Sunday, April 26, 2009

Chicken Pie with Biscuit Topping

Chicken Pie with Biscuit Topping
Home Cooking

I got this awesome baking cookbook called "The Modern Baker" by Nick Malgieri. There are so many wonderful recipes inside for breads, pastries and cakes that I often just flick through the pages to have a perv of the gorgeous photos.

To be honest, I haven't used the cookbook that often (only once for scones). Generally, I find there are great tips and I file away many of the recipes for 'sometime in the near future'.

Today I got around to making the chicken pie. It's something that seemed too hearty for the warmer months but now that it's getting cooler, I'm taking advantage of that by cooking "heavier" food.

I'm still relatively new to pastry. I find home-made pastry dough challenging and am trying to ease myself into it step by step. This chicken pie recipe doesn't actually have a pastry case. Rather, it uses a kind of scone/biscuit casing over the pie contents.

I thought this was a good stepping stone and though it's not a conventional pie shape, the photo accompanying this recipe is incredibly mouth-watering and convincing. When I made this dish, I changed the quantities to fill a 15cm square casserole dish (small one) that feeds 2 people. Also, I didn't have some of the herbs so I mixed up my own. The recipe below is my version - if you're interested in the original, check out his book. It's a great buy!

Note: the filling of my pie was a bit on the watery side so please read through the whole recipe to see the suggestions I make for avoiding this

Chicken Pie with Biscuit Topping
Serves 2 (using a 15 x 15 cm casserole dish)


For the pie filling
  • 250g chicken thigh fillets (you can use chicken breast fillets if you prefer all white meat)
  • 1 medium-sized carrot, chopped
  • 1 medium-sized white/brown onion, chopped
  • 1 and 1/2 cups water
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 sprig of fresh parsley
  • 2 small dried bay leaves
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 50ml heavy whipping cream
  • 1/4 cup frozen peas

For the biscuit topping
  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 3 and 1/2 tbsp butter, cut into 1cm cubes
  • 1/4 cup milk or buttermilk

1. Cook the chicken by combining chicken, water, 1/2 tsp salt, parsley, bay leaf and oregano in a medium-sized saucepan.2. Bring to a simmer over medium heat, occasionally skimming off any foam/fat that rises to the top.
3. Lower the heat and cook the chicken until it is tender (about 30min).
4. Add the onion and carrots in the last 10min (you might need to increase the heat after you add the vegetables to get the liquid back to a simmer).5. When the chicken and vegetables have cooked, fish them out of the stock and place them in the baking tray. Scatter the peas over the top.6. Return the stock to the stove. Remove the bay leaves and larger pieces of parsley etc.
7. Bring the stock to a boil and then reduce to a simmer. Simmer until the volume of stock has reduced to about 1 cup. After this time, add the cream and continue reducing until there is 2/3 cup left and it's reasonably thick (coating the spatula).
I had problems with the sauce being too watery so at this stage, I suggest adding a tsp of flour and stirring through or some grated cheddar cheese. These suggestions haven't been tested out so try it at your own 'risk' but just be wary that you don't want the sauce too watery.
8. Preheat the oven to 190 degrees Celsius. After the sauce is thickened, pour this over the top of the chicken and vegetables and even it out with a spatula.9. To make the biscuit topping, combine flour, baking powder and salt in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a metal blade.
10. Add the butter and pulse until it's like fine breadcrumbs.11. Add the milk and pulse until the dough just comes together. If it's too dry, add more milk a tsp at a time and pulse in between additions until the dough comes together.
Dough when it is just out of the food processor

12. Invert the dough onto a lightly floured bench and press it down into a rectangle about 1cm thick. Cut into 6 or so even squares and round up these squares into little discs (still about 1cm thick)13. Place the dough disks on top of the thicken filling.14. Bake in the preheated oven until the dough is baked through and well colored and the filling is bubbling (about 25min).
15. Serve immediately by dishing out a biscuit disk or two with spoonfuls of chicken, vegetable and sauce.

When I took the pie out of the oven, it looked perfect but as soon as I pushed the serving spoon through, I knew the filling was too watery. It still tasted fantastic - the flavors were great and despite the wetness, the biscuit topping wasn't soggy. I think in my case, the watery quality of the filling might be due to:
  • Too many vegetables/vegetables not cooked thoroughly (releasing fluid as it cooks in the oven, watering down the sauce)
  • Not thickening the sauce enough - next time, I'll reduce the sauce further and perhaps even add a bit of flour or cheese to thicken it up
I'll post an update here when I make the pie again using these adaptations.

As I said though, the wateriness didn't really affect the taste. On the plus side, it did mean the pie tasted lighter and healthier. The chicken and vegetables are great eaten alongside with the scone-like biscuit pieces. These biscuit pieces were a huge success: crunchy on the outside, buttery and soft on the inside. It soaks up the filling too - great combination. Even though my filling wasn't perfect, I won't hesitate to use the biscuit topping again.

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