A couple of weeks ago I was gifted a fantastic cook book (Step-by-Step Cook’s Encyclopedia) by my now ex work mates as a leaving present and there was a recipe in it for individual chicken pies that immediately caught my eye, mostly because I thoroughly – albeit a little guiltily – enjoy a good hearty meat pie.
Before I get into the recipe, I have to admit that this was probably one of the least attractive things I have cooked so far due to my haphazard hacking away of the extra pastry. It’s definitely something I’ll be looking more into for the future, not to mention how to make a better puff pastry (more on that shortly!).
I ended up making 4 double crust pies in mini pie moulds and two single crust (pastry on top) pies in 12cm ramekins with:
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1/2 brown onion, diced
- 2 medium carrots, sliced
- 2 celery sticks, sliced
- 800ml cold chicken stock
- 65g butter
- 55g plain flour
- 700g skinless, boneless chicken breasts cut into cubes of about 1.5-2cm
- 2 cups frozen soy beans (original recipe called for frozen peas, which I didn’t have but felt could be adequately substituted with soy beans)
- A few sprigs of thyme
- Salt and pepper for seasoning
- 1 egg, lightly beaten
And of course, rough puff pastry. I followed a recipe in the 40th edition of a Be-Ro Flour Home Recipes cookbook, which simply used:
- 225g plain flour
- Pinch of salt
- 150g lard & margarine mix (I just used unsalted butter)
- Cold water to mix
You can find pastry recipes everywhere on the internet in much more detail than here so I won’t go into it this time but my pastry dough was very sticky, which I wasn’t quite sure about…
The original recipe in the book also used button mushrooms, which I didn’t feel any desire to consume so I left it out.
The process of making these pies actually took me almost the entire day because I’m essentially as slow as a sloth when it comes to cooking something I have never made before; slow and steady wins the race?
Anyway, here’s how I made the filling:
- Heat oil in large saucepan, add onions and cook over a medium heat, stirring frequently, until soft and golden
- Add carrots, celery and half the stock and bring to the boil. Reduce heat and simmer on low until the vegetables are almost soft – there should still be a bit of crunch
- In another saucepan melt the butter on a medium heat and whisk in the flour, stirring for a little bit.
NB: In the book, the picture of this step showed a very dry mixture, resembling that of crumble but when I did it, it looked more like gravy. Not sure if I got the proportions wrong or not but it turned out fine in the end.
- Pour in the remaining stock to the flour mix and whisk until thick on a medium-low heat. This should result in a smooth, thick mixture
- Add this to the vegetables and stir in the chicken, thyme and beans
- Simmer and stir while seasoning with salt and pepper.
After that I lined the pie tins and divided the mixture between them (or put the mixture straight in for the ramekins), covered with second piece of pastry, cut a X in the middle of each, brushed with egg and baked in a preheated oven (about 200°C/400°F) until the tops were golden in colour and the mixture was bubbling underneath. I think this took around 40 minutes, although I pay more attention to how the actual food is cooking through observing its texture, smelling and when possible tasting, rather than the time…
The pie mixture came out really nice, with everything tender and seasoned well, but the pastry was just a bit dry and boring. I think it’s so important to have a good pastry since that’s the thing you see and eat first. I thought my attempt failed on this aspect but I’m looking forward to educating myself more about pastry techniques.