(our children’s favourite!)
As I’m on a roll with the recipes, a very adaptable, economic, family favourite here is Chicken and Leek Pie or Pastie. I usually cook it with lots of leeks, but sometimes with mushrooms and/or sweetcorn – whatever’s in the cupboard or garden.
I use the term ‘pie’ loosely too….
Depending upon what’s in the cupboard, how much time I have, or how ‘good’ I’m being, the topping could be made of mashed potato, shortcrust pastry, or this week a very delicious (but off the scale in weight watchers points!), pastie. You could also use the filling for vol-au-vents too.
The reason I use the term economical is because I always poach a chicken for this recipe, getting enough meat off of a carcass for two dinners (that’s 10 good sized portions in our house) and use the liquid for soup stock. So the free range chicken I bought from Aldi this week at €5.99 worked out at about 60c per portion.
I prefer to buy free-range chickens whenever I can and, as they can be a lot pricier than factory chickens, poaching makes them go further. If you’ve never poached a chicken it’s very easy….
Place the chicken in a casserole dish or large saucepan with a lid, cover with water, add a roughly chopped carrot, onion, bay leaf and salt and pepper. Bring to the boil, put on the lid then simmer for an hour – to an hour and a half – depending upon the size of the chicken. You can test when it’s ready by checking with a fork – if the meat isn’t pink and it’s starting to come off the bone you know it’s ready! Let it cool for a while then remove the chicken from the pan, reserving the liquid. When the chicken’s cool enough to handle, strip it of all it’s meat. You’ll be amazed at how much you get.
Put all the old bones and bits of skin left back into the pan with the reserved liquid, bring to the boil and simmer again for another hour or more to reduce. Sieve and save the liquid. This will give you a tasty stock for soups and gravies.
So for the filling…
Ingredients for Leek and Chicken Pies
(will make about 5 portions)
1 onion, peeled and sliced
Half a coarsely chopped chicken (as above) or about 400g (1lb) cooked chicken
250ml (1/2pt) semi-skimmed milk
1 chicken stock cube
Salt and pepper
2 tsp cornflour
2 cleaned and chopped leeks
Optional: flavourings to taste (it doesn’t need them but tarragon is tasty with this), sweetcorn, mushrooms
Place 200ml of milk in a saucepan with the stock cube, onion, bay leaf and salt and pepper to taste. Gently heat then cover the pan with a lid, simmering for 5 minutes to infuse the flavours.
Mix the cornflour with the remaining cold milk and add this to the mixture, stirring all the time until the sauce begins to boil gently. Add the chopped chicken and leeks. The sauce should be a creamy, thick consistency – if it’s too thin add a little more cornflour and milk until it thickens.That’s it, filling made. As I said you can use it with any of the toppings, and if you’ve poached a chicken double up the ingredients list above and make a big batch.
If you’d like to expand your waistlines and make the pasties, I made a rough puff pastry (this takes about 10 mins) a la Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall.
(Heat oven to 200oC)
Ingredients for Rough Puff Pastry:
200g cold butter
8-10 tbsp very cold water
1 egg yolk beaten or milk to glaze
Sieve the flour into a bowl, add the salt then chop the butter into small chunks and mix together until all the butter is coated with flour. Add a little iced water and bring the dough together with your hand until you have a medium to firm dough that isn’t sticky that has large bits of butter in it.
Sprinkle some flour onto a clean surface, remove the dough from the bowl and using your hands shape the dough into a rectangle shape.
When you’re ready, roll the pastry out again and cut enough 20cm circles for your pasties, about 3mm thick.