Is there a greater or more comforting dish than chicken pie? We don’t think so. Food writer and broadcaster Rosie Birkett’s elegant update on a classic is a winner
I call this Spring Chicken Pie because it’s a celebration of that special window at the start of spring when the brunt of winter has thawed and the ground is brought to life with green flashes of fat wild garlic leaves. If you live in the countryside you can try and forage your own, but during the season you can also find wild garlic at farmers’ markets, greengrocers and online. Here, I poach chicken thighs, then use the picked meat and the chickeny stock to make the pie filling, but if you don’t have time you can use homemade chicken stock or shop-bought stock with 600g poached chicken meat or leftover roast chicken. Shop-bought puff pastry works beautifully.
IMAGE: HELEN CATHCART
Spring Chicken and Wild garlic Puff Pie
- 6 bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs
- 500 ml homemade or good-quality shop-bought chicken stock
- 100 g frozen peas
- 100 g wild garlic leaves, washed (or, if you can’t ﬁnd wild garlic, a mixture of 100g spinach and 4 garlic cloves), plus an extra 3 leaves to decorate the pie
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1 leek, washed, trimmed and cut into 1-1.5cm slices
- 40 g butter
- 60 g plain flour
- 30 ml dry white wine
- 1 tbsp lemon juice or white wine vinegar (optional)
- 2 tbsp sour cream or crème fraîche
- nutmeg, for grating
- a few asparagus spears, trimmed and chopped (optional)
- 320 g rough puff or shop-bought ready-rolled puff pastry
- 1 egg, beaten
- sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
- Remove the chicken from the fridge 30 minutes before you start to cook.
- Put the chicken thighs in a saucepan and pour over the chicken stock. Cover, place over a medium heat and bring to a gentle boil. Once boiling, turn the heat down and simmer gently for 20–25 minutes, until a thigh which is pierced yields no blood. Remove the thighs from the stock with a slotted spoon and set aside on a plate to cool. Once cool, remove the skin from the thighs, pick the chicken meat from the bone and place it in a bowl, discarding any skin or excess fat.
- Turn the heat under the pan of stock up to high and boil until the stock has reduced by a third, then add the frozen peas and cook for a minute, followed by the wild garlic leaves (or spinach and garlic). Cook for 30 seconds, then remove from the heat and pour into the bowl of a food processor. Blitz until you have a green-flecked stock – this is to make your wild garlic béchamel.
- Preheat the oven to 200°C/180°C fan/gas 6.
- Heat the olive oil in a high-sided frying pan, add the leek with some salt and pepper and sweat for about 6 minutes, until softened and aromatic but not browning, then remove from the pan and mix into the bowl with the chicken meat. Melt the butter in the same pan, then add the flour and cook for a minute or two, stirring, until it forms a thick paste (a roux) and smells nutty.
- Pour the wine into the pan, still stirring, and cook for a couple of minutes, then gradually add the green stock, whisking constantly. Cook for about 8 minutes, stirring until you have a silky, thickened green sauce. Remove from the heat, season to taste, and sharpen with a little lemon juice or vinegar if you think it needs it. The sauce may be a little thick, but it will loosen when you stir through the sour cream. Stir in the cream or crème fraîche and season with a little grated nutmeg. If the sauce is still a little thick, thin it slightly with a splash of water or milk – it should have the consistency of thick double cream. Stir in the chicken meat and asparagus (if using).
- Pour the pie filling into a 23cm pie dish and allow to cool a little. Cut a circle from the puff pastry sheet a little larger than the dish and top the filling with the pastry. Use a pie bird or cut a slit in the pastry to let out steam. Crimp the edges with a fork, brush the pastry with beaten egg, top with wild garlic leaves and paint over them with egg wash. Bake for 30 minutes, until the crust is puffed and golden. Serve warm, with boiled Jersey Royal potatoes and a scattering of wild garlic flowers.
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