Oh what a week it’s been. I know, I know, it’s Monday so what on earth am I moaning about the week for? Well I guess I mean last week. Everything seems to be breaking in the house. The fridge died. (I think I have resurrected it – keeping everything crossed). The drains are blocked. The house needs cleaning. The children are tired. I am tired. No-one is sleeping well. It feels like the Gods of unrest have visited the house and here we are, all miserable and just about hanging on. I need to muster something other than this low level malaise – it’s infecting the bricks and mortar of the house.
So when everything feels a bit awful and sleepy and broken then I make pie. And the kind of pie I like to make does not have a fragile lid of filo, or a pillowy crust of mashed potato waves. Nor flaky fall apart layers. When everything is failing you need a pastry that’s strong, that’s proper and thick and every so slightly soggy where it touches the pie filling underneath. This is proper Midlands pie, the stuff of my childhood. But the pastry is a new fangled thing compared to 1980s pies. It’s full of cream cheese and salted butter, and well, it’s delightful. The filling? Do what you want filling wise. I don’t judge you. If you wanted to tip out a whole tin of something meaty then so be it. If you prefer to hand peel chickpeas or shoot a pigeon from your conservatory then that’s great too. I hope you like it, whatever’s in your pie of dreams.
Two years ago: Sweet potato and mushroom chilli, Toffee apples, Peach, tea and white chocolate traybake, Milk, tea and honey cupcakes, Chocolate lime pinata cake, Chorizo, kale and roast potato traybake, Quinoa veggie burgers, Thai turkey lettuce cups, Cucumber salad and Blackberry and pear crumble.
Three years ago: Lemon cheesecake, Ginger and Caramac version, Peanut butter pie with an Oreo crust, Double chocolate pecan pie and salted caramel traybake, a Traditional Christmas pud and Parkin for Bonfire night
Chicken pie with a cream cheese pastry lid
For the pastry:
- 185g plain flour, plus extra for rolling
- 110g wholemeal strong flour
- 225g cream cheese
- 150g cold salted butter
- 1 egg whisked lightly with a pinch of salt
For the filling:
- 40g butter
- 200g mushrooms
- 5 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
- 500g cooked chicken, roughly chopped (I used leftover roast chicken)
- 200g sweetcorn (either use drained canned corn or boiled/griddled corn on the cob, removed from the cob)
- 2 tbsp rapeseed oil
- 2 tbsp plain flour
- 300mls chicken stock (fresh or from a stock cube)
- 2 tsp black pepper, freshly ground
- 1 tsp salt
Make the pastry by stirring the two flours together. Add the cream cheese and butter to the top in small pieces and use your hands to lightly rub them into the flours. Pull the pastry together into a ball using your hand to gather it. This is a ‘wet’ pastry so don’t be alarmed if it feels more sticky than usual. Squash into a disc, wrap in cling film and chill for an hour at least.
Make the pie filling by melting the butter in a frying pan. Add the mushrooms and the garlic cloves and fry over a low heat until the butter absorbs into the mushrooms and they are well cooked. (You can leave the mushrooms whole or chop them – up to you). Stir through the chicken and sweetcorn then add the oil. After a minute sprinkle the flour over the top and stir with a wooden spoon. Add the chicken stock, a third at a time, stirring well after each addition. Lastly add the pepper and salt and stir through. Simmer for 5 minutes. The pie filling should be well coated in a thickened sauce. Pour into a metal pie dish and set aside to cool. Once at room temperature cover and chill.
When you are ready to assemble the pie, preheat the oven to 200C/fan 180C/gas mark 6. Flour your work surface well and place the pastry on it. Roll to about 1/2 cm thick with a well floured rolling pin. Brush the rim of the pie dish with egg wash then move the pastry over the top of the pie dish by placing your hands underneath it, with fingers spread. Ensure you haven’t stretched the pastry over the dish as this will resort in the pastry shrinking in the oven and exposing the filling. If it looks/feels stretched then push the pastry into the centre of the dish a little, to give it some slack. Use a blunt knife to trim the edges of the pastry around the pie, then re roll these pieces and cut shapes to decorate the pie with. Egg wash the whole lid, add the extra shapes and egg wash again. Cut a cross in the middle of the pie and bake in the oven for 30 – 45 minutes until the lid is golden brown and well cooked. Serve with lots of vegetables and extra gravy. Maybe some mashed potato too.
NB: Never add a pastry lid to a warm or hot pie filling. What will happen is your pastry will misbehave and be tough. Cold filling, cold pastry, hot oven. The holy trinity of pie making. Oh and a metal pie dish, but that didn’t work with the trinity theme.
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