Chicken pie. There’s something so very right and very comforting about it.
It’s a firm favourite in our family. My pie making even pre dates our marriage. Chicken and bacon pie has always been a favourite of Chris’. He’s been known to take an entire pie to training courses (Desperate Dan style). This might also have something to do with his Northern roots. Pie in polystyrene boxes is big in Bolton, along with Vimto.
Whilst I’m not a particularly delicate or patient chef – rather preferring to create hearty, flavoursome casseroles, cakes or hotpots – I do love the alchemy of cooking. I remember making a giant chicken, tarragon, leek and bacon pie for our friends Greg and Siobhan (remember those times before children when we chatted, ate dinner and drank gin?). It’s also, usually a whole chicken or the remains of a chicken from a roast dinner that gets my attention. And always, home made pastry. If it’s going to be gluten, it’s got to be home made with good quality flour.
My kids also love to help me make the pastry. We put it in the fridge to ‘sleep’ and then roll it out and mark it. It’s a ritual we love and which promises pie-goodness.
As children have come into our lives, with their own likes and dislikes, I’ve had to revisit my pie recipe.
No longer can I create virtual casseroles with a lid on. My son likes chicken and gravy pie. That’s chicken, gravy and pastry! And given he can be a bit fussy when it comes to eating meat, my recipe caters for little tastebuds who could do with a bit of protein. Soft chicken and buttery pastry. In fact I think, I’ve just about perfected this one.
I make no excuses for the fact that it’s probably a bit salty (I use a little gravy powder) and has a wheat pastry crust. But this is no health food pie. This is proper pie. In the big picture of life, which is about balance, if you’re going to have pie. Have pie!
Ingredients (feeds 2 adults and 2 children with no leftovers)
For the filling:
- 7-8 chicken thighs (skin on and bones in)
- 1 stock cube
- 3 carrots
- 1 onion
For the gravy sauce
- 25g butter
- Heaped tbsp plain flour
- A little bit of gravy powder
For the pastry
- 300g plain flour
- 75g unsalted butter
- 75g trex (or butter/marg)
You’ll need a slow cooker and a pie dish – mine is around 9 inches.
- Peel and chop onion in half.
- Top and tail carrots (if organic don’t bother peeling).
- Put onion, carrots, chicken thighs and a stock cube in the slow cooker.
- Cover with water until the top layer of chicken thighs has water at least half way. Almost covering. As chicken cooks it will sink down a bit.
- Leave slow cooker for 5 or so hours until meat is coming away from bone then switch off.
- Get chicken out to cool down and strain liquid into a gravy strainer or a jug (pop in fridge so fat will separate).
- Discard soggy veg.
- Once the chicken has cooled down, remove skin and bone and lightly shred chicken (it should be falling apart). Place it in the pie dish.
- Combine flour and fats (and a pinch of salt) in food processor or by hand until it resembles fine breadcrumbs.
- Add very cold water gradually until it just forms a ball.
- Try not to over work.
- Place ball of pastry in a bag or clingfilm and leave in fridge for at least half an hour to ‘sleep’.
- Melt butter in a pan, add flour. It shouldn’t be too thick. Let it cook until the butter bubbles and it smells of shortbread. Gradually add the water from the cooked chicken.
- There’s a bit of an unknown here. This is where you can make as much or as little sauce as you like, make extra for gravy on the side (I’d recommend this) or thick/thin sauce (wants to be just thick enough to hold chicken together without chicken being dry).
- Once you have enough sauce for your needs, add a little extra water and some of your gravy granules. I usually use a couple of teaspoons only. It will thicken the gravy (if you didn’t use enough roux) and also add the brown colour. It’s the brown colour my son is after! Skip the gravy granules if your children aren’t fussy about brown gravy.
- Finally stir the sauce into the chicken and roll out the pastry to make a lid. Pop the whole delightful assemblage into the oven (Gas mark 5 ish, 180-200deg dependent on the ferocity of your oven) and leave until it’s golden brown, around 30-40 minutes. Don’t let it catch. With the buttery pastry it doesn’t take long.
And enjoy! Word of warning though, if you’re dining with little ones the chicken filling can be very hot straight out of the oven.
If you liked this recipe, try our chocolate polenta cake (wheat free).
If you have cooking liquid leftover you could use it as a stock for soup like our Carribean(ish) chicken soup.
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