The most challenging thing for me is to follow a recipe: I rarely do it, as most of the time I only improvise with what I have in the kitchen or what is given to me (thank you, nice people who stopped eating my food and started bringing their own). So imagine me standing in front of a cookbook, trying to understand how things work – some Chemistry labs have less complicated instructions, I swear!
But the good part is that the food was supposed to be ready in 30 minutes – yes, you’ve heard me right! Just 30 minutes for a multiple course meal and dessert! And enough food for four people. The student’s dream, right?
You may say I’m a dreamer and you are right: no real food is done in 30 minutes, trust me. There were eight of us chopping and doing all the preparatory work – OK, let’s be fair, eight people, some trying to do things while the others tried not to be in their way.
Things became rather complicated. Ok, let me start this over, in a more simple manner: My friends and I (eight people in total) decided to have a Friday night dinner, trying to make the food following one of Jamie’s 30 minutes recipe: Chicken Pie, French Style Peas, Sweet Carrot Smash and Dessert (supposedly Berries, Shortbread & Chantilly Cream).
The problems started when we decided (we, not just pretentious me!) that we didn’t want to buy rolled puff-pastry and we wanted to make our own. This single step took three hours, but if you can follow any googled recipe and not start a flour fight (please, don’t!), then you’ll be fine in 50-60 minutes. Also, don’t let a bunch of incapable students who’ve never stepped in the kitchen before attempt this part – the pastry might need to be remade. (No, not everything can be salvaged, unfortunately).
Mix the salt and flour. Add the butter, broken up into small pieces and mix all the ingredients together. The butter chunks should be sticky and should easily mix with the flour, but please DO NOT start throwing it at other people! Add just half the water and whisk everything together before adding some more. In the end, you should get a pretty solid piece of dough. Cover the bowl with cling film and let it rest in the fridge for 20 minutes. The last step: take out the pastry and roll it out, then wrap it (take the upper third and fold it to the centre. Do the same for the lower third and repeat this two to three times – the more times you repeat it, the puffier the pastry will be). Put the pastry back in the bowl, re-cover with cling film, and let it rest another 20 minutes in the fridge.
Easy-peasy, right? Almost as easy as going to a shop and picking a pre-made one from the tens of options. Which you can totally do, if you feel like baking is a bit out of your comfort zone or too much for uni life.
While waiting for the dough to chill, it’s finally the time to start taking care of all the nice things that wait for you on the counter! Finally! Before actually starting, you might want to preheat the oven (200-225 °C).
Slice the chicken breasts into strips. Add the strips, the butter and some olive oil to a large pan and cook. Meanwhile, slice the (spring) onions and the mushrooms. Add them into the pan with the mustard, one spoon of flour, cream fraiche and chicken stock. Stir and then leave to simmer until tender.
After the mixture is simmered, add it into a pan, slightly smaller than the pastry sheet. Cover the pan with the pastry sheet. Quickly beat the eggs and brush the pastry all over. Put it in the oven and let bake for 15 minutes, until golden.
Cook the carrots until tender (enough to be easily cut with a fork) in water with a pinch of salt. When tender, drain the water and smash them using a potato masher, food processor, or even a fork, as we did. Yes, you might need some brute force. While doing this, you might want to add a bit of olive oil.
Cut the lettuce as finely as possible. Put the chicken stock into a pot and add the mint leaves and the flour and whisk for a little while. When it boils, add the chopped lettuce and the peas. Season with salt, pepper and some lemon juice to taste. Let it slowly cook for 10-15 minutes (when the peas are soft enough).
The final conclusion: no, we were not capable of cooking the food in just 30 minutes and we ended up having a really late dinner, but the instructions were easy to follow so everything ended up being nice and simple and, more importantly, FUN. Yes, cooking is fun when done with friends, so what about you stop reading about it and go for it!
P.S. You might want someone else to clean the pots and dishes afterwards!