When food becomes essential to my story I know it’s time to write again.
On the way to my very last lecture at university, I could tell anxiety was getting the better of me. As I approached the campus reluctantly on Day 2 of my period [unfortunate addition to my miserable mood] I told myself to make the most of these next two hours because I might never be a student again. I was late [as always] and decided to climb up to the top of the building where the lecture was held. The sad truth is; my lack of fitness resulted in a very sweaty, tomato-faced, anxious and hormonal [sort-of] victory, finally reaching the tiny cramped room and instantly finding myself in a very intense state of panic.
The thing is, when it comes to anxiety, it’s pretty hard to fool. I sat in my seat with the sun burning my neck, fidgeting and struggling to focus on anything. All I could think of was running for the door – convincing myself to stay and get through it was not quite working this time. After 15 minutes of a conscious struggle, I lift myself up and walk out clumsily, shaky legs and sweaty hands, and a sense of pure defeat and embarrassment.
Though I’m not a big fan of my anxiety, I’ve been trying to learn to understand it and be a little more compassionate. Allowing myself to cry, I decided to take it in my stride and enjoy the rest of the day – by cooking something new. There is something very soothing about the process of cooking; it requires following simple steps which have the power to silence my inner monologue; and in the end, I end up with a plate of comfort and a sense of achievement.
I went for a creamy, cheesy quorn chicken and mushroom pie. Sharing it with my veggie flatmate over some white wine and revision allowed me to take my biggest weakness and make it into something delicious. It’s nothing huge and I haven’t changed the world. I did however, by not allowing for anxiety to take over my day, change my own perspective on what happened, and in a way made this day a memorable one.
Almost a week later, with the exam period having started, I found myself walking to the exact same room. It so happens that my anxiety remembers places and makes them look and seem scary and frightening; yet this time, it almost felt like an opportunity to redeem myself. I entered, with a shaky voice and a put-on confidence, I took my exam and felt like my own personal heroine. And though I had no clue that my exam would be taking place in that very same seminar room, I planned to make that same pie in the evening as a reward for my first week of exams being done.
Although the symbolism is very minor, to me it means a lot. Tucking into the crisp pastry and the creamy filling last week was a source of solace, yet this time round, it gave me a sense of accomplishment. Who knew pies make such good therapists?
Quorn Chicken and Mushroom Pie
Quorn Chicken Fillets (around 4/5 of them) or Chicken Pieces
250 ml Double Cream
one chopped onion
two cloves of garlic
half a cube of vegetable stock
some white wine (optional)
Set your oven to 200 degrees Celsius. Line a small (mine is round) dish with some butter and set aside.
Chop everything up (I like my onion very fine). Put a small knob of butter in a pan along with onions and garlic. Allow them to sweat for a few minutes and then add your mushrooms. Plenty of pepper.
Add your quorn and let it all fry together for around 3 minutes. Add salt and crumble your vegetable stock cube in. Add around a 100 ml of water and let it reduce. An optional step is to add a little bit of wine and let that cook off.
Next, add your cream. Let it reduce slightly and then add the cheddar. Taste your filling and add more cream/cheddar/salt accordingly.
Once ready, put the filling in your dish and get the pastry out. I tend to buy the ones that are already rolled out – grabbing a plate or a dish that’s a similar size, I put it on top of the pastry and draw a circle around it.
This goes on top of your filling – tuck it in gently on around the edges. Cover with egg wash and pop in the oven for 25-30 minutes.
What I like to do is carving out little hearts or leaves from the left over pastry, putting them in the fridge and once the pie is looking golden I pop them on the top (take it out first!) with a bit of egg wash for that rustic Masterchef je ne sais quoi.
Once that’s done, you’re ready to go. Serve on its own or with a creamy potato and parsnip mash.