I made two little pies with asparagus and chicken for our tea when we went to Glastonbury. As I burnt the first load of pastry, which I had bought, I had to then whip up another batch. So we had one pie with shop-bought and one with home-made, the home-made won the taste test. If you have time and the inclination then make your own.
This is perfect if you have leftover meat from a roast dinner: you can add more vegetables if you have less meat or top it up with some fried bacon. I like to layer pies, ensuring everyone gets a bit of everything.
If the peas or asparagus are late season ones i.e. bigger than new season, then steam them for a couple of minutes before adding to the pie. New season vegetables are sufficiently tender to go in uncooked.
I use a 26cm oblong enamel pie dish, the old fashioned kind, which is white with a blue rim.
1 portion rich short crust pastry, 500g packet shop bought or home-made, instructions below
225g plain flour
110g butter, straight from the fridge, cubed
2 egg yolks mixed with 2 tbs very cold water
A pinch of salt
450g chicken or approximately 2 breasts and 2 thighs of a small chicken, cooked, boned and sliced into generous pieces
2 leeks, cut once lengthways, washed then very finely sliced into half-moon shapes
1 tbs olive oil
1 clove garlic, chopped
500ml liquid, a mixture of milk and chicken stock
75g plain flour
Salt and pepper
2 tbs parsley, chopped
100g/handful of seasonal green vegetables, fresh peas or young asparagus, cut into 2cm lengths are ideal
Rind of a lemon
1 egg, beaten
Heat the oven to 200°C
How to make the pastry
If you are making the pastry, get going with it first. Sieve the flour, add a pinch of salt and rub the cold butter into the flour until you have a breadcrumb-like mixture. Add the egg yolks and water and mix with a knife, then bring the dough together with your hand. Add a little more water if the pastry doesn’t come together. A shortcrust pastry is best, so don’t make it soggy, it will turn out hard.
Cool in the fridge for 30 minutes wrapped in cling film.
Making the pie
Roll out 2/3 of the pastry and line the pie dish. Don’t make it too thick, as you will run out of pastry. A pie with too much pastry and not enough filling is a bad thing. Shortcrust pastry is – as its name suggests – very short and sometimes hard to handle. If yours breaks then you can patch it up in the pie dish, no one will know, just make the top look good. Trim the edge of the pastry all round the dish. Prick the base of the pastry lightly with a fork, so it doesn’t rise, cover with greaseproof paper and fill with baking beans. Blind bake for ten minutes.
While the pastry case is cooking, gently heat the oil and fry the leeks and garlic with a pinch of salt until they are soft and bright green – don’t rush this, leeks can go papery very easily. Make the white sauce by melting the butter in a small saucepan, remove from the heat and add the flour. Beat well with a wooden spoon, so you have one ball of mixture in the pan. Cook very gently for five to eight minutes; you want to cook the flour, but not burn it. Take it off the heat. Add the liquid bit by bit, mixing well after each spoonful. Once the liquid is incorporated, then cook gently until the sauce thickens, season and add the parsley. You want quite a thick white sauce so it holds together in your pie.
Once the pastry case is cooked, take it out, remove the paper and baking beans. Layer the pie filling, seasoning well with salt and pepper: leeks first, chicken, lemon rind, peas or asparagus and lastly white sauce.
Brush the edges of the pastry with the beaten egg and roll out the remaining pastry and cover the pie, pinch the edges to seal the pie and trim the excess. Brush the top with beaten egg and cut two slits in the top for the steam to escape. Cook in the oven for 25 to 30 minutes, the meat needs to be fully heated through, so if you put in cold meat you will need the full 30 minutes.
If your pastry top is burning, cover it with greaseproof paper. If the meat was still hot when you put it in, as soon as the pastry is cooked on top, your pie is ready. Take out and cool, cover when cold and take it camping with you in a cool box.