Wild times in the woods
By Well Seasoned, Apr 30 2019 12:40PM
March and April are an exciting time in the forager's calendar. After a quiet couple of months, the warmer weather prompts new growth in the hedgerows and woodlands.
We kick off the new season with a real corker - wild garlic. I'll be popping down to my favourite spot to bag a haul this weekend.
In terms of recipes, we have two fantastic ones in the book. There's a brilliantly simple pesto that has a multitude of uses (we pair it with home made gnocchi) and whilst that is probably first on my list to make, just because it's so versitile, this chicken pie comes a close second.
Crisp, buttery pastry, tender chicken and a wonderfully pungent, garlicky sauce mean this is a dish of bold flavours. Simple greens as an accompaniment make a good foil and both cavolo nero and purple sprouting broccoli should be plentiful at this time of year. It is hard to decide whether the chicken, the pastry or the wild garlic is the star of the show but the garlic is such a seasonal treat. The same quantity in a fish pie is really good too.
Chicken, leek and wild garlic pie
serves 4 as main course
For the flaky pastry
200g plain flour
1 tsp Maldon sea salt, finely ground
150g salted butter, chilled
1 large free-range egg yolk
100ml cold water
For the filling
2 tbsp olive oil
2 skinless, boneless chicken breasts, cut into large dice
4 rashers of smoked, streaky bacon, cut into 1cm pieces
500g leek, trimmed, sliced and washed
100ml dry white wine
300ml chicken stock
1 tsp Dijon mustard
75g crème fraiche
cornflour to thicken
50g wild garlic, stalks removed
1 large free-range egg yolk mixed with 1 tbsp of water to glaze the pastry
Maldon sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1. Preheat the oven to 170˚C.
2. For the pastry, sift the flour and salt onto the bench, grate the butter over the flour using a coarse grater. Stop every now and again to toss the butter through the flour with your fingertips and to dust the grater with flour.
3. Make a well in the centre, then beat the yolk into the water and pour into the well. Gradually bring in the flour with your fingertips to create a dough. Knead briefly and then wrap in cling film and rest in the fridge for 30 minutes before using.
4. To make the filling, season the chicken breast and fry in the olive oil in a very hot pan. This is just to colour the chicken, not to cook it through. Remove the chicken to a plate and add the bacon to the pan. When the fat is starting to render, add the leeks and cook until just beginning to soften. Add the leek mix to the chicken.
5. Pour the wine into the pan. Reduce the wine to a syrup and add the chicken stock. Reduce this by around two-thirds then whisk in the Dijon mustard and creme fraiche. Mix 1 tsp of cornflour with a little cold water and use this to thicken the sauce – a thick double cream consistency is what you are looking for.
6. Add the chicken mix to the sauce and adjust the seasoning. Finely chop the wild garlic and stir it in.
7. Divide the pastry into two pieces; one-third and two-thirds. Roll out the larger piece to line the base of a 22cm x 16cm pie tin. Add the filling to the tin and then roll out the remaining pastry for the lid. Egg-wash around the rim of the pie base and lay the lid over. Crimp the lid onto the base, sealing well, and trim off excess pastry. Egg wash the lid.
8. Bake the pie for around 40 minutes until the pastry is a dark golden colour and there are signs of the filling bubbling.
9. Serve immediately with your chosen veg. Any leftover pie is delicious cold!
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