Chicken and lobster pie

Serves 4

This is a bit of a take on my rabbit and crayfish pie that was successful on BBC2's Great British Menu a few years back. Shellfish like lobster and prawns really do go well with the delicate flavour of chicken. For slow-cooked chicken dishes I use thighs rather than breast meat as they stay more moist and succulent.

2 cooked lobsters, about 500g each
500g boned and skinned free-range chicken thighs
1tbsp chopped parsley
tbsp chopped tarragon leaves
350-400g ready-made all-butter puff pastry
Plain flour for dusting
1 free-range egg, beaten

For the lobster sauce

1tbsp vegetable oil
Reserved lobster shells
4 shallots, peeled and roughly chopped
1 garlic clove, peeled and chopped
60g butter
60g plain flour
A good pinch of saffron strands
A few sprigs of tarragon
tbsp tomato purée
60ml white wine
500ml hot fish stock
500ml hot chicken stock
400ml double cream
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1-2tsp cornflour (if needed)

Remove the meat from the lobster tails and claws and cut roughly into 1cm pieces. Reserve one lobster head (if making a large pie). Break the rest of the shells up a bit, using a heavy knife. Cut the chicken thighs in half, or into thirds if large. Cover and refrigerate the lobster and chicken meat.

To make the sauce, heat the oil in a heavy saucepan and fry the lobster shells, garlic and shallots over a medium heat for 5 minutes until they begin to colour lightly. Add the butter and, once melted, stir in the flour. Add the saffron, tarragon and tomato purée, then gradually stir in the white wine and the hot fish and chicken stocks.

Bring to the boil, lower the heat and simmer for about 30 minutes until the sauce has reduced by about half, then add the cream. Season lightly with salt and pepper, bring back to the boil and simmer very gently for about 20 minutes until the sauce has reduced by half again. (A simmer plate or heat-diffuser mat is useful here.)

Strain the sauce through a colander into a clean pan, moving the shells with a spoon to ensure all the sauce goes through.

Tip about one-tenth of the shells into a blender and add about a cupful of the strained sauce. Blend until smooth, then strain through a fine-meshed sieve into the sauce in the pan.

Bring the sauce back to the boil, add the chicken and simmer for 5 minutes. The sauce should be a thick coating consistency by now; if not, simmer a little longer (or dilute a little cornflour in water and stir into the sauce). Leave to cool.

Stir the lobster and chopped parsley and tarragon into the cooled sauce. Adjust the seasoning if necessary. Fill a large pie dish or 4 individual ones with the mixture.

Roll out the pastry on a lightly floured surface to a 5mm thickness. Trim to about 2cm larger all round than the pie dish (or cut discs large enough to cover individual dishes). Brush the edges of the pastry with a little of the beaten egg. Lay the pastry over the filling, pressing the egg-washed sides on to the rim of the dish(es).

If making a large pie, cut a cross in the centre and insert the lobster head, so it sits proud. Cut a small slit in the top of individual pies to allow steam to escape. Leave to rest in a cool place for 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 200°C/gas mark 6. Brush the pastry lid with beaten egg and bake the pie for 40-50 minutes or until golden brown (allow 10-15 minutes less for individual pies). Let the pie stand for a few minutes before serving.

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