Today, we’re nearly halfway through the Idiot Challenge for Idiot People. Set and voted upon by a group of university friends, the challenge forces us (the idiots) to work out in some way every day for the month of April. It’s less stupid, now, than it otherwise might have been – we’ve negotiated “lighter” exercise, like yoga, in, in an effort to give our bodies a little rest. Two weeks in, and a few people have dropped days, but thanks to a refusal to give in, most of us are going strong, despite aches and the necessity to wake up before the sun to squeeze things in. We’re all exercising more, and better, for it – I guess it’s the way we support each other. This is what I left university with: one degree, and several stubborn, idiot friends.
And then, sticky dancefloors and counting coins in the half-dark. Bubbles up my nose and a too-strong fruit taste. Half-carrying my friend’s dad back to his house after too many “mystery strength” Somerset varieties. These are my memories of most ciders.
It was university, of course, that did that too. May we never drink cider and black again.
Quite understandably, I shy away from cider a little these days, lest I get caught out by something overly sweet and too full of bubbles; still, when given the opportunity to try the new ciders from Aspall, I leapt at it because, well, I have faith in Aspall.
And Waddlegoose did not let me down.
Boasting a little sparkle, but not so much that it distracts from the actual flavour, it’s got a nice balance that’s satisfyingly apple-y without making you wince at the sweetness. It’s the sort of drink you can actually have more than one of without desperately needing something savoury afterwards – all we need now is sunshine and a blanket to go with it.
Naturally, I couldn’t have something this tasty in my kitchen and not cook with it, especially as apple pairs so well with oh-so-seasonal leek and cabbage. This chicken pie lends itself well to being made in the same week as the spring pasta, as they share a few ingredients.
Serves three, or two greedy people
1 clove of garlic, finely chopped
One chicken breast
Two leeks, chopped
1 spring green cabbage (approx. 100g), base chopped off, large veins removed, and sliced
1/2 cup cider
250g creme fraiche
1 tsp wholegrain mustard
Two sprigs of thyme
A handful of spinach (fresh or frozen)
250g puff pastry
1 medium egg, whisked
Salt and pepper, to taste
- Oil a biggish pan however you like it best – butter, oil, FryLight, whatever. Toss in the garlic and pop it over a medium heat.
- When the pan is good and hot, snip inch-ish chunks of chicken breast into it with a pair of scissors, using your other hand to hold the chicken over the pan.*
- Cook the chicken pieces on all sides, and as it starts to turn a little golden, add the leeks and half the spring cabbage. Allow to cook for about a minute before adding the cider, creme fraiche, mustard, and thyme. Add a little pepper, pop the lid on, turn the heat to a simmer, and leave it while you get on with the pastry. Preheat oven to 190C.
- On a floured surface, roll out the pastry to roughly the size of your pie dish. Spread the spinach over the bottom of the dish, while you’re there.
- When the leek and cabbage have softened, add the rest of the cabbage and stir to combine. Remove the thyme sprigs, season to taste, and transfer the mixture to the pie dish.
- Grate the Parmesan evenly over the pie, then top with the pastry. Trim close to the dish edge then tuck down, and brush with the egg wash. Make a little steam hole in the middle, or decorate with the spare pastry, if you fancy it.
- Bake on the middle shelf for about 25 minutes, or until the pastry is a deep golden brown.
Note: I tend to write ingredients as “[thing], chopped” because I much, much prefer to have everything ready to go, rather than keeping one eye on the pan and one eye on the knife in my hand.
- Ta daaah! One less bit of washing up than if you’d chopped it on a board.