Chicken, Pale Ale and Chicory Pie


There’s no such thing as an ‘ultimate’ chicken pie, and you should be wary of anyone who claims to have the recipe for one. There are chicken pies for lazy days, the meat plucked from the bones of yesterday’s roast, hearty ones packed with mush-rooms and more delicate versions with tender asparagus spears. There are as many chicken pies as there are dinners to be had, and with that in mind I present this one not as formula, dictum or brag, but as a humble suggestion, and my personal favourite.

Makes 1 large pie, serving 6

250-300g puff pastry
1 large egg, lightly beaten with a pinch of salt, to glaze

For the filling:
2 tablespoons butter
2 large onions, thinly sliced
150g unsmoked back bacon, diced
250ml pale ale
250ml chicken or vegetable stock
750–900g skinless chicken legs and/or thighs
3 tablespoons plain flour
150ml double cream
Leaves from 2 heads of chicory
Salt and black pepper, to taste

Large pie dish, 25–28cm in diameter at its rim

1 Having prepared the puff pastry as described on page 251, place it in the fridge to chill while you prepare the filling. On a low heat, melt the butter in a large pan then fry the onions until they begin to soften. Add the bacon, turn up the heat and cook for a further 2–3 minutes. Add the ale, stock and chicken pieces (still on the bone). The chicken needs to be just covered by the liquid, so top up with extra stock if necessary. Bring to a simmer then turn the heat down low enough that the surface of the liquid is just quivering, with only the occasional bubble breaking through. Poach the chicken for 30 minutes this way.

2 After half an hour, use a slotted spoon to remove the chicken from the pan, setting it down on a large chopping board. When cool enough to handle, remove the meat from the bones and set aside.

3 Add the flour to the stock mixture and whisk in until smooth. Increase the heat slightly and simmer, stirring, for a couple of minutes to thicken the sauce. Take off the heat, stir in the double cream and season to taste.

4 Transfer the chicken meat to the pie dish and toss through the whole chicory leaves (they will wilt as they cook). Pour over the sauce — you may not need all of it depending on the size of your pie dish, but do be generous. Leave to cool slightly while you preheat the oven to 200°C/fan 180°/gas mark 6.

5 Once the oven is hot and the filling has cooled a little (if the pastry goes straight onto the hot filling, the butter will melt and it will lack the crucial ‘puff ’), roll the pastry to a circle large enough to cover the pie and about 4mm thick. Lay it gently over the top, tucking it down slightly at the sides. Use a sharp knife to poke a hole or score a couple of incisions into the pastry in order to allow steam to escape during cooking. Glaze the top with egg wash if you want the pie to shine. Bake in the preheated oven for 25–30 minutes — or until the pastry is proudly puffed and flaky, and the filling is piping hot. Serve as is only right: with mashed potatoes and tender green beans.

 ©Nato Welton, 2014

©Nato Welton, 2014

Crumb: The Baking Book
By Ruby Tandoh