A few weeks ago, I wrote a recipe for roasted garlic and pumpkin pie. In the comments, a woman whose blog I really enjoy wrote that she would like to make the pie, once she’d converted the ingredients from grams to cups.
I’m not sure what happened to me then. I definitely felt excitement that a blogger I admired was commenting, I’m aware that my ego’s been feeling a little fragile recently with some meditative work I’ve been doing, and my attention had wandered that day from keeping me mindfully right sized. But whatever the reason, I responded with a lengthy and unasked for piece of advice about why she should never use cups in her baking because grams were so clearly superior.
I had evidence (I’m pretty practised at backing up inappropriate behaviour with all sorts of good scientific proof — just read my piece on fundamentalism), and was wily enough to riff off a small joke at my own expense at the end. Like that would somehow undo the damage I was causing with my words.
Even before I hit the ‘respond’ button I had a feeling that this action wasn’t okay, that I should pause in my doubt and take some time. But, in my distracted state, the voice that usually stays my hand wasn’t there and I clicked my potential for humility away.
I initially wrote this piece humorously, and invented a conversation with a friend to try to make me seem more amused by the whole scenario than I actually am. But the reality, if I’m not mindfully careful, is that I stew over situations like these, where I could have chosen to step on the side of good living but instead I tumble into who I don’t want to be. My thinking can rapidly transgress far beyond the story that’s actually happening and tell me I’m no good, unloveable, idiotic. Everything becomes additional evidence of my ineptitude to survive in contact with others, and therefore proof that I should avoid everyone forever.
Once upon a time, I would have welcomed these thoughts as some sort of therapeutic exercise. This one small, foolish act could have been the beginning of a self-absorbed self-loathing enterprise designed purely to think about myself more, while deludedly telling myself that it wasn’t self obsession if I was thinking about being in the wrong. That I was figuring it out so I can be perfectly behaved next time, and that it was necessary, even essential.
Now, after ten years of walking a kinder, less dishonest path, I fully recognise that any extended thinking with me playing a role is not only boring self obsession, it’s also incredibly dangerous for a mind like mine that, if I’m not paying enough attention, finds deep bogs of obsessive thinking to wallow in.
So, with trusted friends, I look at the part of my thinking that’s led me back into the labyrinth of unhelpful reasoning and try to separate out the delusions of what I think I see, from the reality of the situation.
And then, once I think I’ve seen the reality – in this case that I wasn’t having my best day and was trying to stroke my own ego with total disregard for someone else – I see what I can do about mending any harm I believe I’ve caused, whether they remember, or care about the harm.
In this way, I stay free from the snatching snares of self, and have a chance at living peacefully for one more day.
On this occasion I deleted the comment, then sent my fellow blogger a private apology by email. A day later she responded, very kindly, saying that she had no idea what I was talking about as she’d never read my comment… I laughed for quite a long time at the realisation that even once I’ve done the work to get right sized, reality can still be just a distant dream in my fantasy-filled mind.
In the same vein, I spent years avoiding making pastry as it seemed too complex, too challenging and just too much hard work. Finally, I willed myself into making a pie very similar to the one I’m sharing with you today — which I’ve adapted from The River Cottage Everyday Cookbook — and was blown away by the ease at which it came together and turned into delicious, old fashioned flakiness. In this recipe it’s coupled with a classic chicken and leek filling. Freezable and easy to reheat in the microwave if, like me, you like that sort of easy cooking. You can fill these with almost anything savoury or sweet though, as long as there isn’t too much liquid.
- 300g plain (all purpose) flour
- a pinch of sea salt
- 150g chilled unsalted butter, cut into small cubes
- water and ice, in a glass
- 30g butter
- 500g leeks (about 2-3 leeks), trimmed and finely sliced
- 1 tsp roughly chopped flat leaf parsley
- 150ml double (heavy) cream
- 1 tsp seeded mustard
- 400g chicken, cut into pieces
- 1 tbl sp olive oil
- salt & pepper for seasoning
- 1 egg, beaten
For the pastry
Mix the flour and salt together in a mixing bowl before adding the butter and tossing until the pieces are covered with flour
Add enough iced water to form the mixture into a fairly firm dough (between 8 and 10 tablespoons)
Shape the dough into a rectangle with your hands, dust a surface and a rolling pin with flour, then roll the pastry away from you until the rectangle’s about 1cm thick
Imagining that your pastry is divided into three, fold the far end of the third towards you to cover the middle third before folding the third closest to you over the top
You will now have a rectangle with three layers of equal size
Quarter turn the pastry and repeat the rolling, folding and turning process 5 more times
Wrap the pastry in cling film and rest in the fridge for at least ½ hour
For the filling
Melt the butter in a frying pan before adding the leeks and parsley
Cook gently for 5-10 minutes until the leeks are very tender
Stir in the cream and continue cooking gently for about 5 minutes, until the mixture has reduced and thickened
Stir in the seeded mustard, and some salt and pepper, before leaving to cool
Turn up to medium high heat, add the olive oil to the same pan and, once warmed, add the chicken
Cook for a few minutes until the chicken is nicely golden coloured
For the pie
Lightly flour a working surface before rolling out the pastry to 3mm thick
Use a plate or tin (I use a loose-bottomed cake tin) to cut out four 20cm circles, I need to re-roll for my fourth circle
Spoon the filling on one half of the pastry circles and pile on the chicken
Brush the edges with a little water before folding over the other half of the pastry
Crimp the edges to completely seal
Place some baking paper onto a baking tray and the pies onto the paper
Brush the egg over the tops of the pasties before baking for about 25 minutes, or until the pastry is golden brown
Eat hot or cold