Eyes on the pies
Keep some pastry in the freezer for these quick and easy, comforting autumn feeds.
Now that daylight saving is finished and the sun is setting earlier, ( plus, of course, the wild, wintry weather), I am in the mood for some indulgent autumnal fare.
These two recipes are simple to put together, especially as both use store-bought pastry to make life a little easier.
The chicken pies are packed with tender chicken thigh meat, seasoned with the unmistakable, somehow festive, herby flavour of sage, salty bacon and sweet leeks.
The shortcrust pastry makes a nice change from puff or flaky here, giving the pies a slightly shiny exterior, more like what you would expect from an empanada.
The chicken filling is utterly delicious (and I would quite happily serve it stirred through long pasta), but can be substituted for any leftovers – spaghetti bolognese mince, chilli con carne, even mashed potatoes loaded with caramelised onions and blue cheese would work.
Meanwhile, the walnut frangipane plum tart is the perfect cheat for when you don’t have the right tin, time or inclination to make pastry.
The walnut frangipane makes a change from the traditional almond but, of course, ground almonds (or hazelnuts) would also work well. Feel free to play around with the fruit, too – any remaining stone fruit available would be fine, but well drained (and de-stoned) tinned fruit is good, too.
Whether you choose to serve the pastry concoctions for afternoon tea, after sport, for dinner or with drinks, they are just right for the changing season.
Chicken, leek and bacon pies
Preparation: 45 minutes Cooking: 66-76 minutes Makes: 16
❚ 500g chicken thighs
❚ 1 leek
❚ 25g butter
❚ 150g bacon or pancetta, chopped
❚ 1 small onion, chopped
❚ 2 tablespoon chopped fresh sage leaves
❚ 2 tablespoons plain flour
❚ 1⁄2 cup whole milk
❚ 3 tablespoons cream
❚ 2 teaspoons seed mustard
❚ 1⁄4 cup grated tasty cheese
❚ Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
❚ 4 sheets (600g) ready-rolled savoury shortcrust pastry (I used Edmonds)
❚ 1 egg
❚ 3 teaspoons sesame seeds
Trim the excess fat from the chicken thighs and chop into 2-3cm pieces. Trim the leek, halve lengthways, and cut into 1cm half circles.
Heat the butter in a large heavybottomed saucepan and cook the bacon for five minutes. Add the onion, chopped leek and sage and cook, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes. Add the chicken meat, stir well, cover and cook for 10 minutes.
Sprinkle over the flour, stir to combine, and cook for one minute, then add the milk, two tablespoons of cream, and the seed mustard. Cook, stirring occasionally, for a further 10-15 minutes until the sauce is thickened and smooth and the chicken is cooked through. Remove from the heat, stir through the cheese and season to taste with salt and pepper. Refrigerate until cold.
Cut four 11cm circles from one sheet of pastry and line two oven trays with baking paper. Hold a pastry circle in your hand and place about two tablespoons of chicken filling in the centre. Fold the pastry sides up to enclose and press the edges together.
Place on a tray and repeat with remaining pastry and filling – you should have about 16 mini pies. Whisk the egg with the remaining cream and brush over pies, sprinkle with sesame seeds, then chill while the oven preheats to 190 degrees Celsius. Cook the pies for 30-35 minutes until golden. Serve ‘‘as-is’’, or with seed mustard or a good tomato or apricot chutney.
Walnut frangipane plum tart
Preparation: 15 minutes Cooking: 37-42 minutes Serves: 6-10 (depending on serving size)
❚ 60g butter, softened
❚ 1⁄4 cup caster sugar (plus 1 teaspoon for sprinkling)
❚ 2 eggs
❚ 1 cup walnuts
❚ 1 tablespoon flour
❚ 160g ready rolled, butter puff pastry (I used Paneton)
❚ 2 teaspoons milk
❚ 5 plums, halved and stones removed
Preheat the oven to 200C, and line an oven tray with baking paper. Put the butter, sugar, 1 egg, walnuts, and flour in a food processor and whiz to form a chunky paste.
Cut the pastry into a rectangle 14cm x 28cm and place on the prepared tray.
Mark a 1cm border around the edges, ensuring that you don’t cut all the way through. Use the tines of a fork to prick inside the border well.
Whisk the remaining egg with the milk and brush around the border.
Bake for 12 minutes then remove from the oven and reduce the oven temperature to 190C.
Use a tablespoon to flatten the puffed up pastry in the middle, leaving you with a pastry shell. Spoon the walnut filling into the shell and even out with the back of a tablespoon. Place the plums, cutside down on to the filling, and bake for 25-30 minutes or until the pastry is golden and the filling is set. Allow to cool for 15 minutes before serving.
This can be served simply as it is or dusted with icing sugar and served with vanilla bean icecream, natural yoghurt or whipped cream.
❚ Recipes, food styling and photography by Sarah Tuck
These chicken, leek and bacon pies followed by the walnut frangipane plum tart are delicious and warming for these colder days of autumn.