This is how I made my Spring Chicken Pie that I created especially for Mother’s Day. The recipe can be found at the bottom of the post.
To start with I softened a couple of onions.
Sliced the baby leeks lengthways and sauteed them very briefly in a little oil and butter until their yellowy-green colour started to pop – you just know it when you see it.
Next I finely sliced the spring greens and savoy cabbage (the bunnies were SO pleased with the leftovers of this meal) and gently cooked them in oil, butter and a splash of boiling water to give a sort of steaming effect. Again, these were very briefly cooked, as they would go into the pie which would spend 30 minutes in the oven anyway.
We stuffed her – affectionately named Bertha – with onions and lemon and a big handful of fresh thyme. She was roasted for about 3 hours until the meat was falling off the bone. N was already imagining his roast chicken sandwiches made from the leftovers.
To compile the pie, I placed the gently cooked veg into my pie dish (I used a large terracotta dish) as I fryed it. So softened onions first, then the leeks, then half the springs greens and cabbage.
Next I flaked large chunks of roast chicken over, and covered it with the remaining greens. A big handful of roughly chopped flat-leaf parsley and it was almost ready to be encrusted in its pastry lid.
The final ingredient for the pie was a white sauce with a subtle hint of cheese. I’m not going to post a recipe for white sauce here, because I just make it up, cross my fingers and hope for the best. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. It’s one of those things I just don’t have the patience to measure out properly and follow a recipe. I know the basics of how to make a white sauce – melt butter, add flour, which makes a roux, stir for a minute or so to cook out the floury taste, add milk (I have started adding warm milk in a bid to reduce the risk of the dreaded lumps!) and stir vigorously until thickened. I remember my mother telling my to continuously stir her white sauce until it had thickened to prevent lumps, and hers always turned out nicely. To my white sauce I add a grating of fresh nutmeg, some salt and pepper, and a little bit of strong cheddar – this I adjust until the sauce has just a slightly cheesy hint.
Pour this over the pie. All that was left was to roll out the puff pastry, cut out a lid, place it securely over the pie, cut a few air holes, and then create a few unnecessary but satisfying details – namely pastry leaves. Just before I put my pie in the oven (at about 180°C) for 30 minutes I glazed it with an egg yolk. Sadly, I was in such a rush to get the damn thing onto the table, along with the new potatoes and purple sprouting broccoli (which wasn’t co-operating) that I didn’t take any pictures. It was truly beautiful, a flaky, golden delight, its pastry leaves glowing. You shall have to imagine it, although I’m sure you have all made/or seen such a pie.
Spring Chicken Pie
Makes 1 large pie, enough to feed 4-6 people
To roast the chicken:
1 large organic chicken
3 lemons, quartered
2 onions, quartered
Bundle of fresh thyme
For the pie:
2 onions, finely sliced
6-8 baby leeks, washed, trimmed and sliced lengthways
1 medium savoy cabbage, sliced
Couple of handfuls of spring greens, sliced
Bunch flat-leaf parsley, chopped
Packet of good quality puff pastry
1 egg yolk
Rub your chicken inside and out with butter. Stuff your chicken with the chunks of onion and lemon, and the big bundle of thyme. Season with salt and pepper. Roast the chicken (approximately 45 minutes a kilo, plus 20 minutes) – we cover ours in foil until the last 20-30 minutes when we remove it to crisp up the chicken. When the chicken has cooled, you can get your handy boyfriend/husband to remove all the tender chicken.
In a large frying pan, soften the onions in a little oil. Transfer them to your prepared pie dish and spread out over the bottom. Next, add a knob of butter and the sliced leeks. Cook for a couple of minutes until they just start to soften. Season with salt and pepper then spread over the onion. Next, add a small knob of butter and a splash of boiling water to the pan and add half the sliced spring greens and savoy cabbage. Heat through until this also just starts to soften. Spread over the leeks. Add the remaining springs greens and cabbage and cook as before. Turn off the heat. Spread a good layer of roast chicken pieces over the veg, and top with a final layer of greens and cabbage.
Make your white sauce. Add some grated cheddar and a grating of nutmeg and mix well before pouring it over the pie. I let my pie cool a bit before covering in the pastry topping because I wasn’t going to bake it straight away and I didn’t want the heat from the veggies and sauce to make the pastry soggy.
When you’re ready to bake your pie, preheat the oven to 180°C.
Roll out your puff pastry. Cut out a lid that is slightly wider than your pie dish. I wet the rim of my pie dish, and using some off-cuts of pastry I created a pastry rim to which I could attach my lid. Next, carefully lay your pastry lid over the pie and pinch the edges to secure it. Use a sharp knife to cut a couple of air vents to let out the steam as it cooks. For a final flourish you can use any spare bits of pastry to decorate your pie with leaves or some other finishing detail.
Just before you put the pie in the oven, beat an egg yolk and brush it all over the pastry top. This will give your pie a beautiful golden glaze. Bake your pie for about 30 minutes or until the top is crisp and golden, and the sauce bubbling out from under the pastry lid. You are only really cooking the pastry and warming all the ingredients through as they are pretty much pre-cooked anyway.
We served our chicken pie with new potatoes gently tossed in a knob of goat’s butter and a pile of steamed purple sprouting broccoli. Serve the pie at the table to make sure everyone appreciates your pastry leaves!