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Thursday, 24 December 2015

Baking Chicken Pie

We have a tradition of gathering together as a family on the evening before Christmas. We have a light meal together, read from the gospels about the birth of Jesus, and sing a number of carols. After giving thanks in prayer, it is time to hand out the gifts. Great excitement! This frees up Christmas morning to attend the Christmas service at church before we gather again for the actual Christmas meal. So what do we serve the night before? Finger food! We make a selection of finger foods, some nutritious and some less so, that will take the strain of an extra meal with its accompanying washing up off the shoulders of the adults. One of my dishes for this Christmas was baking small Chicken Pies. I'll walk you through it.

Put a whole chicken in your steamer or whichever pot you prefer to cook your chicken in.

Season the chicken with salt, pepper, whole cloves, cumin (jeera) and ground coriander.

Add two chopped onions.

Add about two cups (500 ml) of water to the pot. Put the lid on. If you are using a steamer, cook on high until the release valve pushes up. Turn the heat down to medium to low and allow to steam for about an hour.

After an hour, remove the pot from the stove and allow the built-up steam to subside by cooling the pot down, or allowing it to cool down on its own. DO NOT open the pot until it has cooled down. The chicken should now be so tender as to fall off the bone. Debone the chicken. Remove the skin if it is still intact.

Remove all the bones and skin from the chicken. Break the chicken into small pieces.

Chop a green pepper and a paprika.

Heat some olive oil in a deep pan.

I had steamed carrots in the fridge and decided to chop 2 of these up for the pies as well, since everyone in the family loves veggies. You may choose to leave this out.

Fry the pepper and the paprika and then add the carrots.

I then chopped up a 400 g punnet of button mushrooms.

The mushrooms were also added to the pan.

Season the veggies with salt and pepper.

Add a generous scoop of crushed garlic.

Add some crushed chillies. As there were going to be smaller kids in the company, I kept this very moderate. Do not over-fry the veggies. They must still be hard when taken off the heat.

Stir the veggies into the chicken.

Add about half a tub of Double Cream Yoghurt to the same pan you were frying the veggies in. No need to make unnecessary dishes! You can also use cream, but I opt to use yoghurt as it is a healthier choice over Christmas when the foods tend to be too rich anyway.

Add about a cup of milk. Bring it to the boil.

Make a flour and water paste to thicken the sauce with.

Thicken the sauce with the flour and water paste.

Add the sauce to the chicken. Taste to make sure that you have enough seasoning. Mine needed a little more salt at this stage.

You can mix your own dough, or take the shortcut I took as I was pressed for time. I used ready dough, or store-bought puff pastry. I sprinkled flour over my work surface and unrolled the chilled dough onto the flour.

I then rolled out the dough with a cake roller.

I sprayed my pie dishes with a non-stick coating.

I experimented until I found the right sized circle to cut the pie bases with. One of my plastic lids turned out to work best.

I positioned the cut dough in the pie dish and worked it into the corners and onto the sides with my fingers.

The dough was rolled out very thinly and would not require extra baking time.

I pierced the dough with a fork to allow the steam to escape, otherwise it would result in huge air bubbles rising up from the bottom.

I then cut smaller circles to fit on top of the pie dishes.

I filled the pies with the chicken. One person in the company does not eat chicken and I made a mince option for him.

Put the lids on the pies and press the sides down firmly. The mince meat pie got a dough dot on top to allow me to distinguish it from the others.

The lids of the pies were also pierced with a fork to allow steam to escape.

These pies were prepared a few days ahead of schedule. I now placed them in a plastic container and sealed them with a lid before propping them in the freezer. They will be baked from frozen shortly before serving them.

Preheat the oven to 220°C. Take the pies from the freezer. Do NOT defrost. Coat with some milk and sugar, or an egg yolk for a shiny finish.

Bake until golden brown. This will be approximately 60 minutes.

The pies will be served in the pie dishes, but I tipped one over to show you the bottom. The crust will bake before the chicken has had time to thaw. This prevents the juices of the chicken from giving the pie a soggy bottom.

Bon appetit! and Merry Christmas!

As I had leftover chicken, I cooked some pasta and filled the bottom of a dish with this.

I then spread the leftover chicken on top. This can either be eaten straight away, or frozen for one of those hectic days when there is no time to cook. Very convenient.

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