Recipe: Chicken, bacon & tarragon pie

So this is what happens when International Pi day and Mothers day fall on the same weekend.

As it was mothers day, we had to cook something, and with my twitter feed largely be filled with Pi/Pie related content it seemed like this was the inevitable outcome.

I was originally planning on making a beef and mushroom pie - which would have probably ended up just more-or-less being the same as my slow cooked beef casserole recipe as a pie filling. However, this time, time did not permit so I switched to a faster cooking chicken option.  Most of this recipe is just random connections - I know chicken and leek pies are a thing, and my wife has made some nice chicken and tarragon soup before. And then bacon. Doesn't bacon go well with most things?  (as it turns out the bacon provides a nice smokey savoury taste that compliments the tarragon nicely)


  • 500 grams diced chicken
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 2 leeks, chopped
  • 4 rashers smoked bacon, diced
  • 500 ml chicken stock
  • 170 ml double cream (well, 100-200ml, the tub i bought was 170ml)
  • 3-4 sprigs of tarragon
  • Puff pastry (how ever much you need for the pie dish!) - bought or make your own.


You can pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees  (fan oven) if you want, but ideally you will want to cool the fillings before putting in the pie - so if you are doing the filling in advance, don't bother pre-heating now!)
  1. Melt the butter in a pan and then add the leeks and cook until soft

  2. Add the chicken and seal the meat

  3. Add the bacon and cook for a minute or two - it needn't be long

  4. Add the chicken stock and bring to a simmer

  5. Add the double cream, stir through

  6. Finely chop the tarragon and add to the filling, stir through

  7. Reduce the sauce on a medium heat until it's reduced by about half - it should be fairly thick, so it's not too runny in the pie

  8. Line pie dish with pastry

  9. Leave the fillings to cool, then spoon into pie dish and cover the pie with more pastry

  10. Cook in the oven for around 30minutes at about 180 degrees (the filling is cooked, si we are just cooking the pastry, so just keep an eye on it and make sure the pastry is browning ok, and not burning etc

I served with cheesey mash.
rob hinds Shambolically fumbling my way around the kitchen

Recipe: Slow cooked smokey chilli

My parents came to visit again this last weekend, which once again provided the opportunity/necessity to cook something nice, whilst not spending too much time locked away in the kitchen. So no surprises, I once again turned to slow cooking with my trusty casserole dish.

The weekend before, The Guardian had featured in their food pullout a piece on the top 10 chili recipes - as it happens they were almost all non chili-con-carne recipes, and mostly jams and stuff. Anyhow, it put chili in my head, so eventually the subliminal messaging came out when I cooked.

I made chili-con-carne lots of times whilst I was a student, and younger, but it was never much to it - some mince beef, chili powder, cumin and tomatoes - quick, cheap and easy.  But this time I decided that there are probably a lot more satisfying chili's to be had.  As always, I wanted it to be rich, but I also decided I wanted a really smokey flavor, invoking images of slow cooked chili on damp fire coals.  So I set about reading.  I had an idea for some things that could go in (chili powder, cumin, cayenne pepper, oregano) but decided to do some research, and ended up whittling away quite some time reading lots of them, noting the bits that I liked or thought might work - as you might expect, recipes for great chili are quite divided! Pork or beef or both? mince or steaks? tomatoes or not?  I was originally planning on using liquid smoke to provide the smokey flavour, but didn't get a chance to pick any up, so have used smoked paprika instead.

Anyway, from my scribbled notes, and what I then didn't forget to buy from the supermarket, here is the recipe..


Serves about 4-5 people 

  • 1 medium onion chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic chopped/minced
  • 400g mince pork
  • 400g mince beef
  • 1 tablespoon tomato puree
  • 2 400g tins of tomatoes
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon oregano
  • 2 teaspoons smoked paprika
  • 3 tablespoons chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional - and adjust to taste)
  • 1 large red Romano pepper
  • a knob of butter


Preheat fan oven to about 130 degrees
  1. Chop the onions, throw them in the casserole dish with the butter and cook over a gentle heat until translucent and soft

  2. Throw in the garlic and cook for a few more minutes

  3. Add the pork and beef - continue to cook until browned

  4. Stir in the tomato puree - cook for a further few minutes

  5. Mix in the sugar and herbs/spices

  6. Mix in the tinned tomatoes and the chopped red pepper

  7. Fill up one of the empty tomato tins with cold water and mix that in

  8. Cover and stick in the oven - cook for anything from 2-6 hours!(this can be adjusted to your schedule)  Stirring occasionally - if it gets too thick then add a bit more cold water, if it isn't reducing fast enough then turn up the oven (slow cooking is very forgiving - nothing happens too fast and its unlikely this will get over cooked)

I served with lime-cilantro rice (rice with fresh lime and chopped corriander) and easily went to 5 people.
rob hinds Shambolically fumbling my way around the kitchen

Recipe: Shop bought tomato & basil pasta sauce

So a few weeks ago, my wife came back from our new local Waitrose (a supermarket) with a tub of fancy organic tomato and basil pasta sauce.  We don't normally eat fancy tomato sauces, but having watched Eat Well for Less on TV that week and seen a bit they did on how much sugar was in brand-name pasta sauces she decided to buy something fancy and organic.

The sauce was nice. Simple, as you might expect, but expensive (also as you might expect) - at £3.50 a tub (which fed my Wife and I, plus a child size bowl of pasta for elder son) it seems pretty nuts to me.

Anyway, having heard the price, and then having read the ingredients (tomato, garlic, onion, butter) I decided to reverse engineer it. I have made lots of tomato sauces, but usually just basic tomato/vinegar/sugar type things - normally something to compliment other meals (in a lasagne for example) which is usually fine, but they don't really provide the same shop bought taste (not that this is a bad thing - but pasta sauces from a jar are never just tomato, they have a lot of other crap going on).

So yesterday afternoon whilst I was making pizza with my eldest son (following on from our welsh cakes) I had to make a tomato sauce for the base so decided to have a first pop at this sauce.  It was a few weeks since we have had the fancy-organic sauce, so honestly can't remember what that tasted like - but this sauces tastes good, and my wife agreed that it definitely tastes reminiscent of a fancy branded pasta sauce (in a good way) - plus there is no crap in it!


  • half an onion, fairly finely chopped
  • a clove of garlic, finely chopped (or crushed)
  • a carrot, peeled and finely chopped
  • 100 grams of butter (I guess - this was by eye - but a chunk to cook the veg, then a chunk at then end - you could prob go with two decent sized tablespoons)
  • Tomatoes - I used 680 ml plain passata, but that was because we had that and no tinned tomatoes, if we had tinned I would have used those. You could probably use a 400 gram tin of chopped tomatoes and not adjust the other components and get pretty similar results to be honest.
  • tablespoon tomato puree
  • handful of fresh basil leaves, chopped


  1. Melt half the butter in a saucepan
  2. Add the chopped onions, and cook on a medium heat until soft and slightly translucent
  3. Add the chopped garlic and cook for another minute or so
  4. Add the chopped carrots, and cook until soft - you can take you time with this
  5. Add the tablespoon of tomato purée and stir through - cook for another 2-3 minutes
  6. Add the tomato passata and cook for 10 minutes or so. Don't reduce it so much that it gets thick, you want it still fairly liquid at this point (we will blend it later, so it needs to support the blended solids from the veg) - if it is getting thick just stir in some cold water whilst cooking
  7. Transfer the sauce to a liquidiser/blender and blend until smooth (and, well, the consistency of a shop bough sauce)
  8. Add the second half of the butter - buzz it again in the blender to mix that through - this will bind the sauce and give it a richer, glossier finish
  9. Add the chopped basil - If finely chopped you could leave it at that, but I blended it again to finish off.
  10. Serve with pasta, like you would your favourite tomato & basil shop bought sauce.

rob hinds Shambolically fumbling my way around the kitchen

Recipe: St David's Day Welsh cakes

As it is St David's day today, and as the Welsh rugby team were playing yesterday (they won!) I decided making Welsh cakes would be a fitting activity for me an elder son to do.

I had never actually made Welsh Cakes before, so I googled, and the top result was this BBC article so decided to go with that, with some alterations, as always, based on what we had in the cupboards/could be bothered to buy.

It's a good recipe to do with children, as its really just measure out the dry ingredients, then rub in the butter, then roll and cut out - all of which can be done with pretty much any age children (elder son is 3 1/2 and he helped with all steps).


  • 225 grams plain flour
  • 85 grams caster sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon grated nutmeg (this and the cinnamon was in absence of all spice, where as we had these, so i just jammed these in)
  • 110 grams unsalted butter
  • 40 grams raisins
  • 40 grams choc chunks
  • 1 large egg


Lightly grease a heavy base pan
  1. Chop the butter up into small-ish cubes

  2. Weigh out dry ingredients and rub in butter

  3. Add raisins and choc chunks

  4. Add the egg and combine until you have a smooth dough

  5. Flour a surface and roll out the dough so about 1 cm thick

  6. Cut the welsh cakes to whatever shape you want (as you can see, we had hearts, stars, circles and gingerbread-men shapes)

  7. Cook them in batches on the pan, roughly 3-5 minutes each side (until lightly browned)

  8. Take them off the heat, sprinkle with caster sugar and eat whilst still warm

  9. Watch Wales win in the Rugby
rob hinds Shambolically fumbling my way around the kitchen