The Chicken Pie

I make this pretty much every time I go to cook for someone in need of cheering up. There’s something about a golden chicken pie that makes everyone feel good – kids love it, adults do too and it’s a whole meal in one.

Yes, this is a labour of love. Yes, you could buy a roast chook and frozen pastry and bung this together in less than half the time and nobody would care. But… there really is something deeply satisfying about making this chicken pie from scratch. And if you do, please take my advice and triple this recipe to make three at once – one to give away,
one for your dinner and one for the freezer.

Poaching a whole chicken in aromatics means not only do you get lovely moist chicken and stock to use for the filling and sauce base, but you’ll have some chicken and stock left over for sandwiches and soup. Have I convinced you yet?

Serving Size

Serves 6-8

WHAT YOU NEED

The Poached Chicken

1.8 kg (4 lb) whole chicken
2 carrots, roughly chopped
2 celery stalks, roughly chopped
1 onion, roughly chopped
1 tsp black peppercorns
1 tsp sea salt
1 handful parsley (stems and all)
4 thyme sprigs

The Pastry

Rough puff pastry
250 g (9 oz) chilled butter, cut into cubes
12/3 cups (250 g) plain flour, plus extra for dusting
1/4 cup (60 ml) chilled water

To Bring It All Together

1 egg
1 Tbsp single (pure) cream

The Filling

50 g (13/4 oz) butter
2 leeks, pale parts only, thinly sliced
2 Tbsp plain flour
2 cups (500 ml) hot chicken stock
1 tsp wholegrain mustard
1 tsp lemon thyme leaves
Grated zest of 1 lemon
150 ml (5 fl oz) single (pure) cream
450 g (3 cups) cooked, shredded chicken

WHAT TO DO

Part 1: The Poached Chicken

Wash the chicken and pat dry, then place in a large stockpot, cover with cold water and add the remaining ingredients. Bring to the boil over medium–high heat, watching out for and discarding any scum that comes to the surface (there’s a life lesson hidden in a recipe). Reduce the heat and gently simmer for 45 minutes.

Transfer the cooked chicken to a board resting on a tea towel (this will stop any juices dripping onto the bench and the floor). Cover the chicken with a tent of foil and set aside until cool enough to handle.

Return the stockpot to the stovetop and boil until the mixture reduces by about a third – this will take 20 minutes or so and will intensify the flavour. Pour the mixture through a sieve, discarding the aromatics and reserving the stock.

Pull the chicken meat away from the bones and discard the carcass. Cover until needed for the filling or place in the fridge if you’re not assembling and baking your pie right away.

Part 2: The Pastry

Combine the butter and flour on the bench, using the heel of your hand to work them together. Add water as necessary to form a rough dough – it’s okay to see some marbled streaks of butter. Cover with plastic wrap and chill in the fridge for 30 minutes.

On a lightly floured work surface, roll out the pastry until you have a large rectangle. Dust off any loose flour. Fold the top half of the pastry down, then fold the bottom half up so you have a long slim rectangle.

Now turn the pastry 90 degrees and roll into another large rectangle, trying to roll in only one direction if possible (this helps keep the butter’s ‘marbled’ effect and ideally will keep your pastry nice and puffy and flaky). Fold and roll again, then cover with plastic wrap and chill for 20 minutes or until needed.

NOTE: If you’re using store-bought pastry, I’d recommend shortcrust for the base and puff for the top.

Part 3: The Filling

Heat the butter in a large frying pan over medium heat until bubbling. Add the leek, season and cook, stirring often, for 10 minutes. Add the flour and cook, stirring, for a couple of minutes.

Add the hot stock and let it bubble for 2 minutes, stirring often, then stir in the mustard, lemon thyme, lemon zest and cream. Bring back to the boil and cook, stirring often, for a few minutes more, until the sauce thickens up. Taste and season again if needed.

Pop the mixture into the fridge to cool while you roll out the pastry and line the pie tin.When you’re ready to assemble the pie, stir in the shredded chicken.

NOTE: It’s important that the chicken is only reheated once after it’s cooked. If you’re making this as a helpful present, assemble the pie but don’t bake it – just include a note with the baking instructions.

Part 4: Bringing It All Together

Preheat the oven to 200°C (400°F). Make an egg wash by whisking the egg and cream together.

Roll out the pastry on a lightly floured work surface to a large round, about 3 mm (1/8 inch) thick. Trim the excess pastry, leaving enough to hang over the side of the pie tin, then gently drape the pastry over your rolling pin and unroll it into a pie tin – mine is 22 cm (81/2 inches) wide and 4 cm (11/2 inches) deep.

Press the pastry into the side of the tin, then run the rolling pin over the top to create a clean edge. Roll the excess pastry into a ball and roll it out to a round slightly larger than the top of your pie tin. Cut a small hole in the middle of the pastry (to let steam escape while cooking).

Spoon the chicken filling into the pie tin, brush the pastry edges with a little egg wash and gently press the pastry lid on top. Pop the pie in the fridge for 5 minutes while you do one last (optional) step. Roll out any pastry remains and use some little cutters or a small sharp knife to cut small triangles or whatever pastry shapes you like. Use these shapes to decorate the edge of your pie and cover up any rough bits.

Brush the pastry top with egg wash. Finally, place the pie in the oven and bake for 35–40 minutes or until the pastry is golden brown. Well done, you!


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