PULITZER PIES: CHICKEN, BACON AND MUSHROOM PIE

Dear Amelia,
I know.
Another Chocolate Malteser Cake.
But in my defence:
1. You LOVED it.
2. It seemed fitting that your second birthday should be celebrated with the same cake I baked for your Great Grandma’s 80th.
3 (and more to the point). I paid $10 for the Horlicks malted milk powder that was listed in the recipe and, according to the stamp on the bottom of the Horlicks tin, I’ve only got until August 2013 to use up the absolute shitload that’s left.
Luckily for you, every cloud has a silver lining.
As in, whatever is left in the tin by the time your third birthday rolls around will have already gone to Horlicks Heaven.
So Nanna will be forced to make something different.
Something like this maybe (we’d have to change your name to Jayden but I think it would be worth it).

Picture source here

It was a lovely birthday weekend – lots of kisses, lots of cuddles and lots of games (my favourite being the running-in-circles one called “round and round and round and round and round and round and JUMP” – if only all of life was that simple).
And even though it says in “Advice After Abdominal Surgery” that you shouldn’t pick up anything heavier than a kettle of water, Nanna decided to live on the edge and managed to pick you up a dozen times without anything nasty exploding out of her belly button.
Speaking of which, after you’d gone to bed and we’d eaten our body weight in cake, your Mum, Dad, Grandpa and I settled down to watch TV and it was at this point that your Mum started to shout, “Ooh, ooh, ooh.”
At first we thought her vital signs were shutting down due to Malteser overload but it turned out she’d come across one of her favourite programmes and was very excited.


This programme is called Embarrassing Bodies and it is truly wonderful.
Three minutes in and I was like iron filings to a magnet.
I can’t believe I’ve never seen it before – in the OMG stakes it knocks Bethenny and the Real Housewives (except maybe for crazy-eyes Ramona) into a cocked hat.
Here’s what happens: a bunch of doctors get in a van and drive around England looking for people who have things wrong with them that are so embarrassing, they can’t discuss them with anybody else.
For example, there was this lady who wouldn’t take her clothes off in front of a bloke on account her unfortunate hoo hoo (as they say in the classics).
So she took all her clothes off IN FRONT OF THE TV CAMERA and sure enough her labia were practically grazing her knees and now every bloke in England, Scotland, Ireland, Wales, Australia and, for all I know, Ecuador and the Democratic Republic of Congo, knows about it.
When I say “every bloke” I actually mean every bloke except for your Dad, who suddenly became engrossed in his iPhone, and your Grandpa, who said, “I’m not watching this crap,” and went to bed.
Not that your mother and I noticed for a while because by then we were captivated by an anal skin tag on another lady’s bottom.
Anyway, long story short, I had to make it up to your Grandpa with one of his favourite pies.
This pie is based on a recipe by my friend Margaret Johnson (restaurant consultant, food writer for The West Australian newspaper and all-round good sort) and it’s pretty yummy.

CHICKEN, BACON AND MUSHROOM PIE

Serves 4

1 sheet of frozen puff pastry, defrosted for 5-10 minutes
3-4 boneless, skinless chicken thighs (about 500g), diced
2 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, chopped
2 rashers bacon, cut into small pieces
12 button mushrooms, sliced
½ tsp dried thyme
½ cup white wine
small carton chicken stock OR 3 tsps Gravox gravy mix dissolved in a mug of boiling water (don’t tell anyone about the Gravox or all your cooking credibility will go down the gurgler)
salt and pepper

Heat the oil in a big frying pan over med-high heat, brown the diced chicken, then remove it to a casserole dish or saucepan.
Cook the onion, bacon and mushrooms in the frying pan until the onion and mushrooms have softened.
Put with the chicken in the casserole.
Pour over the wine and enough stock to just cover.
Add the thyme, season with salt and pepper and partly cover with a lid.
Bring to a simmer on a medium heat.
Turn the heat to low and cook for about 45 minutes.
Let the mixture cool then pour into a pie dish.
Cover with puff pastry, brush with beaten egg and poke a couple of holes in the top to let the steam escape.
Bake in a preheated 200C oven until puffed and golden brown (about 30 minutes).


BY THE TIME WE GOT TO WOODY WE WERE HALF A MILLION STRONG

Dear Amelia,
It’s the middle of the night and I’ve just got an email from my mate Martha Stewart telling me how to remember what colour my walls are.
“Never forget with this sneaky tip,” she writes.
“Write the paint name on a piece of tape and stick it inside a light-switch cover.”
You too could get an Organising Tip of the Day emailed to you by Martha.
All you have to do is have no life and visit her website and sign up.
Martha is tireless when it comes to her millions of fans, of which Nanna is one.
I was channelling Martha today because it’s your Great Grandma’s 80th birthday dinner on Sunday – a low-key affair, which is probably a good thing because Nanna is doing the food.
My day would have been a lot better if I’d got an Organising Tip of the Day from Martha saying, “Never forget to put the sugar in your mother’s 80th birthday cake or it will look like diarrhoea and you’ll have to make it all over again.”
But I didn’t and I did – as in, didn’t get the email, so had to make another cake.
On top of that, Carlton lost to the Gold Coast Suns.
Yes, the Gold Coast Suns. Shit, shit, shit. The shame.
Other things I have done this week: Went to Woodanilling with your Grandpa, who had to interview someone for a Science Network story.
I’ve never been to Woodanilling before and very pretty it is too.
If a bit on the small side.
There are approximately six things to photograph in Woodanilling.
I photographed five of them because it was pouring down and I got soaked and had to scurry back to the car before I could snap the Woodanilling Tavern which was gorgeous but doesn’t open until 4pm so there went my lunch plans down the toilet.
Here are the five things I snapped.


The post office.


The CWA hall.


The general store, which is now derelict (there were once FIVE general stores).


This lovely old church.


We went to Woodanilling (which is known as Woody to the locals) via Cranbrook, Tambellup, Broomehill and Katanning.
It took forever but was worth it because I hadn’t been through this part of the Great Southern for 30-odd years and had forgotten how lovely it was.
Speaking of lovely, here is a picture of your Grandpa doing star jumps in front of the Broomehill pub.


On the way to Woodanilling in the car, a bit of Crosby, Stills and Nash channelling started happening and I was singing, “By the time we got to Woody,” on a continuous loop in my head. It nearly drove me nuts.
We were gone for hours and hours and Ella wasn’t very impressed but at least she didn’t crap on the rug, which was a bonus seeing as how she’s 253 years old in dog years and no longer has any anal glands.
Nanna cooked a rack of lamb for dinner, which was delicious, and then was able to watch Bethenny Ever After because your Grandpa was buggered from all the driving and fell asleep in the chair.
Bethenny Ever After is a reality show that follows the life of Bethenny Frankel and her long-suffering husband, Jason, and her staff who help her run her business empire.


Bethenny is pretty, quick-witted, funny and a squillionaire. She’s also self-centred, whiny, self-indulgent, shallow and addicted to the limelight.
She’s appalling. Nanna loves her.
Unfortunately, your Grandpa doesn’t.
Nothing could redeem Bethenny in your Grandpa’s eyes, except for maybe ripping her tongue out with a pair of pliers.
He stomps his way down the passage shouting, “How can you watch this crap?”
Then he goes and sits in his little office, his TV tuned to the History Channel, and watches people die in German concentration camps.
What your Grandpa really does like is a juicy rack of lamb with a crumb crust.
Here’s the recipe.

PS: Want to know how many words of three letters or more you can make from the word Woodanilling? 105. At least that’s how many I got. Don’t you love long car journeys?

RACK OF LAMB WITH A CRUMB CRUST

Serves 2

1 rack of lamb (6-8 cutlets), frenched, with fat removed
olive oil
1 tsp mustard
1 slice bread
½ small clove garlic, crushed
½ tbsp finely chopped parsley

Put the slice of bread in a mini food processor or blender and process until you have crumbs.
Mix the crumbs with the garlic and parsley and a little olive oil to bind.
Set aside.
Preheat the oven to 200C.
Drizzle a little olive oil over the rack of lamb, put it in a baking dish and cook it for 20 minutes.
Spread the mustard over the top of the meat then press on the crumb crust.
Drizzle over a little more olive oil and cook for another 10 minutes, by which time the crumb crust should be golden-brown.
This makes pink, juicy lamb.
If you like it well done, cook for 25-30 minutes when you first put it in the oven.