JOAN’S HEARTY CHICKEN and MUSHROOM PIE.
The one really brilliant thing about the weather turning colder is the food. Slow roasts, stews, casseroles and pies can now be put on the menu as legitimate items, and fuck the diets.
We had dinner recently with a friend, John Bok, a bloody good journalist, but more importantly, a 24-carat decent human being. I hadn’t seen him for 30 years and we ate, drank and talked long into the night. It was great, an evening spent around a dinner table – nothing better.
I have been faffing about for ages with different chicken recipes trying to create a chicken pie, which isn’t bland as some of them can be, so poor John was the guinea pig in yet another pie experiment.
The best chicken pie I have ever eaten was in a pub in Stratford-on-Avon on a cold and windy English summer’s day. The pie was rich with the heady mix of thyme and tarragon; all ingredients cooked in perfect harmony. Most recipes only seem to have thyme as the herb of choice. Since the Stratford experience I have added tarragon to the mix, and played around with the mushrooms in an attempt to make the pie even richer.
I think I’ve done it. I made two pies. One was for dinner with John, one for the family to sample. They loved it. So did I. Post it was the instruction. I am doing as I’ve been told. I hope you enjoy it.
¾ – 1kg skinless chicken thigh fillets
Olive Oil (if you must)
Butter (my preference)
6-8 slices of bacon
100 g dried porcini mushrooms
100 g mushrooms of your choosing
200 ml stock (water in which you soak your dried porcini mushrooms)
200 ml white wine
1 tsp thyme
1 tsp tarragon
1 tbsp parsley
Short crust pastry – sufficient to line a pie dish as well as have a pastry lid
Pepper and Salt
Egg wash (or milk)
Place your dried porcini mushrooms in water to soak. Soaking the mushrooms can take quite a few hours, as they need to rehydrate.
Dice your chicken fillets. Toss the diced chicken in seasoned flour. I use those Glad snap-lock bags for doing this; the kitchen and I are not then covered in flour.
Heat the butter or oil or a combination of the two. I use a sauté pan, which is so large it is almost too heavy to sauté, and is brilliant for cooking this sort of stuff on the stovetop. So much for the digression – heat the butter or the oil etc. and cook your seasoned chicken pieces in batches until they’re a golden brown colour and put aside for later.
Cut bacon into strips or bight size bits.
KEEP THE WATER YOU SOAKED THE PORCINI MUSHROOMS IN AS STOCK. Drain the porcini mushrooms, pat dry with paper towel, and slice. Get your other cleaned mushrooms and slice.
Wash thoroughly and thinly slice your leek.
Add butter (or oil) to the same pan, and cook your bacon, mushrooms and leek until they start to change colour and become softer.
Add herbs, add white wine and bring to the boil. Add chicken and the stock, season with pepper and salt. Bring to the boil and then simmer for 30 minutes.
When I’m making pies I do not blind bake the short crust pastry. I spoon the cooked mixture straight into the raw pastry base lining a pie dish. The chicken will continue to cook along with the pastry. Put the lid on the pie and brush the lid with either milk or an egg wash to glaze it.
Put the pie in a pre-heated oven 180C for 30-40 minutes approx. Ovens are now so different from conventional electric, to gas, to fan-forced, to fan assisted; it is hard to stipulate a temperature or even the duration. Be guided by the operating instructions of your oven, and get to know your oven. I’m barely on nodding acquaintance terms with my steam oven but I’ll get there.
When the pastry is that beautiful golden brown colour you are done.
I served it with mashed potato and steamed beans with dry roasted pine nuts. Using the water, in which you soaked the mushrooms as stock, was serendipitous. I had been making a pie, and had run out stock, so, with fingers crossed, used the mushroom infused water. It made the pie heartier, more flavoursome, and I’ve been doing it this way ever since. This pie will serve 4-6 persons.