Chicken, Leek, Bacon & Tarragon Pie

This has to be in serious contention for the main course element of my desert island meal. Served with creamy mash and buttery peas, it’s hard to think of a more comforting dish.

The great thing about this recipe is its flexibility – feel free to adapt it to your taste preferences or swap out ingredients to accommodate what’s lurking at the back of your fridge.

If you are not such a fan of breast meat, use thighs. If you’re feeling particularly extravagant, poach a whole chicken (bung a whole chicken in a lidded saucepan, cover with stock and leave to gently simmer for 1.5-2 hours or until the meat is completely cooked through. Shred on a chopping board and resume method as below). This pie also works especially well as a Monday night dinner, since you can use up any leftover bits of chicken from a roast eaten the day before.

If you are a mushroom lover, add those. If you are a tarragon hater, swap out for some parsley. If you aren’t as lazy as I am, make your own pastry. If you are not such a fan of pastry, the creamy mix is glorious enough on its own to serve without. Heck you can even serve it up in individual pie dishes. Basically, anything goes as far as this chicken pie is concerned.

Ingredients

450ml chicken stock

3 free range chicken breasts

Drizzle of olive oil

8 rashers of good quality bacon, chopped into small pieces

75g salted butter

2 leeks, thinly sliced

3 garlic cloves, crushed

50g plain flour

200ml milk

150ml double cream

3tbsp white wine

2tsp Dijon mustard

2tbsp fresh tarragon, finely chopped (or less if you want a subtler taste)

1 sheet ready rolled puff pastry

1 egg, beaten

Serves 4-5 hungry people

Method

Put the chicken and stock in a saucepan and bring to a gentle simmer. Pop on the lid and leave to poach for about 10-15 minutes, or until the flesh is completely cooked through. (It looks like there are 4 breasts in this picture, but one had come apart – make sure to use 3!)

Remove the chicken from the pan and shred on a chopping board with a knife and fork. Set aside to cool. Reserve 250ml of the stock.

Heat a drizzle of olive oil in a pan and fry the bacon until golden and crispy. Remove from the pan and set aside while you make the filling.

Melt 25g of the butter in the pan and add the leeks and a splash of water. Cook over a very low heat until the leeks are really soft – about 20 minutes. I like to cover mine in a scrunched up piece of baking paper, but this is not essential.

When the leeks are really soft, add the crushed garlic and cook for a few minutes.

Then add the remaining butter (50g) and melt. Add in the flour…

…and mix to form a roux.

Add the milk little by little, whisking well after each addition to avoid any lumps forming.

Slowly add the reserved stock – again whisking well after each addition until a smooth sauce forms.

Mix in the cream.

Add the wine and mustard, and leave to bubble for a few minutes.

Leave the sauce to cool before stirring through the cooled chicken, bacon and tarragon.

Season to perfection.

At this point, you could quite feasibly eat the mix as is and do away with the pastry – just heat through until piping hot.

Otherwise, pile the mix into a pie dish.

Brush the outside rim of the pie dish with beaten egg and gently cover with the sheet of pastry.

Brush all over with the beaten egg.

Use any off-cuts to create a pattern on the top – I like to use a cookie cutter for this. Then prick the outside rim with a fork.

Bake in the oven for about 40 minutes or until the pastry is golden and the middle is piping hot.

Serve, as it was intended, with butter-laden mash and peas.

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