Keep your eyes on the pies for comfort food at its best

Lily Higgins: Try making your own pastry for this crumbly, buttery chicken and leek pie

Serve with just cooked green peas that have butter and shredded mint leaves folded through

Serve with just cooked green peas that have butter and shredded mint leaves folded through

 

Making your own pastry might seem pointless and quite time-consuming but really if you use butter and a good egg you’ll never look back.

November is Food Month in The Irish Times. You will find food-related content in all of our sections, plus reader events, competitions and lots of exclusive content at irishtimes.com/food
November is Food Month in The Irish Times. You will find food-related content in all of our sections, plus reader events, competitions and lots of exclusive content at irishtimes.com/food

This crumbly, buttery blanket of dough envelops the pie like no oil-based grey pastry could ever do. I make mine in the food processor, as I have long ago acknowledged, and made peace with the fact, that I am quite heavy handed in the kitchen, more suited to handling bread doughs than feather-light, melt in your mouth, pastry. But thankfully the food processor does an amazing job. I recommend making a few batches of this dough and freezing it in flat discs for future use. Add a generous tablespoon of icing sugar to make a sweet pastry (mince pie season is nearly here!). I’ve used chia seeds for a nutritious crunch on the top but poppy seeds will do too. 

My dad is harvesting leeks from his garden at the moment so I often return home to find a huge bunch of muddy three-foot leeks at the door stop. Young leeks are the sweetest at this time of year. The outer layer is unblemished and smooth. Left in the ground for another few months and they will be tough and hardy. Still perfect for soups, but the younger leeks are sublime in a pie like this. It’s comfort food at its best and is excellent made with leftover roast turkey too.

Chicken and Leek Pie 

Serves 4-6
200g plain flour
125g butter
1 egg
2 leeks
1 tbsp butter
1 clove garlic, crushed 
1 tbsp cornflour
400ml milk
1 tsp Dijon mustard
3 sprigs thyme or tarragon
600g cooked chicken, in bite-size pieces
Sea salt and black pepper
1 egg, beaten with 1 tsp water, to glaze the pie 
1 tsp chia or poppy seeds

To serve: peas with butter and mint

Method
Preheat the oven to 180 Celsius. Then make the pastry. Place the flour in a food processor and blitz with the S blade for a few seconds to ensure the flour has no lumps. Cube the cold butter and add it to the flour. Pulse the mixture a few times until it resembles breadcrumbs. Add the egg and 1 tsp water. Pulse for a few seconds at a time till the mix  just begins to clump together to form a dough. Gather it all together and gently pat into a flat disc. Cover in cling film. Place it in the fridge for the gluten to rest so your pastry will be light and buttery. 

Wash and finely chop the leeks. Use all of the green parts too. Melt the butter in a heavy based pan, add the leeks and sauté till beginning to melt and become soft. Add the crushed garlic and stir, continue to cook for another few minutes. 

Mix the cornflour with a few tablespoons of milk to form a smooth paste, add the Dijon mustard. Add this paste to the leeks and stir, gradually pour in the rest of the milk until everything is well combined. Leave to bubble for a few minutes over a medium heat. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Pour the pie filling into a deep oven proof dish. I used a 30cm enamel pie dish. 

Roll the pastry out on a lightly floured surface. Cut the pastry to form a lid to fit your chosen dish.Gently lay the pastry over the pie filling. Crimp the edges and make some cuts in the top to let steam escape. Glaze the pie with the beaten egg and scatter with chia or poppy seeds. Bake for 40 minutes until golden brown around the edges. Serve with just cooked green peas that have butter and shredded mint leaves folded through. 

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