Flavours of Home

I love San Francisco.  It is the place that I feel most at home.  Surprising, considering I am a straight, non-pot smoking, somewhat old-fashioned British girl.  I adore the people, the topography, the closeness to water, the restaurants & bars, the Golden Gate Bridge and the Giants.  The weather leaves a little to be desired at times… But although I may have left my heart in San Francisco, it was born in England. 

The hardest thing about being 5,500 miles away from home, is missing out.  On birthdays, on housewarmings, on engagement parties, and on Sundays when I should be at home, crowded round the dining room table with my Mum and sisters demolishing a big, fat, roast dinner.  Now that I am at an age where most of my friends are starting to settle down; buy houses, get engaged, married, and pop out kids; I’m finding that I am missing out on things even more often these days.

When I am having a rough day, and missing home a lot, I like to cook something that takes me back to being a kid in England.  One of my favourite dishes to achieve this actually isn’t something my Mother, or Grandmother cooks, but something my best friend, JEB’s Mum makes.  I remember her making huge quantities of it – JEB has 3 siblings – then freezing the leftovers for us defrost after partying all night (yeah, we did that at 14 in England).  It has since become the dish that JEB cooks for me when I go home to visit her, her husband and her two beautiful children. 

So tonight, I am thinking of home, and all the wonderful people there, that I miss everyday, and sharing with you one of my favourite comfort foods….

Chicken & Broccoli Pie

WARNING: this is not the healthiest dish I have ever made, but it’s definitely one of the most satisfying!

Serves: as much as I would like to eat the entire dish, this serves 3 big portions
Prep time: 15 minutes
Cook time: 20 minutes

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 large chicken breasts
  • 1 crown of broccoli
  • 1 tin of sweetcorn
  • 3 large potatoes
  • 3 tbsp butter
  • 1 heaped tbsp flour
  • 1 1/2 cups of milk
  • 1 1/2 cups of cream
  • 2 cups grated cheddar cheese
  • salt & pepper

METHOD

  • Peel and chop the potatoes and place in salted boiling water.  Cook until soft – about 10 minutes.
  • While the potatoes are boiling, cook the chicken however you choose – I either bake in the oven, or poach in chicken stock, depending on my mood.  Tonight I poached the chicken for about 10 minutes until cooked through, cut into bite-sized chunks and set aside.
  • Place the broccoli in the leftover poaching liquid and cook for 2 – 3 minutes.  Drain.
  • Compile the chicken, broccoli and sweetcorn in a medium-sized deep dish.
  • Mash the potatoes using one tbsp of butter and 1/2 cup of cream.  Season to your taste.
  • Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees F.
  • Melt 2 , butter in a saucepan and stir in flour to make a roux. Pour in a quarter cup of milk, stir until it thickens and then add another 1/4 cup.  Keep doing this with the milk, and then the cream until it is all used up and you have a nice, thick white sauce.  Season and add in 1 cup of cheese.  Stir until it has melted.
  • Now, assemble the pie by mixing the white sauce in with the chicken, broccoli and sweetcorn.  Spoon mashed potato on top and spread until it’s an even layer. 
  • Sprinkle the rest of the cheese on top and place in the oven until the top starts to turn golden brown – about 15 minutes.

Tonight, I was too hungry to wait for the top to turn golden brown, so I just left it in the oven long enough for the cheese to melt.  I don’t know if JEB would make this exactly the same way, but this is my rendition (I know we definitely agree on the cream part!)

Trust me… if you need a bit of comfort food, to get over a bad day at work, a crappy commute, a fight with your other half, or just because you wish you could be somewhere else, this is your dish!  Ideally enjoy with a large glass (or two) or your favourite wine.  Tonight I polished off half a bottle (ok, ok, a whole bottle) of Stemmari Pinot Noir – delicious!

Love you JEB!

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