I love baking. Especially a nice pie. Okay, so it’s a bit of a faff, but give it a try; it’s worth it for the wow factor when you cut it at the table. And you know what Oscar Wilde said: ‘one should try everything once. With the possible exceptions of incest and morris dancing’.
4 chicken breasts
500ml good chicken stock
Couple of stems of fresh thyme
1 carrot, diced
1 onion, sliced
Handful frozen peas
1 tsp butter and 1 tbs plain flour to thicken
For the pastry:
250g plain flour
So start with the chicken – get the stock bubbling away on the stove, snip the chicken into bite-sized cubes, and pop it into the stock along with the thyme, peppercorns, carrot and onion (I always leave onion in quite big pieces as #2 likes to irritate me by picking it out). I know you’d probably normally chuck thyme on top of roasting stuff, but trust me, it really adds a little something here. So leave the chicken to simmer away and get on with the pastry. You know my view on pastry – don’t ponce about, if you don’t like making it, just buy it, but if you’ve got a food processor, whizz the flour and butter together until breadcrumby, then just whizz in the egg and generous pinch of salt. When it starts to come together, squish it into a ball, then wrap it in clingfilm and pop it in the fridge.
When the chicken’s completely cooked through (probably 20 minutes, depending on your chunk sizes), fish it out and reserve it while you reduce the stock (make sure you fish out the thyme and peppercorns at this stage too). It would benefit from a splash of cream here (ooh, lovely with some sliced mushrooms…yum), but Hubby’s not a fan of creamy sauces so I left it out. If you like a thicker sauce, mush together a teaspoon of flour with the same amount of butter and whisk it in. Season to taste. Add back your chicken, along with the frozen peas, then turn it off while you roll out about 2/3 of your pastry and line your pie dish.
If you can be arsed, it really helps to blind bake the lined pie dish to stop your pie having a soggy bottom(altogether now ‘and nobody likes a soggy bottom’). Put some greaseproof paper loosely in the dish, then pour in some baking beans (or just any old dry beans) and bake it for about 15 minutes. Remove the beans and greaseproof paper, and brush with beaten egg to seal, returning to the oven for 5 minutes. But if you don’t want to, don’t bother; I won’t tell.
Now roll out the pastry lid, place it on top of the pie and crimp it artistically. Brush with beaten egg, then put the whole thing back in the oven until the top is golden brown. Remember you’re only cooking the lid really so 20 minutes should be fine.
It’s a standing joke in our house that #1 (aka A A Gill) will always find something not quite to his taste at the table. The roast potatoes are never quite as good as Auntie Jen’s (curse you, Jennifer, what the hell did you do to them?), the sauce will be a tad salty, the rhubarb a little too tart. All this will be commented upon whilst enormous quantities of the slightly sub-standard food are whooshed into his mouth, along with seconds, and often thirds. Still, nothing’s ever completely up to scratch. This one, though, actually shut him up. Yup, we all waited with baited breath, but no, not a single comment. Things must be looking up.