Chicken in the orchard pie

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Chicken pie is popular with both adults and children, so I often made this one in Devon, using local Scrumpy cider and apples from the orchard. I usually prepared it ahead to the stage where I had put the uncooked pastry on top, then kept it in the fridge. So when we came back from a day out, all I needed to do was to glaze the pastry and put the pie in the oven. You don’t really need potatoes, just a green vegetable or a salad.

Ingredients

  • 10 boned chicken thighs
  • 25 g butter
  • 1 rounded tablespoon plain flour
  • 300 ml dry cider
  • 2 rounded teaspoons wholegrain mustard
  • small handful of tarragon
  • 75 g chestnut mushrooms
  • 1 dessert apple
  • 150 ml double cream
  • 1 medium free-range egg
  • 375 g packet puff pastry (preferably the all-butter kind)
  • sea salt, black pepper

Method

Heat the oven to 180°C/Gas 4. Remove the skin from the chicken and cut each thigh into 3 pieces. Gently melt the butter in a flameproof casserole and remove from the heat. Add the chicken pieces to the casserole and stir to coat with the butter, then stir in the flour, using a wooden spoon. Gradually stir in the cider.

Put the casserole back over the heat and stir until the liquid bubbles and thickens. Now add the mustard and season with salt and plenty of black pepper. Cover the casserole and cook in the centre of the oven for 1 hour.

In the meantime, pull the leaves off the tarragon stalks and chop them roughly. Slice the mushrooms across thinly. Peel the apple, cut out the core and then cut into small chunks.

When you remove the casserole from the oven, stir in the cream, chopped tarragon, mushrooms and apple. Transfer the mixture to a 1.2-1.4 litre pie dish or similar ovenproof dish. Set aside until cold.

Whisk the egg lightly in a small bowl. Cut off a smallish piece of pastry and roll it into a couple of long strips. Brush the rim of the pie dish with egg, lay the pastry strips on top, pressing the joins together, and lightly press down onto the rim.

Roll out the pastry until it is slightly bigger all round than the top of the pie dish. Trim away the excess pastry round the edges. Roll out the trimmings and cut out shapes to decorate the pie (I can manage an apple tree, sometimes even a chicken). Cut 2 small holes near the centre to allow steam to escape. Refrigerate at this stage if preparing ahead.

When ready to cook the pie, heat the oven to 200°C/Gas 6. Brush the pastry all over with egg and cook in the centre of the oven for 20-25 minutes until the pastry is puffed and rich golden brown. Turn down the heat to 150°C/Gas 2 and bake for a further 20-25 minutes. Serve hot.

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