Thursday, September 04, 2008

Cheesy ham and leek pie

I am rather partial to the odd pie.

A satisfyingly crisp exterior that gives way to something creamy, unctuous and just a little bit naughty underneath is my idea of heaven. Or rather, it is one of my many culinary ideas of heaven.

Pies can seem like a lot of work. I've seen many blanch at the mere mention of pastry. But here is where I come clean. I didn't actually make the pastry for this pie. Shhhh. Don't tell anyone...

I am in the school of thought that labels ready-made pastry as one of the great time-saving devices of the modern age. I know that homemade tastes better and when I have a little more time to spare, I'm pretty nifty at the old shortcrust. But puff pastry? I simply can't be bothered. I'm sorry. I hope you don't think any less of me, but there we are.
I am someone who can't be bothered to make my own puff pastry.
I'm not ashamed. I laugh in the face of puff pastry purists... Or something.

I find a couple of packs of the ready-made stuff are handy items to have in the freezer. Puff pastry can be just the thing to transform an uninspiring supper into one with a bit of dash. Got red onions? Got goats cheese? Bingo. You have a rather tasty tart. Got left over roast chicken? Got milk? Bingo. You have a creamy chicken pie.

At the weekend I held a party in my garden for twenty or so friends. I do this every year around my birthday and do a big buffet for all to dig into. I would share the recipes here, but I kept it pretty much the same as last year with my
favourite quiche, scrumptious ham, a series of salads and a couple of my favourite puddings.

As someone who is only ever able to cater for twice the number of people I've invited, I had a fair few leftovers to use up. In particular, quite a large hunk of ham. Sandwiches were good, but this tasty pie was the best. I made a cheesy sauce in which to smother the ham and added leeks and courgettes too. You could use any combination of vegetables - mushrooms would have been good, carrots and certainly peas. Whatever takes your fancy really.

My favourite moment with pie-eating is when you plunge the spoon through the crust for the first time to reveal the juicy interior. Heaven indeed...

The recipe here is for two, but can be easily doubled/tripled etc...

Cheesy chicken and leek pie

Serves 2


3 generous handfuls of chopped cooked ham (cut thick slices and then cut into chunky cubes)
1 large leek (or two small...)
1 medium courgette
1 heaped tablespoon plain flour
1 1/2 oz butter
1/2 pint milk
4oz mature cheddar cheese
1 heaped teaspoon of dijon mustard
Approx 250g puff pastry (I used half a regular pack)
1 beaten egg
salt and pepper

1. Preheat oven to 180C. Make the sauce first. Melt the butter in a saucepan. Add the flour and stir thoroughly to combine to make a paste. Cook for a minute or so. Next add a little milk and stir to combine. Cook for a few seconds. Add a little more milk - stir until smooth, cook a little. Repeat, adding the milk a little at a time until you have a smooth sauce. Keep the heat reasonably low and keep stirring all the time to prevent sauce sticking on bottom.

2. Grate the cheese into the sauce, add the mustard. Taste. Add more cheese or mustard if required.

3. Steam the leeks and courgettes until al dente. Add to the sauce, along with the chunks of ham. Warm through and season carefully, remembering that ham is usually quite salty, as is the cheese.

4. Pour the pie filling into a small pie dish or baking dish. Flour a surface and roll out the pastry until the thickness of a pound coin. Brush a little beaten egg around the edge of the pie dish and place the pastry carefully over the top. Trim the overhang. Use any trimmings to decorate the top (I used a little heart cutter). Brush the top with egg so that it browns nicely. You can also use milk, if you prefer.

5. Place in the oven and bake for half an hour, or until the pastry is crispy and golden.


Sam said...

Couldn't agree more about pastry, I always keep some in the freezer, your pie looks amazing!
Thanks for the nice comments on my Blog, I found yours really interesting I've added it to my reader.

Sandie said...

Sshhh... I often cheat and use pre-made puff pastry and pie crusts too. I'd bake half as often if I had to make it all from scratch!

Margaret said...

Bought puff pastry is a brilliant product. I made some at college once and all of the fat ran out of it and it took ages to make.
The pie looks very warm and comforting especially as the summer has come to an abrupt end.

Anonymous said...

Another fan of frozen pastry :)

That pie looks wonderful, I've already made plans for today's lunch otherwise I think that would have made an appearance.

Wendy said...

Man! This looks good. And I made shortcrust pastry for the very first time on Saturday. Was very pleased with myself. Have no desire to try puff though. It takes for ever, no?

Grace said...

i too laugh in the face of puff pastry purists--gimme store-bought any day, especially when it can be used to enhance a dish like this. pot pie is one of my favorite comfort foods, and your version is stellar! :)

Rosie said...

This is SO BOOKMARKED - a msut try recipe!! Thank you so much Antonia for sharing this with us it really looks a sensational pie!!

Rosie x

David Brown (Dumfries) said...

I love to make pies with all sorts of fillings haha. you wouldnt believe what ive had in my pie. beef and applewood cheese with gravy; peanut butter and cheese. believe me they taste scrummy!!!
Your pie looks lovely, very appetising mmmmm

Sheila said...

This looks great - we are having it for dinner tonight and I am soo happy that I am not the only person who thinks shop bought pastry is OK!!!

Antonia said...

Sheila - hope you enjoyed the pie!