Wednesday, 18 February 2009

Chicken & Leek Pie

Phew! I've had a busy morning making chicken and leek pies. It took hours, but most of that time I was able to get on with other stuff as I waited for things to cook or cool.

I usually find myself making chicken and leek pies sometime in February. Pies are a good winter food, I think, but it also makes good use of the leeks. It won't be long now before the leeks start to bolt (send up flower stems) and when this happens the centre of the leek becomes very, very tough and the leek becomes bitter. In fact, when I sliced the leeks today I noticed the very beginning changes to the centre of the leek that suggests the process has just started. Not to worry, I've not got that many leeks left now and I can always freeze some.

Mind you, the main reason I made the pies today was because I had some roast chicken left over from the Sunday roast. It is so easy to eat up cold chicken - served with salad and chips is always good, or in a sandwich with some mayonnaise - but I can do that another day when the leeks are finished.

Whole chickens are really good value for money if you use the chicken fully. Steve and I both prefer the leg meat so we'd eaten that for our Sunday roast, and our daughters had had most of a breast between them. So that left the other breast and the wings for the pies and then the skin and carcass went into the stock pot, along with the sage and shallots I'd stuffed into the body cavity. I boiled that lot up with two kettle fulls of water for about an hour and made a good supply of chicken stock - some for the pies and some of other recipes on another day.

When making pies like this it is easier to go with the ingredients you have and chuck things in until you are happy with the end result rather than follow a recipe religiously. However, it is really important not to cook the chicken more than twice, not to heat things up by adding warm ingredients to cold, and to not refreeze ingredients. So, make sure the cooked chicken remains cold throughout until the pie is cooked ready for eating. Make sure that all hot ingredients cool completely before mixing them with cold ones. And use pastry that has not been frozen before if you intend to freeze the pies.

Chicken and Leek Pies (makes 4 individual)

Left over roast chicken
2 large leeks, giving 6-7 oz prepared leek
1 pint chicken stock
1 oz plain flour
Salt & pepper
1 block ready made puff pastry
Egg or milk to glaze

Pick over the chicken. Slice the leek and boil for about 10 minutes until soft. Drain the cooking water from the leeks and add to the chicken stock either when both are hot or both are cold. Mix the flour with just enough cold water to form a thick liquid then pour it into the hot stock, stirring continuously to avoid lumps. Continue to stir and bring to the boil. Simmer for 2 to 3 minutes to thicken the gravy. Add salt and pepper to the gravy to taste. Remove from the heat and allow to cool completely (this can take quite a while!). When the leeks have cooled, mix them into the cold chicken and when the gravy is cold stir this into the leek/chicken mix. Spoon this mixture into suitable pie dishes. Roll out the pastry on a floured surface and cut out pastry lids to fit over your pie dishes. Drape the pastry lids over the pies, glaze with egg or milk and make a couple of steam vents in the top with a knife. Freeze the pies at this point or if you are ready to eat them go ahead and cook them for 25 to 30 minutes at 190°C until the pastry is risen and golden. Serve hot with potatoes and vegetables.

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