How to cook the quintessential Chicken and Mushroom Pie, Britain’s favourite!
What’s not to like about pie? Satisfying flakes of golden pastry at the top that gives way to deliciously, saucy contents of your picking. It’s my idea of heaven!
Well, that is if the pie comes out right. The actual filling is never the problem but the pastry on top. For some reason mine always sags to the filling and becomes soggy in the cooking process. I’ve tried pie funnels, even the cute blackbird ones but to no avail. Admittedly, with its high butter content soggy puff pastry tastes good too but it would be nice to learn how to make a proper pie. Who better than chef Simon Boyle to teach me?
Not all of us strike it lucky in life. Some of us spend our whole lives figuring out what we actually want to do career wise and stumble along for years. Some of us finally discover what we’re passionate about and sadly others never find out what makes them tick. And then you get the lucky ones. You know what I mean. For example asking a kid what he’d like to be someday and when he replies all you see is the fierce determination in his eyes and know his dream will come true.
Simon falls into the latter group and with the help of his supportive parents he became a chef. After he attained his goeal he still felt unfulfilled and thought if he dropped dead tomorrow he wouldn’t have contributed enough to society. When the tsunami hit in 2004, he went to Sri Lanka to set up a relief camp. After he came back, he started helping the homeless. The Brigade is his latest and biggest project to date.
Recommended Pie Cookbooks
- Pie: Delicious Sweet and Savoury Pies
- The Higgidy Cookbook: 100 Recipes for Pies and More
- The Hairy Bikers’ Perfect Pies
- Pie: Recipes for Flaky Pastry, Shortcrust, Pasties, Meat Pies, Sweet Pies, Savoury Pies and Indiviual Pies
Let’s get cooking!
First off, you need to debone a heap of chicken thighs. You’re more than welcome to replace it with completely or partially with chicken breast fillets but keep in mind the legs are where the flavour is at.
Chop the parsley and set aside.
Finely chop up the onions and garlic. Pull the thyme leaves off their stems.
Next, clean the mushrooms (as you can see in this post) and halve or quarter them.
Tear the wild mushrooms apart. In this recipe you can use any type of mushroom, it’s just that wild mushrooms have more flavour than the standard button mushrooms. If you’re fortunate enough to have a market closeby, why not check it out and see what’s freshly available? You can even make Chicken a la King by using yellow and red peppers for the vegetables and use sherry instead of the pale ale. The sky’s the limit!
Like most recipes this one isn’t set in stone. Feel free to use leek, asparagus and/or sweetcorn instead of mushrooms and tarragon instead of thyme. Bacon is a match made with chicken and prawns or lobster are also interesting options.
Add the chicken to a hot frying pan with butter in it.
Start sizzling away until all the meat has browned. Remove the meat from the pan and set aside.
Next fry the onions, garlic and thyme with extra butter in the same pan as you used the chicken in.
When the onions have softened, add the mushrooms and carry on cooking.
Don’t forget your exotic mushrooms!
Season the mushroom mixture with some salt, pepper and nutmeg.
Next we need to add some flour to thicken the sauce, which brings me to the next point…
How to make a gluten free pie
In the actual pie filling the only ingredient you need to worry about is the all-purpose flour which can easily be substituted with corn flour or gluten free all purpose flour. As for the topping you can use potato mash instead of pastry or make a crumble instead. To make the latter, mix flour, butter and parmesan cheese in equal quantities together with your fingertips and sprinkle on top.
Next add the golden pale ale to the casserole which gives the pie its unique flavour.
Add chicken stock. If you’re a waste not, want not type of person you could have used the thigh bones to make the chicken stock first. Just a thought!
Add the cooked chicken pieces to the mix.
Give it a good stir.
Now we need some cream.
How to make a dairy free pie
We all know pastry is out of the question so what now? Leave out the cream and use soy cream or other dairy alternatives. If you go down the coconut milk route, leave out the pale ale and thyme and add lemon grass and chili instead, and you’ll end up with a Thai pie which has an endearing ring to it. Topping wise you can have potato mash made with margarine.
Lastly, add the parsley to the casserole.
The filling is finished! You’ve got to wait for it to cool down now.
If you’re serious about your pie, buying mini casserole dishes is a worthwhile investment. Divide the mixture evenly among the dishes. Be careful not too fill it up too much. Remember how I always end up with soggy pastry? This is one reason why.
Let’s deal with the shortcrust pastry.
Roll it out no thicker than a pound coin, about a third of a centimetre.
Slice the pastry according to the size of the dish.
Cover the pie with the pieces of pastry, ensuring the edges stay in place.
Trim the excess pastry off the edges.
Brush butter all along of the pie dish so that the pastry sticks.
Brush the pastry with egg glaze. To give your pie that stunning, golden quality, give it two layers of glazing, using an equal amount each time.
Here is Simon Boyle in action.
Make cuts in the dough to let out steam during the baking process.
Decorate your pie to your heart’s content.
Have you ever seen such perfect pies?
These chicken and mushroom pies are best served with old-fashioned potato mash, buttered greens or other seasonal veg with pale ale on the side. The perfect pub grub!
Going on a picnic?
You can make a cold pie version. First you wait for the filling to cool down. Place a layer of filling in the pie shell and add a layer of chopped, hard boiled eggs. Repeat. Be careful not to use too much sauce. Bake and chill. Take it on a picnic with you and consume within 4 hours.
Stored under the right conditions the pie will last 5 days in the fridge and 3 months in the freezer. It’s best reheated in the oven.
If you’re going to go to the trouble of making this gorgeous pie you might as well make it worth your while. Make a big batch of filling and let it cool down. Partition the filling evenly between pie containers and place the raw pastry on top. Freeze. Let the pie thaw first then back according to recipe instructions.
- Serves: 4
- Serving size: 555.3g
- Calories: 1159
- Fat: 70.1g
- Saturated fat: 4.7g
- Unsaturated fat: 0
- Trans fat: 0
- Carbohydrates: 66.2g
- Sugar: 2.2g
- Sodium: 254mg
- Fiber: 2.6g
- Protein: 57.6g
- Cholesterol: 225mg
- 30ml (2 tbsp) olive oil
- 12 chicken thighs, skin and bone removed
- 100g (3½ oz) button mushrooms
- 100g (3½ oz) mixed wild mushrooms
- 1 small onion, chopped
- 1 garlic clove
- 4 stalks fresh thyme
- 50g (2 oz) butter
- 30ml (2 tbsp) plain flour, plus extra for dusting
- 250ml (1 cup) pale ale
- 100ml (3½ oz) double cream
- 200ml (7fl oz) chicken stock
- Freshly grated nutmeg, to taste
- Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- Freshly ground white pepper, to taste
- Pinch of salt
- 125ml (½ cup) fresh parsley, chopped
- 500g (1lb 2oz) ready-made short-crust pastry
- 1 egg, beaten
- Preheat the oven to 200°C/400°F/gas mark 6.
- Heat the oil in a frying pan, add the chicken and fry until the chicken begins to turn white. Add the mushrooms and continue to fry until the chicken is golden-brown.
- Remove the chicken and mushrooms from the pan and set aside. Add the onion, garlic and thyme to the same pan and fry for 2-3 minutes or until softened. Remove from the heat and set aside with the chicken and mushrooms.
- Melt the butter in a saucepan, stir in the flour and cook for about three minutes, stirring constantly until it has formed a thick smooth paste (this is called a roux). Add the ale and mix well and continue to cook.
- Mix the cream and stock together in a jug, then add the nutmeg, white pepper and salt, to taste. Pour the liquid slowly into the flour mixture, whisking all the time until smooth. Simmer over a gentle heat, stirring constantly, for about five minutes or until the sauce has thickened.
- Stir in the chopped parsley and pour the sauce over the chicken and mushroom mixture. Mix well, then spoon into 4 individual pie dishes or 1 larger dish and leave until completely cool.
- Roll out the pastry on a lightly floured surface until it is the thickness of a pound coin. Brush the edges of the pie dishes with beaten egg, lay the pastry on top, press down the edges and trim. Brush the top of the pie with beaten egg and cut some leaf shapes out of the left-over pastry to decorate the top of the pie.
- Make two or three slits in the top of the pie to allow steam to escape and then bake in the oven for 20-25 minutes or until golden-brown on top.