When I was younger, my family would have Sunday lunches out. The memories have grown a little hazy but a couple of our favourites were Seafood International by the beach, Tony Roma’s for ribs, Rainforest Cafe and Country Manna. The chunky chicken soup capped with puff pastry was a firm favourite with us and I’ve not had it in years – must have been a decade or more! So imagine when my friend Maxine shared her mother’s recipe for this “soupy pie” with me and I cracked through the pastry and drank the soup with all its chunky bits and bobs. It was an unexpectedly emotional experience for me and brought back so many cherished memories.
Even though it’s not Christmas yet, it is winter on this side of the world and getting frostier by the day – I hear it snows here in Daylesford! Even if you’re making this pie in tropical Singapore, the combination of spices makes you feel like Christmas is here early. Even though the ingredient list looks long, you can definitely buy good-quality shopbought stock and pastry instead of making your own.
Eurasian Chicken Pie
“Dad never made it the same way every time. He sometimes used ham bones and chicken bones for the stock, or threw in bacon bones or cubed ham into the pie. When he couldn’t get cocktail sausages, he made meatball from minced pork or beef and added that to the pie. Same for the vegetable, when he didn’t have a type, he would just omit it and add more of other vegetables. This is a rustic pie, so just go with ingredients that your family likes.” – Maxine’s Mom
For the stock (or use shop-bought chicken stock):
2 chicken carcasses
1 onion, peeled
2 celery stick, chopped roughly
1 carrot, unpeeled, chopped roughly
1 bulb garlic
1 sprig spring onion
1 tsp black peppercorns, roughly crushed
Enough water to cover
For the rough puff (or use shop-bought puff pastry):
250g plain flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon sugar
125g cold water
For the marinated chicken:
425g boneless chicken thigh, cut into bite-sized pieces.
2 tablespoons brandy
1.5 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
½ tablespoon salt
½ teaspoon ground black pepper
For the pie filling:
2 tablespoons oil
160g sausage meat (from about 2 sausages), rolled into 15 balls
1 tablespoon butter
1 star anise
1 cinnamon stick
1 onion, peeled and quartered
500ml good-quality chicken stock, preferably homemade
1 tablespoon salt
75g cauliflower, cut into small florets
1 stalk celery, sliced into 1-inch pieces diagonally
1 leek, sliced into 1-inch pieces diagonally
75g beans, sliced into 2-inch pieces diagonally
75g cabbage, cut into bite-sized pieces
75g frozen mixed vegetables (peas, carrot, corn)
1 can of drained button mushrooms
175g potatoes, boiled, peeled and diced
15 quail eggs or 3 chicken eggs, hardboiled and peeled (quarter the chicken eggs after peeling)
½ tbs freshly ground pepper
1 tbs Worcestershire sauce
For the pie:
200g good-quality puff pastry
1 egg yolk beaten with 1 teaspoon water
Combine all the ingredients for the stock in a pot and cook for 1h in a pressure cooker or 3 hours on a low simmer. Strain. For the rough puff, mix the flour, salt and sugar in a bowl. Rub the butter into it until it looks like a coarse rubble, then add the water and form into a dough. Chill for 30 minutes, then roll out into a 40x20cm rectangle. Fold in thirds, then chill for 30 minutes. Repeat the folding twice more, chill for 30 minutes again, then another twice more. There should be 5 folds in total. Chill for 1 hour, then roll the pastry out 1.5cm thick. Trim the pastry to slightly larger than the size of your pie dish or individual bowls. If you like, cut out decorations as well. Keep chilled while you prepare the pie filling.
Season the chicken thigh with brandy, Worcestershire sauce, salt and pepper. Leave in the fridge to marinate while you prepare the other ingredients.
Preheat the oven to 200C. In a big pot or large saucepan, heat 1 tablespoon of oil over high heat. When the oil begins to shimmer, add the 15 sausage balls and sear until well-browned on all sides. Remove from the pot and set aside.
Add the remaining oil, butter and whole spices to the pot. Fry until fragrant, about 1 minute, before adding the onions. Fry them until soft and slightly caramelized at the edges. Add the marinated chicken and fry until opaque. Add the stock and salt and bring to a simmer. Add the cauliflower, celery, leek, beans and cabbage and allow to simmer until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the frozen mixed vegetables, button mushrooms, potatoes and quail eggs and mix well. If you’re using chicken eggs, it is better to add them to the filling before you cover it with pastry. It will look more like a soup than a conventional chicken pie filling. Add the pepper and Worcestershire sauce, and taste – adjust with more salt if necessary.
Dish the filling into a deep pie dish or into individual ovenproof bowls, filling each right to the top. The liquid should come up to a third of the dish or bowls’ height, otherwise it could make the base of the pastry soggy – you might not need all the liquid. Cover the dish or bowls with puff pastry. Decorate if desired and brush with egg wash. Make slits in the pastry and bake the chicken pie for 20-25 minutes or until the pastry is golden and cooked through.