FAMILY FAVOURITE Comforting chicken and veg pie is ideal for a family Sunday dinner.
When it comes to treats, the concept of ‘less is more’ is one that my children (and definitely my dogs) are reluctant to embrace. Aren’t we all? But I’m working on myself, especially when it comes to meat.
When I was a child, a roast chicken was a treat, a special Sunday dinner. Then the abundance of five-euro supermarket chickens meant you could eat chicken every day. Now we are questioning, at what price to our planet, to our health and to animal welfare? I’m not getting out the sackcloth! I still enjoy eating meat; just not so often and not the cheap, mass-produced variety.
If you eat meat occasionally, you can afford to pay for organic. Yes, it is more expensive, but it’s so much better for you – and the animal. There are organic meat stalls at many Country Markets (check out Western Shore Organic Farm at the Westport Country Market, 9am-1pm on Thursdays). You can also order organic meat online and many supermarkets now stock at least some.
Chicken and veg pie
For me, a good chicken pie is an unsurpassable Sunday dinner for all the family. It’ll be perfectly fine topped with a good shop-bought puff pastry, but, for an extra special dish, make your own rough puff pastry. Short-crust would be easier and do the job, but for that extra comfort-food factor, luxurious buttery puff has the edge.
What you need
For the meat and stock
- 1/1.5kg whole chicken (free range, preferably organic)
- 1 white onion, chopped into four
- 1 carrot, roughly chopped
- 2 sticks of celery, roughly chopped
- Bay leaf
- Six peppercorns
- Glug of dry sherry
- Bunch of fresh tarragon
For the sauce
- 40g butter
- Two leeks, washed and chopped
- 100g shredded kale
- 200ml cream
For the pastry
- 225g plain flour
- 225g cold butter
- Iced water
- 1 egg for glazing
What you do
Put the chicken, veg and flavourings (minus the sherry) in a large pot and cover with cold water. Bring to the boil then simmer for 45 minutes until the chicken is cooked.
While the chicken is cooking, make the pastry. Keep the ingredients as cold as possible. Roughly chop the butter into cubes. Cover with the flour, rubbing very loosely – don’t rub into small breadcrumbs as for short crust. Keeping the butter pieces large, mix with water to bind the pastry. Cover and chill in the fridge for half an hour.
Back to the chicken. Remove any scum from the top of the pot. Take the chicken out to cool. Add your glug of sherry to the stock and boil until it reduces to about 500ml, then strain. Skin the chicken and shred the meat.
For the rest of the filling, sweat the leeks in melted butter until soft. Add the kale and let it wilt. Add the cream, the stock and the meat, and season. Place in a large pie dish or casserole dish.
Back to the pastry. Take from the fridge and roll into a rectangular shape. For the ‘puff’ effect, shape the pastry into a rectangle. Roll out till three times longer than the original length. Fold the top third back to the centre, then the bottom third to meet it in a ‘sandwich’. Give the dough a quarter turn, roll out again then repeat the ‘sandwich’ process. Chill for another 20 minutes then roll.
Fix a strip of crust pastry to your pot first by brushing the pot rim with beaten egg and glueing the pastry onto it. Then roll out a pastry lid that is just wider than the pot.
Glue with more egg wash to the existing crust, stick down and crimp. Cut a small vent hole in the middle of the pie, glaze the pastry with egg. If you have any pastry leftover, make leaf shapes and used them to decorate the top of the pie.
Bake in an oven preheated to 180 degrees for 30 to 40 minutes, until the pastry is golden. Serve with buttery mash and seasonal vegetables.
Red Cabot is interested in food, nature and small things. He sells his food at Westport Country Markets in St Anne’s Boxing Club, James’s Street car park, Westport, every Thursday, from 8am to 1pm.