Monday, 19 July 2010

Cooking from scratch: Chicken pie

Have you ever made chicken pie from scratch? Oh, it is such a delight. The making of it is not terribly difficult, ie a little more fiddly than spaghetti bolognese, but worth it as the results are tremendously impressive!

This will feed 4 people comfortably. I often double the receipe and freeze portions of it in the freezer for a quick and tasty dinner without any fuss! If you take the freezing option, simply freeze the filling and then defrost and bake - it works really well this way, I'm not sure how it would freeze after it has been baked with the pastry, etc.

Okay now I have warned you that this is not the simplest recipe to make. It's not like making a pasta bake. But if you follow my explanations you won't find it terribly difficult, just make sure you follow them and you will be fine! If not please feel free to leave me instructional tips and I can go into more (or less) detail.

So first up, a pre preparational tip. Measure 1 and 1/2 cups of tap water into a large saucepan and have a look at how much that much liquid looks like in your saucepan. I usually get a patterned cooking utensil (I use a chopstick) and stick it upright in the liquid and remember where the water level sits, or mark it with a stratch or something. Trust me, just do this and it'll save you wondering how to do something a bit later on.

Discard the water from the large saucepan, and then, using the same large saucepan, bring 2 cups (500 ml) of chicken stock and 3/4 cups (180 ml) of white wine to the boil. Add 500 grams of whole chicken thighs (do not chop them yet) into the simmering liquid. Simmer the chicken (uncovered) for around 10 minutes until the chicken pieces are just cooked. Do not overcook the chicken. In fact, err on the side of undercooked chicken because there is more cooking in store for the chicken.

Remove the chicken from the liquid and place to one side. BUT keep the liquid!

Now, here's where your chopstick / other cooking measuring utensil will come in handy. You need to leave the stock and wine liquid boiling on the stove to reduce it down to 1 and 1/2 cups of liquid. At this point in time you'll probably find that it is around double that. So keep boiling it and keep checking it to see the levels. Here's the thing, if you reduce it too much it's easy to add a bit more water! But, if you don't reduce it enough your pie might be a bit runny (which is no big deal really, but still it's nice to have a lovely consistency).

While you're waiting for your stock to reduce preheat the oven to 180 degrees celcius. Take your puff pastry out of the freezer and place 2 sheets (or 3 if you think you'll need 3 to cover the base of your pie dish) on a counter to defrost. And crush your garlic, chop the leeks, celery and mushrooms.

Check your stock liquid level. Once it gets to the level required just turn the heat off. If it's not there yet, keep it simmering.

In a separate saucepan, you'll need another large one, melt the butter. Add the garlic, mushrooms, celery and leek and cook until it is all softened, the leeks are translucent and everything smells delicious. Add the flour and stir for 2 minutes, keeping the saucepan on the heat. The reason you leave it on the heat is you want to cook the flour for a while (so that the flour taste gets cooked out). Just note that if you've added more butter than specified below (which I sometimes do if I think it'll be more delicious) you'll need a little more flour.

Check your stock liquid level again. If it's too low just add a tiny bit of water to it. You can always add water to the chicken mixture before it's poured into the pastry lined pie dish too, so no need to stress.

Once your stock liquid is around the level you've marked turn the heat off. Using a ladel, ladel a little bit of the stock into the flour, butter and vege mix (which should still be on the heat, or back on the heat if you'd turned it off, while waiting for the stock to reduce). Stir with a wooden spoon until a sauce starts to form and the flour and butter combination starts to loosen up a bit. Keep stirring, and adding a little of the water at a time so that lumps do not form. Keep the pie filling on the heat stirring frequently.

Coarsely chop the chicken up into inch-ish size pieces and add into the filling. If you like corn, corn is a fabulous addition into this pie. Add as much or as little corn cernals (frozen or canned) into the pie filling. Remove the filling from the heat and stir the cream through. Season with salt and pepper to taste. At this point it might be an idea to test the consistency of the pie filling, and by test I mean look at. If you think it's a bit runny maybe stick it back on the heat for a little while to thicken it up a bit. If it's not pie consistency add in a little water at a time, stirring continually, until the pie filling has reached your version of perfect (consistency wise).

Grease a deep pie dish with butter or oil and line with a sheet of puff pastry (or two sheets if necessary). Pour the pie filling into the lined dish and top with another sheet of puff pastry. Brush lightly with milk.

Bake in a 180 degree celcius oven for around 20-25 minutes until the pie is golden brown.

Serve and eat while hot. Delicious!

Shopping list

500 grams chicken thigh
2 cups (500 ml) chicken stock
3/4 cups (180 ml) white wine
40 grams butter
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 small leek, sliced finely
2 celery sticks, sliced finely
8 medium mushrooms, sliced finely
1/4 cups (35 grams) plain flour
1/2 cup (125 ml) cream
2-3 sheets puff pastry
Milk for brushing

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