Chicken pie is one of our favourite dinner or festive dishes. Of course, as with all traditional dishes the world over, there are many slight variations, although the spices should be the same as given here. This recipe is about as close to the genuine old-fashioned one as possible, and although seasonings can be varied, subtle nutmeg and clove are non-negotiable! As modern supermarket chickens cannot compare to the flavour of my grannies' and Mom's free-range birds, do shop for a plump, golden bird and avoid pale, thin-looking specimens. Is sago easily obtainable in the US? It looks like tapioca, only much smaller. Sago is also necessary, really, to thicken the sauce. This recipe is juicy but never watery. Don't mind my lengthy instructions: I hope it makes the easy recipe easier for you. This is great food to take to a potluck dinner, but it should not be served cold. Time to prepare is a guess -- many factors can affect it. For the pastry lid I recommend using My Gran's Sour Cream Pastry, otherwise use flaky/puff pastry. I give the metric amounts in brackets). NOTE: As a traditional recipe, nothing in the way of veggies are added. It is meant to be purely a chicken pie, apart from the ham slices used.
- 14 ounces frozen puff pastry (or 14 oz flaky pastry, which is about 400 g)
- 1 whole chicken, 4 1/2 lbs (about 2.3 kg, do not use breasts only, see directions)
- 3 cups water (750 ml)
- 3 tablespoons instant chicken bouillon granules (45 ml)
- 1⁄3 cup sago (100 ml)
- 3 tablespoons flour (45 ml)
- 1 tablespoon garlic and herb seasoning, dried (or similar seasoning, 15 ml)
- 2 fresh garlic cloves, crushed and chopped
- 2 teaspoons fresh coarse ground black pepper (10 ml)
- 1 1⁄2 teaspoons ground nutmeg, fresh (7 ml)
- 1⁄2 teaspoon ground cloves (3 ml)
- 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice (juice of 1/2 lemon, 45 ml, or use lime juice)
- 1 teaspoon of any seasoning salt, to taste (or ordinary salt, 5ml)
- 1 tablespoon fresh thyme leave (or 2 teaspoons dried)
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary (or use 2 teaspoons dried)
- 2 eggs
- 4 ounces good quality sliced ham (120 g)
- * About the chicken: it's hard to get a chicken larger than 3 lbs. Buy a nice chubby chicken, and make up the shortfall with a pack of chicken pieces. We prefer the brown meat, which is more flavourful than breasts).
- Defrost the pastry in the fridge or at room temperature, but make sure it stays cool. If you made My Gran's Sour Cream Pastry, keep in plastic wrap in fridge until needed.
- Use a large pot, like a soup pot. Add the water, and then the whole chicken, any extra fat removed. Add giblets as well, if available.
- Sprinkle over the stock powder or granules: please note that you use the stock powder itself, not a mix made with water!
- Put on lid. Bring to boil, turn down heat, keep lid on, and boil chicken gently until almost tender, about 45 minutes.
- Then soak the sago granules in a little warm water -- they swell a little -- and add, stirring it into the water around the chicken.
- Simmer with lid on until chicken flesh almost falls from bones, and the sago has turned into translucent little pearls.
- Take chicken out of the sauce and leave in a dish to cool down. Leave the sauce in the pot, but give the bottom a good scrape to loosen the bits that stick. Bits of meat can stay in the sauce, just lift out any bones with a slotted spoon: the wing tips often fall off into the sauce.
- When the chicken and sauce have both cooled down enough, take all the bones from the chicken, and cut up the meat. This is a messy job, but be careful to remove all small bones. Use ALL meat and skin. Don't cut up meat too finely -- bite-sized. Rub soft meat and skin off carcass and wings so you use it all.
- Then, with a slotted spoon, remove remaining meaty bits from the sauce in the pot, and add all edibles to the chicken meat, discarding small bones. Don't worry about the sauce in the pot: it will still have bits in it.
- Add the flour to the sauce, and whisk in smoothly. A wire whisk usually does the job with no lumps remaining. Add all the flavourings to the sauce, and taste the result -- chickens differ, flavourings differ. Adjust to your taste. Be especially careful not to oversalt, so taste before you add the salt. (Some chicken stock powders are salty, others not).
- Beat the eggs in a bowl, and add to the sauce.
- Now add the chopped chicken to the pot again. Stir through with wooden spoon. Taste again: you might want more seasoning at this stage, and you can also add a touch of chilli, if you like.
- Set oven at 220 deg C (425 deg F).
- On a floured board, roll pastry out thinner (if necessary) and to fit the top of your dish. Beat an extra egg in a small bowl.
- Using a suitable oven dish, scrape the chicken with its sauce into the dish.
- Slice up the ham, and scatter over the top. This filling should come up to within 1 1/2 inch, or 3 cm from the top of the dish.
- Paint the edges of the dish with beaten egg to help the pastry stick, then cover loosely with the puff pastry. Do NOT stretch: leave a bit of slack, as the pastry will shrink as it bakes. Press the edges neatly with your fingers all around the dish, then cut off excess pastry with scissors or a sharp knife.
- Brush the pastry with the extra beaten egg. Put into the hot oven. After 15 minutes, turn heat down to 180 deg C (350 deg F) and bake for about 1 hour or until pastry is puffed up and golden, and you can see the filling sizzling underneath (if using a glass dish).
- Suggested side dishes: South African Yellow Rice or roast potatoes, steamed green beans, sweet potatoes, and a tomato salad.
- Although the recipe sounds long, it's really worth making and it's a favourite with every age group.