It’s British Pie Week from 4th - 10th March 2013. Everyone loves a good pie! Classic comfort food conjuring up warm nostalgia. However, not all food memories are good ones, as Miriam recalls her memories of school pie and mash. Luckily she shares a recipe for a delicious chicken pie to make up for the disappointment.
I can remember the day my school dinners went from being cooked from fresh in the kitchen to being delivered by a van. I would have been about 10 and I still recall the crushing disappointment that I felt when we went from proper plates, table service (performed by the older kids) and real mashed potato to compartmentalised plastic trays, queuing and instant mash.
Much worse was in store when I moved up to secondary school where the “highlight” was the pizza. This consisted of heavy, gooey squares of warm dough, tomato puree and melted cheese served on a paper towel. Honestly, it was, a blue paper towel, which did a terrible job of soaking up the grease from the horrible cheese. From the limited options, I do remember choosing chicken pie, as it was the thing that most resembled real food. It was pretty grim. If only Jamie Oliver had been campaigning when I was at school.
As you can probably tell Pie Week has given me a great opportunity for a good rant about crummy school dinners in the nineties…as well as a chance to brush up on my pastry by making a simple chicken pie my way!
Homemade Chicken Pie
For the Pastry
200g of plain flour
100g of butter, chilled and cubed
1 egg, beaten
Cold water to bind
For the filling
2 shallots (or 1 small white onion), diced
1 leek, finely sliced
2 carrots, diced
2 celery sticks diced
1 clove of garlic, crushed
knob of butter
Approx 300g of cooked chicken (this is a nice way of using up cooked chicken from a roast.)
300ml of crème fraîche
250-300ml of chicken stock
Salt & Pepper
Start by making the pastry. Rub half of the chilled butter into the flour. When it’s well dispersed, stir in the rest of the butter leaving the pieces whole.
Mix in half of the beaten egg and then gradually add cold water, bit by bit, until you have a block of dough that leaves the bowl clean. You will be able to see some lumps of butter but that’s what you want at this stage.
Shape the dough into a ball and roll out on a floured surface to a circle about the size of a dinner plate. Fold into three and then turn the folded dough at 90° angle. Roll out again and then fold into three again. Repeat this for about 6 or 7 goes (I always lose count)
Fold up again, wrap the block up in cling film and leave in the fridge until required.
In a large frying pan soften the shallots, celery and leeks in butter then add the carrots and the garlic. You want to fry them all up until the leeks are soft and the onion is becoming translucent.
Now stir in the cooked chicken and stock, bring to a simmer then add the crème fraîche. Take off the heat and set aside briefly whilst you roll out the pastry lids.
Preheat the oven to 200°C
Roll out your prepared pastry on a floured surface and cut lids to fit 4 individual pie dishes.
Put the filling into the dishes, cover with pastry and brush with the rest of the beaten egg. I used the off-cuts for decoration just by slicing them into triangles and spreading them out over the top (which reminded me of the title sequence to Saved by the Bell).
Bake for 20-25 minutes or until the pastry is golden brown. Serve with mashed potato, seasonal greens and gravy.
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