Chicken pie is a classic. This superb recipe deserves the best chicken so choose a top-quality, free-range bird for the very best flavour and texture.

Preparation time: 1 hour, plus overnight chilling, plus 2 hours chilling

Cooking time: about 2¼ hours

Serves: 6

Ingredients

  • 1.8kg chicken, rinsed and cut in half
  • 2 carrots, chopped
  • 1 brown onion, quartered
  • 4 celery stalks, chopped
  • bouquet garni
  • 1 strip lemon zest
  • 100g butter
  • 2 leeks, halved and thinly sliced
  • 75g plain flour
  • 160ml pouring cream
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
  • 2 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 375g ready-rolled frozen puff pastry, thawed
  • 6 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten

Recipe method

1. Place the chicken halves, carrots, onion, celery, bouquet garni and lemon zest in a stockpot. Add 2 litres of water, plus extra if needed to cover the chicken and vegetables. Bring to the boil, covered. Reduce the heat to low-medium and simmer for 1 hour.

2. Transfer the chicken to a plate to cool. Strain the stock, discarding the vegetables, and pour the stock back into the stockpot. Boil the stock until reduced to 500ml. Transfer to a heatproof jug. Remove the chicken meat from the bones and roughly chop. Cover and place in the refrigerator to chill overnight with the stock.

3. The following day, melt 1 tablespoon of the butter in a saucepan. Add the leeks and cook for 5 minutes, or until soft. Set aside.

4. Remove and discard fat from the top of the stock. Melt the remaining butter in a saucepan until hot and bubbling. Add the flour and stir for 1 minute. Remove from the heat and add 500ml stock and the cream in a slow, steady stream, whisking constantly. Return to the heat and cook, stirring constantly over a medium-high heat, until the sauce comes to the boil and thickens. Add the leeks, chicken, parsley and thyme. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Spoon into a 1 litre pie dish, cover and chill for 2 hours.

5. Preheat the oven to 200°C. Roll out the pastry to a 32cm square. Brush the rim of the pie dish with water. Cut 2 strips 2cm wide from the pastry and place them around the rim of the pie dish. Brush with water and place the remaining pastry over the chicken mixture. Trim off the excess pastry and crimp the edges. Cut a cross in the centre and press the thyme sprigs into the hole. Brush the pastry with the egg. Bake the pie on a baking tray for 25–30 minutes, or until the pastry is golden and puffed. Serve immediately.

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