Chicken and tarragon pie will always make me think of my wedding dress.
Last year in april I had my first dress fitting in London, it was a terribly hot day and everyone was out enjoying walks along the Thames. The queues in front of the ice cream vans were long and the dresses short.
I arrived in London at 11 and had to be back on a plane by 5.
Obviously I didn't have a lot of time but for some reason I was very relaxed and enjoyed my short visit to 'the big smoke'. I took the underground to Neil's Yard dairy and bought cheese and artisan bread, did some shopping, dropped of 3 jars of apple syrup I brought with me for one of my readers and set sail to the bridal shop.
By then my dress was soaked, the sun was burning and my bag of cheese was so heavy it started to be a burden to drag along.
I was so glad to get out of my clothes and I just stood there behind the red velvet curtain enjoying the cooling feeling before I had to get into my huge petticoat. It's an emotional moment, the first time you are wearing your actual wedding dress. When I left the bridal shop, I headed over to a bench in the shadow looking over the Thames and just let it all sink in. I was in London and just tried on my -terribly over budget- wedding dress. When I was sitting there I looked up at a clock to see its was actually just before 3. I had to get my flight in Stansted at 5, I did the math and realised there was a good chance I would miss my flight. I started to run to the underground but passed a pie shop, knowing I was out of time I went in anyway and ordered two chicken and tarragon pies to go. Now I really had to rush and I did almost miss my flight.
The entire journey home, I smelled the chicken and tarragon pies in my purse.
I almost missed my flight for them, but they made a fantastic dinner in the garden when I got home that evening. No regrets! Oh well, perhaps I do regret not having the time to stop for a pint of stout!
What do you need (serves 2)
2 free range chicken breasts (350g)
1 cube of chicken or vegetable stock or real chicken stock (you need 250 ml liquid)
2 small carrots chopped into fine cubes
3 finely chopped sjalots
3 spring onions (only the light part)
3 tsp of fresh tarragon leaves
2 tsp of double cream
1 bay leaf
100 ml white wine (dry)
1 clove of garlic
3 tsp of dry roux -> see method for roux below
for the pastry
2 eggs (1 for egg wash)
300 g plain good quality white flour
150 g unsalted butter or 75 g lard/ 75 butter
0,5 tsp of seasalt
2 tsp of ice cold water
Sift flour and salt to a large bowl, add the lard and/or butter.
Use your hands to rub the butter/lard into the flour until the batter looks like bread crumbs.
Whisk one egg and add iced water to bring the dough together.
Knead for a minute to form a smooth pastry, shape into a flat rectangle and wrap with cling film.
Chill the dough for at least 30 minutes.
You can do this the day before.
for the roux
125 g butter
If you are making a roux which is the base of a white sauce you need to know one thing: flour and butter is 1 to 1 ratio.
I always make a large quantity and store in an airtight container in the fridge for when I need it. If you want to do this you just make the dry base which is the flour and butter together, let it cool before you put it into a container.
When you want to use it you need to warm the milk, when you are using the roux straight away you need your milk to be cold.
So the rule is: warm dry paste = cold milk - cold paste = warm milk.
When you've added the milk to the dry paste, you need to cook it until the taste of flour is completely gone.Method
Melt the butter in a small pan, add flour and stir constantly until you get a crumbly paste that smells a bit like pancakes. Use your nose, if you think it smells like flour you're not done yet and keep stirring.
The pie filling
Bring your stock or you water with stock cube to the boil, add a bay leaf.
Gently poach the chicken breasts in the stock, the water should be simmering, not boiling.
Leave until the meat is cooked and the juices run clear. Drain the meat, let it cool a bit and cut into small pieces (+-1cm)
Keep the stock, we need it for the sauce.
Add olive oil to a heavy based pan, add the onion, then the carrot, the garlic and spring onion last.
Cook it until the vegetables are almost done (+-7min)
Add the chicken to the veggies and stir for about 3 minutes, add half of the tarragon.
Pour in the wine and let it evaporate so the alcohol is gone.
Now bring the stock back to the boil, add the roux and stir until you get a silky sauce.
Add the sauce to the chicken and vegetables, add the last of the tarragon and simmer for 5 minutes.
Preheat your oven to 180°C
Get your pie dishes out!
Pour the chicken tarragon into your pie dishes (I used 16 cm good old fashioned Falconware)
Take your last egg and whisk it so we can use it to egg wash the pie.
Use a brush to egg wash the border of the pie dish.
Take your pastry out of the fridge and roll it out (on a floured surface) so it has the thickness of a pound coin.
Gently place a ice of pastry that is slightly bigger than the dish over the pie.
Cut the edges so the pastry covers the entire dish.
From the leftover dough you can make decorations if you like.
Brush the egg generously onto the pastry, add the decorations and give them an egg wash too.
Put in the oven for 30 minutes, until golden brown and simmering underneath it's pastry blanket.
Serve with silky mashed potatoes and a side of vegetables to your liking.