Mother cooked from scratch most days. She knitted our jumpers and made our costumes for school plays. A clever girl from South East London, brought up in the grip of depression and war. Shop bought goods were always considered a treat.
That’s the way it was with pies. When we were alone with her, which was much of the time, we sometimes had Bird’s Eye frozen chicken pies, served with peas. And we all looked forward to them.
This pie has no pastry base, and a flaky pastry crust. You can make it deep or shallow, depending on how high you want the pastry to filling ratio to be. If you prefer a bottom crust, I would suggest shortcrust, precooked before the filling is added. There is no need for gravy, but go ahead if you like it.
- The pastry: 100g/4oz plain flour, 50g/2oz butter, half an egg, salt, pepper and a little dried thyme. More flour for rolling. The rest of the egg plus a little milk for glazing.
- The filling: Half a small freshly roasted chicken. Two banana shallots, peeled and thinly sliced. The same volume of sliced fennel, mushrooms and sweetcorn. Two or three tablespoonfuls of single cream, one of white wine. A small amount of butter, pepper, salt.
- Alternative ingredients: Leeks, peas, tarragon. Or leave out the chicken and add more of everything else.
- Make a quick flaky pastry thus: In a bowl combine the flour, salt, pepper and thyme. Stir in half an egg. Grate in half the butter. Combine into a ball. If it won’t hold together add tiny increments of water until it does. Turn out onto a floured surface and knead very lightly until the dough is fairly homogeneous. Do not worry though about a few visible shreds of butter.
Roll out the pastry into a rectangle, fold in three and put in the freezer for 15 minutes. Take it out, roll out a new rectangle and grate the rest of the butter over its surface. Fold in three again, then give it a quarter turn and repeat the rolling and folding. Leave in the fridge until you are ready to bake.
Meanwhile melt some butter in a heavy casserole dish (this one is 20cm in diameter, which makes a shallow pie with lots of crust.) Add the shallots, followed by the mushrooms, fennel and corn. Cook slowly until the vegetables have lost their substance a little. Remove all the meat from the chicken. Break it into smallish pieces and stir in, along with any juices or jelly from the roasting pan. When this is simmering nicely, add a little white wine. If things seem too dry, add a spoonful of milk. If too wet, a little ball of pastry dough stirred in carefully. Test the fennel and when it is very soft, turn off the heat and allow to cool. Stir in the cream.
Roll out the pastry to fit the top of the casserole dish. Lay it over the cool filling, tucking it around the rim. Brush with the egg wash. Make two or three slits in the dough. Using any leftovers, cut out some shapes to decorate the pie. Put them on the top and again brush with egg wash.
Bake at 180-200°C for 30-35 minutes. Watch the pie carefully – you might want to administer a second layer of egg wash half way through. You might need to turn the oven up or down. I think mine cooked a bit too fast.
Serve with some watercress in the summer, mashed potatoes in the winter. Good with turkey too.