TGIFOOD

LIFE OF PIE

What’s baking today? Easy as chicken pie

What’s baking today? Easy as chicken pie
Chicken pie, with a shortcrust pastry that won’t leave you with regret and heartburn. (Photo: Georgina Crouth)

Searching for the origin of the humble pie can lead one down some dark paths. 

The ancient Greeks knew their pies as artocreas, an upside-down sounding pie, with a bottom crust, but not a top shell. 

The Romans, who appropriated (stole or took inspiration, depending on who you ask) just about everything from the Greeks, including their gods, their art, architecture, literature, cuisine and language, may just have been the first to have created a pie with a top and a bottom crust. 

Whether or not this is an improvement is debatable. The Library of Congress — the US’ oldest federal cultural institution — says that in the 2nd Century (BCE) Marcus Porcius Cato concocted a recipe for placenta in De Agri Cultura, which may be one of the earliest recipes for a closed pie. It’s worse than it sounds: placenta was a kind of cheesecake filled with goat cheese, honey, and layers of pastry dough, used in religious rituals.

Since those times, there have been millions of versions, both sweet and savoury, culminating in what must count as the ultimate crime against gastronomy: the burger pie. 

I wouldn’t go there so instead, I’ll tender this recipe for chicken pie, with a homemade shortcrust pastry that won’t leave you with the regret (and heartburn) of that last pie from the petrol station’s warmer at 3am. 

Chicken pie in shortcrust pastry

For the shortcrust pastry:

Ingredients:

2 cups cake flour

200g butter, chopped roughly

About 4 tbsp of iced water

For the chicken filling:

Ingredients:

1 cooked chicken, deboned and meat shredded 

4 tbsp olive oil

1 onion, chopped

4 leeks, rinsed and chopped

1 green pepper, chopped

1 punnet mushrooms, sliced (optional)

3 cloves garlic, finely chopped and crushed

1 tsp dried thyme

1 cup of concentrated chicken stock 

250ml cream

3 tbsp cornflour, mixed into a little water/wine

White pepper and salt to taste

Splash of soy sauce

Method:

Pastry: Sift flour and salt into a food processor, add cubes of butter. Process until crumbly, slowly add iced water until the dough comes together. Remove dough from the processor bowl, form in a ball, and wrap in cling film. Place in the fridge to rest for at least an hour. Once needed, remove pastry from wrapping, place on a floured surface and roll out thinly (about 1cm thick). Form pastry according to requirements. 

Chicken filling:

Sauté onions on low heat until they are glassy, add leeks and stir for a minute, then add green peppers. Sauté for a further two minutes, then add chicken and stir until warmed through. Add the remaining ingredients and stir until bubbling. Remove from heat and allow to cool before inserting into pastry.

To assemble: For one large pot pie, grease a pie dish, place filling in the bowl, smooth and cover with a pastry lid. Tuck in the edges of the pastry.

Brust the pastry with an egg wash and bake in a preheated oven at 180°C until cooked through (about 40 minutes).

For individual pies, shape pastry using a pudding bowl, place chicken mixture into the centre of one half, brush the edges of that half with egg wash, fold over until it’s a half-moon shape and press with a fork to seal. Bake as above.

Tony Jackman returns on 31 July. DM

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