This is relatively easy and really popular with children and adults. I often serve it at a dinner party or if I have another family to lunch.
2 medium or 1 large free-range organic chicken
4 medium carrots, diced into small pieces
6 sticks celery, diced
4 leeks, finely sliced into discs
3 medium onions, finely chopped
100g unsalted butter
300-500ml chicken stock from poaching the birds
150ml double cream (optional)
Sprigs of tarragon and chopped flat-leaf parsley (approximately 2 tablespoons each)
Salt and pepper
250g pack puff pastry – this usually contains two sheets and I tend to use both
- Preheat oven to 180ºC
- Put the chickens into a pot and cover with water. You can add leek tops, two extra carrots, an extra onion and peppercorns to give more flavour, but this is optional. Bring to the boil slowly and remove any surface scum. Cover and poach for 45-60 minutes. You can skip this part and buy a roasted chicken if you want to but the moist flesh is really good!
- When the chicken is cooked leave it cool. Remove the skin and strip the flesh from the carcass. Cut into smallish pieces.
- Put the bones and any spare bits of chicken (not skin) back in the pot with the stock
- Boil the remaining stock for about half an hour and reduce it by half. You can skip this part and just use couple of stock cubes!
- Chop the onion finely and cook slowly in a little butter.
- Steam the vegetables, starting with the carrots for 3-4 minutes, then add the celery and leeks. Cook until they are al dente (a little bit to them).
- Melt the butter, add the flour and stir thoroughly. Add the warmed milk and the chicken stock alternately and gradually. Keep stirring to make a thick satin-like sauce.
- Remove from the heat and stir in the cream if you are using it. Season and add the chopped fresh herbs.
- Stir the chopped chicken and the vegetables into the white sauce.
- Roll out the puff pastry to fit your dish. I use a rectangular 35 x 20cm pie dish.
- Grease the pie dish very well around the edges and along the top edges.
- Pour the chicken and vegetable mix into the pie dish. Put an upside down egg cup in the middle and place the pastry carefully over it. Crimp the edges of the pastry onto the edges of the pie dish with your fingers or with a fork. You can cut out pretty leaf shapes from the leftover pastry and place on top using a little water to make them stick. Cut a cross into the pastry over the egg cup to allow steam to escape.
- Brush the whole of the pie top with a beaten egg or egg yolk.
- Bake for 45-60 minutes until the top is golden brown. If the pie crust turns golden sooner, cover with a piece of greaseproof paper and cook a further 15 minutes.
- Let the pie rest after cooking for about 10 minutes before cutting.