Pie Time! Chicken & Vegetables cooked with Cider & Cream

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There is nothing more warming and satisfying, on a winter’s day, than a homemade pie filled with freshly prepared ingredients. I enjoy making pies and pastry and find it quite therapeutic. I like to experiment with different fillings, giving vent to my creative side and also like to have fun with pastry decorations. One of the pies, pictured here, I made for a friend’s anniversary and delivered it with a candle which is a great gift for anyone preferring savoury to sweet. In preparation for an intensive pie-making week, in aid of the church Christmas Bazaar next Saturday, I will be making several varieties, such as – salmon and leek – beef, Port and cranberry and turkey, ham and chestnut. Recipes to be posted as I create them!

Before I get to the recipe for this post, just a word or two about shortcrust pastry and the frustrations that I have encountered with it recently. I came to pastry and pie making relatively late in life as, alas, I did not learn any culinary skills at the knee of my mother or grandmother. What I do remember of my grandmother’s food (on visits back from Africa), is unquestionably grim – spam fritters with baked beans and to drink, dandelion and burdock. My mother, who clearly inherited this disability and never having the need or desire to cook herself, fed us on factory made concoctions that were often inedible, tasteless and I dread to think how many ‘e’ numbers we must have ingested. The effects of passive smoke are well known. There should be equal concern for children regarding passive food!! Like many things that are denied, they become more alluring with the advent of freedom and so, my brother and I learnt to cook creatively. Firstly, out of necessity and secondly, because we both developed a ‘taste’ for proper food having experienced such deprivation during our childhood years. Sympathy not required – I’ve made up for it since!

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Pastry made and pie filled. A good coating of egg wash and into the oven for 25 minutes at 190 degrees centigrade.

All that said, back to the subject of pastry. I was taught to make pastry, of various kinds, by a very good friend and pastry chef (you know who you are), who was generous enough to share some of her knowledge with me. To date, I have followed her recipe precisely and it has given excellent results allowing me to produce hundreds of pies. Just recently, however, I have had a few problems with the pastry being too ‘crumbly’ to work with. It has caused me huge consternation and frustration as I get very irritated when things don’t work as I want them to, when I believe there is no reason for them not to. Does that make sense? Anyway, having resorted to internet sources for a technical reason, I have discovered just how critical temperature and changing the brand of butter or flour can be, etc, etc. So, the long and short of all this is, that you have to find what works for you by sometimes tweaking the ingredients and measures. In my case, the flour and butter combination that I am currently using, needed a little more water than I had previously added. That small discovery has ensured that the rolling pin has no secondary use other than to roll out the dough!

Shortcrust pastry: 9oz / 270g plain flour; 5oz / 140g butter; 1 egg yolk, 1 to 2 tablespoons of water. I use a food processor because it’s quicker but you can ‘crumble’ the flour and butter by hand. Cut the cold butter into cubes and put this and the flour into the bowl of the food processor. Whizz until the ingredients combine to a crumbly texture. Add the yolk of an egg and a tablespoon of cold water. The mixture should come together in a clump. If this fails to happen, add a little more water until you have a workable dough that is not too dry and not to wet. I’m sorry that I can’t really explain it better than this – as I have experienced, it’s a learning process that just requires patience and practice. So …… with the dough rolled out to about a thickness of 3mm, line a pie dish of approximately 18cm diameter. Egg wash the edges of the pastry and fill the pie with the filling. Secure the pastry lid by crimping with the side of your thumb. Trim the pastry and egg wash the surface. Have fun with the decoration!

My recipe is based on filling a deep pie (5cm) to feed four or five hungry people. It’s a pie filled with chunks of meat and wholesome vegetables on which to feast. I don’t promote meagre helpings. I’m compensating for my childhood!!

Pie filling – Chicken & Vegetables in Cider & Cream

Ingredients:

  • 3 large chicken breasts, cubed (Pie for 4 people)
  • 2 leeks, sliced
  • 2 carrots, sliced
  • 2 tbsp olive oil, salt and pepper
  • 1 cup of chicken stock
  • 300ml cider
  • 200ml double cream

Directions:

  1. In a heavy based pan, add the olive oil.
  2. Add the leeks and carrots.
  3. Season well. I will leave the quantity up to you, as I tend to over salt!!
  4. Add the cider and chicken stock. Cook for 5 minutes to reduce the liquid.
  5. Add the chicken and cook gently for about 10 minutes.
  6. Add the cream and combine together well.
  7. If the sauce has too much liquid, mix a little corn flour with cold water and add to the mixture to thicken.
  8. Allow to cool before filling the pie base.

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