Luscious, satisfying

Photo: Getty Images
Photo: Getty Images
I have been pottering in the kitchen since early light, radio on, steam condensing on the windows, cooking long into the afternoon. I have been making pies. Not the simply executed single-crust shallow pies, but what you might call proper pies, with high, fragile sides, a crisp pastry base and deep, luscious fillings.

The first batch of pastry was a basic butter and flour version. The second was seasoned with a delightfully salty, aged pecorino rubbed in with the flour and butter. I lined cake tins and pie dishes with the doughs very, very carefully, so as not to introduce a tear or hole. I filled one with cauliflower cheese and the other with chicken, softened leeks and prunes. A sort of cock-a-leekie pie. They may have taken all day, but I genuinely don’t care. A pair of proper pies, proud and golden, is what the day was for. 

Chicken, leek and prune pie

You will need a spring-form cake tin or deep tart tin 20cm in diameter.

Serves 6-8

For the filling

1 litre chicken stock

900g chicken thighs, skin removed

2 sticks celery, roughly chopped

4 medium carrots, roughly chopped

1 onion, peeled and chopped

5 Tbsp olive oil

5 medium leeks

12 prunes, stoned

10 sprigs thyme

4 heaped Tbsp plain flour

1 egg, beaten

To sprinkle

1 tsp fennel seeds

For the pastry

150g butter

275g plain flour


Bring the stock to the boil in a large saucepan. Put the chicken thighs into the stock, lower the heat and let them simmer for 25-30 minutes until tender.

Put the celery, carrot and onion in a large pan with the oil and cook over a moderate heat for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Slice the leeks into pieces 2cm thick then wash well under running water. Add the leeks, prunes and thyme sprigs to the other vegetables and cook for 7-10 minutes. Sprinkle over the flour and cook for 2 minutes until all is nicely toasted.

Lift the chicken out of the stock, and remove the meat from the bones. Cut each thigh into 4 pieces.

Pour the stock over the vegetables and bring to the boil, stirring occasionally. Stir in the chicken and let the sauce bubble for a few minutes to the consistency of good thick gravy. Check the seasoning. Remove from the heat and leave to cool.

Meanwhile, for the pastry, cut the butter into small pieces then rub into the flour with your fingertips. You can use a food processor if you prefer. Carefully introduce enough cold water to give a soft but rollable dough (about 3 tablespoons). Shape the pastry into a ball, wrap in parchment and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Heat the oven to 200degC. Place a baking sheet in the oven.

On a floured board, roll two-thirds of the pastry into a disc large enough to line the base and sides of the cake tin with a little overhang. Press the pastry into the tin carefully, taking great care it doesn’t tear. There should be absolutely no holes or cracks. Transfer the cooled filling to the tin.

Roll out the remaining pastry to make a lid. Brush the edges of the pastry in the tin with beaten egg, then lower the pastry lid into place and press the edges tightly together to seal. Brush the surface with more egg, scatter with the fennel seeds, pierce a hole in the centre of the lid with the handle of a wooden spoon and bake for about 40 minutes until golden. Remove from the oven and leave to rest for 15 minutes before gently releasing the spring clip of the tin and serving.

 — Guardian News and Media

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