Chicken and Fennel Pie with a Double Herb and Cheese Crust

This pie has a light crust made with vegetable suet, which is a nice change from normal pastry. It is also very easy to prepare. The pie only needs a green salad as an accompaniment, though frozen petits pois or broad beans also go well.

Ingredients

  • 1 large bulb fennel
  • 450-550 g/1-1¼ lb skinless chicken breast fillets
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 level teaspoons paprika
  • finely grated rind of 1 lemon
  • 1 rounded tablespoon tomato purée
  • salt
  • black pepper

For the pastry

  • 175 g/6 oz plain flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 50 g/2 oz fresh white breadcrumbs
  • 3 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 50 g/2 oz mature Cheddar cheese, grated
  • 100 g/4 oz vegetable suet
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • a little milk for brushing

Method

Cut off the base and stalks of the fennel bulb and, if necessary, remove any marked outer parts. Chop the bulb into small pieces. Cut the chicken breasts into very thin slices crossways. Peel and finely chop the garlic. Put the oil into a large, heavy frying pan over a medium heat. Add the chopped fennel and the paprika and stir around for 6-8 minutes, until the fennel has just softened. Then add the chicken, garlic and lemon rind and stir for another 3-4 minutes, until the chicken is opaque right through. Stir in the tomato purée and season to taste with salt and plenty of black pepper. Remove from the heat, turn into a bowl and leave to cool.

To make the pastry, sift the flour, baking powder and salt into a bowl and, using a fork, stir in the breadcrumbs, oregano, grated cheese and suet. Add the lemon juice and enough cold water to form a stiff dough.

When the filling is cold, butter a pie plate 23-25 cm/9-10 in in diameter. Divide the pastry in half, form into 2 balls and roll each one out on a floured board into a circle big enough for the pie plate. Line the plate with one circle and spoon in the chicken filling. Dampen the edges and cover with the other circle. Trim the edges and use the trimmings to decorate the top. Refrigerate the pie until ready to cook.

To cook, preheat the oven to 200°C/400°F/gas mark 6. Brush the pastry all over with milk, and bake the pie in the centre of the oven for 25-30 minutes, until golden brown.