by piece followed by the chocolate sauce.


* If the chocolate glaze is too cool (i.e. not liquid enough) you may heat it briefly
 in the microwave or over a double boiler. A double boiler is basically a bowl sitting over (not touching) simmering water.

* It is best to glaze the éclairs after the glaze is made, but if you are pressed for time, you can make the glaze a couple days ahead of time, store it in the fridge and bring it up to the proper temperature (95 to 104 F) when ready to glaze.

Assembling the éclairs:

• Chocolate glaze
• Vanilla bean pastry cream

1) Slice the éclairs horizontally, using a serrated knife and a gently sawing motion. Set aside the bottoms and place the tops on a rack over a piece of parchment paper.

2) The glaze should be barely warm to the touch (between 95 – 104 degrees F or 35 – 40 degrees C, as measured on an instant read thermometer). Spread the glaze over the tops of the éclairs using a metal icing spatula. (Though I find it easier to invert the tops and dip them into the glaze) Allow the tops to set and in the meantime fill the bottoms with the pastry cream.

3) Pipe or spoon the pastry cream into the bottoms of the éclairs. Make sure you fill the bottoms with enough cream to mound above the pastry. Place the glazed tops onto the pastry cream and wriggle gently to settle them.


* If you have chilled your chocolate glaze, reheat by placing it in a bowl over simmering water, stirring it gently with a wooden spoon. Do not stir too vigorously as you do not want to create bubbles.

* The éclairs should be served as soon as they have been filled. (However my preference is to eat the éclairs slightly chilled!)

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Chicken Casserole

I've not made this chicken casserole for a long while now and it really doesn't take too long to put together for a tasty dinner. Since we had decided to stay in on the Friday night to catch the opening of the 2008 Olympics, I'd prepare this casserole for our evening meal. To accompany the dish, I put together some mashed potatoes and garlic bread. The garlic bread will do just nicely to mop up the yummy gravy.

Although the recipe below says to simmer for 1 1/2 hours, I shortened the time to about an hour. It was already 8.40pm by then and my tummy was complaining for food .... My husband says I'm usually in two states of mind - either hungry or full! My reply to him is that "I'm just normal"!

I guarantee that you'll not have any left overs. But if you do, keep in the refrigerator and it'll taste even better the next day.

Chicken Casserole
(Serves 4 – 5)


3 tsp oil
1kg skinless chicken (I used a combination of breasts, thighs and drumsticks)
100g diced streaky bacon (non streaky bacon can also be used)
1 medium onion, peeled and chopped roughly
2 carrots, peeled and sliced (not too thinly)
1 clove garlic, crushed
100g button mushrooms, sliced
1 1/2 Tsp plain flour
2 tsp tomato paste
1/2 cup white wine
1 1/2 cups chicken stock
1 bay leaf
1/4 cup cream
Salt and pepper to taste
Chopped parsley, to garnish


1) Head oil in a large heavy-based frying pan or saucepan over medium-high heat. Add chicken to pan and brown pieces on all sides (this should take about 10 minutes). Don’t overcrowd the pan when frying. If necessary, fry the chicken in two or more batches, adding more oil if required.

2) Remove chicken from pan and set aside.

3) Reduce heat to medium. Add some more oil to the pan if needed. Add bacon, onion and carrot to the pan and cook, stirring until onion has softened (about 2 minutes).

4) Add garlic, mushrooms, flour and tomato paste and cook, stirring for 1 to 2 minutes.

5) Gradually stir in wine and chicken stock. Increase heat to high and continue stirring until the mixture simmers.

6) Return chicken to the pan and add the bay leaf. Cover pan (have the steam vent on the lid open) and reduce heat so that the mixture is simmering. Simmer for about 1 1/2 hours, or until chicken is tender and sauce has reduced. You may need to remove lid for the last 10 – 15 minutes of cooking time if the sauce has not reduced enough. Stir casserole occasionally during cooking.

7) Just before serving, stir in cream, bring casserole to the simmer (about 1 minute) and then turn off the heat. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

8) Place chicken on serving plates, spoon over sauce and sprinkle with parsley.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Carrot Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting

If you are having problems getting your kids eat their vegetables, why not introduce the veggies into their desserts. Example whip up some carrot cupcakes! That way you'll know your kids will be getting their share of beta-carotine and vitamins. Definitely a yummy way to disguise those "yucky" stuff as most kids would call them

The other best thing about this carrot cupcake recipe is that you only need two bowls, one for the cupcake batter and the other bowl for the frosting. For sure you won't need to take out your huge kitchenaid mixer and after that have to spend so much time having to clean it up.

As with most carrot cake recipes that I've come across and made, the cake texture turned out moist and yummy! This one uses vegetable oil instead of butter. What more if you add a dollop of cream cheese as topping it'll taste even better!

I made this batch of cupcakes on a mid-week evening for an office meeting tea-break. This is my second attempt at catering, the first being my orange lemon cupcakes.

Carrot Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting
Makes 12 cupcakes


1/2 cup caster sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 large eggs
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup plain flour
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 ½ cups grated carrots, around 4 medium carrots
1/4 cup walnuts (you can also use pecans) chopped
1/4 cup raisins

For the Frosting:

100g cream cheese, softened
130g icing sugar, sieved
1 tsp lemon juice
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Slowly beat the cream cheese and icing sugar in a large bowl with an electric whisk until creamy and soft. Add the lemon juice and vanilla and beat briskly until combined.


1) Preheat the oven to 180°C. Grease or line with papers a 12-hole muffin tin.

2) In a large bowl, whisk together the sugar and oil until combined. Add the eggs one by one and mix until smooth. Add the vanilla extract.

3) Sift all the dry ingredients into the bowl and mix.

4) Add the dry ingredients in two batches to the oil mixture. Stir well to combine, ensuring that there are no lumps.

5) Add the grated carrots, chopped walnuts and raisins into the cake batter.

6) Divide the batter between the muffin pans and bake for around 18 minutes or until golden brown and springy to touch. Allow to cool.

8) Frost the cooled cupcakes and top with the halfed walnuts.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Orange Lemon Cupcakes

It came a bit of a surprise when my colleague asked if I had wanted to cater for two separate morning tea breaks for my office. We had a number of regional executives visiting Singapore last week and they were expected to be in town over a few days. Meetings had been scheduled for the whole week with separate groups and my colleague was in charge of organizing the menu for morning and afternoon tea breaks, as well as lunch.

I was initially unsure as I'd never done catering as a business venture before. It's one thing to bake for fun and another to actually bake for "customers". I gave it some thought that evening and decided that I would give this a try. I told my hubby about my first "business" venture and he said, good for you! I could not decide on what cupcake flavour I should make, chocolate, vanilla, strawberry .... and finally decided to bake a batch of orange lemon cupcakes with orange frosting.

As my hubby and I were out most of the morning and early part of Sunday, I could only bake the cupcakes later in the day. Luckily I had made orange cupcakes before and the recipe was the same for these cupcakes! However for an additional flavour I decided to add in some sliced candied lemon peel into the cake batter and also some lemon extract into the buttercream. I also used the candied peel as decoration on top of the buttercream.

Orange Lemon Cupcakes


1 3/4 cup cake flour
1 cup sugar
1/2 tsp salt
2 1/2 tsp baking powder
2 large eggs, separated and whites beaten until stiff
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup orange juice
1 stick of butter, softened
1 Tsp orange zest and lemon zest
1 Tsp chopped candied lemon peel


1) Combine butter, sugar, egg yolks, orange zest and vanilla in a mixing bowl. Cream ingredients together thoroughly.

2) Mix flour, salt and baking powder together in a separate mixing bowl. Add dry ingredients to creamed ingredients 1/3 at a time alternating with adding portions of the orange juice to the creamed mixture. Fold in beaten egg whites.

3) Spoon batter into cupcake liners until 1/2 full.

4) Bake in a 350 degrees preheated oven for 15 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool cupcakes completely before frosting.

Orange Buttercream


50g/2oz Softened Butter
100g/4oz Icing Sugar
1 Tsp orange juice
1 tsp lemon extract
1 tsp orange extract


1) Place the softened butter in a mixing bowl and sift the icing sugar over the top.

2) Add orange juice and zest and cream all the ingredients together until well blended.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Strawberry Cheesecake Mousse

I purposely made a trip to the National Library during my lunch break to look for a cookbook - a cookbook with cheesecake recipes to be precise. And I was in luck as I found a delicious looking book by Catherine Lau called "Cheesecake Seduction". The recipes in the book looked really interesting and the pictures were amazing as well.

I'm a sucker for cookbooks with beautifully taken photos. If it didn't have colourful pictures in it, I'd not buy the book or even pick it up from the shelf. I was pleased that I had completed my mission in a short time and happily walked back to my office with the book under my arm.

My intent and purpose was I'd promised my husband that I'd bake him something that he'll enjoy, which obviously is a cheesecake. The funny man doesn't eat any of my cakes so I thought I'd better indulge him for once! I took the book home that evening and asked him to pick a recipe. I told him I'd bake it for him over the weekend. He ended up picking a strawberry cheesecake mousse which looked easy enough for me to prepare on Saturday evening. As the cheesecake will take overnight to set we'll only be able to taste it the next day.

The assembling took a while and I even got him to be my "assistant" by spreading the chocolate over the biscuit crust whilst I prepared the filing. The whipped cream topping could only be added on Sunday morning as the filing needed to set first. We had our first slice during tea time and may I say that it was delicious.

Strawberry Cheesecake Mousse
(makes one 23 cm cake)

Ingredients for the base:

110g unsalted butter, cubed
200g finely crushed digestive biscuit
2 Tsp firmly packed brown sugar
50g crushed cornflakes
60g dark chocolate melted with 2 Tsp milk
One layer of thin plain sponge cake

Ingredients for the filing:

500g cubed cream cheese
140g castor sugar
2 Tsp strained lemon juice
1 1/2 Tsp + 1 tsp powdered gelatine, dissolved in 100ml water
300g strawberry puree
400ml thickened cream
8 strawberries, halved

Ingredients for the whipped cream topping:

200ml whipped cream + 1 Tsp sugar
6 strawberries sliced

For the base:

1) Melt butter and sugar in pan over low heat. Pour melted butter over crushed biscuit crumbs and cornflakes. Mix well until combined.

2) Press mixture into a greased 23 cm springform cake pan with the back of a metal spoon.

3) Spread melted chocolate over the biscuit base.

4) Cover cake pan and refrigerator for at least 30 minutes.

5) Remove from fridge and place on top of the chocolate a thin layer of sponge cake.

For the filing:

1) Beat cream cheese, sugar and lemon juice until smooth. Pour in combined gelatine and strawberry puree and mix well. Blend in the cream.

2) Press strawberry halves around side of cake pan. Carefully sppon filing into pan.

3) Cover cake pan and refrigerate for at least 6 hours.

For the topping:

1) Top cake with a layer of whipped cream

2) Transfer cake to a serving plate. Arrange strawberry slices on cake. Chill before serving.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Apple and Cranberry Muffins

I had a mid-week baking itch! Maybe because I now love baking so much that I will need to indulge my passion even after putting in 10 hours in the office. I know this may sound mad to some but it's actually quite soothing sifting flour and stirring butter. It makes it all the more worthwhile when my end results looks great and taste even more so ....

I was not sure what I'll make this evening but I'm sure I will have enough ingredients in my kitchen to put together something. My kitchen cupboards are now stocked full with flour, sugar, nuts, dried fruits, etc.

During lunch time whilst my colleagues will go shopping for clothes, I'll go to the nearest baking store and shop for flour. Is this taking my passion over the edge .. I do wonder at times!

When I reached home I browsed through my many cook books .. yes, I'm now starting to accumulate quite a few of these as well .. and came across an apple and cranberry muffin. I had all the ingredients called for in the recipe including an apple looking very sorrowful in the fridge (the rest of it's companions had already been eaten earlier in the week).

This recipe didn't even require a cake mixer, it was this simple! End result was a yummy treat .. and the smell of the muffins was heavenly especially with the variety of spices that had been included in the muffin batter.

Apple and Cranberry Muffins
(makes 12)


55g unsalted butter
1 egg
100g sugar
zest of 1 large orange
125ml freshly squeezed orange juice
140g plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp grated nutmeg
1/2 tsp ground allspice
1/4 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp salt
1 - 2 apples (fuji or washington)
170g dried cranberries
55g walnuts, chopped
icing sugar, for dusting (optional)


1) Preheat the oven to 350F/180C. Grease a 12-cup muffin tin or use paper cases.

2) Melt the butter over gentle heat and set aside to cool.

3) Place the egg in a mixing bowl and whisk lightly. Add the melted butter and whisk to combine.

4) Add the sugar, orange zest and juice. Whisk to blend, then set aside.

5) In a large bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, ginger and salt. Set aside.

6) Quarter, core and peel the apples. With a sharp knife, chop coarsely.

7) Make a well in the dry ingredients and pour in the egg mixture. With a spoon, stir until just blended.

8) Add the apples, cranberries and walnuts and stir to blend.

9) Fill the cups three-quarters full and bake until the tops spring back when touched lightly, 25 - 30 minutes. Transfer to a rack to cool. Dust with icing sugar, if desired.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Potato Au Gratin

Don't you have one of those days when you really don't know what to cook for dinner. Well I certainly do have days like this! But having a well stocked freezer means that I can just pull a frozen pack of pizza, naan, dhall, prata or swedish meat balls without having to run to the supermarket. Furthermore it's good to have a husband who has a "anything goes" attitude and not fussy about food that's put on the table ... well as long as it's not liver!

So we decided to have swedish meat balls (from Ikea to be precise) with lingon berry sauce and boiled potatoes. However my husband asked if I could do a potato au gratin instead. He really likes this dish with it's creamy cheese sauce. Of course I said yes! This is an excellent side dish with a roast chicken, steak or fish.

Potato Au Gratin


6 small to medium potatoes (red or yellow)
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
1 Tbsp chopped parsley
1 Tbsp chopped green onions
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
1/2 cup combination of grated mozarella, gruyer, romano and cheddar
salt and pepper to taste
more grated cheese for sprinkling
1-2 Tbsp butter
chopped parsley for garnish


1) Prepare the cream mixture, combine together the garlic, heavy cream, chopped parsely, green onions, half the grated cheese, salt and pepper.

2) In a bowl, combine the thinly sliced and peeled potatoes with 1/4 of the cream mixture. toss well.

3) Arrange the potatoes in a buttered baking dish in layers. sprinkle the top of each layer with more cheese if desired.

4) Pour over the rest of the cream mixture over the potato layers. top with a good amount of cheese and pats of butter & sprinkle with chopped parsley.

5) Cover with foil and bake in the oven at 350F for 45 mins. Remove the foil and bake for another 20 - 25 minutes until golden and gooey.

6) Serve as a side dish.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Chicken & Vegetable Pie

I'm not sure what it is about a freshly baked chicken pie that'll stir up comfy and snug feelings. All the more so if served on a cold, wet Sunday morning. It was exactly like this on one Sunday morning which gave me the inspiration to bake some chicken pies.

For sure this is definitely something which my husband will eat. If you've been reading some of my previous posts, you'll know that he's not one who likes cakes - with the exception of anything that has cheese in or on it.

I decided straight away that I'll make individual pies instead of a large one - makes serving so much easier. If you're rush for time, you can always purchase frozen puff pastry sheets from the supermarket instead of making the pastry from scratch.

Chicken & Vegetable Pie
(Recipe source: Delicious)
serves 6

Ingredients for the filing:

1 large (about 1.5 kg) chicken
200 g diced streaky bacon
1 onion, roughly chopped
3 carrots
Bouquet garni*
2 potatoes, diced
1 leek, white part only, finely sliced
2 celery stalks, chopped
125g mixed frozen vegetables
85g unsalted butter
225g button mushrooms, sliced
25g plain flour
150ml thick cream
2 tbs chopped flat-leaf parsley
1/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
Salt & pepper to taste
2 tbs milk, to brush

Ingredients for the pastry:

1 1/3 cups (200g) plain flour, sifted
55g unsalted butter
55g lard


1) To make pastry, process all ingredients in a food processor until mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. Add 2 tablespoons iced water and process until pastry forms a smooth ball. Cover and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.

2) Place chicken in a saucepan with onion, 1 roughly chopped carrot and bouquet garni. Cover with cold water and bring to the boil, then reduce heat to low and simmer for 1 hour. Remove chicken, cool slightly, then cut meat into chunks.

3) Strain stock into a clean saucepan. Chop remaining carrots and add to pan with potatoes and leek. Cook over medium heat for 10 minutes, then add celery and cook for a further 5 minutes. Remove vegetables, reserving 350ml of the stock (freeze remainder for soups), and place in a large bowl with the chicken chunks.

4) Preheat the oven to 180°C.

5) Melt 50g butter in a frypan over medium heat, fry the bacon until brown. Using the same plan with the oil, add in the mushrooms and mixed frozen vegetables and cook for another 5 minutes. Dish out into a bowl. Melt remaining butter in a pan over medium-low heat, add flour, then cook for 1 minute.

6) Add reserved stock and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes. Add cream, stir in parsley and season well with salt, pepper and nutmeg.

7) Pour sauce into bowl with chicken and all the vegetables, stir and place in a bowl to cool.

8) Bring pastry to room temperature and roll out on a well floured board. Use a 1.5 litre pie dish or small individual pie cases. Cover the entire bottom and side of your pie dish or cases with pastry. Then add the chicken and vegetable filing into the pie dish or cases. Brush the edges of the pastry and cover the pie(s) with a pastry top.

9) Firmly press edges of the pastry together by using the fork (it'll also form a nice pattern around the edges of your pie). Using a sharp knife cut a small cross on the top of each pie. This will allow the steam escape whilst your pie is being baked. Place pies onto a baking tray (the tray makes it easier to remove the pies from the oven and also to catch any sauce which may overflow during the baking process)

10) Brush with milk and bake in preheated oven of 190C for 25 minutes or until golden.

Notes & tips

* To make a bouquet garni, tie a few sprigs of parsley, thyme and bay leaves together with string.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Blueberry, Coconut and Lime Ice-Cream

I came across this interesting recipe from a dessert cookbook which I had borrowed from the library. And as blueberries are now being sold so much cheaper, I thought I'd try it out over a week-day night. Furthermore as I don't have an ice-cream maker, this recipe falls right up my alley.

Interestingly the prices of blueberries seem to have gone cheaper as well. Just the other day, I spotted organic blueberries being sold at $3.50 per 125g. This is the cheapest I've seen todate.

I've actually reduced the sugar in this recipe (from 140g to 120g) as I found it a bit too sweet. In addition, I also added an additional lime as I do like the tartness of lime in desserts.

Blueberry, Coconut and Lime Ice-Cream
(serves 4 - 6)


3 limes
120g caster sugar
125g punnet blueberries
200ml carton coconut cream
285ml carton double cream
extra blueberries and lime wedges for serving


1) Finely grate the zest from 2 limes. Squeeze the juice from all 3 limes. Put in a small pan with the sugar. Heat gently, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Add the blueberries and simmer for 2 minutes, until the skins start to split.

2) Pour the blueberry mixture into a bowl and cool slightly. Stir in the coconut cream and mix. Cool in the refrigerator. Whip the double cream until it just holds its shape. Remove berry mixture from refrigerator. Gradually stire in the cream into the berry mixture. Put the bowl in the freezer for about 1 hour, until the mixture is set about 3 cm or 1/4" from the edges.

3) Remove from the freezer and whisk it all together (you can also use a fork to whisk). When it's fairly smooth, return to the freezer for 1 hour. Repeat the whisking process at least two more times. Transfer the ice cream to a rigid container, cover and freeze until firm.

4) Before serving, move the container to the fridge to soften slightly. Serve with extra blueberries and lime wedges.

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