Thursday, 24 April 2014

Chicken, Leek and Cider Pie


It's been over a year since I last blogged a recipe from the Pieminister cookbook. Last time it was the autumnal Sausage, cider and potato pie and this time from the Spring section its the Chicken, leek and cider (seeing a theme?!) pie.

I would love to take credit for the amazingness that is this pie, but I have to say this book is a total hero. I am no skilled cook, but everything that comes out of this cookbook is so good. I had to modify this recipe a bit, as it was originally for eight people, and involved cooking a whole chicken, but the flavours are all theirs and they work so well together. I cut the ingredients in half (I don't even have a pot big enough to cook a whole chicken!) and used chicken breasts instead.


To make the pie I used:

750g chicken breasts, cut into large chunks
1 large white onion, diced
3 leeks, cut lengthwise and then sliced
2 cloves garlic finely chopped
a knob of butter
150ml single cream
100ml cider
200ml chicken stock
2 tablespoons of plain flour
dried tarragon
three tablespoons (approx) fresh chives
ready made puff pastry (if its good enough for Delia, its good enough for me!)

Serves 4

I started by melting the butter in a large pot on the hob, then adding the onions and cooking until they went soft and translucent. My pot is a Linea one from House of Fraser (not Le Creuset, but works just as well for a fraction of the price and I use it loads for soup, curry and of course pies!)

Then I added the chicken pieces, and cooked them until they turned white on the outside. I then added the leeks and cooked them until they went soft, and had reduced a bit, as the pot was pretty full! Then I added the cider, cream, chicken stock and flour along with the tarragon, chives and seasoning, and simmered until the liquid had reduced to a thick, creamy consistency.

I then took the pot off the heat until it had cooled for about 20 minutes, before adding a pastry lid. I didn't do as well with the lid as previously, I think I got a bit over excited about pastry and put too much on! The original recipe suggests using a shortcrust pastry base, and a puff lid, but I left out the base as I wanted to cook everything in the same pot.

I used milk to glaze the pastry, as I didn't have any eggs left, and cut two slits on the top to let the steam escape. Then the whole thing went into the oven at 180 degrees C for half an hour. My biggest worry was that the chicken would be overcooked after all that, or I would have messed up the seasoning, but I needn't have worried. The chicken was well cooked, but still moist, and the flavour was amazing. The book suggests serving with spring greens and potatoes, but we just scoffed it as is, with the left over cider to wash it down.


Tuesday, 22 April 2014

Ikea Haul


Is it bad to admit I quite like going to Ikea? Even on a bank holiday when it was totally packed and with most of the train lines down, so we had to go via four different modes of transport (tube, train, bus, tram)? Still good!

We ate meatballs and chips, of course, and then pottered around the display area before hitting the marketplace. The main shopping list items were more glasses, as we always seem to run out, a small rug for just inside the doorway, and a cheap bedside table for James, to work for now as I begin my next great ebay hunt after the media console - for the perfect midcentury pair of bedside tables!

We ticked off all three things, along with a few other bits and bobs which made it into our basket as well - thankfully going to Ikea by train does somewhat reduce the amount of stuff you can buy, or else I'm sure I would have overdone it! I mainly picked up some more kitchen things - tupperware as all of ours seems to be in constant use, a pizza wheel and an ice cream scoop - both vital implements, and extra clips for the excessive number of half open bags of things we always seem to have in the cupboards.

My favourite purchase was probably the Brokig side table/stool which we are using for James' bedside table. It was only £7 (I think it used to be £12 but they reduced it) and I really love the style. It will definitely get reused somewhere else in the house once we find the illusive vintage bedside tables I want.

I'm also really pleased with the Pluggis waste sorting bin, which we are using for corralling all our recycling into one place at the moment (Also £7), and the  hallway rug which was £20, but feels really sturdy and well made, and should stand up to a decent bit of wear and tear.

Sunday, 20 April 2014

A picture of the week


Happy bank holiday weekend to everyone in the UK! I took some leave from work and extended my holiday to a week and a half, and thus far it's been blissful. When I said I was taking holiday everyone kept asking me 'oh, where are you going?' and I think they were a bit disappointed when I said nowhere, but for me spending a week pottering around at home is heaven.

We've had friends over on Thursday and Saturday for lunch, had dinner with my parents and been to Ikea (blog post coming soon on my purchases!), and next week I've got a few blog events to go to, a hair appointment, and a lot of gardening and cycling planned.

When I went for dinner with my parents my mum sent me home with Easter eggs, and a stack of her old magazines, so I think there will definitely be some chill time in the week too. How are you spending your bank holiday?

Thursday, 17 April 2014

The great media console hunt


Good news people-who-care-about-the-state-of-my-living-room! The hunt for the perfect media console is over!

My parents bought us this rather beautiful tv for Christmas (James' choice of present - but our old one was second hand from my sister and pretty small so I admit I do rather like it) and it has been living on the coffee table ever since, as I've been searching (and failing to find) the perfect media console ever since.

At first I was pretty sure I wanted a modern one because I hate seeing wires dangling all over the place, and the thought of cutting a hole in the back of a vintage cupboard or sideboard to avoid them fills me with horror. Unfortunately the console also had to fit in this quite narrow alcove, and it turns out all modern media consoles under 95cm wide are ugly or very expensive. Frustratingly everything I liked seemed to be about 110cm, and I got totally obsessed with finding the perfect sized console.

I ended up turning to ebay and looking at vintage options. Like everyone on the internet I love midcentury furniture, and I dream of sideboards and Eames chairs, but after sifting through so many not-quite-right-but-nearly cupboards and record cabinets (the 1950s version of a media console!) this is actually my first ever ebay purchase!

It's ended up being just right though, and even better the seller is only 15 minutes down the road from me! Exorbitant delivery charges definitely put me off a few otherwise perfect pieces of furniture, but this even fitted in the back of my mum's car (Just! Thanks Mum!) I still dislike the dangling wires you can see, but I think if I get a few cable tidies I should be able to make them look a lot better, and James is pretty happy that his xbox now gets pride of place.

The cupboard itself is teak, which is the same as our now back-in-use coffee table, and they go really well together. It still has the original 'Avalon' sticker on the inside, who I understand were a furniture maker in the 60s and 70s. It's a little damaged on the bottom, and by all accounts Avalon aren't known for being the best quality ever, but I love the look, and it was a good price. I can see it making a good hallway telephone table if we ever move to a bigger house, but for now it fits in my little home perfectly.

Monday, 14 April 2014

Clifton Nurseries


I have grand garden plans for the Easter Bank holiday, which involve crowbars and a lot of digging, so to get some inspiration James and I went to Clifton Nurseries in west London last week. I think it will be some time before we even get close to the landscaping and planting part of the garden, but it was still nice to look and remind ourselves that it will all be worth it eventually!

It's a perfect little garden centre in the centre of a square of grand houses, which must have a wonderful view!You wouldn't know it was there at all, but as you walk down the road you spot a little alleyway filled with plants and after walking down between the buildings you suddenly come out and you are surrounded by greenery.

We wandered around the flowers and plants (I have developed a love of ferns) for a while before popping into the beautiful but pricy restaurant for coffee and a cake. James had an opera cake (like off the bakeoff last year) and I had a lemon tart, and both were sooo good. Definitely worth the pennies.

Finally we had a bit of a wander round the local area - they are right by the beautiful canals and Little Venice - before making a few purchases - some compost and a few plant pots - not terribly exciting, but necessary! We now have a collection of little pots propagating on our window ledge filled with peppers, beans and a few flowers too.

Sunday, 13 April 2014

Lazy Sunday Links

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1. I love the look of mismatched chairs in  kitchen or dining room 2. Love Kristabel's scarf styling with Liberty 3. This loft apartment is stunning 4. the editor in chief of Domino magazine on the coveteur 5. This article on Beyonce's team is fascinating 6. Top 25 healthy breakfasts. The quinoa pancakes are very intriguing!

Today is the London Marathon. I have lived in Blackheath, where the start line is, nearly my whole life, so the marathon has always been a huge part of my year. As a spectator only I must add! For me it always instills that local pride, a bit like how I felt when the Olympics were on. The 'this is my home and it is part of something big' feeling. When I was little my parents used to put up marathon runners overnight before the big day, and we always went down to watch it. In previous years when we've been in Oxford I have forced James to sit and watch the whole thing on tv!

This year the runners actually go right past my road - so we stumbled down hungover after my cousin's wedding on Saturday to cheer them on. Two of James' friends are running this year, so looking out to spot them in the crowd was fun, not to mention seeing Mo Farah speed by!

Happy Sunday!

Thursday, 10 April 2014

A Food List


What did you last eat?

Cold pizza and salad. I never really plan for lunches at home, they always end up consisting of scavenger hunts in the fridge and leftovers.


The last meal, if you could choose?

Burger and chips. The burger would be from five guys and have all the toppings. The chips would be from a late night chip van and covered in vinegar. Washed down with an oreo milkshake from Rocatillos in Bristol.

Best Food City?

London is where I eat the most so it feels like the obvious easy choice, but I ate really well in Paris when I went last year with Reda.


Best restaurant meal?

For my eighteenth birthday my parents took me to the Oxo tower. That was pretty special.

For regular eats I still love Dishoom, The Real Greek, Wahaca, Lupita and Ping Pong.

Best snack?

Sea salt and black pepper cashews. Om nom!


What caused last hangover?

Drinks after work followed by dinner with my friends last Friday. I was already a bit worse for wear when I arrived at dinner, and Kat said ‘ooh this is wine drunk Harriet! I love wine drunk Harriet, let’s order more wine!’ so I blame her entirely.

Food you love to have at home?

Pizza ingredients. We usually make extra dough and sauce and freeze them so you can make a home made pizza pretty speedily.


What's for dinner?

Spanish omelette with chorizo and potatoes.

Food you hate?

I used to hate olives, but I’ve managed to acquire a taste for them by repeated eatings. I am trying to do the same with mushrooms but it hasn’t worked yet.


If you only got to eat one dessert for the rest of your life?


Typical school lunch?

If you waited until right at the end of the lunch hour to eat, you could usually persuade the dinner lady in the canteen to serve you just a bowl of roast potatoes. And they were the last roast potatoes which had been roasting away all lunch, and were completely brown and crispy on the outside and totally soggy on the inside. Best meal ever.

What is the weirdest thing in your fridge?

Today is the last day before we go shopping tomorrow, so there isn’t much in there. Mainly condiments – we have ketchup, American mustard, salsa, mayo and pizza sauce.

And what do you have in the vegetable drawer?

Sweet potatoes, carrots and red onions. Those are our staple vegetables, good for roasting.


And cheese?

We have halloumi and strong chedder in there at the moment. My favourites are Brie and anything strong and blue.

Best place to buy groceries?

In my dreams? Fortnum and Mason or Harrods. In reality, if I can I love to go to Borough market to get the best cheap fresh vegetables and bread for the week.

Food that you wish you were allergic to?

Nothing. I would be so sad to have food allergies. I hate the idea of not being able to eat anything – which is why I keep trying to make myself like mushrooms! I think its my innate Britishness – I could never not eat something someone had cooked for me because I didn’t like the food in it!

Who gets to eat off your plate?

No one! Early in our relationship James once suggested we order a dessert to share... I told him if he wanted dessert he needed to get his own because he wasn’t going to be getting any of mine! 

List borrowed from Wilderness blog.

Monday, 7 April 2014

Library Books April


I took a trip to the library again this weekend, and here's what I brought home with me.

It's not easy being Green by Dick Strawbridge

I am totally obsessed with books where people move and live totally different lives. Whether it is moving to a village in rural France, or as in this case, moving to Cornwall to live a sustainable life, I just love them! This is the book which accompanied a BBC TV series following Dick Strawbridge (of scrapheap challenge fame) and his family as they attempt to live a sustainable life. I loved all the bits about raising animal and building a waterwheel for electricity, as well as the tips on how to be a bit more green in your own life, and it really got me thinking 'reduce reuse recycle' much more than I usually do.

Small Space Gardens by David Stevens

Now that spring is here I am just itching to get out and sort out our back garden. It's currently just a small decked space with a lot of rubbish in it left over from our building renovations, but not for long! I have a lot of ideas but I'm also keen to get some inspiration from others of how to best use the space, and this book has some amazing ideas. I love looking at the pictures, and also reading about how the gardens came to be, and how they fit in with their owners' lives.

Home by Orla Kiely

Oh goodness - what a find! I have been wanting to read this book for ages (OK, look at the pictures) and it did not disappoint. I'm so pleased my library had it, but I'm also contemplating buying it for myself as it is such a beautiful book. It features a lot of tours of fabulous, perfect 1950s homes, but my favourite bit is the tour of Orla Kiely's own home, which is a mixture of 50s and Victorian (just like mine! Except I have a lot of Ikea too...) and is full of her own beautiful designs.

What are your favourite 'picture' and coffee table books?

Sunday, 6 April 2014

A picture of the week


This weekend has been a weekend of resetting. Last weekend was so fun and so busy, but now it is about spring cleaning and tidying and getting my life sorted.

The one concession to this was on Friday night, when I went with my sister to see the Backstreet Boys at the O2. The verdict was they definitely still have the moves (90s dancing for the win!) but I wanted them to play more of the old stuff, and every time they said 'here's one from the new album' I was a little disappointed. James was out celebrating the end of term (he's training to be a teacher) and managed to drunk buy pizza, ketchup and a bag of donuts - he was aiming for pretzels apparently! 

It was quite nice waking up on Saturday morning after a great eight hours sleep and not being the one with a hangover for once. I took some pleasure in making James help out with the cleaning anyway, followed by coffee and donuts as a reward of course!

Thursday, 3 April 2014

Instagram March

1. Admiring my mantlepiece, full of wedding invitations. We have five in the next year! 2. Sniffing the amazing cut grass scented candle at the White Company 3. And drinking their delicious rose flavoured cocktails 4. Digging through all my old things in my parents loft to find these two pictures.
1. Admiring all the pretty buildings in Bath 2. Filling up on an epic hotel breakfast 3. Candles on my cake! It was a pretty scrummy carrot cake in case you are wondering 4. A moody view over the rooftops of London - with Nelson just chilling to one side there
1. I saw the Design museum's Paul Smith exhibition - such a fun show 2. And spent a lot of time exploring the cycle paths by the river 3. I love the mixture of natural beauty and industrial 4. This poster caught my eye in the Design Museum permanent exhibition

How did it get to be April already?! Here is what I was doing on instagram in March.

Monday, 31 March 2014

A very Etsy birthday


I know I said I was done with my birthday for another year, but I couldn't resist sharing a few presents with you, specifically those James and I got for each other. This year we challenged each other to only spend £25 and to purchase everything off Etsy.

It seemed like a great idea when I came up with it, but I have to say a few days later I was frantically searching the online market place for things for James, and worrying I would never find anything! The problem I have with Etsy is there is just so much choice. Narrowing it down is almost impossible unless you have some clue what you are looking for. I ended up spending a lot of time browsing the taste makers section, as it was a great way to see some of the best things available.

In the end I bought James these tardis cufflinks and a retro poster for the kitchen. James bought me a poster of a Narwhal playing the banjo, the I love you, blogs and coffee print from made by girl (love!) and a chalk board to write the shopping list on! All the picture frames were from Amazon.

It worked out as a pretty fun way to buy something inexpensive but unique for each of our birthdays. I loved everything I received, as did James (or he said he did anyway!) and because it was all from Etsy it was all a total surprise, which was nice. Usually I have a bit of an inkling what James is going to get me, as he is not great at keeping secrets, but this time I properly had no idea!

Sunday, 30 March 2014

Lazy Sunday Links

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1. The Coveteur takes a peek into Kelis' life 2. These snack bowls look so yummy! 3. some great free phone wallpapers 4. I love this houe, especially the kitchen 5. Katie's shots of typography in Panama are beautiful 6. Joy made this epic galette

It has been such a busy weekend for me this week. But in a good way! I met a big deadline on Thursday evening, so ended up with a relatively relaxing Friday at work, folled by a swift drink or two in the pub to start the weekend off. This meant I was epically late to dinner with my old school friends - Reda, Kat and Becca, but James was even later so I felt slightly better! We ate mexican and way too much ice cream and wine, it was wonderful. ne of those evenings where you can barely get a word in edgewise because everyone has so much to say!

On Saturday we went to see Captain America with James' brother and his girlfriend, and today we are having a mega reunion in my family, as my cousin was over from Australia for the first time in nearly ten years, bringing his new wife and daughter with him (baby Millie - she is just the cutest!)

What did you do this weekend?