Nigel Slater’s pie recipes – classic chicken and leek, and cauliflower cheese (2024)

I have been pottering in the kitchen since early light, radio on, steam condensing on the windows, cooking long into the afternoon. I have been making pies. Not the simply executed single-crust shallow pies, but what you might call proper pies, with high, fragile sides, a crisp pastry base and deep, luscious fillings.

The first batch of pastry was a basic butter and flour version. The second was seasoned with a delightfully salty, aged pecorino rubbed in with the flour and butter. I lined cake tins and pie dishes with the doughs very, very carefully, so as not to introduce a tear or hole. I filled one with cauliflower cheese and the other with chicken, softened leeks and prunes. A sort of co*ck-a-leekie pie. They may have taken all day, but I genuinely don’t care. A pair of proper pies, proud and golden, is what the day was for.

Cauliflower cheese pie

You will need a 20cm loose-based tart or cake tin.
Serves 6-8

For the pastry:
plain flour 250g
butter 140g
pecorino 40g, finely grated
iced water

For the filling:
olive oil 3 tbsp
onions 2, medium, peeled and chopped
cauliflower 700g
pine kernels 40g
parsley 25g, leaves chopped
pecorino 100g
Caerphilly 150g
egg 1, beaten

Rub the flour and butter together to form coarse crumbs then add the cheese and enough iced water to form a rollable dough – about 4 tbsp. Wrap in parchment paper and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, make the filling. Warm the olive oil in a deep pan over a moderate heat, add the onions and let them cook for 15-20 minutes until translucent. Break the cauliflower into large florets, trim and reserve the young green leaves, then boil the florets in deep, lightly salted water for 4-5 minutes until approaching tenderness. Add the leaves for the last minute, then drain both in a colander.

Stir the cooked cauliflower and leaves with the softened onions, then add the pine kernels, salt and pepper and the chopped parsley. Grate the cheeses, fold into the onion and cauliflower, and season.

Set the oven at 200C/gas mark 6. Roll out two-thirds of the pastry on a floured board. Use it to line the base and sides of the tin, push it down into the corners, making certain there are no holes or tears. If there are, the filling will leak out.

Transfer the filling to the tin. Roll out the reserved pastry to form a lid. Brush the edge of the pastry in the tin with egg and then the rim of the lid. Lower the lid into place then press the edges together to seal. Brush the lid with egg then pierce a hole in the top. Bake for 20 minutes then lower the heat to 180C/gas mark 4 and continue for 20 minutes longer.

Remove the pie from the oven and leave it to settle. Slice and serve.

Chicken, leek and prune pie

Nigel Slater’s pie recipes – classic chicken and leek, and cauliflower cheese (1)

You will need a spring-form cake tin or deep tart tin 20cm in diameter.
Serves 6-8

For the filling:
chicken stock 1 litre
chicken thighs 900g, skin removed
celery 2 sticks, roughly chopped
carrots 4, medium, roughly chopped
onion 1, peeled and chopped
olive oil 5 tbsp
leeks 5, medium
prunes 12, stoned
thyme 10 sprigs
plain flour 4 heaped tbsp
egg 1, beaten
fennel seeds 1 tsp to sprinkle

For the pastry:
butter 150g
plain flour 275g

Bring the stock to the boil in a large saucepan. Put the chicken thighs into the stock, lower the heat and let them simmer for 25-30 minutes until tender.

Put the celery, carrot and onion in a large pan with the oil and cook over a moderate heat for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Slice the leeks into pieces 2cm thick then wash well under running water. Add the leeks, prunes and thyme sprigs to the other vegetables and cook for 7-10 minutes. Sprinkle over the flour and cook for 2 minutes until all is nicely toasted.

Lift the chicken out of the stock, and remove the meat from the bones. Cut each thigh into 4 pieces.

Pour the stock over the vegetables and bring to the boil, stirring occasionally. Stir in the chicken and let the sauce bubble for a few minutes to the consistency of good thick gravy. Check the seasoning. Remove from the heat and leave to cool.

Meanwhile, for the pastry, cut the butter into small pieces then rub into the flour with your fingertips. You can use a food processor if you prefer. Carefully introduce enough cold water to give a soft but rollable dough (about 3 tbsp). Shape the pastry into a ball, wrap in parchment and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Set the oven at 200C/gas mark 6. Place a baking sheet in the oven.

On a floured board, roll two-thirds of the pastry into a disc large enough to line the base and sides of the cake tin with a little overhang. Press the pastry into the tin carefully, taking great care it doesn’t tear. There should be absolutely no holes or cracks. Transfer the cooled filling to the tin.

Roll out the remaining pastry to make a lid. Brush the edges of the pastry in the tin with beaten egg, then lower the pastry lid into place and press the edges tightly together to seal. Brush the surface with more egg, scatter with the fennel seeds, pierce a hole in the centre of the lid with the handle of a wooden spoon and bake for about 40 minutes until golden. Remove from the oven and leave to rest for 15 minutes before gently releasing the spring clip of the tin and serving.

Follow Nigel on Twitter @NigelSlater

Nigel Slater’s pie recipes – classic chicken and leek, and cauliflower cheese (2024)


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