Thursday, 29 September 2011

Seasonal Chicken, Leek and Apple Pie

My Mum has been busy all summer in the garden and we have SO much vegetables to get through. I have been trying to think up things to cook with the enormous amounts of onions, leeks, courgettes, cucumbers and spinach that we have! (And there are lots more!)

The following recipe is the best comfort food ever! People seem to be generally scared of making pastry but go for it and you won't regret it! This recipe is one of my favourites.

For the shortcrust pastry
300g plain flour
pinch salt
110g cold butter, cut into cubes
1 egg beaten
3-4 tbsp cold water

For the white sauce
30g plain flour
30g butter
500ml milk
3 tbsp double cream
3 tsp dijon mustard
1/3 chicken stock cube crumbled

For the filling
2 large leeks
30g butter
3 pink lady apples, cored and cut into small chunks (any apples will do here)
100g bacon lardons or pancetta
4 chicken breasts, sliced
freshly ground black pepper

You want to get the pastry done and into the fridge for 30 minutes to rest so its best to start with this part.

Sift the flour and salt into a large mixing bowl.

Add the butter, and with care not to overdo touching the butter, rub the butter into the flour with your fingertips until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. (Try not to have lumps of butter left over.)

Add a little bit of the cold water at a time and try to bring the mixture together to form a dough. I find using a knife here helps as you don't want the heat of your fingers transferring to the mixture.

Bring the dough together finally with your hands and transfer to a lightly floured worktop.

Knead it briefly and shape into a ball.

Wrap in cling film and chill in the fridge for the next 30 minutes while you prepare the rest of the pie.

White sauce:
Melt the butter in a saucepan. Add the flour and stir over a medium heat for 1-2minutes being careful not to burn it!

Add the milk all at once and remove from the heat. Using a balloon whisk, whisk until all the lumps have dissolved. Return to the heat and whisk continuously until the sauce has thickened and come to the boil.

Add the cream, dijon mustard and crumbled stock cube. Stir well and remove from the heat.

Leave aside to cool while you prepare the filling.

Top and tail the leeks. Slice them into rings and then wash them to ensure you don't end up with muck in your dish!

Heat a heavy-bottomed pot. Add the leeks and the butter and cook for 1-2mins.

Add the apples to the pot and continue to cook for a few mins.

Add the bacon lardons and the chicken pieces and cook for a few minutes longer. (The chicken will only be about 2/3 cooked at the end of this time. The final cooking will be done in the oven.

Putting it all together:
Preheat the oven to 200C. I used fan oven here.
Take the pastry out of the fridge and allow to return to room temperature.
Place the chicken mixture into a pie dish and pour over the cooled white sauce.

Lightly flour a clean work surface and roll out the pastry till it is about 1.5 times the size of the pie dish. Trim the uneven edges away and use these trimmed pieces as a single layer around the edge of the pie dish. This will help the pastry stick together at the edges so there are no explosions!

Lift the remaining pastry sheet on top of your pie, using a rolling pin to help lift it if this makes it easier for you. Cut 2 slits in the top of the pastry to allow air to escape. This can be done in any pattern if you feel like being creative!

Brush the top of the pastry with the beaten egg. Place the pie in the oven and bake for 25-30minutes until there is a nice golden colour on top. Best to serve it while its hot as the pastry will be light and crunchy!

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