Warming, comforting and with endless variations – pies are a favourite in our house during the winter months. This creamy chicken & ham pie is simple to make and tastes delicious. Pastry can be tricky, so don’t worry if you’d prefer not to make your own – cheat and buy ready-made instead. You’ll find it in the chiller or freezer cabinets in larger supermarkets.
Prep time: Less than 30 mins
Cook time: 30 mins – 1 hour
For the filling:
3 chicken breasts, skinned
150g/5oz thickly-carved ham, cut into chunks
2 medium-sized leeks, trimmed and cut into 1cm rounds
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
450ml/16fl oz chicken stock
200ml/7fl oz milk
150ml/3fl oz double cream
2-3 tbsp white wine (optional)
50g/2oz plain flour
Salt & freshly ground black pepper
For the pastry
350g/12oz plain flour
1 large egg, beaten with 1tbsp cold water
1 egg, beaten, to glaze
Heat the stock in a lidded saucepan, then add the chicken breasts and bring to a low simmer. Cover and cook for 10 minutes. Transfer the chicken to a plate and reserve the cooking liquid. When cooled slightly, cut the chicken into chunks.
Melt 25g/1oz of the butter over a low heat in a large, heavy-based saucepan. Add the leeks and fry gently for 2-3 minutes until just soft. Tip in the garlic and cook for a further minute.
Add the remaining butter and, once melted, stir in the flour. Cook for 30 seconds, stirring constantly. Slowly add the milk, a little at a time, stirring well. Gradually pour in 250ml/10fl oz of the reserved stock and the wine, if using. Stir until the sauce is smooth and slightly thickened, then simmer for 3 minutes.
Season with salt and pepper to taste, remove from the heat and stir in the cream. Cover with cling film to prevent a skin forming on the surface and set aside to cool. (You can transfer the mixture into a large bowl if you prefer.)
Preheat the oven to 200C/180C fan oven/390F/Gas 6.
To make the pastry, put the flour and butter in a food processor and pulse until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. With the motor running, slowly add the beaten egg and water mixture. Blend together until a ball is formed. Set aside 250g/10oz for the pie lid.
Roll out the remaining pastry on a lightly floured surface until 5mm/¼-inch thick. It should be around 4cm/1½ inches larger than the top of a 23cm/9in round pie dish. Carefully lift the pastry – over your rolling pin is the easiest way – and place it into the pie dish. Press it firmly into the sides, making sure there are no air bubbles. Leave the excess to hang over the sides of the dish.
Stir the chicken and ham into the cooled leek and sauce mixture, then pour into the pie dish. Roll out the reserved pastry to form a lid. Brush around the rim of the dish with beaten egg before covering with the lid. Firmly press the edges together to seal and trim away any excess pastry.
Use the tip of a knife to make a small slit in the centre of the pie; this will allow steam to escape. Glaze the lid with beaten egg and place in the preheated oven. Bake for 35-40 minutes or until the top of the pie is golden-brown and the filling is piping hot.
Serve with creamy mashed potato, your favourite vegetables and plenty of extra gravy.
If you like, substitute mushrooms for the leeks or experiment with other vegetables such as diced red peppers or broccoli florets. You could also add finely-chopped fresh or dried herbs to the sauce – thyme, parsley or tarragon would all work well in this recipe.