Who doesn’t love a pie? There’s no limit to what tastes good baked in a dish and topped with pastry.
You can push the boundaries with rabbit, snail and wild garlic leaves, or stick with classics like chicken and ham hock. I love serving pies at my dinner parties; if you saw the BBC’s Great British Menu in 2007 you’ll remember my rabbit and crayfish stargazy pie really caught the attention of the judges.
I’ve made the same pie with chicken and lobster, which goes down a treat with guests, particularly when you stick the lobster’s head in the middle of the pastry.
It’s crucial to get every single element spot-on when cooking a pie, and it goes without saying to use only the finest ingredients. Your pastry crust will hide a few sins, but it won’t conceal a bad filling.
Chicken, ham hock and wild garlic pie
10 chicken thighs, skinned, boned and halved
4 chicken drumsticks with the knuckle chopped off
250g cooked ham hock or ham, cut into rough 2cm chunks
2 medium onions, peeled,
halved and finely chopped
Vegetable oil, for frying
40g flour, plus extra for dusting
1 ltr hot chicken stock
A handful of wild garlic, chopped (or garlic chives)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
For the pastry
225g self-raising flour
1 tsp salt
85g shredded beef suet
60g butter, chilled and coarsely grated
1 medium egg, beaten, to glaze
Makes four small pies
I prefer thighs for slow-cooked chicken dishes as breasts tend to dry out. I’ve used wild garlic leaves here as they give a great flavour to the pie once cooked. Or, you can also use garlic chives sold in Chinese food stores.
Pre-heat the oven to 180ºC/gas mark 5. Season and cover the chicken with a tablespoon of flour. Heat some oil in a frying pan and fry for 2mins per side.
In a heavy-based saucepan, cook the onions in the butter for 2–3mins, add the rest of the flour and stir well.
Slowly add the cider, stirring to avoid lumps, then the stock.
Bring to the boil, add the chicken and season.
Simmer with a lid on for about 40mins or until the chicken is tender.
When the meat is cooked the sauce should be quite thick; if not, remove the chicken and simmer until it thickens. Stir in the ham and wild garlic; set aside the drumsticks. Cool, then transfer to four small pie dishes.
For the pastry: combine the flour, salt, suet and butter.
Mix in about 150–175ml water to form a smooth dough and knead for 1min.
Roll out on a floured table to a thickness of about ¾cm, cut out the right size and shape to cover the dishes, allowing an extra 2cm to seal the edges.
Place a drumstick, bone up, into each dish, brush the edges of each pastry top with beaten egg, slit the centre for the bone to come through and lay the pastry on top, pressing the egg-washed sides against the rim of the dish.
Brush pies with beaten egg.
Rest in a cool place for 30mins then bake for 45mins.