Rejoice, it’s officially pie season. (If only you could see the spring in my step!) Very little stands between me and the enjoyment of pie. Basically, I believe that any food I love will taste even better encased in a buttery pastry and creamy sauce. In all its many shapes and forms (open, closed, shortcrust, puff, filo, sweet or savoury) generally speaking, most are synonymous with this time of year, when wooly jumpers and fleece-lined slippers are embraced and the thrill of summer self-denial has gratefully worn off. Unsurprisingly, Yanks always start the proceedings, celebrating the start of fall with the widely known, Pumpkin pie. (Admittedly, a classic us Brits are yet to embrace) We however own the next seasonal king of pies, the mince pie no less. But before these start to fly off the shelves in an excited festive flurry, it’s time to bridge the gap and embrace other varieties in the interim. Sweet wise, I have to confess to having a real love for the Pecan Pie (you won us over there America) So much so, I decided to feature a slight twist on the classic by creating a Maple Mocha version which encapsulates all that is sticky, treacly and nutty. Total heaven. I’m so excited to be sharing this recipe with you via my new cookbook which will be available in just a few months (apologies…a shameless plug, but it seemed appropriate here!)
However, today is a pie for savoury goodness. Again, I’ve opted for a favourite which has undergone a slight makeover as there’s always room for improvement in my eyes. For me, these chicken pies have a perfect filling-to-pastry ratio with the addition of chunky pancetta, buttery leeks, delicate tarragon, and silky soured cream partnered with sweet marsala, all surrounded by flaky, rich shortcrust pastry sprinkled with health-boosting sesame seeds. It’s a winning combination, but feel free to use or add any ingredients you wish such as fennel, mushroom and kale; the options are endless. However you may wish to personalise it, one things for sure, a chicken pie has all the medicinal healing powers of a chicken soup with the added gratification of having its own personal comfort blanket. The ultimate winter winner!
Chicken, Leek & Pancetta Miniature pies with Marsala, Tarragon & Sesame Crust
Bursting with salty pancetta, sweet marsala and aniseedy tarragon, these mini pies are perfect for dinners, parties and fuel for Autumnal walks.
You will need: a 12-hole non stick muffin tin and cookie cutters (8cm and 10cm diameter)
Makes 12 miniature pies
For the filling
1 tbsp olive oil
a knob of butter
1 spring onion, sliced (or 1/2 an onion, finely chopped)
1 medium leek, sliced
2 garlic cloves, crushed
160g cubetti di pancetta
500g chicken, diced into 2cm chunks (breast, thigh or a mixture can be used)
125g creme fraiche
2 tbsp almond flour (I use Sukrin, or plain flour can be used)
a handful of fresh tarragon leaves, roughly chopped
a handful of fresh parsley, roughly chopped
a few thyme sprigs, leaves only
juice of 1/2 lemon
2 x 375g ready-rolled shortcrust pastry
1 1/2 tbsp double cream (leftover creme fraiche can be used)
1 tbsp sesame seeds
1. Heat the olive oil in a large casserole and add the butter. When the butter has melted, add the spring onion and leek and gently fry for 5 minutes until they begin to soften. Add the pancetta and fry on a medium-high heat for 5 minutes until golden. Turn down the heat, then add the chicken, flour and garlic, stirring until coated.
2. Fry for a few minutes more, then add the marsala and cook for 5 minutes to reduce the liquid. Spoon in the creme fraiche and bring to a simmer for another 5 minutes or until the chicken is just cooked. Turn off the heat, stir in the herbs and lemon juice, then season. Set aside to cool the filling completely.
3. Roll out a sheet of pastry and stamp out 6 x 10cm circles and use these to line half of the tin, making sure it comes to just above the top of the tray lip. Stamp out 6 x 8cm circles for the lid, re rolling as necessary. Once the filling is cool enough, place 2 heaped tbsp of chicken mixture into each of the pastry-lined holes. Mix together the egg yolk and cream, then brush over the edges. Cover with the pastry lids and glaze the tops, then using a fork, decorate the edges of the pies (this helps to seal them as well). Repeat this process with the remaining pastry to make another 6 pies. Use a skewer to poke a small hole in the top of each pie, sprinkle with sesame seeds then chill uncovered in the fridge for about 30 minutes. Heat the oven to 200°C/180°C fan/gas 6.
4. Bake the pies for 30-35 minutes, or until golden and cooked through, covering the tops with foil if the pies start to brown too much. Serve warm or at room temperature. (these freeze well)
Recipe, styling & photography: Natalie Seldon