Thus far there has been little opportunity for many picnics thanks to the rubbish summer weather. But a bit of drizzle doesn’t usually put us off –we are made of sterner stuff -so here is a corking chicken pie which is perfect for a picnic but would also sit proudly on the table of a smarter summer lunch. It must be made the day before-or even two-to give it time to cool and firm up. The pastry is a hot water crust which might seem a bit daunting but is actually a most forgiving pastry as long as its temperature is correct when you come to line the pie tin. If it’s too hot it won’t hold its shape but if it’s too cold it will crack and be difficult to manipulate. I start by rolling out the pastry then use my fingers to mould it into shape. I don’t pour in a jelly because no-one in the family likes that flobby bit between the crust and the filling.
- For the filling
- 5 x skinless, boneless chicken thighs, about 390g
- 550g good quality sausagemeat
- 110g smoked streaky bacon or pancetta, finely chopped
- 2 shallots, peeled and finely chopped
- 1 teaspoon ground mace
- 1 teaspoon fennel seeds, finely ground
- 2 tablespoons finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
- 2 tablespoons finely chopped sage leaves
- 2 teaspoons finely chopped thyme leaves
- Grated zest of 1 lemon
- For the pastry
- 250g plain flour
- 200g strong plain flour
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 75g salted butter, cubed
- 110g lard
- 1 egg, beaten
- Base-line a 20cm spring-form cake tin with a disc of baking parchment. Cut the chicken thighs into bite-sized pieces and season with salt and ground black pepper. Set aside.
- In a separate bowl mix together the remaining filling ingredients. Season with a little salt and ground black pepper. Set aside while you make the pastry.
- Place both flours in a mixing bowl and stir in the salt. Rub in the butter until no large lumps remain. Put the lard and 200ml water in a saucepan and place over a low heat. Let the lard melt but do not let the liquid come to the boil. Pour into the flour and mix together until you have a smooth dough. Leave for about 10 minutes until the pastry feels barely warm.
- Cut off about a third of the dough and set aside. Roll out the remaining dough to a rough circle slightly bigger than the diameter of the tin. Place in the tin and then with your fingers press and gently stretch the pastry up the sides of the tin. Make sure you haven’t got a thick layer of pastry in the right angle between the base and the sides- you want a fairly even crust. Allow the pastry to overhang the top edge. Brush the edges with the beaten egg.
- Heat the oven to 180˚c, fan oven 160˚c, mark 4. Spoon in half the sausagemeat mixture and spread to the edges. Cover with the chicken pieces in an even layer. Spoon in the remaining sausagemeat and spread evenly over the chicken. Roll out the reserved pastry to a circle large enough to cover the pie. Press down around the edges to seal the top and sides. Trim off any excess pastry and crimp the edges. Brush the surface with the egg. If you like roll out the trimmings and cut out shapes to decorate the top of the pie. Brush with egg again. Place the pie on a baking tray and bake in the oven for 1 ½ hours. If you have a temperature probe the temperature inside the pie should have reached at least 65-70˚c. Remove from the oven and leave to cool at room temperature for 2-3 hours then refrigerate overnight.
- Unmould the pie and lift off the base. Cut into slices and serve with cornichons and a little pickle or relish of your choice.