When your boyfriend declares ‘I think this is the best thing you’ve ever cooked for me’, you know the dish in question must be posted on your blog.
These pies use some of our absolute favourite ingredients: chorizo, cider, and – for me – pastry. I just love pastry, be it puff/shortcrust/filo/whatever. And I’m sure I can’t be the only person who also likes to eat it raw, soft and squishy and sinful, with its uncooked egg and high percentage of butter. I buy extra just to ensure enough offcuts for snackage. Of course I like it cooked, too, crisp and golden, holding fast against the soggy threat of a creamy sauce.
And am I the only person rallying against the ready-rolled sheet? Too many rolling pins must lurk forgotten at the back of kitchen drawers. I enjoy wielding mine, shaking it at anyone who dares enter my kitchen. There’s something therapeutic about rolling out a pastry block; a certain nostalgia about the image of floury hands, dusty apron, and white specks in your hair. But romantic notions aside, the ready-rolled sheet is lazier and more expensive than a pastry block and the end-result is normally no different, except perhaps slightly more uniform (i.e. boring).
Anyway, Duncan was right: these pies are really great. We noticed a slight Thai note to them: quite mysterious since they use none of the requisite ingredients, but I put it down to the tang from the chorizo; the way its sweetness bleeds into the cream, making it reminiscent of coconut milk; and the tarragon – a flavour just unfamiliar enough to seem a little bit exotic. So thank you Delicious magazine for feeding me well and earning me good-girlfriend points. (I earned even more by letting Dunc polish off the rest of the cider.)
I’ve adjusted the Delicious recipe (from their November issue) to feed just two people, and used ready-diced chicken pieces, thereby cutting out most of the pre-amble that comes from using a whole chicken. Here’s my adjusted version. Accompany with a bottle of cider and green salad (no need for more carbs on the side).
Makes 2 generous individual pies
(I used 500ml pie dishes. I suppose you could also use a single 1-litre pie dish instead)
500g diced chicken breast
330ml bottle of dry cider (I used Aspall Dry)
1 onion, half cut into wedges and half thinly sliced
leaves stripped from a handful of thyme, plus a few whole sprigs
4 black peppercorns
1 tbsp olive oil
knob of butter
1 large leek, chopped
1 tbsp plain flour, plus extra for rolling pastry
grated zest of 1 lemon
100g spicy chorizo (from a 225g chorizo ring), sliced
75ml double cream
handful of fresh tarragon, leaves stripped and chopped
500g block of shortcrust pastry
1 egg, beaten
▪ First you need to poach the chicken pieces in the cider. Put them in a large pan, pour in 250ml of the cider (save the rest for drinking) and top up with enough water to cover. Add the onion wedges, whole thyme sprigs, peppercorns and sea salt. Bring to the boil then immediately reduce the heat, put the lid on slightly askew, and simmer for up to 10 minutes until the chicken pieces are cooked through but still soft.
▪ Strain the chicken through a sieve, catching the liquid in a clean pan underneath. Put this pan of liquid back on the hob, turn the heat up high and bubble furiously for 30 minutes to reduce the cider sauce.
▪ Meanwhile, pick the onion wedges, thyme and peppercorns off the chicken in the sieve and throw them away. Give the chicken a quick rinse in the sieve, then set it aside for the moment.
▪ Heat the oil and butter in a frying pan and fry the leek and sliced onion for 10 minutes until soft and a bit brown. Season, stir in the flour and cook for a couple of minutes, then tip into a large mixing bowl and combine with the thyme leaves and lemon zest.
▪ Fry the chorizo slices in the frying pan until just starting to release oil and go crispy. Add to the bowl with the leeks. Also add the chicken, cream, tarragon and 200ml of the reduced cider sauce. Mix everything together and season with salt and black pepper.
▪ Preheat the oven to 200°C.
▪ Flour a clean work surface and roll out the pastry block as thinly as you prefer (not too thin!). Sit one of your empty pie dishes on the pastry and ‘draw’ round it with a sharp knife, cutting all the way through, to make a lid. Repeat for a second lid. Then cut out some long strips about 1cm wide, enough to stretch all the way around the rim of each pie dish – it doesn’t have to be one continuous strip, you can use combine two or three shorter lengths. Also cut out some leaves or decorations for the top of the pies. There will be some leftover pastry from the block, which you can eat if you’re weird like me, or else wrap in clingfilm and put in the fridge to use in the next few days.
▪ Pour the chicken, chorizo and leek mixture into the pie dishes. Brush the rims of the dishes with beaten egg and stick the thin pastry strips onto them, pinching with your finger and thumb to press the pastry securely onto the inside and outside of the edge all the way round.
▪ Brush the pastry rim strips with beaten egg and then lower the lids down onto the pie dishes. Go round the edge pressing with your finger, to crimp and stick the pastry lid to the pastry rim underneath.
▪ Brush the whole lid with beaten egg, stick on your decorations and brush them with egg too. Cut two or three slits with a sharp knife to let steam escape.
▪ Bake for 25 minutes until golden brown. Allow to cool a little before digging in.