Simply food

ANOTHER DAY, ANOTHER PIE

Spring leeks have shown up at the market and I am desperate for their sweet, oniony flavour… so chicken and leek pie in single serving dishes.

Today is March 21, which is an auspicious date for several reasons. The most important and personal reason is that it is the anniversary of my first date with my beloved. At some point in the evening we ended up at was once the Rooftop Bar at the Park Plaza. It must have gone well because we were married 10 months later. There have, of course, been some bumps on the road, but here we are 13 years later, still in love and managing to get along most days. Certainly, the endless lockdown hasn’t helped, but we have remained in good spirits and reasonably good health, with nothing serious to complain about.

Joe ruled the Rooftop Bar for 57 years (photo courtesy Toronto Star)

We shall celebrate tonight by having cocktails at the recently reopened bar in what is now the Park Hyatt Hotel in Toronto’s fashionable Yorkville area. We used to return every year on this date, but a few years ago our favourite bar tender Joe Gomes told us he would be retiring after 57 years and shortly thereafter the whole hotel closed for several years of renovations. We have not been back until tonight and look forward to seeing what they have done with the place. Now called the Writers Room, the PR blurb says it is “A reimagined interpretation of the revered rooftop bar’s 50 years storied past, paying homage to the history of literary legends who shared moments in the space.”

As a long-ago aficionado (during the days when I produced and directed a daily television show nearly 40 years ago from a CBC studio around the corner) all I can say is that I hope they haven’t screwed it up.

A more local reason for celebration is that today is the first day that Ontario has lifted the mask mandate. Some will cheer their freedom, some will be aghast, since Covid is still with us. We will enjoy a mask-free cocktail (see above).

Spring in England (photo Megan Napier-Andrews)

Finally, this is often the first day of spring, but this year for complicated reasons to do with the tilt of the Earth’s axis, the first day of spring was March 20, a day early. Since it has snowed most of the week, I will be very glad to see spring in Toronto. According to my gardener in our other home in Yorkshire, the spring flowers are well advanced. My only regret is that once again I will miss their full glory.

For dinner tonight we will snack off small plates at the Writers Room.

I have grown rather fond of my idea for small dishes, so much easier when one is catering at home for one or two. Making any dish in single servings, or small dishes for two, makes it easier to create variety in our weekly menu, by cooking enough for four (all my recipes are for four) and divvying it up into smaller portions, then keeping them in the fridge for a couple of days. That way, I leapfrog with dish X on day 1 and 3, and dish Y on day 2 and 4 etc. Simple, really, and I can’t imagine why I didn’t think of this years ago. Fortunately, I have a good supply of small plates, dishes, bowls and ramekins.

In the past few weeks, I’ve espoused the virtues of small dishes of salmon pie, pasta and cheese pie, crème brûlée, risotto and arancini. Since I have frozen chicken and frozen puff pastry in the freezer, this pie was the easy answer for supper (and again on day 3!)

CHICKEN & LEEK PIE

Shopping list

chicken and leek pie
  • 700 g / 1 1/2 lb boned, skinned chicken
  • 3 leeks, topped and tailed and washed thoroughly, then sliced
  • 4 TBSP butter
  • 4 TBSP fine flour
  • 3 cups / 650 ml chicken or vegetable stock, warmed
  • 1/2 cup / 110 ml dry white wine
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 1/4 cup / small handful chopped fresh parsley
  • 1/2 pkt / 225g frozen puff pastry, defrosted but chilled
  • 1 egg

Preparation and cooking

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 200°C / 390°F.
  2. Wash the chicken and chop into bite size chunks. Set aside.
  3. Top and tail the leeks, cut in half lengthways, separate leaves and wash very thoroughly to remove any sand or grit. Shake leaves dry and chop across the length into small semi-circles.
  4. Heat up the stock and add 3 bay leaves.
  5. In a heavy bottomed pot, melt the butter and add the chopped leeks. Stir for a minute or two as they soften, then add flour and fry to make a roux.
  6. Slowly pour in the hot stock, including the bay leaves, and continue stirring until there are no lumps. Add the chopped parsley, some salt and pepper and finally the chicken chunks. Add the wine and mix in. Poach the chicken in the sauce for 10 minutes. When cooked, remove and discard the bay leaves. Check the seasoning and add more salt or pepper as needed.
  7. Beat the egg in a small bowl and have ready with a pastry brush.
  8. Ladle the mixture into individual pie dishes, distributing the chicken evenly. Set aside any remaining sauce. Brush around the edge of the dishes with egg to allow the pastry to stick. Roll out the pastry, cut into equal portions to cover your dishes and place on top of the pies. Crimp around the edges with the tines of a fork, cut three or four holes in the pie so the steam can escape, and trim the edges of excess pastry. Brush lightly with the beaten egg.
  9. Set the pie dishes on a baking tin (in case of spillage) in the middle of the oven and cook for 25 mins, or until golden brown on top.
  10. Serve at once, or save in the fridge covered in aluminium foil for another day, after allowing the pie to cool.
Featured image: Chicken and leek pie for two

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This is Nigel’s 339th blog on Gentleman’s Portion. The SEARCH function at the top works really well if you want to look back and see some of his previous stories or check under CATEGORIES.

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