“EAT YOURSELF HAPPY” were the words I spied; emblazoned across the chests of three young girls working at a fast-food joint in the food hall. I find the mall an averagely soul-destroying experience at the best of times - this just added to my sense of dreariness.
Don’t worry; I’m not about to arrange an online petition. I just think it’s a bit rubbish. I’m curious - why would anyone think it’s a great marketing strategy to convince the nation that, if only we just ate more, we could be happy?
If pushed, I wouldn’t disagree that eating delicious food might cause a temporary spike in happiness, that’s obvious (in my case, it’s more likely to result in a decrease in 'hangryness,' but let’s not split hairs.) The issue is, I’m not sure if I’ve ever eaten myself happy. If I did eat myself happy, I’d bet it'd be fleeting at best, and then what? Guilt, usually, cramps if I’ve gone overboard.
It gets you to thinking though. If I was forced at gunpoint to eat myself happy, what would I choose? Lemon meringue pie would do it. I reckon I’d get a good 20-30 minutes of happiness out of that bad boy, but then I’d have to bake, and we’ve been through this; baking is my kryptonite.
A home-made chicken, leek and mushroom pie? Now, there's a winner. It’d have to have pastry on top and bottom, or it’s just another one of life’s disappointments. What if I made them as mini flans or muffin pans? They’d be so cute and irresistible that my kids would get all chipper, and my other half would laugh himself silly about how many he could eat in one sitting.
Would we have eaten ourselves happy? The allure’s too much; I’m going to have to try. Let’s face it, I’ve got little more to lose than eating myself sad, and that’s no way for anyone to live.
Mini Chicken, Leek and Mushroom Pies
25g butter plus extra for greasing
1 tsp olive oil
1 leek finely diced (white and very light green part only)
1 garlic clove, crushed
350g mushrooms, finely sliced
2 cooked chicken breasts, shredded
1 small handful parsley finely chopped
100ml single cream
375g ready-rolled shortcrust pastry
1 egg, beaten
a little plain flour, for dusting
salt and pepper, for seasoning
Heat the butter and oil in a frying pan.
Add the leek and fry until soft.
Stir in the garlic and mushrooms, season with salt and cook for 5 mins until the mushrooms are soft.
Add the shredded chicken, then stir in the parsley and cream. Remove from the heat and allow to cool
Heat oven to 180C.
Grease a 6-hole muffin tin (or flan tins if you prefer) with butter, then line each hole with a long thin strip of baking parchment. Lay the pastry on a lightly floured surface and stamp out 6 x 10 cm circles, and line each recess.
Roll out the remaining pastry (you may need to re-roll trimmings) and stamp out 6 x 8cm circles.
Divide the filling between the pies. Brush the pastry edges with a little egg, top each with a pastry lid and carefully press the pastry edges together to seal.
Brush with the remaining egg and bake for 25-30 mins until golden.
Allow cooling time in the tin before serving.
Note: If you prefer a crusty pastry on the bottom and top, blind bake the casing first, follow these excellent instructions from thekitchn.com
Line the unbaked pie crust with parchment or aluminium foil and weight it down with something so that the bottom doesn’t puff and the sides don’t slouch. You can find special pie weights for this job, but you can also just use dry beans (about 1 1/2 pounds) or even the pennies from that jar you’ve been saving.
Once the crust is set — and you’ll know this because the edges will turn golden — you remove the weights and let the crust cook a little longer on its own. For a partially baked crust, you want the bottom to look dry and flaky, but still pale. For a fully baked crust, look for the bottom to turn light golden. The whole process won’t take more than 15 or 20 minutes.