Petite pies for picnics – with a chicken and apple filling
I can’t remember where I got the idea for these little chicken and apple pies, but if they are lacking from a picnic these days – whether a ‘while traveling in the car’ picnic, or a full-blown Déjeuner sur l’Herbe, complete with Pimms and punchbowl, there are shrieks of anguish – where are the pies!
They are easy to make before, and then you can keep them warm, wrapped in newspaper.
They’re not bad cold either – so useful for lunch boxes.
Part of what makes these pies so good, though, is the pastry. I’m all for cheating where you can get away with it… but this is not one of those occasions. I think the shortening is the secret.
No fiddling about measuring cookie cutters if you buy this brilliant Lakeland set, which has the sizes printed on, has a choice of crimped or plain edges, and you can put in the dishwasher.
These pies will last for up to ten days in the fridge, but they don’t freeze well.
Recipe for petite pies for picnics – with a chicken and apple filling
Makes about 12
- 350g/2¾ cups plain flour
- 100g/4 oz butter
- 50g/2 oz Cookeen or Trex – this is a vegetable shortening which makes the pastry flaky with a slightly crisp texture. You can experiment with the proportion of butter to shortening.
- 2 large (not fillets) chicken breasts, chop into small pieces
- 160g/6 oz diced pancetta – if you need to substitute with ham, don’t forget to add some extra butter or lard, or they will be dry
- 2 eating apples, peeled, cored and diced to the same size as the pancetta
- 100g/4 oz mature cheddar, diced to the same size as the pancetta
- 1 egg, beaten
- A few sprigs of thyme
- Salt (and some textured salt) and pepper
- Put the butter, flour, and shortening, together with some seasoning ,into a large mixing bowl, and mix to breadcrumb texture with an electric whisk (or you can do this in a magimix).
- Add a tablespoon or so of water to turn this mixture into a dough. Do this slowly, a tablespoon at a time – most people add too much. The less liquid the dough is, the better… crisper…richer… is the final result. Turn out onto cling film and chill in the fridge for half an hour or so.
- Preheat the oven to 210°C.
- Fry the chicken and pancetta until they are cooked through.
- Leave to cool, season, add the leaves of most of the thyme, then add the cheese, and the apple.
- Roll out about two-thirds of the dough on a cook, floured surface.
- Using a 100 cm/4” cookie cutter (or a small saucer of the same diameter) cut out about 12 rounds, and push them into the hollows of a non-stick muffin (these individual pies need to be quite large – a lot of filling and less pastry) tin.
- Fill them with the mixture in the frying pan, pressing down well, but leaving out any accumulating liquid.
- Roll out the remaining pastry, and using a cutter which is about 8cm/3” cut out the lids.
- Squeeze the lids firmly onto the bases, brush with the beaten egg (this process makes it really yummy… yes, I’m aware that is not a very professional cookery writing term!).
- Sprinkle with the textured salt, and the remainder of the thyme leaves. This is also key to the loveliness of these pies!
- Bake for 20-25 minutes, but check after 15 minutes that they are not getting too brown – if they are, lower the temperature to 180°C. Check that they are ready – take one out and look at its bottom – it it doesn’t look cooked leave it a bit longer in the hotter oven.
- Take out and cool on a rack.
Music to listen to as you cook
Pomme sings Göttingen