Sorry, it’s been a while since I last posted. Time has not been my friend this week and speaking of weeks, this week is British Pie Week! Now my better half, BH, has a more than serious little pie addiction. In fact I still believe one of the reasons “we” chose to settle in the UK is how readily available pies are here. You’re smiling and saying she must surely be joking, but this is a man who spent an entire road trip in search of the perfect chicken pie.
It of course, had to be a chicken pie. The chicken pie is to savoury pies what the apple it to sweet, the pie standard if you will. The judging criteria were strict, that it had to be tasty went without saying. The pastry had to be fluffy and light. There had to be more filling than sauce and solid chunks of chicken rather than tiny shredded bits. Potatoes, peas and any other ingredients used to bulk up the filling were a strict no-no. The final factor was that it had to be awesome hot as well as cold. The winner, by the way was the Steam Whistle Stop Shop in Sedgefield. Below is my attempt, not to recreate the winning pie, but to meet all the criteria and kick its arse!
First rustle up some ingredients. In the interest of saving time at a later stage, I always make enough filling for two pies and freeze half.
- 1 kg of chicken, I use both thigh and breast meat (cut into chunks)
- 1 pkt of bacon (sliced)
- 1 punnet mushrooms (sliced)
- 1 onion (finely diced)
- 1 carrot (finely diced)
- 1 stalk of celery (finely diced)
- 1 leek (finely diced)
- 5-6 sprigs of thyme
- the juice and zest of 1 lemon
- 100 gms of flour
- 1 heaped tsp of paprika
- 1 heaped tsp of dried thyme
- 1 heaped tsp of salt
- 500 mls of chicken stock
- a glug of olive oil
- 150mls of white wine
- 1 sheet of puff pastry
First add a good glug of olive oil to a deap pan and fry the bacon until cooked, but not crisp. Set the bacon aside in a bowl and fry the mushrooms in the bacon fat. Put the cooked mushroom in the bowl with the bacon. Then add the salt, dried thyme and paprika to the flour and dredge the chicken chunks in it. For maximum shaking fun and minimum mess, I like to do this in a zip lock bag. Fry the chicken pieces, on a medium heat, in batches until GBD, that’s golden brown and delicious!
Set the chicken pie chunks aside in a separate bowl to the mushroom and bacon. Now look at your pan. The flour has left it looking crusty and impossible to clean, right? Don’t despair. This is what’s going to make the tastiest sauce ever. Lower the heat and add the wine to deglaze the pan. Stir until all those browned bits dissolve into the wine. Add the onion to the wine and let it soften for about 5 mins. Then add the rest of the aromatics, the leek, carrot and celery, cover the pan and cook for about 10 mins. Add the left-over dredging flour and slowly stir in the chicken stock, lemon juice and zest. Add the bacon, mushrooms and chicken back to the pan and allow to simmer for about ten minutes. Remove from the heat and allow the filling to cool.
While the filling is cooling, preheat the oven to 180°C and then cut the pastry sheet in half and roll out two circles. Line a greased, floured pie tin with one of the circles and, once the filling has cooled, fill the pie pan with half the filling. (Freeze the other half. )
Brush the pastry with egg wash and top the pie with the second circle of pastry. Crimp the edges, cut a few “breathing holes” into the pastry and brush the top pastry with egg. Use the left over pastry bits to cut out shapes to decorate the top of the pie and pop it into the oven for 40 mins.
So, how did my pie compare? Well thanks to the holy trinity of lemon, thyme and wine invoking memories of roast chicken, BH was impressed with the taste. Adding bacon helped with this criterion, because bacon makes EVERYTHING taste better. We scored well on chunks and the lack of bulking ingredients. I’d like to take credit for the fact that BH liked the GBD pastry, but my friends at Jus-Rol, get credit for that. In fact it was almost a clean sweep, but we were disqualified right at the end as there was insufficient judging material to judge the pie cold. I guess I’ll just have to make another one, but I think that’s the way BH wants it. Can I claim a moral victory?