Thursday, 14 October 2010


Well, I have learned to make pickle, chutney and jam this year. I thought I'd top it off by learning to make a good old-fashioned double-crust pie. I bought Angela Boggiano's lovely book "Pie" months ago and have been meaning to try it out, and with leeks finally reaching a decent size on the allotment, her chicken, leek and tarragon pie seemed perfect!

I found a set of individual pie dishes in our local charity shop and used those, instead of making one big pie like the recipe suggests. And of course, I made a few other changes too...

Chicken, Leek and Tarragon Pie
(serves four)
  • Place a 1.5kg chicken in a large saucepan with a chopped onion, a chopped carrot, a tsp or two of tarragon, black pepper and a big pinch of celery salt. Add enough water to cover, bring to the boil, and simmer for 45 minutes until the chicken is cooked through. (Actually, I had a pack of diced chicken to use up so I put that in instead - and it was much quicker too.)
  • Remove the chicken from the pan and set aside to cool.
  • Continue to simmer the stock, until it is reduced by half.
  • Meanwhile, heat a little olive oil and a knob of butter in a pan, add a small chopped onion and two chopped leeks, and saute gently until soft. At this point I added a big handful of sliced mushrooms too.
  • Turn the heat up high, add 150ml wine and cook until reduced by half. Stir in 2 tbsps flour and mix in very well.
  • Pour in 150ml cream and 150ml of the stock, and a splash of lemon juice. Season to taste.
  • Shred the chicken into small pieces and stir into the sauce mixture along with another tsp of tarragon.
  • Preheat the oven to 180C.
  • Now line your pie dish(es). I confess I bought my pastry, and chose puff rather than shortcrust as recommended - I love puff pastry! Leave a little overhang round the edge on the bottom crust, and don't forget to cut round your dish for the top piece before you fill it!
  • Fill the pie with the chicken mixture, brush round the top edge with beaten egg and lay the lid in place. Crimp the edges together with your fingers to seal, then trim any excess away and brush the top with more beaten egg to glaze.
  • Place in the oven for 30-35 minutes, until the pastry is crisp and golden.

Wow! Not bad for a first-timer, huh? The flavour of this pie was soooo good - the wine and cream and lemon and tarragon really make it something special. And what made the meal even better was that I served a load of other NomeGrown goodies with it too - roast potatoes of course, and I took the NomeGrown onions and carrots from the stock and added garlic, chard and peas for a delicious medley of vegetables on the side.

Monday, 4 October 2010

Tomatoes - a summary

The tomato season has almost drawn to a close here, now blight has killed off all my plants but two, and those left are struggling to ripen fruit in the worsening weather. But having enjoyed the most successful tomato crop ever, and since I never told you the results of my seedsaving experiment, I thought I'd give a quick rundown of the varieties I grew.

From left to right we have 'Hundreds and Thousands' (self-sown), 'Red Cherry', 'Gardener's Delight', 'Angelle' (seeds saved), 'Moneymaker' and 'Sub-Arctic Plenty'.

The 'Hundreds and Thousands' have a slight tendency to be thick-skinned, but are so deliciously sweet, so productive and so easy to grow that I will certainly grow some more next year, if I can get them to self sow again.

The 'Red Cherry' have always been the quickest plants to grow for me, but having finally had a decent sample of the fruit this year, I don't think I'll bother with them again. The skins are very thick and they're not as tasty as some others.

The 'Gardener's Delight' again suffered from thick skins. Maybe it's my soil or something - does anyone else have this problem? They are delicious and have a touch more acid than any other variety I've grown, and so are good for salads or sandwiches where you don't want too much sweetness.

The 'Angelle' (also pictured below) are from the seeds I saved from a supermarket tomato. They have come pretty true to type and are absolutely delicious, not to mention incredibly easy to grow, with few leaves, and the last ones to go down with blight! The crop wasn't huge, but I could easily grow more plants in a small space since the foliage is so sparse. I will certainly be sowing the rest of my saved seeds next year!

'Moneymaker' were very pleasing, with thick flesh and a delicious flavour, and pretty productive, although they were the first to get the dreaded blight and I ended up putting most of the fruit - still green - in chutney. I'd like to give them another try, but if they are susceptible by nature to blight maybe it's not worth it outdoors...

'Sub-Arctic Plenty' were the biggest surprise. The plant always looked rather sickly but the fruits were huge - up to 100g each - and soooo tasty! They did not live up to their '45 days from seed to harvest' claim - far from it - but they're definitely another variety I will grow again next year.

Do you grow tomatoes outdoors? I'd love to hear what varieties work well for you.
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