Humble Pie.

25 Apr

It seems Winter blinked and Spring jumped out of her hiding place! The temperature is well into double figures and as I walked the Labrador (Lovelydor) along paths spotted with violets I had to remove a jumper on the home stretch. It is also the first day since september that I have not lit a fire. Even so I feel a pie coming on!

Chicken and Leek pie is the stuff of life in our house; the promise at the end of the M4 on a wet friday night , the last night of the holiday’s dish of choice and the medicine for all ills and heartbreak. I have to admit that I am not a fan of the anaemic, skinless chicken fillet and so prefer to roast a whole chicken whenever I can and, as I have been preparing a lots of Chicken in a quince and lemon sauce with Alsace wine for someone’s freezer I have canteen quantities of cold chicken leftovers. Perfect for a pie!

There is something so soothing about the appearance of a pie, snugly packed into its dish, but also something deeply gratifying in making one. I love making a rich steak and Guiness pie under a great roof of home made puff pastry, but I also love a pie’s ‘make do and mend’ quality. In the ‘bacon bits’ weeks, (when you can gauge your financial health or otherwise by the number of your meals which contain rags of bacon!) a pie can stretch the contents of the back of the fridge into something cheering and convivial, for example a Homity Pie, which uses up odd potatoes onions and nubs of cheese in an open pastry shell or in January when the turkey and ham raise themselves from frozen isolation for a final encore in a sherried sauce under a crispy filo lid.

There can be quite an off putting palaver around pastry making and every cook seems to swear by the use of different equipment without which there is no hope of success, but while I have experimented with weighty marble slabs,which were more suited to pillars than pastry making and have used gin bottles straight out of the freezer instead of rolling pins, I have found that probably the only crucial element is to keep the dough (and yourself!) chilled at every stage of production. (Although I would never be happy without my ancient round ended knife and a vast piece of oil cloth for rolling out!)

Although really time consuming, there is absolutely nothing to rival home made puff pastry which rises to magnificent golden heights. It is an almost meditatively restorative activity when you have a not too busy day and a lot on your mind! I have to confess to not making it often enough to undertake it without the promptings of Mrs Beeton, and the fact that the great lady’s pages are dusty with flour and in places transparent with butter smears is testament to this.

So back to the pie;

Having stripped and ripped the chicken into good sized pieces, gently sweat 3 large leeks in some butter and then pour on enough milk to cover them generously. Poach the leeks until they are soft and strain them, (reserving the milk to make the sauce)season really well and put them to one side to cool. Use the poaching milk make a smooth bechamel sauce and add about 100 mls of double cream. I know the addition of the cream is not exactly keeping to the thrifty brief, but it elevates it from the league of the humble pie to that of a pie of faded gentility! Let the sauce cool and then combine the chicken, leeks and sauce and put in a pie dish.

While everything is cooling, make the pastry
250g plain flour
half teaspoon salt
75g lard
75g frozen butter
1 whisked egg
1 tablespoon cold water
milk or egg yolk to glaze

sift the flour and salt and rub in the lard until it looks like breadcrumbs.
Coarsely grate the frozen butter and add to the flor mixing it in with a knife. Then add the egg and water and mix until the dough sticks together. Wrap in cling film and put it in the fridge for about half an hour.

Make a rim out of some of the pastry round the pie dish
Roll the remaining into a pice just big enough to cover the pie dish
press the rim and the edges together and trim them neatly, making a little scalloped edge.
Roll out any trimmings to decorate the pie,(hearts ,leaves or even the word ‘pie’!)
If there is time put it in the fridge for another 30 mins or more before cooking.

Heat the oven to 220 degrees
make two little holes in the pie to let the steam escape and then brush with the egg or milk for a lovely golden shine
Bake in the oven for 20 mins and then reduce the heat to 180 and continue to cook for another 15-20 minsUsually all you need are some baby carrots or peas with lots of mint and chives, but I would feel undercatered without a dish groaning with buttered new potatoes!

4 Responses to “Humble Pie.”

  1. Refugio May 9, 2013 at 3:03 am #

    When someone writes an paragraph he/she retains the image of a
    user in his/her mind that how a user can be aware of it. So that’s why this paragraph is perfect. Thanks!

  2. LFFL July 10, 2013 at 2:21 am #

    That humble pie looks fabulous!

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