This is an example of a savoury pie that uses just a top crust. I like these types of pies best with a puff pastry lid, but if you don’t want to make puff pastry (even though this is a really quick method), you can make shortcrust instead or use a shop-bought alternative. I won’t judge – it’s available, so why not use it now and again when you don’t have time to make pastry from scratch? You can use chicken breast to make the filling, but a whole organic chicken is cheaper.
Chicken & mushroom pies are a firm favourite with the Brits. They’re very uncomplicated but never disappoint when made well. If pies could be hugs, then this would be it.
Put the chicken in a large flameproof casserole dish with the vegetables, parsley and peppercorns and cover with about 1.5 litres (6 cups) of water. Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 45 minutes to 1 hour until the chicken is just cooked. Allow the chicken to cool, then remove it from the stock. Keep the stock separate for the sauce.
Make the pastry following the method.
Make the roux by melting the butter in a pan. Add the flour and mix well. Cook, stirring, over low heat until the roux has the scent of biscuits. If you don’t do this, your sauce will taste like flour. Add the milk and stir off the heat. Gently bring back to the boil while stirring so that the roux doesn’t burn. Add the stock and stir until the roux is thicker. Season with nutmeg, salt and pepper.
Add the chicken, mushrooms and tarragon and simmer for a few minutes. If your sauce becomes too thick, add more stock or milk. Allow the filling to cool before assembling the pies. You can also make the filling a day in advance.
Roll out the pastry on a floured work surface to a thickness of 3 mm (⅛ inch). Roughly cut it into four pieces. Spoon the cooled chicken filling into the pie pans. Place a piece of pastry on top of each pie and use a sharp knife to cut off the excess. You can decorate the pies with left-over pastry. At this point you can bake the pies or freeze them to bake another time.
Brush the top of each pie with the egg wash.
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