Pies!

For May Crown, 2015, Katherina Weyssin and Anna de Wilde (with help from a few others) made a pie for every person for lunch. Katherine of Glastonbury made gluten-free, vegetarian, allium-free pies for those who needed them (the ever-popular mushroom tarts, with a gluten-free base).

Anna and Katherina produced well over a hundred pies between them. We were pretty happy with the results.

Chicken and Bacon Pies

Size of pies. This recipe makes:

  • 1 large pie (8-10") OR
  • 12 mega-muffin sized pies (3 1/2") OR
  • 24 muffin-sized pies

The large pies are quick: expect each to feed about 12 people; I start by cutting them into 16 pieces - some people want seconds and others don't. 

"Mega muffin" pies (3 1/2") seem about right for one pie per person, for lunch. 

Muffin-sized pies (2 1/2") are a good snack size. 

Ingredients 

  • 800g chicken, chopped
  • 200g fatty bacon, and/or some dripping or lard 
  • 3 onions 
  • 6 eggs
  • small bunch of chopped parsley (exact amount is very flexible)
  • spices 
    • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
    • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
    • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
    • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
    • pinch cloves
    • saffron - a few threads
  • pastry - I use frozen savory shortcrust pastry
    • 2.5 sheets sheets for one large pie OR
    • 5 sheets for 12 small pies (mega-muffin sized)
    • 6 sheets for 24 tiny pies (muffin sized)
  • butter/fat/oil to grease pie-shells
  • optional: milk and/or egg to seal and glaze pie-crusts

Tools:

  • chopping board
  • knives
  • scales (or buy meat that's sold by weight)
  • large saucepan
  • large spoon for stirring
  • pie dish or muffin trays (1 small, 2 "mega muffin" trays), or similar
  • clear bench-space for thawing and cutting pastry
  • pastry brush
  • dish for water/egg/milk to seal pies and glaze them
  • small spoon for filling pies

Method:

Step one: making the filling

  • Chop chicken and bacon - 1/2" pieces or smaller, to fill the pie nicely.
  • Chop onions - fine
  • Put a large saucepan on low heat. Melt the fat (either put bacon in pan and let the fat run out, or melt lard or dripping, or both).
  • Add chicken and onions. Fry on medium heat, stirring from time to time, until the chicken is cooked through. Ideally it will brown somewhat, but that's not essential. 
  • Chop herbs. Beat eggs and chopped herbs together in a bowl (you can do this while the chicken is cooking)
  • Turn heat on saucepan to very low. Add egg and herb mixture, and stir constantly until it thickens. (This can take a while - you're basically making scrambled eggs with a LOT of chicken and bacon in them). 
  • Remove from heat. Stir spices through. 

At this point you can go straight to making pies, or you can refrigerate the filling overnight. It helps if you allow the filling to cool somewhat before filling the pies - it thickens further, and the pies are less inclined to leak in the oven. 

Step two: making the pies

  • pre-heat oven to 220 degrees Celsius
  • grease pie shells
  • line pie-shells with pastry
  • brush around the edges with water or milk, so the tops will stick better
  • fill pies
  • cover with pastry
  • glaze, if you wish to - brush with egg-yolk or milk
  • make a hole in each one with a knife, for steam to escape
  • bake until the pastry is golden-brown (maybe only 15 minutes for small pies, longer - half an hour or more - for large pies)
  • (if you're using both racks in the oven, swap the trays on the upper and lower racks about half way through cooking them)

Turn out, cool on a pie-rack.

Efficient ways to cut your pastry

Large pies - one pie per batch of filling - 2.5 sheets of pastry per batch

Three sheets of pastry for one pie, or five sheets (one packet) for two pies. One sheet for the top, one sheet for the bottom, and about half of the third sheet (plus offcuts) to fill in any gaps, and maybe make something pretty to stick on top. Biscuit cutters are great for cutting out decorations.

You will probably have some scraps of pastry left over.

Small pies (cooked in a mega-muffin tray) - 12 pies per batch of filling - 5 sheets of pastry per batch

Six pies per tray; you can usually fit 2 trays in the oven, 4 (two on each rack) if your oven is wide enough

  • For tops and bottoms: cut a sheet into 9 squares (thirds vertically, and thirds horizontally) - you will need 3 sheets like this
  • For sides: cut a sheet into six strips (cut thirds vertically, then cut each strip in half, lengthways) - you will need 2 sheets like this

Brush one side of each sheet with water or milk, to help them seal.

  • Place a square in the bottom of each pie  - the corners will come up the sides, and that's ok.
  • Form the strips into little circles for the sides and push them into place over the bottoms. Press around the edges to seal. It's ok if they're not the same height as the tray.
  • Fill pies - spread mixture across all the cases; mound it up in the middle if you need to.
  • Drape the tops over the pie-filling, then use your fingers to push into place and seal onto the sides. You may need to stretch a bit in places, or shove the corners into the pie. 

Three of the "tops" will be left over - 1/3 of a sheet of pastry.

Tiny pies (muffin tray) - 24 pies per batch of filling - 6 sheets of pastry per batch

12 pies per tray. You can usually fit two trays in an oven - one on each rack.

  • For tops and bottoms: cut a sheet into 16 squares (quarters vertically, and quarters horizontally) - you will need 3 sheets like this
  • For sides: cut a sheet into 8 strips (cut quaters vertically, then cut each strip in half, lengthways) - you will need 3 sheets like this

Brush one side of each sheet with water or milk, to help them seal.

  • Place a square in the bottom of each pie - the corners will come up the sides, and that's ok.
  • Form the sides into little circles and push them into place over the bottoms. Press around the edges to seal. It's ok if they're not the same height as the tray.
  • Fill pies - spread mixture across all the cases; mound it up in the middle if you need to.
  • Drape the tops over the pie-filling, then use your fingers to push into place and seal onto the sides. You may need to stretch a bit in places, or shove the corners into the pie. 

You should use all your pastry. You may find the strips for the sides are a bit long - you can overlap them, or cut 1" off the ends.

Storage and re-heating

You can refrigerate these for several days - as long as you would any other cooked chicken. 

They freeze extremely well, for several months at least. I put one batch at a time into a large plastic bag, and put them straight into the freezer. They re-heat acceptably at room temperature (use racks to keep them off the bench, if possible - allow 3+ hours), in an oven (about 45 minutes at 150 degrees Celsius), or in a microwave (even better if you can finish them off in an oven, so they're crisp). 

They're good eaten hot or cold. 

Scaling for large groups

I find it inconvenient to make more than one batch of filling in a single saucepan. If I have a lot of pies to make, I make batches one after the other (or two batches at a time, using two saucepans). 

To cater for large numbers without freezing, I suggest making large pies and refrigerating them. They're quite sturdy, substantial pies when done, so you can stack them in an insulated box (chilly bin, esky) for transport.

If you've freezer space, you can make pies well in advance. A batch or two in an evening is easy to accomplish; and at a dozen a go they quickly add up. 

One set of spices was enough for Anna and I to make over a hundred pies. 

Cost

About $32 per batch - less than $3 per person. (In Auckland, in 2015).

  amount needed unit price price per pie/batch
chicken 800g $15/kg $12
bacon 200g $25/kg $5
eggs 6 $6/dozen $3
onions 3 $3/1/5kg bag (about 12 onions) $1
herbs a small bunch $3/bunch $3
spices small amounts of several $3/box $3
pastry 3-6 sheets $4.5/packet (4-6 sheets) $4.5
       
total     $31.5

All prices are approximate. You can get cheaper deals on all these ingredients sometimes; or you can buy top-quality and pay more. Smaller pies use more pastry. If I'm making only a few batches I might buy one box of spices "on the event", and use the rest from my pantry. 

Notes on ingredients

Meat:

The proportion of chicken, bacon, and extra fat (if any) is flexible: you want looking for about 1kg total, including enough fat that it fries nicely in the pan. If there's 900g chicken, you can use only 100g bacon (etc); if the bacon is has very little fat, add a few tablespoons of lard or dripping (or oil) to grease the pan.

Buying pre-chopped meat (even if you have to chop it finer) speeds things up.

Parsley (or other herbs):

Choose to suit your taste. For small batches I've used lovage, chervil and marjoram from the garden - delicious. For big batches I use whatever is plentiful and cheap - parsley and oregano are both great. The exact amount is extremely flexible - anything from a couple of tablespoons of a single herb to entire bunches will taste good.

Spices:

If I'm doing many batches of pies I buy one box of each of the spices, and then divide them up into little bags with enough for one pie in each. The amount and proportion of spices is very flexible - adjust to suit your taste and budget. This recipe makes quite flavoursome pies - you can halve those quantities and it still tastes good. Saffron is the most expensive - leaving it out is fine. 

Menu

These are hearty pies: each one has about 80g of meat-based protein, plus half an egg - easily enough protein for a lunch for most people. The pastry, onions and herbs contribute to a balanced meal.

It doesn't take much extra to make a filling and well-rounded lunch - salad and fresh fruit; maybe cheese, extra meat or nuts for those who are hungry.

Source of the recipe

This is loosely based on a recipe for "kid pie" from the Menagier de Paris (chicken is listed as an alternative). Katherina started with the excellent redaction in "Medieval Cooking in France and Italy" [complete this citation], and altered it further for convenience, taste, and affordability when cooking for large groups for events.

 

 

 

 

 

Blog classifications: