coronation chicken pies

Who knew it was National Pi Day in America today? (Umm probably 314 million Americans, but not me!) So it appears this day is to celebrate the life of ‘Pi’, (haha) this time actually in a mathematical sense, and is often celebrated by eating pie! Right then if you are British or of English descent you will probably already know what Coronation Chicken is – one of the most mad yet soothing and delicious combinations of food in a faux-Indian style. Please don’t think this is a traditional Indian recipe, because it most definitely isn’t,  rather it is a twist on Coronation Chicken which was invented in the early 1950s in celebration of the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II. Usually it consists of a combination of chicken, mixed with mayonnaise and seasoned with curry powder and sultanas or apricots…told you it was a bit mad. I often make a version of it to use in cocktail sandwiches instead of regular chicken sandwiches, and they are always super-popular! This time I have made a mix for popping into individual pies, using chicken with the lovely spicy heat from curry powder and garam masala, celery for a little textural crunch, halved seedless grapes and apricot chutney for fruity sweetness, parsley and spring onions for herby punch and of course mayonnaise and a smidge of cream for creaminess. I was prompted to give it a whirl as the sandwich version I make has always been a favourite of Henry’s and now that he is away at university and cooking for himself, I thought it would be a fun way for him to have a taste of home in a heartier, freezable portion-sized dinner manner. (Oddly, seeing as he never cooked at home, apparently he is quite the gourmet whiz at the flat – ha!) The pies are formed in a ‘pastie’ style (that’s Cornish Pastie to some…and Empanada to others!) and you can use either the homemade pastry recipe provided, or grab some top quality ready made flaky pastry – I’ve done both, and frankly, they’re equally good. This is the perfect any-time pie to enjoy while watching sports, to take on an early autumn beach picnic (the idea which inspired the pics) , or after work with a beer, for lunch, dinner, or even made half the size to have with drinks….go wild!

1 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp regular curry powder
1 tsp sea salt
1.1 kg chicken thighs, visible fat removed
2 tbsp butter
1 brown onion, peeled and chopped
2 stalks celery, halved lengthways and chopped
1 tbsp regular curry powder
1 teaspoon garam masala
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
150ml cream
1 tbsp tomato paste
1/3 cup + 1 tbsp apricot or mango chutney
1/3 cup good quality egg mayonnaise
2 tbsp plain flour
1 cup seedless green grapes, halved or roughly chopped if very big
1/4 cup chopped spring onions
1/4 cup chopped parsley4 cups plain flour
1 teaspoon salt
300g chilled butter, cut into 1cm dice
100ml iced water
2 chilled egg yolks
(or use about 1kg of ready rolled or regular store-bought puff pastry)

1 egg, whisked with 1 tsp water
2 tbsp sesame seeds

Mix oil with curry powder and salt. Pop chicken into a container, pour in curry mix and stir to coat chicken well. Cover and leave to marinate in the fridge for at least an hour. Heat oven to 180˚C (350˚F). Lay chicken in a baking dish in a single layer, cover (with foil if the dish has no lid) and bake for 30 minutes, Remove the lid and bake a further 5 minutes. Leave to cool while making sauce, then when cool enough to handle roughly chop.
Heat butter in a large heavy-bottomed pot and add onion, celery, curry powder, garam masala, salt and pepper. Stir well to combine then leave to cook over a gentle heat for 15 minutes or until onion is softened. Add cream, tomato paste, chutney and mayonnaise. Sprinkle over flour, stir well then cook over a gentle/medium heat until sauce is thickened and creamy. Remove from heat, add grapes, spring onions, parsley and chopped chicken. Transfer to a container to cool in the fridge while you prepare the pastry.For the pastry, whizz flour and salt in a food processor with butter until almost at bread crumb stage, but still chunky. Add water and egg yolks and pulse until just forming big clumps. Tip out onto the bench and squish into 2 logs. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate for half an hour. When ready, cut each pastry log into 7 pieces. Roll each piece into a circle – to make it neat, cut around the edge of a small plate or cake tin at least 16cm wide – try and roll the pastry quite thin, you don’t want a stonking great mouthful of pastry with every bite. Plonk several tablespoons of mixture onto one side of the circle and brush one half of the edge with water. Fold the pastry over to seal – I find it easiest to do this by picking the whole thing up and cupping it in my hand. Squeeze the edges together and use the tines of a fork pressed on one side, your thumb on the other to seal the edges. Brush the whole thing with egg, sprinkle with sesame seeds and pop on a baking tray lined with baking paper…13 more to go! OK, if that’s too much hard work, you can of course make one big pie by lining a 28cm wide shallow pie tin with pastry and proceeding as you would normally with filling and a pastry lid.

Preheat the oven to 180˚C (350˚F) and bake pasties until golden and delicious – about 35 minutes (45-50 for a whole pie). These can be eaten hot or at room temperature with a good quality chutney, and if made in advance, re-heat beautifully. You can easily halve the whole recipe if necessary, and of course freeze the pies once made.


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