There are times when only a pie will do…
Family gatherings are when this crowd-pleaser normally comes out, the filling can be made the day before so you can spend your time with your family, rather than closeted away in the kitchen.
This delight comes courtesy of Jamie Oliver, the not-so-secret ingredient being the balls of sausage meat. The burst of savoury flavour as you hit one of those little delights is just one of the things that makes this a real treat to eat.
RECIPE serves 6-8
a good lug of olive oil
50g unsalted butter
1kg boneless chicken thighs, chopped into medium chunks
2 medium leeks, sliced into 1cm rounds
2 medium carrots, thinly sliced
3 sticks of celery, finely sliced
2 tsp dried thyme
2 tbsp plain flour
125ml dry vermouth
250ml whole milk
flaky sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
250g pork sausages
500g all-butter puff pastry
1 egg, beaten
In a large casserole dish over a medium high heat, add the olive oil and butter and, when melted, add the chopped chicken. Brown for a few minutes, then add the leeks, carrots, celery and thyme. Cook, uncovered, on the hob at a gentle heat for fifteen minutes.
Turn the heat up to high, then add the plain flour and stir into the liquid that has been released. Keep on stirring for a few minutes until it is all cooked in, then add the vermouth and cook for a couple of minutes more.
Now add the milk and a wineglass (125ml) of water, season with salt and pepper and bring to the boil. Reduce to a simmer, cover with a lid and cook gently for 30 minutes, then remove the lid and cook uncovered for ten minutes more. The sauce should be thick and creamy.
Squeeze the sausage meat out of the skins and roll into small balls. Brown the balls in a separate frying pan with a little oil, then add to the chicken mixture. Now transfer all of the mixture into an appropriately-sized pie dish, check the seasoning and allow to cool completely. If the mixture is still warm when you apply the pastry, the heat will melt the butter in the pastry and it will be ruined.
When you are ready to cook the pie, heat the oven to 220C/ 200C fan/ gas 7.
Roll the pastry out to approximately 5mm thickness, to a size and shape that will comfortably drape over the edge of the pie dish with minimal wastage.
Brush the edges of the pie dish with the beaten egg, then drape the pastry over it, sealing the edges firmly with your fingers. Trim off any excess pastry. There is no need to cut any holes in the pastry for steam to escape – remember, the filling is cold at this point.
Wash the top of the pie with beaten egg, and decorate the pie with the pastry trimmings, any way you like.
Bake in the centre of the oven for 30-40 minutes until the top is golden brown and risen, and the pie is piping hot.
I like to serve this with piles of buttery mash, and peas.