I hear you ask: what is a faux chicken pie? It’s a chicken pie without any chicken in it – and before you ask what is the point, let me tell you that when my father and grandfather ate it on Sunday evening they had no idea that there was no chicken in it.
It’s all thanks to the magic of Quorn, a meat substitute that has improved enormously in the past few years. I don’t generally like substituting for the real thing, but when I am cooking for hardened meat-eaters of my parent’s and grand-parent’s generations as well for my vegetarian wife, I have the choice to either carry out a con trick or cook two meals. Well, the con trick will win every time.
When I revealed what they had just eaten there was general amazement and a reappraisal of how good vegetarian food can be. I can prove it too; I was supposed to take a picture of the two pies that I had made before they went on the table, but people were hungry. I ended up taking a picture of the last little piece of the one pie that was left after four hungry people had eaten their fill. The pitiful amount remaining speaks for itself.
I used two smaller 9 1/2 inch oval pie dishes this time, but usually make it in a larger, deep 12 1/2 by 9 1/2 inch oblong dish. Don’t worry overmuch about what you cook it in, just use what you have.
RECIPE – comfortably feeds 4 people
50g unsalted butter
1 tbsp olive oil
2 large leeks, trimmed and thinly sliced
50g plain flour
300ml semi-skimmed milk
300ml vegetable stock
1/2 tsp fish sauce
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1 tbsp fresh tarragon leaves, finely chopped (or 1 tsp dried tarragon)
250g chestnut mushrooms, sliced
350g Quorn chicken pieces
75g cheddar cheese, grated
500g puff pastry, block or ready-rolled
1 egg, beaten
Melt the butter with the oil in a large pan and gently fry the leeks over a low heat for ten minutes, until soft but not coloured.
Mix the flour with a little of the milk to make a smooth paste (no lumps!) and when the leeks are soft add the paste to the pan with the rest of the milk and the stock. Turn the heat up to high and, stirring constantly, bring to the boil. Simmer until the sauce is thick and smooth and any lumps that may have appeared are cooked out.
|*Tip: Many people are rightfully worried about thickening sauces with flour, having suffered disgusting lumpy sauces in their childhood. Fear not, it is a problem easily avoided if you only take the time to continually whisk and stir your sauce while it comes to the boil. If you leave it while you go and do something else then you will suffer lumpy sauce, so look after it.|
Now add the fish sauce (it will smell disgusting but gives the sauce a lovely depth of flavour when cooked in), the mustard and tarragon. Add the mushrooms and simmer for a couple of minutes, check the seasoning, then add the Quorn pieces and stir thoroughly. Remove from the heat, stir in the cheese, and put aside to cool completely.
The Quorn should go in frozen but will quickly thaw in the hot sauce, and will cook gently as the sauce cools.
When ready to cook, heat the oven to 200C / 180C Fan / Gas 6.
Roll the pastry out until approximately the thickness of a pound coin. Ensure the filling is completely cold otherwise the butter in your pastry will melt and your pastry lid will be a soggy disaster.
Brush the edge of your pie dish with water, lay the pastry on top with an overhang all round. Press and crimp the top and edge all round, trim away any excess pastry, brush the pastry with the beaten egg and pierce a steam hole in the centre.
Bake for approximately 35 minutes until the pastry is a deep golden colour and has risen.
Serve with a mound of smooth buttery mash, garden peas and a smile – don’t tell anyone what is in it until they have finished eating.