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Un pique-nique Britannique

So this week, I will be posting a collection of recipes I have been testing.

Since I have been living in France for over 3 years, I have been cooking like a demon from my little country kitchen in the middle of vineyards. Inspired by french restaurants, markets, my 80 yr old great aunt and my mum who are fab cooks and memories of my late French Grandfather, Pépé, who had me helping in the kitchen from a very young age!

I will be cooking all of the following from scratch:

Chicken & Ham Pie

Quail Scotch Egg

Smoked Mackerel Pâté with horseradish sauce

Seasame crackers

Winter veg crisps

and the finale... Piccalilli

None of 6 individual elements are complicated but rather require patience and a method (Pâté excluded, you can make that in your sleep) but all work perfectly together.

But for now, I'll go over the cold Chicken & Ham Pie. I have tested a few recipes so far (not eaten them all by the way) and so far the pastry tips from my Conran cookbook have worked better, with a couple of tweeks! I did try 3 others and they went in the bin.

This pie involves making a hot water crust pastry, which sounds scarier than it is...sort of. It's basically a pork pie pastry crust.

So pull up your sleeves because it's going to get dirty! But it's SO worth it!

You will need to collect the following ingredients:

For the filling

200g thick cut streaky bacon, known as ventriche in French.

200g chicken breast

500g gammon

Herbs - parsley, tarragon, chives & pepper

These quantities make 1 large pie & 2 mini pies.

For the hot water crust pastry

160g lard

450g plain flour

200ml water

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 egg beaten for glazing (don't forget this bit!)

So firstly, pre-heat your oven to 200c.

Use a loaf tin sized 12cmx22cmx7cm and one that tapers down or smaller tins for mini pies 4.5cmx7.5cmx3cm. The small tins are very fiddly but be patient and don't rush. I've used the mini tins which are metal tins but you could try a rubber mould, just be aware this is a heavy bake, so you don't want a mould that will give way. I tried a larger and it really doesn't work, so try to keep to these sizes.

Then prepare your filling. Cut the chicken, bacon & gammon into bite size pieces. Remove rind, bone and excess fats. Add herbs & pepper.

In a saucepan add the salt, lard & water and bring to a boil.

Once the lard & water boils, add to the flour mix. It will sizzle. Then work quickly with a wooden spoon to bring the pastry together.

Flour your worktop. Roll out the pastry quickly about 1 cm thick and then gently lift into your tin. It will stay warm for a while so you can work it properly and make sure you have no holes and it's all evenly distributed. Overlap the pastry at the top of the tin, you will need this to seal it later. Then fill with your meat cuts, pressing down as you go. DO NOT break the pastry as you work it with the filling (cut your finger nails)

The filling should fill just shy of the top, don't over fill it.

Brush the top edges of the pastry with the egg wash, do spend time doing this properly, no need to rush at this point. I tried some pies where I rushed this part and the pie was a disaster, so really seal this pie and you won't have any problems, you do not want this pie to leak while cooking.

Then roll out the remaining pastry and lay over the top. Make a hole in the top. Press the edges to seal, trim the edge with a knife and then use a fork to press the edges together. Looks nice too!

So for the mini pies.

Place on the middle shelf at 200c for 30mins. The top will get brown quickly but don't worry it won't burn. Then turn the heat down to 180c and cook for a further 30 mins. Once cooked, these mini pies will pop out of the tin, so egg wash the outside and put back for 20mins.

For a large pie, cook at 200c for 30mins. Then turn the heat down to 180c and cook for a further 1 hr 30 mins.

Take out of the oven and let it cool in the tin.

Refrigerate over night.

The ingredients I've listed for all these recipes would make enough to feed 10 people, so perfect for a lunch or a buffet party.

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