Why do we love pies? Few things are a comforting a hot pie with flaky or crumbly pastry and a piping hot filling. As it’s British Pie Week, Victoria pays homage to the humble pie - or in fact not so humble pie.
Few things in life cannot be improved by the addition of pastry. Buttery, flaky and crisp on the outside, with a hint of delicious goo from where it’s slurped up a bit juice from the filling, a really good pie can stun a whole table into silence.
I’ve got no beef with a lemon meringue or apple pie - in fact I think they’re wonderful - but for my money, the best pies are always meat pies. Oozing with savoury gravy and served with a generous dollop of mash, a meat pie is comfort food at its best.
When I was a child, I’d always go for good old-fashioned steak and kidney, even though I thought kidneys were revolting. I recognised, even then, that the kidney brought something extra to the flavour table and gave the gravy a special depth that couldn’t come from steak alone. I relished in the sense of danger that not quite knowing what was on the end of my fork could bring - like Russian roulette in pie form. Who says you shouldn’t play with your food?
Nowadays, I’m still a big fan of steak and kidney (and I’ll eat the kidney without so much as a wince in sight) or any other steak-based pie. It would be hard to go far wrong with steak and Guinness, steak and ale or steak in red wine, but (wo)man can’t live on steak alone.
This chicken, bacon and mushroom pie ticks all the right boxes for me. Intense savoury, meaty flavour, enough sauce for the mash to soak up and that perfect combination of crispy pastry on the outside, with a little bit of gravy-soaked goodness on the inside. I love a puff top, but flaky or short would work well too. You shouldn’t be scared to make your own puff pastry every now and then - it really is so much easier than everyone tries to make out. But, on days when you have better things to do, shop bought is almost as good as homemade, just make sure you pick up a pack that say “all butter”.
Chicken, bacon and mushroom pie
8 chicken thighs, skin on and bones in.
2 onions, chopped
3-4 cloves of garlic, crushed
6 rashers of smoked back bacon
250g (or thereabouts) of chestnut mushrooms
2 tbsp. plain flour
A handful of fresh thyme, leaves picked
A couple of bay leaves
A glass of white wine
1 pint of fresh chicken stock
Half a pint of whole milk
Salt and pepper
500g all butter puff pastry
Preheat the oven to 190°C (170°C fan)
Place the chicken thighs on a roasting tray and generously season with salt and pepper. Roast for 25 – 30 minutes.
In the meantime, fry the onion, garlic, mushrooms, thyme and bacon in a little oil until soft and golden. Add the flour and stir vigorously for a minute or so to cook through. Add the wine and continue to stir to prevent lumps forming. Add the stock, milk and bay leaves and leave to simmer. Take the skin off the cooked chicken and remove the meat from the bones. Chop it roughly and add the chicken to the bacon and mushroom mixture. Season and leave to reduce to a thick sauce. Pour the meat into your pie dish and leave to cool.
Preheat the oven to 220°C (200°C fan)
On a floured surface, roll out the pastry and slice off a long strip as wide as the rim of the pie dish. Use a little of the egg wash to stick the strip to the edge of the pie dish. Brush the strip with more egg, then lift the rest of the pastry over the pie filling. Pinch the edges with your fingers and trim with a sharp knife. Brush with egg wash to glaze and bake for 30 mins or until the pastry is risen and deep golden brown. Serve with buttery mash and steamed greens or broccoli.
Inspired? We have a whole collection of pie recipes on Great British Chefs for you to enjoy.
What’s your favourite pie filling? Cherry, steak, or four and twenty blackbirds? Let us know here or over on Great British Chefs Facebook page