Luxury pork pie with orchard jelly

Pork pie is my father’s desert-island dish, something he’d eat every day given a chance, so for most of my adult life I’ve baked him one every year instead of a birthday cake, which he does his best to keep to himself, fending off the predations of my mother and sister (and me!). This recipe has been slowly developed for him over the years, to the point where I feel confident in saying it really is the ultimate.

Luxury pork pie with orchard jellyUnlike traditional pastry made with lard, this souped-up hot water crust dough uses the fat from the magnificent Iberico pig, which you can get from certain posh food retailers these days. It is super-soft, so really needs the overnight chilling to firm it up, and I prefer to crimp my pastry after chilling, so you get a neater finish. Spend time making sure the seal is right, smearing edges with a damp finger if necessary, as any cracks will let precious juices seep out. The stock recipe makes twice what you need but can’t really be made in a smaller batch, freeze the rest for another pie or use it to make a fabulous pea & ham soup.

Luxury pork pie with orchard jelly
Makes 1 large pie

For the hot water crust pastry:
600g plain flour
1 tsp fine salt
100g Iberico pork fat
100g unsalted butter
3 medium eggs (2 for the dough, 1 to glaze)

For the jellied ‘orchard’ stock:
1 full pork trotter (all the way up to the elbow) or 2 small feet, split (get your butcher to do this)
2 apples, roughly chopped
1 large white onion, roughly chopped
2 sprigs of sage
1 fresh bay leaf
500ml medium dry cider e.g. Aspall’s
500ml fresh chicken stock (homemade or from a tub in the chiller cabinet)*

For the pie filling:
1 tsp sea salt
1 tsp white peppercorns
750g skinless pork shoulder, cut into 5mm-1cm dice
250g skinless pork belly, minced
250g smoked streaky bacon, finely diced
16 sage leaves, finely shredded
1 tsp ground mace
½ tsp cayenne pepper

You will also need a 20cm round springform cake tin, base lined with greaseproof paper

Start with the pastry. Put the flour and salt in a large mixing bowl and make a well in the centre. Put the two fats in a small saucepan with 200ml water and put on a low heat just until the fats melt (do not let it boil or you will drive off too much moisture). Pour the fat and water mix into the well in the flour and stir in, gradually incorporating the flour into the liquids. Lightly beat 2 of the eggs then add to the bowl and mix just until you have a cohesive dough. Don’t mix more than necessary otherwise you’ll activate the gluten which will make the pastry tough. Separate out a quarter of the dough for the lid. Shape both large and small balls of dough into flattish discs, wrap each in clingfilm and chill for an hour until firm enough to roll out.

To make the jellied stock, put everything into a tightly fitting saucepan and add just enough water to cover. Cover with a lid, bring to the boil, then reduce the heat to the lowest flame possible and simmer very gently for 4 hours. Strain through muslin for a really clear stock and chill until needed.

For the filling, crush the white peppercorns and sea salt in a mortar and pestle to a fine powder. Combine all the filling ingredients with a really generous grinding of black pepper and mix really well with your hands. At this stage it’s a good idea to fry a spoonful of the mixture off in a small pan and taste to check you like the seasoning.

On a floured worktop roll the large ball of pastry out to a large circle big enough to fill the tin on the base and all the way up the sides. Put the rolled out dough in the cake tin and smooth it up the sides, pressing it into shape with your fingers and making sure there are no gaps or thin patches. Fill the pie with the pork filling. Try and keep the filling nice and loose, don’t pack it down or there’ll be no space for jelly. Run a wet finger around the top edge of the pastry. Roll out the top section pastry to a 23cm circle and place on top the pie, pressing gently at the edges to seal. Loosely cover with clingfilm and chill overnight.

The next morning preheat your oven to Gas 4/180°C. Cut a small cross in the middle of the pie lid and fold the edges back to make a steamhole. Crimp the edges of the pie with your fingers, ensuring you have a really good seal. Lightly beat the remaining egg and brush over the top – don’t discard the remaining egg just yet. Put the pie on a baking sheet and bake for 45 mins. Reduce the heat to Gas 3/160°C and cook for a further 1 hour 15 mins. Carefully release and remove the springform tin (use a cloth to protect your hands), brush the sides with egg wash and return to the oven for a final 15 mins. Allow to pie to cool slightly before filling with jelly.

Reheat 250-300ml of the jellied pork stock until piping hot. Place a small funnel or piping nozzle in the steam hole of the pie and gradually add the stock. Do it slowly and carefully, you will need to lift and tilt the pie periodically to evenly distribute the stock. When you absolutely cannot get any more stock into the pie let it cool completely. The pie is best served at room temperature, but if you’re not eating it at once you’ll need to pop it in the fridge once it’s cool.

*I make my own fresh chicken stock cubes by making a batch of stock from a roast chicken carcass and boiling it down until you’ve got a thick sticky reduction, then freeze it in ice cube trays. Two reduced stock cubes like this is enough for the stock here. If you don’t have, or can’t get, fresh stock don’t use regular stock cubes as their distinctive taste will mar the other flavours, plain water is a better bet.

Pulled pork and fried mac cheese burgers

The advent of the American street food revolution in the UK has made me very very happy. Not to mention much poorer, several pounds heavier, and in all probability with blood that resembles spicy cottage cheese. Even their salads are bad for you. No seriously, have you ever actually ordered a Cobb salad?

Pulled pork & deep fried mac cheese burger

There are days I think I could – and do – just live on hot wings, waffles and chili. There’s a lot of debate about who does the genre best, but for me it absolutely has to be Pitt Cue Co. From the day they set up their trailer on the Southbank they had me hook, line and sinker, and the pulled pork and deep fried mac cheese burger was the first dish of theirs I ever tasted. Spicy, juicy pork, tangy crunchy slaw, and crisply-crumbed but oozy-centred mac cheese all sandwiched within a sweet bun. Who could ask for more?

This is my version. The ingredients list is long, but really, it’s just some roast meat, a spot of sauce and a slice of pasta bake – really not all that difficult, when you think about it.

Pulled pork and fried mac cheese burgers
Makes 6 hefty burgers

You will need:
6 handfuls slow-roast pork  (I roast a 2kg shoulder at Gas 2 for 5 hrs 45mins, it gives you more than you need but hey, too much pork is never a problem, right?)
6 large brioche or ciabatta rolls
A portion of your favourite slaw recipe – I like to use red cabbage for both colour and its extra crunch

For the fried mac cheese:
225g macaroni
350ml whole milk
½ white onion
4 cloves
2 bay leaves
30g butter
30g flour
115g Swiss or Dutch cheese (something like Gruyère, Emmenthal or Maasdam)
15g Parmesan, finely grated
1 tbsp Dijon mustard
nutmeg, to taste
plain flour, beaten egg and breadcrumbs for coating

For the pulled pork sauce:
1 x 6g Ancho Poblano*
15g Pasilla chilli*
15g Cacabel chilli*
1 tsp cumin seeds
2 cloves
1 scotch bonnet
3 garlic cloves
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp vegetable bouillon powder
2 tbsp palm sugar
250g red onion
juice of 2 oranges
3 tbsp red wine vinegar
5 tbsp tomato puree
Read on for the recipe…

Gram flour waffles with Cola-braised beef (or chili con carne)

Gram flour waffles with Cola-braised beef (or chili con carne)2012 really was the year of the savoury waffle. Waffles came as sides to deep fried chicken (e.g. Rita’s, not to mention Glady’s Knight’s feature on Man V Food), smothered in shaved or pan-fried foie gras (fain daining restaurants across the land), and as a base for every slow-braised ‘deep South’ meat dish from pulled pork to chili. Twenty-twelve was also the year I finally got a kitchen where all my many gadgets can come out to play, having finally got enough storage space to have them within reach of a kitchen counter.

(BTW…Yes I know we’re halfway through 2013 already. It’s taken me a while to get round to posting this, okay? Waffles still rock.)

One of my most-loved but underused items rescued from long-term storage is a German waffle maker, brought back from Frankfurt for me by my sister’s friend’s parents when I was about 12 years old. I’d only ever made sweet waffles in it, but encouraged by the mood du jour I decided it was time for a savoury test, one to accompany a batch of cola-braised beef, but you could of course use your favourite recipe for chili con carne, or try mine.

Gram (chickpea) flour waffles

150g Gram (chickpea) flour
100g plain flour
generous pinch English mustard powder
1 tbsp baking powder
1½ tsp salt
3 medium eggs, beaten
425ml whole milk
115g unsalted butter, melted & allowed to cool slightly

Sieve the gram flour, plain flour, mustard powder, baking powder and salt into a bowl. Make a well in the middle. Combine the eggs, milk and cooled butter in a jug, then pour gradually into the flour, whisking all the time to gradually combine dry ingredients with liquid. Preheat your waffle iron to medium. Cook a ladleful at a time, until golden (how long will depend very much on your own waffle iron). Keep the waffles warm in a low oven, covered with foil, while you make the rest.

To serve:

  • 4 portions Cola-braised beef*, chili con carne or some saucy pulled pork
  • Apple coleslaw (just replace half the cabbage in your favourite recipe with grated green apple with a squeeze of lemon juice)
  • Grated cheese

Deliciouso, I hope you’ll agree!
See the full post for my cola beef recipe…

Chicken Cordon Kiev

Chicken Cordon Kiev

Many years ago when I worked as a development chef for the supermarkets, every season some smart-alec sales guy would say “let’s redo the chicken Kiev. Let’s make the best, tastiest, most indulgent chicken Kiev anyone’s ever had – it’ll fly off the shelves!” and no matter how much we grumbled & begged, one of us chefs would be sent into the kitchen to come up with the ‘new Kiev’. Bechamel, bacon, butter, cream, the finest farmhouse Cheddar – we played with variations on them all, in the attempt to make this classic-turned-trash into something smart & fancy the average posher-than-Tesco-but-not-Selfridges-food-hall customer would be thrilled to pop into their overpriced basket. But every time, sure as eggs are eggs, we’d finally get a product the buyers were happy with & then they’d say “Now, about the nutritionals on this…” and that’s where the whole concept would crumble, as we’d always known it would.

Y’see – you can’t make a Chicken Kiev without butter. Or salt. In generous quantities. And a luxury one? Well then you’ll be wanting cream too, and good cheese (whose sodium quotient is almost as alarming as the fat content) and don’t even get me started on the nutritional values on bacon. And so we’d be sent back to make a Kiev that didn’t have a big fat red warning light on all its RDAs, and it’d be, well, okay, but really, it was nothing special anymore. And so the idea would get shelved for another 4 months until someone new joined the sales team….

Keep on reading, yumminess to follow…

Chillies and Mexican Food – the Sweet Heat Chilli Challenge roundup

Fiery Roasted Red Pepper Salsa For anyone who loves chillies proper Mexican food is a real treat – the Mexicans grow and use probably more varieties of chilli than any other country, from the fiery habanero to the smokey chipotle and everything in between.  This month I am delighted to be the host of the Sweet Heat Chilli Challenge, and hope you will find some inspiration in the fabulous flavours of Mexico which our contributors showcased this month. As usual the rules were simply that the dish had to contain chilli in some form, and the style of cuisine – as this month celebrated Cinco de Mayo – was Mexican, natch.  Starting the fiesta is the queen of the Chilli Challenge herself, Lyndsey, who put forward a fiery roasted red pepper salsa of such stunning proportions I defy anyone not to want to grab one of those tortilla chips and dig in.

Tango Like Raindrop was actually the first off the blocks with this colourful mango Pico de Gallo salsa, a fruity twist on a classic recipe:

Mango Pico-de-Gallo SalsaAnother mango offering came from Janet of ‘The Taste Space‘, this time as an accompaniment to a healthy twist on a Mexican favourite – Oyster Mushroom and Black Bean Tacos

Oyster Mushroom and Black Bean Tacos‘Farmer’s Girl’ Janice Pattie went super-meaty with these Lamb Steaks with Adobo Seasoning Lamb Steaks with Adobo SeasoningChris of ‘Cooking Around the World’ took the challenge to a new level (and won the heart of my hubby, who’d tried & failed to persuade me to do the same) by making his own tortillas for these delicious sounding mini Garnachas with tomato-apple salsa:

Garnachas with tomato-apple salsaMy contribution to the month’s round-up had to be the much-maligned (in TexMex restaurants anyway) but genuinely Mexican favourite Faijitas, using a homemade version of a store-bought sauce and a variation on the classic salsa Pico de Gallo

Mexican fajitas with pico de galloAnd finishing the roundup was another contribution from Lyndsey, some delicious Grilled Fish Tacos

Grilled Fish Tacos If you’d like to take part in, or host, a future Sweet Heat Chilli Challenge you can find all the information you need here.

Mexican fajitas with pico de gallo

Mexican fajitas with pico de galloOnce upon a time fajitas made their way onto my dinner table every week and always went down a storm whenever I served them to guests. My secret? A shameful addiction to a store-bought sauce called Knorr’s ‘Stir it up’ Mexican Fajita Paste. When the paste was discontinued I was devastated and almost gave up on fajitas altogether, as no recipe I found could match the depth & spicing of this magic jar of sauce. I had always sworn that one day I’d work out how to make it for myself, and was thrilled to discover someone had in fact done it, and blow me, but it tasted almost exactly like the fajitas of my past, and it was made from 100% storecupboard ingredients! I’ve tweaked the recipe a bit from the original to better suit my tastebuds, try it and I know you wont be disappointed.  The recipe below makes more than you need but it’s tricky to scale down and keeps for months in the fridge if you sterilise the jar first.

Mexican fajitas with pico de gallo
Mexican fajitas with pico de gallo
Serves 2

Traditionally in Mexico fajitas would be made with beef, but with the price of steak as it is I actually usually make these with chicken breasts (and could happily substitute even more economical turkey breasts), and keep the steak for special occasions.

2 small skinless & boneless chicken breasts or sirloin steaks
1 bell pepper (any colour)
1 small red onion
3-4 tbsp fajita spice paste*

Pico de gallo:
Handful of cherry tomatoes, quartered
1 large shallots, finely diced
1 jalapeno, deseeded and finely diced
Juice of ½ a lime
Handful of coriander leaves

Accompaniments:
Flour or corn tortillas
Sour cream
Guacamole
Grated cheese

Fajita spice paste:
2 tsp cumin seeds
2 tsp coriander seeds
1½ tsp mustard seeds
1 tsp oregano
1-2 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp onion granules
5 tbsp vegetable oil
2 tsp smoked paprika (hot or sweet)
1 x 390g carton chopped tomatoes
1 tsp salt
1 tsp sugar
1 tbsp white wine vinegar
1 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp tomato puree


To make the spice paste: Using a spice grinder or pestle and mortar crush the coriander, cumin and mustard seeds along with the oregano to a fine powder. Put the oil into a medium saucepan and add all the spices, then place over a medium heat and cook for several minutes, stirring almost constantly until it smells aromatic and has turned a shade darker. Watch it like a hawk, as the spices can go from delicious to scorched very suddenly. As soon as the spice paste is as intense as it can be without getting burnt, tip in the tomatoes – watch out, it may spit a bit! Stir in the remaining paste ingredients, stir well then leave to simmer for 20-25 minutes until it has formed a thick smooth-ish sauce, use a splatter guard if you have one as it can splutter furiously. Decant into a sterilised 400ml jar and once cool store in the fridge until needed.

When you come to make your fajitas, get your accompaniments ready first, as once you start the fajitas are as quick to make as any other stir-fry. Assemble the pico de gallo by simply stirring everything together and seasoning to taste, and get your cheese grated and your tortillas warmed. When you are ready to start cooking, slice the chicken or steak and the pepper into slim strips, and finely slice the onion. In a large frying pan or wok gently heat the fajita spice paste with a teaspoon of vegetable oil, just until it starts to smell aromatic, then add the sliced meat and toss to coat. As soon as the meat starts to lose its raw appearance turn the heat up high and throw in the peppers and onion. Cook, stirring regularly, until the meat is cooked through and the vegetables have softened just slightly (you want them to retain their crunch). Serve immediately with the tortillas, pico de gallo and any other accompaniments that take your fancy.

Sweet Heat Chilli Challenge

My ultimate hot ‘Buffalo’ wings and blue cheese dip

Ultimate hot Buffalo wings and blue cheese dipLook good don’t they?  Juicy, saucy, yet crispy….I love hot wings but so often find that you can either have them crispy, or saucy, not both; and unless you’re deep-frying them saucy usually means the skin is all soft and flabby which frankly, doesn’t appeal.  This recipe uses that top American trick with poultry – brining – to impart flavour into the meat and also, crucially, to keep the meat juicy when baked at the high temperatures needed to create a lovely crisp, dry skin which is normally impossible without deep-frying them.  To further encourage a crisp exterior I toss the wings in gram flour, which crisps beautifully when the wings are introduced to the hot fat in the baking dish, and also tastes much nicer than regular wheat flour.

‘Buffalo’ hot wings with creamy blue cheese dip
Serves 2 greedily

900g-1kg chicken wings
1/2 x 148ml bottle Frank’s red hot sauce
25g gram flour
1 tsp cayenne
15g butter

For the brine:
1 litre water
3 tbsp sea salt
3 tbsp chilli flakes

For the creamy blue cheese dip:
100g soft blue cheese (e.g. creamy gorgonzola)
100g sour cream
1 small garlic clove, crushed
1 tbsp cider vinegar
1 tsp Dijon mustard
2 rounded tbsp mayonnaise
pinch salt

First make the brine by dissolving the salt in the water (this is easiest if you dissolve the salt first in a splash of boiling water, then top up with cold water), then stir in the chilli flakes.  Immerse your chicken wings in the brine, ensuring they are completely covered – weigh them down with a small plate if necessary – and refrigerate for 1-2 hours.

Meanwhile, make your blue cheese dip: simply place all the ingredients in a mini food  processor or in a tall jug with a stick blender, and process until smooth.  Preheat the oven to 200°C/Gas 6 and place a large roasting dish in the oven to heat at the same time – the dish must be large enough to take the wings in a single layer.

When the oven is hot and the wings are brined,  add a large spoonful of fat – schmaltz, lard or ghee are best, to maximise flavour, but vegetable oil will do – to the hot roasting dish, and return to the oven to get piping hot. Drain, rinse & pat dry your brined wings. In a large bowl toss them in 2 tbsp of the hot sauce then in the flour and cayenne. Carefully place the wings in the hot fat, skin-side down and bake for 50mins-1hour until tender and crisp, turning once (carefully – the skin is fragile!).

In a small saucepan or in a microwave very briefly heat the butter with the remaining  hot sauce until the butter is just melted, then pour over the crispy baked wings and toss well to coat.  Serve with the blue cheese dip and lots of napkins. Go Nicks!

This is my entry for round 5 of the Sweet Heat Chilli Challenge – Game food.

Sweet heat chilli challenge

Leek and ginger pork gyoza with soy dipping sauce

The provenance of this recipe is quite mixed – the leeks are of course quintessentially British, the soy and ginger in the dip are very Chinese (as is my accompaniment of egg fried rice), but I’ve added a touch of Vietnam too with the white peppercorns – a pungent and aromatic spice that is so different from regular black pepper, and which instantly transports me with memories of my honeymoon.  The result is, I think, a very happy fusion and quite unlike anything I’ve had in any restaurant, whether it be Chinese, Vietnamese or any other.

Leek and ginger pork gyoza with soy dipping sauceMaking these gyoza is super-easy if – like me – you keep a packet of gyoza ‘skins’ or wrappers in the freezer. Commercially sold gyoza skins are so much thinner than anything you can make at home and are perfect for quick steamed dumplings like these (though if you want to pan-fry these you could of course make up a batch of your favourite dough – I like Ken Hom’s recipe). The wrappers take half an hour or so to defrost at room temperature (during which time you can be making the filling and the dipping sauce), but be sure to keep them under a damp cloth to stop them drying out.

Leek and ginger pork gyoza with soy dipping sauce
Serves 4-6

550g minced pork (absolutely NOT the kind sold as ‘lean’ – it’s essential to have fat in there or the dumplings will be too dry)
1 large leek, finely diced
2 tbsp finely diced fresh ginger
1 tbsp white peppercorns, freshly ground
2 spring onions, finely diced
1 tbsp sea salt
2 garlic cloves, crushed
35-40 gyoza wrappers (I use Imperial Dragon brand, bought from Wing Yip), defrosted if frozen

For the dipping sauce:
125ml rice vinegar
75g caster sugar
2cm ginger, finely diced or grated
2 spring onions, finely diced
1 hot red chilli, finely diced (a scotch bonnet, though not authentic, is tastiest, use a birdseye chilli – seeds and all – for a more traditional flavour)
2 tbsp light soy sauce
2 tbsp fish sauce
juice of 1 lime

Start the dipping sauce first, as the gyoza are actually very quick to make. Start by dissolving the sugar with the vinegar in a small saucepan over a low heat, then increase the heat and simmer vigorously until it has reduced by about a third and is quite syrupy. Allow this to cool then stir in the remaining ingredients.

For the gyoza, simply mix together all the filling ingredients, then assemble them one at a time (to stop them drying out too much) by placing a heaped spoonful of filling in the centre of each gyoza wrapper, running a wet finger around the edge (this becomes the ‘glue’), then folding over into a semi-circle and pressing together gently to seal, expelling any air as you go. Place them on a baking tray and keep them covered whilst you do the rest. They keep for a day in the fridge, tightly covered with clingfilm, or they freeze well. To cook, line a large steamer basket with a sheet of greaseproof paper and lay the gyoza onto it in a single layer, not touching each other (they stick easily). Steam for 4-5 minutes until the pork is just cooked through – it is important not to overcook them as the filling will become bouncy and tough rather than tender and meltingly soft.

This recipe makes around 35-40 dumplings, a generous 4 portions if accompanied by rice and pickles, or they will obviously serve more if you are having them alone as a starter.  I served them with egg fried rice and some speedy carrot & cucumber pickles, the recipes of which will follow soon…..

Gyoza

Chili-con-Carne for even the most hardened chilli-phobe (and chilli-lover!)

Chili con Carne IllustrationOne of my friends has, despite my best efforts, a persistent and downright pesky lack of tolerance for heat. A whiff of even the mildest serrano chilli or teensiest pinch of cayenne has him running for the water trough with steam coming out of his ears. After one memorable lunch when I presented him with a chicken kebab which I promised was only mildly spiced but that had him nearly in tears, he has developed a healthy suspicion of my definition of ‘hot’.  On a cold and blustery afternoon when I was preparing to cook for 6 people whose spice preference ranged from ‘zero’ to ‘eyeball-meltingly-hot’ this recipe was developed with him in mind, having all the delicious warmth and spicing of a traditional chili, but with none of the actual – erm – chilli! It’s perfect not just for chilli-phobe adults but also kids whose palates have yet to adjust and appreciate the searing burn of fire.

Although fabulously tasty by itself, I accompany this chili with a super-spicy salsa, to be dolloped on each bite, or stirred in to taste at the table, to add fire strictly for those who wish for it. At the heart of the salsa are tomatillos – sharp green fruits that look like a cross between unripe green tomatoes and the papery lantern-wrapped physalis – but these are hard to find if you don’t spend your spare time frequenting chilli festivals (or growing your own under glass), so you can happily substitute nice ripe tomatoes, and just add a little extra vinegar or some lime juice to give it bite.  The ‘finishing butter’ adds a delicious richness and also limey freshness at the end, especially for those who are eschewing the salsa. Dried anchos are the key to the stew’s smokey depth and yes – I know they are technically a chilli – but this classification is misleading: they have the same heat punch of a bell pepper, which is essentially what they are! Pork skin may seem an odd addition to a stew (and is totally optional), but it melts down and vanishes during the long slow cooking, leaving a gorgeous richness and lending extra body to the sauce, and as pork shoulder in the piece almost always comes skin-on it seems a crime to waste it by omitting it.
Read on for the scrummy recipe……

Chicken, ham, leek and cheese pancake bake

Chicken, ham, leek and cheese pancake bakeI racked my brains trying to think of a way to photograph this in a manner which conveys its utter deliciousness, but somehow soft, slippery, filled pancakes with copious amounts of creamy gooey sauce just don’t photograph all that well (and tend to fall apart a bit when you take them out of the dish), so I hope you’ll take my word for it when I assure you that this tastes sooo much better than it looks!

This is a simple yet indulgent dish perfect for either lunch or supper, and despite the fact that it uses rather more pans than I normally want to utilise for a weeknight dinner, it is extremely quick to prepare.  To save on washing up I confess I often use shop-bought pancakes (not something I’d dream of using for a dessert, but somehow perfectly okay in a savoury bake); but if time is not against you, you could of course make your own – I suggest a half quantity of Delia Smith’s foolproof recipe.  A punchy, sharp cheddar and proper smoky ham are essential here to stop the dish being simply soft creamy goo.

Chicken, ham, leek and cheese pancake bake
Serves 4

8 pancakes (shop-bought or homemade)
8 thin slices smoked ham
a large knob of butter
5 thin leeks, trimmed, sliced & rinsed
1/2 tsp mace
125g cream cheese
1 heaped tsp Dijon mustard
125g mature cheddar cheese, grated
2 cooked chicken breasts, roughly chopped
250g creme fraiche
Handful of parmesan, grated

Preheat your oven to 200˚C/Gas 6. Melt the butter in a large frying pan, add the leeks and sweat gently until they are tender. Stir in the mace, cream cheese, mustard and two-thirds of the grated cheddar, plus salt and pepper to taste. Take off the heat, stir in the cooked diced chicken and set aside.

Mix the creme fraiche and remaining grated cheddar in a small saucepan, and heat gently, stirring regularly until the creme fraiche has thinned and the cheese is almost all melted, then season with salt & pepper

Take your pancakes and lay a slice of ham on each. Spread an eighth of the leek mixture in a line down the centre of the pancake, then roll the pancake in a cigar shape around the filling. Place each rolled pancake into an ovenproof dish in which they will fit quite snugly, then pour over the creme fraiche mixture. Grind over some black pepper and scatter with parmesan. Bake for 30 minutes until golden on top and bubbling underneath. Serve with crusty bread (the ‘crusty’ is important as this dish is all soft and tender – you need some crunch!) and a green salad to cut the richness.