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Today, I had planned to show you some dainty scones I made the other day. Cream scones, cut into neat little right triangles, with raspberries and chocolate in them. Neatly arranged on a blue china plate, served with tea.

Instead, I’m going to show you this yellow muck.

(Don’t worry, scones tomorrow.)

Why? Because this yellow muck was so, so delicious — one of the best things I’ve made in this kitchen, in my opinion — and it wasn’t planned. Inspired by this article as well as the author’s book, which I’ve started reading this week, I decided to just take whatever I had in the kitchen and make something out of it.

There are two good reasons why you aren’t getting a photo of the ingredients in this post. For one, I kept finding new things to add to this quasi-curry, and I would have had to rephotograph the ingredients five times to include everything. But the real reason is that, well, it wasn’t pretty. Wilting, almost dead spinach, squishy zucchini, bruised tomato.

I think food people, and bloggers especially, have a tendency to be precious about their food. And of course there is something to be said about, for example, the first perfect strawberries of summer or beautiful edible flowers (and if you’re into that kind of stuff, as I am, you should follow farmert on Instagram). But using the random flotsam and jetsam of the fridge and pantry, combining them in a way that makes the sum taste infinitely better than its parts — that’s a magic trick. That’s waving a stick (or a spatula) at a lump of dirt and turning it into a jewel.

That’s not to say that recipes don’t have their place. Believe me, I loves me a good recipe, and when you’re first learning to cook, they’re essential for teaching you techniques that you’ll be able to riff on later in your culinary life.

So, you’ll get a real recipe, with measurements and everything at the end of this post, but this dish didn’t come together in the neat manner that the recipe suggests. Here’s what really happened:

I should make something for dinner tonight. It’s silly that we eat so much take-out pizza and Chinese food.

There’s that chicken that’s been hanging out in the fridge. Oh, and that wrinkly zucchini. I could probably sauté that with something. Do I have onions? Yes, good.

(Looking in crisper drawer) Oh, there’s that bag of spinach. Why do I always buy the biggest bag of spinach? And the leftover chickpeas from that hummus. Oooh, maybe curry? With veggies and chicken? Awesome.

(After sautéing everything together) Well that doesn’t look like curry at all. I need a binding sauce-type thing. Maybe yogurt? (Look in fridge, no yogurt) Uh, okay, a roux with some milk, I guess? Béchamel with curry, heh.

(Post-béchamel, when everything was tasting pretty good, looking in fruit bowl) Uh, that tomato isn’t going to be any good by tomorrow. Better use it now.

(After eating several slices of baguette topped with the curry concoction for lunch) Oops, that’s not dinner. (Finding pâte brisée in fridge) Aha! Hand pies!

So there you have it. The entire haphazard creation of a recipe, from “hmmm, must eat at some point” to a hot, hearty dinner. Spend some time tinkering around in the kitchen this week. Maybe brush up on some of your basic cooking techniques. See if you can make some magic.

Curry Chicken Hand Pies

2 tablespoons olive oil
2 small onions or 1 large onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 large zucchini, diced
8 ounces chicken, shredded or diced
2 handfuls of spinach, washed, dried, and roughly chopped
1 medium tomato, diced
2 tablespoons butter
2 tbsp butter
1/3 cup milk
3 tsp yellow curry powder
1/2 tsp paprika
salt and pepper to taste
8 ounce package pâte brisée (or pie dough)
1 egg
1 tbsp cream

Makes four hand pies.

In a very large sauté pan over low heat, sweat the onions with the olive oil and a pinch of salt until translucent, about 5 minutes. Raise the heat to medium and add the garlic, zucchini, and chicken. Cook until heated through, then add the spinach and tomato, heat and stir for 1 to 2 minutes, or until the spinach wilts.

Push everything to the outskirts of the pan. In the center of the pan, melt the butter and stir in the flour. Cook the roux for a few minutes, until it starts to give off a nutty smell and the color changes to a light tan. Add the milk and quickly stir it with the roux, making a sauce. Add the curry and paprika, then stir everything together. Taste and adjust for seasoning. You could just stop here and eat it as-is, perhaps on a piece of toast or on some rice… or cool for twenty minutes to make into hand pies.

Heat your oven to 400°F. Cut your pie dough into four equal pieces. Beat the egg with the cream and brush over the entire surface of the pie dough.

Spoon about a 1/2 a cup or so of the curry mixture onto each quadrant of dough, leaving a 1 cm edge all around. Fold each piece of dough over, either into a triangle or rectangular shape, and seal the edges by crimping with the tines of a fork. Transfer the pies to a baking sheet, poke them all over with the fork, then brush the tops with the egg wash.

Bake at 400°F for about 20 minutes, or until golden brown all over.

Music to cook by: Important [Maps & Atlases // Beware and Be Grateful]

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