The psychology of pie. Put a casserole, stew, braise or even a curry into a ramekin. Blanket with pastry. Call it a pot pie. Watch it disappear. I learnt this trick to tempt fussy eaters a very long time ago. Distract them with a gorgeously puffed and golden pastry lid, and they will consume a dazzling array of tastes and flavours. Gather up any pastry scraps. Knead. Roll out. Stamp out shapes to dip into the pies. Bake. They’ll be sitting at the table before those pies are even in the oven.
I must confess I have been known to disguise unloved and unwanted leftovers as a pot pie. But…here’s a legitimate pot pie that is a firm favourite in this household.
Chicken, Leek, Fennel and Mushroom Pot Pies with Peas
1 cup plain flour
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon white pepper
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 kg chicken breasts, diced into large chunks
2 tablespoons olive oil
50 g butter
2 leeks white part only, finely sliced
2 small fennel bulbs, finely sliced and fronds reserved
200 g swiss brown mushrooms, sliced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup dry white wine
2 cups hot chicken stock
1 cup cream
1 cup frozen peas
2 tablespoons tarragon, chopped
1/2 cup parsley
375 g packet all butter puff pastry
1 egg, lightly beaten with a splash of water to provide an egg-wash
PREHEAT oven to 180 C.
SIFT flour, paprika, pepper and salt into a bowl.
ADD chicken and toss well. Shake off any excess flour.
HEAT oil and butter in a pan over medium-high heat. Fry chicken in batches until sealed and golden. Set aside on paper towels.
REDUCE heat to medium. Add leeks, fennel and garlic. Cook until soft and translucent.
ADD mushrooms. Sauté until golden. Add wine to de-glaze the pan.
ADD cream and stock. Simmer gently for 5 minutes until sauce thickens and reduces a little.
RETURN chicken to the pan with the peas. Cook for a minute or so.
REMOVE from heat. Stir in parsley, tarragon and reserved fennel fronds. Allow to cool.
CHECK seasoning. Spoon filling into 6 ceramic ramekins.
REMOVE the puff pastry from the refrigerator. Sprinkle lightly with flour and roll to 1/2 cm thick. Using your ramekin as a guide, cut 6 circles that are a little wider than the rim.
BRUSH each lid with egg wash and place egg washed-side down onto the top of each filled ramekin. Cut a small steam vent in the middle of each pie.
BRUSH the top of the pastry with egg wash. Bake for 20 minutes or until pastry is puffed and golden and filling hot and bubbling.
SERVE with a green salad.