Sunday, 14 November 2010

DECONSTRUCTED CHICKEN & MUSHROOM PIE

As regular readers of this blog will know, I am not overly keen on fussy or 'cheffy' food. Thus, I surprised myself when I decided to make a recipe which featured on the recent TV series 'Masterchef: the Professionals' (a sort of culinary 'The Apprentice' - and judge Michel Roux Jr bears more than a passing resemblance to Alan Sugar!). It worried me, watching 'Masterchef' the other week, as two contestants were told they were not going through to the next round. Witness their faces, crumbling in disappointment. If I were the makers of the programme, I would hide the knives and meat cleavers....

I am rather fond of pies, individual or communal, though will avoid like the plague anything with the words "Nursery"  in the title, for example "Nursery Fish Pie" or "Nursery Chicken Pie", which just scream "BLAND!!!" at me. And Grown Ups should not be eating nursery food anyway (it's like reading Harry Potter books, in my view: they're for kids, you know). Done well, a good pie can be robust and flavourful. I love discovering what lies beneath the pastry top, the way the steam rises off the filling as the top is broken, the bubbling filling beneath.

This recipe is by one of the finalists from this year's Masterchef. It uses the classic ingredients of a traditional chicken and mushroom pie, but is given a witty twist in its "deconstruction", making it a more elegant arrangement, and perfect for a dinner party. Reading the recipe in bed yesterday morning, I was worried it would be fiddly and time-consuming to make, but in fact it is not complicated. I deconstructed the recipe (memorising it for the next time I make it), and soon realised that the constituents of the pies could be made, and assembled, in advance. I hate food which requires me to faff about in the kitchen when my guests arrive. I would far rather be enjoying champagne and conversation with friends than tending to dinner.

This is one of those dishes that requires a degree of multi-tasking, something which, as we all know, women do extremely well. After I'd made an early morning dash to Waitrose to buy the ingredients (and Other Half insisted that the finest, most authentic and, above all, correct ingredients be purchased - "otherwise there's no point doing it!" Eh? - including a rather pricey bottle of Madeira and two bottles of very nice Villa Maria Gisburne Chardonnay-Viognier to drink with the pies, I whizzed home and had the oven heated up in readiness by 9.45am. By 11.00am, everything was made - amazingly. I had deconstructed the chicken, as required, and after re-constructing the pies, including "personalising" the puff-pastry discs with the guests' initials, I tidied up the kitchen, loaded the dishwasher and turned my attention to pudding, Flourless Chocolate Brownies, which I made on Thursday (because Nigella assured me they would benefit from being made in advance). They just needed a light dusting of icing sugar and cocoa. Thus, I spent a leisurely afternoon reading the papers, doing a little piano practise and getting changed for the evening's event.

A friend brought the canapes, but I did make my cheese crisps to have with the champagne. "Game on!" declared the same friend, when I texted her to warn her that she might be fighting over the cheese crisps with another guest, who also adores them.

The pies were assembled and brought to the table, the initials on their lids serving as place-settings for my guests. This little quirk went down very well: Nick removed the 'N' from his pie, placed it on the side of his plate and declared "it was too nice to eat!".

Trouble is, now I have done one Masterchef supper, my regular dinner guests will be expecting more of the same - I just hope I can pull off another one!

Rather than type out the recipe, follow the link below. And enjoy browsing other recipes from 'Masterchef: the Professionals'.

Deconstructed Chicken and Mushroom Pie

Don't be put off by the long list of ingredients, nor the direction that this can take 30mins to an hour to prepare. It's easier than it first appears, and it's very satisfying to produce something which looks stunning on the plate.

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