Chicken pie

Serves 6

This is a deeply satisfying weekday supper dish. Lovely on a winter's evening, it will warm you right to your core. I like to serve the pie simply with a mound of buttered, wilted spinach. You can prepare the pie in advance and keep it in the fridge, ready to glaze and bake – just allow an extra 10 minutes in the oven. Or you might prefer to make just the pastry ahead – wrap well and keep in the fridge for a few days, or in the freezer for a couple of weeks.

For the shortcrust pastry

500g/1lb plain white flour, plus extra to dust
A generous pinch of sea salt
250g/8oz unsalted butter, well chilled, cut into little cubes
1 large egg yolk
2–3 tbsp cool water
1 egg, lightly beaten, to glaze

For the filling

1 chicken, about 1.5kg/3lb
2 celery sticks, roughly chopped
6 carrots, peeled and chopped
10 black peppercorns
3 bay leaves
Small bunch of thyme
Small bunch of parsley
2 tbsp unsalted butter
2 tbsp plain flour
150ml/5fl oz crème fraîche
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Bunch of flat-leaf parsley, stalks removed, roughly chopped

To make the pastry, sift the flour and salt into a bowl and rub in the butter lightly and evenly until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Lightly beat the yolk with the water, then sprinkle over the flour. Work gently with your fingertips to form a dough, adding a little more water if necessary. Form into a ball and knead lightly on a floured surface. Wrap in baking parchment and rest in the fridge for an hour, or until needed.

Now wash and pat dry the chicken, removing any giblets and fat deposits from inside the cavity. Place the chicken in a pot large enough to hold it comfortably and add the celery, two of the carrots, the peppercorns and herbs. Pour on enough water to cover the chicken and place over a medium heat. Bring to the boil, then immediately lower to a simmer and poach for an hour. Remove from the heat and leave the chicken to cool in its liquor.

Now simmer the rest of the carrots in a pan of salted water until just tender, which will take about seven to 10 minutes, then drain and set aside.

Once the chicken is cooled, lift it out on to a board. Strain the liquor and reserve 500ml/17fl oz for the pie (keep the rest for stock). Tear the chicken into generous pieces, discarding the skin. Set aside.

Melt the butter in a saucepan, stir in the flour and cook, stirring, over a very low heat for a minute or so, without colouring. Slowly stir in the reserved liquor and cook, stirring, for five minutes, or until the sauce has thickened. Add the crème fraîche, season generously and take off the heat. If the sauce is at all lumpy, pass through a sieve. Stir through the chopped parsley and leave to cool.

Divide the pastry in two, making one portion slightly bigger than the other. Re-wrap the smaller one (for the lid) and return to the fridge. Roll out the other portion on a floured surface to a round, large enough to line a 20cm fluted pie tin, about 3cm deep; the round will need to be at least 28cm in diameter. Press the pastry firmly into the flutes of the tin, being careful not to stretch it – I find this easiest to do using my thumbs. Then, using a sharp knife, cut away the excess pastry so that the pastry is level with the rim of the tin. To line a flan tin, drape the pastry round over the tin and ease it in, leaving the excess overhanging the rim. Always prick the pastry base gently with a fork after lining the tin – this helps to prevent air bubbles from forming.

Chill the pastry for 15 minutes and preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas 4.

Now, line the pastry case with a piece of baking parchment and half-fill with baking beans. Bake the pastry case on the middle shelf of the oven for 15 minutes, then remove the paper and beans and bake for a further five minutes to slightly dry out the base. Set aside to cool a little.

Roll out the other piece of pastry thinly to a round, 5mm thick, for the pie lid.

Spoon the chicken mixture into the case, then, using a rolling pin, lift the second pastry over the top to cover. Press the edges together to seal and mark a cross in the centre. Brush generously with beaten egg and bake for 30 minutes until the pastry is golden-brown and the filling is bubbling. Leave to stand on a wire rack for five minutes before serving.

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