Considering Miss F’s love of dairy food, it seems likely that my family must be able to trace our heritage back to Egyptian times, when Cleopatra is said to have bathed in milk. Given the choice, I’m sure my daughter would do the same. Milk, cheese, yoghurt, ice-cream. It’s all good to her and any meal that uses it liberally is down the hatch in a jiffy. Like this cheesy chicken pie, that languishes in white sauce all soaked up by a cheesy bread topping that makes those lactose intolerant amongst us shudder.
Although, on closer inspection the whole Cleopatra story is less glamorous when you realise that she actually bathed in sour donkey’s milk (supplied by 700 asses). Apparently the fermented lactose is great for skin, if not for your personal smell. Wikipedia quotes well-known Ancient Roman beauty editor, Pliny, “It is generally believed that ass milk effaces wrinkles in the face, renders the skin more delicate, and preserves its whiteness.”
Botox suddenly isn’t looking so bad.
Cheesy chicken pie
And yes, you can substitute lactose free dairy products in here, but I wouldn’t recommend soy, rice or almond substitutes.
4 slices of bread (to make 2 cups fresh breadcrumbs)
1 cup grated cheese (about 125g)
1 tbsp olive oil
500g chicken breast, diced
1 leek, white part only, diced
1 small red onion, finely diced
1 cup very finely chopped cauliflower
4 medium mushrooms, very finely chopped
Large handful green beans, ends removed, finely sliced
2 tbsp fresh herbs (parsley, chives, rosemary, thyme) optional
Salt & pepper
3 tbsp plain flour
2 cups milk
You will need a small-medium sized oven dish for this recipe.
Preheat the oven to 180C.
Use a small or large food processor to chop up your bread into breadcrumbs. Tip them into a mixing bowl and combine in the cheese. Set aside.
Add olive oil to a large saucepan over medium/high heat. When hot, add in the chicken and stir for several minutes until there are no more pink sides and the chicken is mostly cooked through (it does cook more later in the oven). Remove and set aside.
Reheat the pan, add a bit more oil if need be and tip in the leek, onion and cauliflower. Cook for 6-7 minutes, stirring often until everything is softening down. Add in the mushrooms, beans & herbs (if using). Season and cook for another couple of minutes, stirring just enough that nothing burns. Remove and set this mixture aside also.
Tip your milk into a jug. The milk needs to be quite warm, so I microwave the milk in my glass jug for about 1 1/2 minutes on high. Pop it next to the stove.
Return the pan to the heat. Melt the butter. Scatter in the flour and use a wooden spoon to stir for a minute until the flour has cooked off and smells nice. Patience is worthwhile now – take a minute or so to slowly drizzle in the whole amount of milk, stirring constantly. The mix with thicken up into a paste, then loosen back up into a luscious sauce. Stir briskly the entire time (it’s good exercise for your tuck shop lady arms.)
Tip your chicken and vegies back into the pot and mix everything through. Cook for another minute or so. Pour the entire lot into your oven proof dish. Evenly scatter over your breadcrumb/cheese mix and pop into the oven. Bake for 30 minutes or so until it is bubbling and golden.
Serves 2 adults and 2-3 small kids.
Adults might like this served with a crisp garden salad and some sourdough bread.