Chicken Pie | Photo by the writer
Chicken Pie | Photo by the writer

My nani (maternal grandmother) loved cooking dishes outside of the desi milieu — whether from recipes found in her pile of cookbooks or recipes passed on to her by her friend, an avant-garde cook.

But none captured my imagination as a young girl as much as chicken pie. There’s something simple yet grand about fussing over pastry and its filling. I remember all of us siblings would eagerly wait for the oven to ping and couldn’t wait to dig into a piping hot slice of pie (many tongues were burnt at my grandma’s house this way).

On top of it all, chicken pie is one of those versatile dishes that can be had as a snack or adds a little panache to a lunch soiree. It’s comfort food with a twist of fancy, and ideal for such schizophrenic weather — chicken pie tastes delicious cold or warmed up.

It can also be made ahead of time and frozen: save it for one of those unbearably hot days when one dare not step into the kitchen. All you’d have to do is thaw, pop in the oven and walk away!

A convenient comfort food with a little bit of fancy, the versatile chicken pie is perfect for to make and keep for those days when you don’t want to be in the kitchen

While chicken pie may seem like something that is a hangover from the ’50s, meat pies are far older. Historians have found evidence of pies being made as far back as 6,000 years ago, in the Neolithic era.The pies back then were made with wheat, oat, rye and barley, and ‘baked’ over coal.

Pie descriptions have been found in Egyptian hieroglyphics and in Greek and Roman texts. Etchings of a bread dough ‘pie’ stuffed with nuts, fruits and honey have been found on the tomb of the pharaoh, Ramses II.

Food historians believe that it was the Greeks that invented the modern pie — they made pie with meats wrapped in pastry made from a flour paste. The Romans were far more adventurous with their pies — savoury fillings included oysters, fish and mussels. The pastries were so revered in the nation that they were even baked as offerings to the gods. Called libum or placenta, versions of this pie of layered sweet cheese are popular even today in regions of the former Roman Empire — in Romania for instance, a dessert called plăcintă is a local favourite.

Chicken Pie (Makes two 8-inch pies)

This pie is all about convenience. The filling can be made a day in advance, the pie can be frozen for two weeks and the puff pastry can easily be bought at your local bakery (this is the worst weather to try and make puff at home in any case).

While I’ve included vegetables that are usually available all year round, feel free to experiment and add fresh veggies from your garden or whatever is in season. Finding the vegetables too pricey? Just add more chicken and some corn kernels instead.

Ingredients

For boiling the chicken
½ kg chicken breast
1 tablespoon soya sauce
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon ginger-garlic paste

For filling

Shredded chicken breast
1 packet or 250ml cream
2 green peppers, finely chopped into squares
2 small onions, finely chopped into squares
1 carrot, finely chopped into squares
1 cup peas, boiled
1 teaspoon ginger-garlic paste
1 teaspoon (or to taste) salt
1 tablespoon soya sauce
2 teaspoon black pepper
½ to 1 teaspoon red chilli powder
2 tablespoon butter
For assembly
½ kg puff pastry
1 egg
Chicken and vegetable filling

Method

  1. Boil the chicken breasts in pepper, salt and soya sauce.

  2. After the chicken has been boiled, remove from pan and set aside to cool, and then shred into tiny pieces.

  3. Melt butter in a large saucepan. Then add the ginger-garlic paste, followed by the chopped onions. After lightly sautéing the onions, add the shredded chicken, followed by the green peppers and stir. Add the salt and one teaspoon of the pepper. Then add the carrots and peas, followed by the rest of the seasonings and the soya sauce. Stir well for five minutes. Add the cream and quickly mix it in. Turn off the heat.

  4. Oil two round 8-inch baking pans and sprinkle with flour. Preheat the oven to 250°C.

  5. Split the dough into four small balls and roll out into two 8-inch circles. Roll out the remaining dough into two other circles that are slightly smaller than the 8-inch ones. Slide the two 8-inch circles in the two pans. Spoon the chicken mixture on the dough, spreading it evenly across the pie base. Leave half an inch empty around the dough. Then place the other rolled-out dough on top and pinch or press down all along the sides, to make sure the mixture stays sealed in.

  6. Beat an egg and brush on the top circles. Bake for 20 minutes at 250°C or until the pastry is visibly brown and flaky. Cool for 10 minutes before cutting up into slices.

Tastes delicious served hot or cold.

Published in Dawn, EOS, September 25th, 2022

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