It’s British Pie Week, which means it’s the perfect opportunity to celebrate the joy that is pie! We are a nation of pie lovers, with research showing that 75% of us enjoy one at least once a month.
Pie is an ancient dish originally conceived by the Romans. The first example of a meat-filling enclosed in pastry, can be tracked back to ancient Rome. Fruit pies first appeared in the 1500s, but the history books cherry pie show that the first cherry pie was served up to Queen Elizabeth I in the late 16th Century.
In Medieval times, chefs often competed with one another to create the most ‘entertaining’ of pies; some saw birds emerging out of the pastry and there were even rumours of dwarves jumping out during large feasting events!
Mince pies were banned in the 17th Century by Oliver Cromwell who saw them as a sign of gluttony. The ban didn’t last long, however, and people could once again enjoy these tasty treats.
Pies have proven to be popular in nursery rhymes. Four and twenty blackbirds were baked in a pie in “Sing a Song of Sixpence”, Little Jack Horner put his thumb into a pie and Simple Simon met a pieman in the popular children’s rhyme.
Chicken and Leek Pie
With Storm Freya currently battering Britain with gales and heavy rain, it’s the perfect time to get comfy at home and eat some wholesome and tasty food. With this in mind, and to celebrate British Pie Week, why not make this great recipe from Good Food Magazine for Chicken and Leek Pie?
- 1½ kg whole corn-fed chicken
- ½ tsp peppercorns
- 2 bay leaves
- 3-4 thyme sprigs
- 1 onion, halved
- 1 celery stick
- ½ tsp salt
- 4 large or medium eggs
- 25g butter
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 6 bacon rashers, cut into large pieces
- 2 leeks, thinly sliced
- 2 tbsp plain flour
- 2 tbsp grainy mustard
- 4 tbsp crème fraîche
- 4 tbsp chopped fresh parsley
- Squeeze of lemon juice
- 250g bought puff pastry or home-made rough puff
- Beaten egg, for glazing
- Put the chicken into a deep pan that is just large enough to hold it quite snugly. Pour in enough water to half cover the bird, then tip in the peppercorns, bay leaves, thyme, onion and celery. Add the salt and bring to the boil on the hob, then reduce the heat, cover tightly and simmer for 1-11⁄4 hours until tender.
- Transfer the chicken to a plate. Strain 425ml/3⁄4 pint of the stock into a measuring jug (top up with water if you need to). Strip the meat off the chicken, cut into bite-sized pieces and put in a 1.7 litre/3 pint pie dish.
- Put the eggs in boiling water and boil for 6 minutes. Drain, cool them under cold water and remove the shells. Quarter the eggs and nestle them in the pie dish among the chicken pieces.
- Heat the butter and oil in a large frying pan and fry the bacon until crisp. Add the leeks and cook for 2 minutes until softened. Stir in the flour and cook for 1 minute. Pour in the chicken stock a third at a time, stirring continuously and making sure the sauce is thick and smooth before adding the next batch. Stir in the mustard, crème fraîche and parsley, then add a squeeze of lemon juice and black pepper to taste. Add salt if needed. Spoon over the chicken and leave to cool.
- Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 220C/Gas 7/fan 200C. Reserve a quarter of the pastry for decoration and roll out the remainder to a shape about 5cm/2in larger than the top of the pie dish, then cut a 2.5cm/1in strip from all round the edge. Brush the edge of the dish with water and stick the pastry strip to it. Brush the strip with water. Flip the pastry lid over the rolling pin, lift it up and unroll over the pie. Press the edge on to the pastry strip to seal and trim any excess with a sharp knife.
- Tap the blade of a small sharp knife all along the outside edge of the pastry (this helps the edge to rise during cooking), then flute it using the back of the knife. Make a hole in the lid centre with the tip of the knife, to allow steam to escape as the pie bakes.
- Roll out the pastry you put aside earlier so as to cover the pie dish. Brush with egg.
- Chill the pie for 15 mins, if you have time, to set the pastry. (Can be made a day ahead up to this point. Keep chilled and add 4-5 extra minutes at baking time.) Bake for 30 – 35 minutes until the pastry is crisp, puffed up and deep golden brown.