There’s nothing more welcoming, more comforting on a winter’s night than a hug from a loved one and in its absence that hug takes no better form than as a chicken pie. Often it’s even better than a hug. Oh, who am I kidding? Nothing is better than a hug, but still, this does warm you up from the inside out so it’s almost as good. Almost.
A chicken pie with potato dumplings seems a bit excessive, but these chilly mid-winter months are your one window of opportunity to feast on such hearty food. Why not?
If you don’t want to make individual pies you can easily make a terrific stew by popping potato dumplings into the chicken braise and letting it all cook off on the stove but I promise you this is even more than the sum of its parts the moment you place it in the oven. It’s sensational, needing nothing more than some green peas on the side.
Makes four generous pies or a hearty stew for four to six people
- 1 tbsp oil
- 4 chicken thighs
- 2 tbsp plain flour
- salt and pepper
- 30g butter
- 1 leek, white part only, washed and sliced thinly
- 2 cloves garlic, finely diced
- 2 carrots, finely diced
- 1 celery stick, finely diced
- 1 tsp dried oregano or dried thyme
- 500ml chicken stock
- 750g potatoes (about 2 large potatoes)
- 1 tsp salt
- pinch nutmeg
- 1 tsp dried oregano or thyme
- 1 egg
- 2 tbsp cornflour
- 3/4 cup plain flour
- Heat the oil in a large heavy-based saucepan over medium heat. Place chicken thighs in a plastic bag with flour and salt and pepper to taste and shake to coat the meat.
- Brown the thighs for a few minutes on each side until the skin is golden brown. Remove the thighs, retaining the oil in the pan, and set to one side.
- Return the pan to the heat and melt the butter. When it is foaming, add the leek and sauté for five minutes until the leek starts to colour and soften. Add the garlic, carrots, celery and thyme or oregano and sauté for a further three minutes.
- Add the stock and bring to the boil, scraping up the browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Return the chicken pieces to the sauce and reduce the heat to a simmer. Cover and cook very gently for one hour. Remove the thighs from the stew and shred the meat with a couple of forks. Return the meat to the casserole and season to taste. Meanwhile, make your dumplings.
- Peel and quarter the potatoes and place in a large saucepan of salted water. Boil for 15-20 minutes until a knife goes through the potato easily. Drain the potatoes and push them through a potato ricer or a sieve to get a very smooth mash. Allow the potato to cool for ten minutes.
- Add salt, nutmeg, oregano or thyme to the potato and mix well, then add the lightly beaten egg and beat well to combine. Add the two flours and stir well to incorporate. The dough will still be quite sticky.
- Wet your clean hands, then roll teaspoonfuls of the mixture into small balls the size of marbles. Set aside on a baking sheet or tray and cover with a tea towel until ready to use.
If you want to make pies: Spoon the mixture evenly between four large ramekins. Place an even layer of dumplings over the top and cover each ramekin with foil. Place on a baking tray and bake in a 180°C oven for 45 minutes. Allow them to cool a little before eating, as they will be blisteringly hot.
If you want to make a stew: Place the dumplings in an even layer across the stew and push them down into the liquid. Simmer the casserole very gently for 30 minutes until the dumplings are soft. Spoon into bowls and serve.