Who does not love pies? Comforting, warm, bursting with flavours with every mouthful being slightly different depends on what exactly lands on your spoon and I cannot forget crispy puff pastry which makes this experience even better. Doing some research into “Pies” I found that pie-like dishes have been around since the ancient Egyptians who used the pie as a shell or sort of baking dish to preserve the meat juices and to prevent burning and were not actually meant for eating.
The meat pies we love to make and more so to eat today started to be very popular in Europe around 14th century. The “pyes” originally appeared in England as early as the twelfth century and instead of being a sweet dessert they were mostly filled with meat like beef, lamb, wild duck, and magpie pigeon and with different spices. Their crust was referred to as “coffyn” and was not exactly eatable.
Pie makes one of the earliest appearance in the English literature in Shakespeare’s play Henry VIII. Shakespeare writes: “No man’s pie is freed from his ambitious finger.” Or, as he might have put it today, “No pie is free from the fingers of ambitious men.”
PREP: 50 minutes COOK: 30 minutes SERVES: 4
- 1 tbsp. olive oil
- 8 skinless boneless chicken thighs, cut into ½ inch cubes
- 8 rashers smoked streaky bacon, cut into large pieces
- 3 shallots, chopped finely
- 250g pack baby chestnut mushroom, cut in quarters
- Two springs of fresh thyme
- 4 allspice berries
- 2 bay leaves
- Pinch of nutmeg
- 2 tbsp. plain flour
- 2 tbsp. butter
- 400ml chicken stock
- 200ml milk
- 500g pack fresh puff pastry, or frozen and defrosted
- 1 egg beaten
Heat the oil in a medium size skillet. Once hot, season the chicken to taste and place it in the skillet. Sear all sides of meat for a minute over high heat then cook it for 4-6 minutes in covered skillet on medium heat until cooked through and golden brown, turning occasionally.
Divide the chicken into batches if required, depending on size of your skillet.
Remove the chicken and its juice from the pan and set it aside. Tip the bacon to the pan and fry it for 5 minutes until starting to crisp. Add the onion fry it for 3 minutes on medium heat until start to colour. Then add mushroom and fry them covered with lid for further 2 – 3 minutes until mushroom soften.
Now for the roux. In the separate small pan melt 2 tbsp. of butter. Once the butter is hot enough whisk 2 tbsp. of flour into the butter until a thick, rough paste. With the pan off the heat, gradually stir or whisk in 250mls of the stock.
Then transferred contents of the small pan into the skillet. Keep stirring the mixture. Add the remaining stock followed by the milk. Then add thyme, allspice berries, bay leaves, pinch of nutmeg followed by chicken and its juice.
With all ingredients in the pan, stir, cover and simmer for 30 minutes or until the filling mixture reduce by 1/3. Spoon the filling into a large pie or baking dish, stir and allow to cool slightly.
Preheat the oven to 200°C/fan180°C/gas 6. Roll out the pastry and place it carefully over the filling onto the pie dish. Trim around any excess pastry. Press the edges down gently and then brush the top with egg. Make few slits in the middle to allow the air to escape. Then bake for 25 – 30 minutes or until the pastry is risen and golden brown.
Leave it to cool down for few minutes before you dig in to avoid burning all your taste buds! Believe me, I forget it every time! Bon Appetite!
Photo Credit: Cliqq Photography