Pies truly are a New Zealand classic. Maybe it’s because of the British influence and their Pork Pies, although colonisation of Ireland didn’t leave us with any such culinary heritage. As I mentioned the other day, pies are eaten by Kiwis on long road trips – the guarantee of a good pie will encourage people to take major detours – and they are apparently the traditional accompaniment to a rugby match. The national pie is bacon and egg and, every summer, magazines and newspapers compete to give the perfect recipe for this picnic standard. Apparently a good Bacon and Egg Pie is dependent on you not breaking the egg yokes as you add them to the sliced bacon in the pastry case. Hmm…another recipe to try out at some stage in the future!
When I was small I remember my mother regularly making a deliciously savoury Lamb’s Kidney Pie encased in shortcrust pastry. It was never steak and kidney, for some reason, not that I ever minded. For me the Kidney Pie, with bacon and sometimes mushrooms, was the height of culinary sophistication although, if I took a piece of it for lunch at school, I was bound to get someone going “urgh…kidney…disgusting!” I think I put them off their lunches more often than they managed to put me off mine.
But, back to my pie-fest for the Boyfriend’s birthday dinner, the Beef and Chorizo Pie was topped with a thick homemade scone-like pastry so I decided that the pastry for the Chicken and Mushroom Pie should just be plain (bought) puff pastry. I must admit to not being particularly precise about how the pastry fitted across the top of the pies as, for me, the nicest part of a pie is where the gravy bubbles up around the pastry.
A search online for Nigel Slater plus Chicken Pie brought up this recipe for Deep-dish Chicken Pie which I adjusted to my own needs. The filling is fabulous, much richer by being made from stock than it would have been from milk (although I couldn’t resist adding a little cream). Thickened a little, it would make a great filling for a Chicken Lasagne or you could use it as a pasta sauce or on top of rice or…
Chicken and Mushroom Pie
For the chicken:
Chicken thighs – 8, skinned and boned
Carrot – 1, chopped into rough chunks
Onion – 1, halved
Bay leaves, thyme and parsley stalks
For the rest of the filling:
Onions – 4, chopped
Olive oil – enough to cook the onions
Smoked streaky bacon – 200g, chopped
Mushrooms – 350g, quartered
Butter – 70g
Flour – 70g
Chicken stock – 2 litres, from simmering the chicken pieces
Cream – 100ml
Peas – 150g, fresh or frozen
Thyme – a few sprigs
Puff pastry – enough to top your ovenproof dish
A little beaten egg for glazing
Put the chicken pieces in a heavy-based pot with the carrot, the onion and the aromatics. Cover with just over two litres of water and bring to the boil. Turn the heat down and leave to simmer for about 30 minutes until the chicken is cooked and the water has become a tasty stock.
Meanwhile, heat the oil in a heavy pan and cook the onions slowly until just starting to colour. Add the chopped bacon and mushrooms. Continue to cook over a low heat for about 15 minutes until everything is soft. Remove the chicken from the stock and chop into rough chunks. Add to the mixture.
Strain the stock and discard the vegetables and herbs. Melt the butter in a pan and add the flour, cooking it over a moderate heat for one minute. Pour in the stock and cream and stir well, then simmer for 10 minutes or so until it thickens into a rich sauce. Add the onion and chicken mixture with the thyme and peas and season well. Pour into a deep oven dish and allow to cool.
Preheat the oven to 200°C. Roll out the puff pastry and lay it on top of the pie. Brush with egg and cut two or three holes in the top to leave steam out. Bake for 20-30 minutes until the pastry is golden and puffed and the filling audibly simmering.
Adapted from a recipe by Nigel Slater.