Chicken Pie attempt 1 (Done 26th Sept)

I’m a (fairly recent) Twitter addict, and I follow various cooking accounts for inspiration and cooking tips from the experts, since I’m not very creative when it comes to being in the kitchen, having been brought up on very humble but plentiful of cheap, low quality, really bad tasting food; that, coupled with a palate far removed from the ones my family members seem to share (which is basically anything that’s over-salted, over-sugared and over-spiced), I often had little to no interest in the cuisines my mother partook in, most notably Malay Asian and Northern Indian.

So I was rather pleased when the Food Network tweeted their Recipe of the Day: Light Chicken Pot Pie, a lighter version of a familiar family dish that we used to have once every few months when Dad’s pay was in (sort of in a celebratory fashion, since it was a rather rich and ‘expensive’ food to make back then). Mum’s version called for light soy and oyster sauce as well as boiled eggs on the top, a recipe which I would classify as ‘Asian-inspired’.

So, feeling a tad nostalgic for a home-made pie (something which I acknowledge was one of the rarer foods that my mum did right) after not having any meat pies for a good 4 or so years, I resolved to try making my very first “real” meat pie (and not Gordon Ramsay’s sheperds’ pie as I originally planned).

The recipe was loosely followed as I made a few amendments, most notably with the pie crust; I followed my mum’s original suggestion of a sweet rich shortcrust. I would, however, discourage you from using this particular pastry as the sweetness does not go with the herbs used – the rosemary and thyme have their own natural aromas that ought to stand out on their own, and sugar will just destroy it by coating it all in sickly sweetness. You can still use the recipe I used below, but you just need to omit the sugar. If, for some reason you WANT to put sugar in, then… by all means. Some people might like it. Heck, my brother liked it. I didn’t enjoy it at all. 😦

I also left out the sour cream as I didn’t have much left, though I would recommend adding a (light) cream to add on a little richness and moisture to the meat filling. I had left over filling, so I reheated some and added sour cream and decided that I didn’t like the slight tang that came with it, though I fully appreciated the creaminess it gave. I also added Rosemary to it. This is a fairly versatile recipe where you can add and remove ingredients as you like (except maybe for the pastry), such as adding peas and corn or removing carrots. Up to you, really.

For 8 servings (or 16, depending on how small you cut it)

Ingredients for filling

  • 4 chicken breasts, de-boned and de-skinned, cubed into bite sized pieces (for reference, approx. 0.25 of half of your thumb’s length, but same thickness)
  • 4 small potatoes (russet is good)
  • 1 large carrot, cubed into the same size as the meat chunks (or as much as you want)
  • 1 large onion (preferably yellow onions, since it’s sweeter and goes better with olive oil)
  • Approx 2 tablespoons of Olive Oil (EVOO is fine)
  • About 2 cups of Chicken broth or bouillion (I made my own from sauteeing 1 tbsp of the chopped onions in vegetable oil, 2 tbsp of Knorr’s chicken essence, 2.5 cups of water and then boiling it with the left over bone and cartilage from the chicken keels)
  • 1.5 teaspoons of dried Thyme*
  • 0.5 teaspoons of dried Rosemary*
  • 1/3 cup of Milk (I use reconstituted, powdered milk, but you can use any type you like- the richer the milk, the thicker the end product)
  • 3 tablespoons of all purpose flour
  • Salt and Pepper to taste

*A note on the herbs: It’s pretty rare to be able to find fresh western herbs in South East Asia, and in my local Tesco, the dried ones always seem to be out of stock. Obviously, using fresh herbs are better, and if you manage to get your hands on any, just multiply the portions thrice.

Ingredients for sweet, rich shortcrust pastry

  • 500 g all-purpose flour (a.k.a Tepung Gandum, Wheat Flour, etc)
  • 250 g butter – cubed and kept cold and hard (most bars of butter sold in Singapore/ Malaysia are by default, 250g bars, so use 1 bar)
  • 5 – 8 tablespoons of ice cold water
  • 5/8th teaspoons of salt (as the original recipe calls for 1 pinch of salt per 100g of flour, and 1 pinch = 1/8th a teaspoon, I rounded the salt down and used 1/2 tsp)
  • 4 tablespoons of caster sugar (you can leave this out!)
  • 1 large egg

Utensils needed:

  • large wok, stir-fry pan or pot
  • small saucepan
  • large wooden spoon
  • spatula
  • chopping board
  • chef knife
  • pastry board or work surface
  • rolling pin
  • measuring cup and spoons
  • kitchen scale
  • large bowl (approx 20″
  • small bowls
  • cling wrap
  • 22″ pie pan, preferably glass, but if you don’t have it, an aluminium/non-stick is perfectly acceptable

Method

Prior to cooking, wash your potatoes well and put them in a pot of water to cook over medium heat for about 10-15 minutes.

You will be making the dough first.

  1. In a large bowl, sift the flour, sprinkle the salt evenly and make a well in the middle. Make sure your hands are perfectly dry.
  2. Using ONLY YOUR FINGERTIPS, add 1/3 of the chopped butter chunks into the well and rub the butter into the flour. If you’re unsure about this, go to youtube and search for the “rubbing in method”. This is the easiest pastry method, so don’t panic.
  3. Add the butter in similar amounts until you get a mixture that resembles fine breadcrumbs.
  4. Add the sugar and spread it around evenly into the mix if you want it in.
  5. Make a well in the middle again. Whisk the egg in a small bowl and pour it into the well. Mix evenly with a spatula.
  6. Add the iced water in stages of 1 tablespoon at a time and knead the dough.
  7. Continue until you’ve obtained a pliable dough that’s somewhat soft yet firm to the touch. It SHOULD NOT feel soggy, mushy or tough. Amend accordingly.
  8. Roll the dough into a ball and cover with cling wrap. Leave it to chill in the fridge until you’re done with your filling.

Preparing the filling

  1. Drain your potatoes and cube them. You can leave the skin on if you wish, though I personally would remove them. Set aside.
  2. In a small saucepan, boil the chicken broth/bouillion together with the carrots and thyme on med heat for 2 mins and then switch off.
  3. In the large wok/pan/pot, sweat your onions in the olive oil on low-medium heat til they’re soft. This should take around 6 minutes.
  4. Add the flour gradually and toss it around til they’re lightly browned or toasted. DO NOT BURN OR OVERCOOK. If you burnt them, throw it away and start over unless you like the taste of burnt carbs in your pie.This should take around 2-3 mins.
  5. Add all the milk, stir, then add the carrot-thyme infusion.
  6. Lower heat to small, stir and simmer mix until it thickens and has the viscosity of tomato sauce. This should take about 10 minutes, give or take 3.
  7. Season with salt and pepper. Taste. At this stage, it should be slightly less flavourful than the end product because it’s not totally dried off yet. Amend if necessary.
  8. Add chicken chunks. Stir and mix around and sprinkle the Rosemary. Continue cooking till it’s very thick and creamy. Set aside to cool. IT SHOULD NOT BE WATERY OR SOGGY. It should come together and stay together on a large spoon.
  9. Lightly butter your pie dish if you’re using an aluminium dish. Not necessary for glass or non-stick.

Rolling out the pie dough

  • NB: Shortcrust pastry should be handled with respect and care. DO NOT savagely punch it, knead or roll it out excessively. The longer it is out in a warm environment, the more risk you’re taking with the fat melting before it hits the oven, spoiling the crumbly texture and making it hard to work with. DO NOT handle it too much because human bodies are WARM. Try to use heat-neutral utensils like a rolling pin or spatula when you can. If it sticks, DO NOT PULL AT IT. I have seen a lot of people try to pull, push and even tuck at their pastries when all you need to do is to roll it back out in the opposite direction, FLOUR your equipment and try again. Most importantly: WORK WITH CLEAN, DRY HANDS!
  • A visual aid for you
  • Watch that visual aid come to life! Well, sort of.
  • Sorry I don’t have pictures for this. I was too engrossed with rolling the dough out :3
  1. Preheat your oven to 170 degrees celcius if you have a fan setting. If not, use the top and bottom heating feature and turn it up to 190 degrees celcius.
  2. Wash your hands well and make sure they’re perfectly dry.
  3. Flour your hands, pastry board/work surface and your rolling pin.
  4. While in the cling wrap, shape the pastry into a ball.
  5. Divide the dough into 2 parts in a 2:1 ratio.
  6. Refrigerate the smaller portion of the dough and roll the bigger portion into a ball and place it on the work surface.
  7. Firmly but gently press the rolling pin down in the middle and PUSH OUT.
  8. Roll it out about 2 or 3 times, making sure to keep the thickness even.
  9. Turn the pastry halfway quarter clockwise and repeat step 5.
  10. After a full 360 degree turn, decide if the thickness is enough for you. For this pie, a rolled out thickness of 2-3mm is sufficient.
  11. Butter your dish if necessary.
  12. After you’re done, roll the pastry onto the pin and line it over the top of your pie dish and gently tuck the pastry into the bottom and up against the walls of the dish. Remove any excess and save it for decorations (i.e. cut out shapes to place at the top) later.

Filling the lined dish

  1. Repeat the dough rolling process for the pastry crust with the remaining dough after you’ve filled the inside.
  2. Cut a cross slit on the top of your pie (again, sorry for the lack of pictures!) for the air to escape and brush with a glazing agent like sugar water, milk or eggwash. Whichever one is fine, really. (actually I didn’t do this step, but I should have. Really.)
  3. Pop it into the oven
  4. Set the timer for 20 minutes…
  5. … And wait.

You will know your pie is done when the bottom pastry is brownish. If not, you can see whether it is brown on top.

Since I didn’t glaze my pie (or rather, forgot to), mine didn’t have much maillard browning going on at the top.

Cut your pie into your desired serving sizes…

Take a cross sectional picture of the yummy goodness marred oh so annoyingly by bad photography on a terrible cameraphone camera…

…. AND SERVE.

Delicious chicken pie, DONE.