Chicken and Leek and Apple Pie

Pie, who doesn’t love pie? This recipe is easy to make with ingredients you are likely to have at hand. This is special enough for an informal dinner with friends. It has just a top crust and I have omitted cream to keep it a bit lighter – personally I eat pie with only green vegetables to control my calorie intake but mash is best if you are extra hungry. Individual pies freeze really well to be popped in the oven for a proper homemade dinner on another day without much effort. Definitely a Star Baker!

Ingredients

Shortcrust Pastry

300g plain flour, plus extra for flouring or 400g for 8 individual pies
150g cold butter cut into small cubes or 200g for 8 individual pies
2-3 tbsp cold water
1 beaten egg
pinch salt

White Sauce
40g butter
30g flour
600ml milk
1 egg yolk
2 tsp Dijon or seedy mustard
chicken stock cube
a bit of thyme
pepper

Filling
3 leeks
30g butter
1 clove of garlic finely chopped
2 apples, cored and cut into large pieces
200g thick rindless smoked back bacon – about 4 slices
1kg mixed skinless and boneless chicken breast and thighs
tarragon
freshly ground black pepper

Method

Make the pastry.

Sift the flour and salt into a large mixing bowl.

Chop the butter into the flour with a rounded table knife. Using your fingertips, rub the fat into the flour until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Lift the flour into the air as you do so, to get some air into the mixture and keep it cool.

Add the egg and just enough cold water to form a dough and mix together with a palette knife. Then, using your hands, bring the dough together in the bowl.

Alternatively, tip all ingredients into a food processor and mix until combined. Turn out onto a clean, floured work surface and knead briefly. flatten slightly then roll to a thick slab between layers of cling film. Chill in the fridge for about 20 minutes.

Make the White Sauce

While the pastry is chilling, make the white sauce. Melt the butter in a small heavy-bottomed pan. Add the flour and stir over a medium heat for a minute or two, until it foams being careful not to burn it.

Remove from the heat and gradually add in half the milk stirring constantly until blended. Add the remaining milk. Put back on the heat and bring to a gently simmer, add the mustard, thyme and stock cube; cook through for another five minutes. Allow to cool slightly and stir in the egg yolk. Set aside.

Make the Filling

Cut the tops off the leeks and slice down the length towards the base in several places. Rinse under the tap to get rid of any grit and shake off the water. Cut in rings from the bottom. As you work up the leek peel away the tough outer layers as you go; there will be a tender part in the middle for a lot of the length which is perfectly usable. Melt the butter in a pan and add the leeks, cooking for a few minutes. Add the chicken and garlic and seal; cook for about ten minutes or until almost cooked through. Add the bacon, tarragon, pepper and apples and cook for a few minutes longer. Check before adding any salt as the bacon may have added enough saltiness. Strain the chicken mixture keeping the liquor. In the large pan, reduce the cooking liquor down to a nice thick gravy consistency then add in the sauce. Return the chicken mixture to the large pan and combine gently. Place your mixture in the dish or dishes and allow to cool; the pastry behaves itself better if the dish and filling is cold when you add the lid.

Preheat the oven to 200ºC. 180ºC Fan. Gas 6.

Pastry top

Allow the pastry to reach room temperature. Lightly flour the work surface and rolling pin; roll out the pastry to the thickness of a one pound coin. Cut the pastry to fit your dish adding a 1cm margin. Cut 2cm strips from the trimmings and use them to create a pastry edge around the dish rim moistening the dish edge with water. Moisten this pastry edge to make the layers stick. Using your rolling pin, lift the pastry sheet and place it on top of the dish to form a lid. Press down gently to seal. Use your fingers and thumb to crimp the edges. Make a hole in the centre to allow the air to escape. Use the pastry trimmings to decorate. ***

Brush the top of the pastry with beaten egg or milk. Place the pie on a baking tray and bake for 30-35 minutes until bubbling hot and golden. Serve while hot.

***You can chill or freeze at this stage to cook later. Defrost before cooking as above.