Chicken, Bacon and Mushroom Pie

One of my first kitchen jobs I had as a child was making pastry. I didn’t get to roll it out or drape it around any food, just the least interesting part of pastry making, measuring out the tablespoons of flour, cutting the fat over it and using my fingers to quickly rub the two together. The most gratifying part was adding a little cold water as I quickly stirred the mix until it clumped together. It then had to rest in a plastic bag until my mum did the rolling to fit one of her pie plates. My mum used a proportion of lard in her pastry, the rest butter, always plain flour and water to make it clump together. I still make it thus and always get compliments for my pastry, as did my mother. I glaze it too with beaten egg and that gives a lovely finish as you can see. This pie has pastry top and bottom, so do bother to put a baking sheet in when you turn on the oven to avoid soggy bottoms. This filling is a favourite combination; chunks of chicken thigh cooked with onion, smoked bacon and separately cooked mushrooms with garlic and parsley. Serve it with roast potatoes or mash and whatever green veg you fancy; peas, cabbage, sprouts, broccoli…. I chosen white cabbage finished with a squeeze of lemon, freshly grated nutmeg and butter.

Serves 4
Prep: 45 min
Cook: 60 min

1 onion
4 tbsp olive oil
70g smoked bacon lardons
2 bay leaves
6 chicken thigh fillets (approx 500g)
flour for dusting
glass of white wine
200ml chicken stock
300g medium mushrooms
2 garlic cloves
few sprigs flat leaf parsley
½ lemon

for the pastry:
300g plain flour
150g cold butter
25g lard or shortening
5-7 tbsp cold water
1 egg

First make the pastry. Sift the flour into a mixing bowl and cut 125g butter and then the lard over the top. Use your fingers to quickly rub the fat into the flour until it resembles crumbs. Using a knife (or fork, if you’re superstitious) and briskly stir 1 tbsp water at a time into the flour. Once it begins to clump together, use your hands to quickly pummel the mix into a ball. If it’s too wet, sift a little flour over the top. Pop in a plastic bag and chill while you make the filling – about 25 min. Halve, peel and finely chop the onion. Heat 2 tbsp olive oil in a spacious, lidded frying/sauté pan and stir in the onion, lardons and bay, stirring regularly, adjusting the heat so the onion softens without browning and the bacon fat runs and begins to crisp. About 10 minutes. Unfurl the chicken and cut down the fillets in 4 pieces. Dust with flour, shaking off excess. Push the onion etc to the side of the pan (or remove if you prefer, spooning the onion mix into a sieve held over the pan – off the heat – and press to extract maximum oil) and add the chicken. Brown all over, turning after a couple of minutes. Return the onion etc if you’ve removed it, add wine and stir as it bubbles up, adding the stock, continuing to stir to make smooth gravy. Reduce the heat slightly, cover and leave to simmer gently while you attend to the mushrooms. Wipe and then quarter the mushrooms. Peel and finely chop the garlic. Heat remaining 2 tbsp oil in a frying pan over a medium heat, stir in the garlic followed by the mushrooms. Keep tossing everything around, encouraging the mushrooms to turn moist, soften and cook through. Chop the parsley leaves. Squeeze lemon over the mushrooms and stir in the parsley. Tip the contents of the pan into the chicken, simmer for a few minutes to consolidate then turn off the heat and leave to cool and set; it should be well sauced but not overly wet and will firm as it cools. Take the pastry out of the fridge, so it comes up to room temperature. When the filling is cool, quickly smear a suitable pie tin (I used a 9″/23cm deep pie dish from Stellar) with the remaining butter. Dust a work surface. Set aside one third of the pastry. Roll out the large piece of pastry and line the pie dish leaving a generous overhang. Heat the oven to 190C/gas mark 5, placing a baking sheet on the shelf. Spoon the cooled filling into the pastry case. Roll out a lid, place in position, trim the edges nearly, smear with a little water and crimp the edges together with a fork or a thumbnail. Lightly whisk the egg and paint it over the pie. Make an air hole in the middle and if liked, decorate the pie with pastry leftovers. Place the pie on the baking sheet and cook for about 40 minutes or until the pastry is golden and cooked through.