Golden brown; solid; filled with a tasty meat interior; the hot water crust pie is a British classic. Traditionally stuffed with layers of minced meat surrounded by jelly, hot water crust pies are filling, delicious and, above all else, really simple to make.
Hot water crust is a fantastic gateway into baking pastry as you do not need to worry about overworking the dough. Unlike with shortcrust, where too much handling can lead to a rock-hard result, hot water crust pastry requires kneading to build up the gluten and strengthen the final pie. The hot water partially cooks the flour giving the dough a more rubbery and pliable texture.
The most well-known use for hot water crust pastry is the pork pie. These are normally hand raised – baked without a tin – and packed full of minced pork and seasonings. Hand raising the pies gives an irregular finish and the sides buckle during cooking. The resulting pie has bowed edges and a unique shape. The recipe I am using today is quite different. Whilst it also makes use of the hot water crust’s ability to hold heavy fillings, it is both baked in a tin and not primarily meat based. In fact, the filling is made up of lots of vegetables with a little chicken and instead of pouring gelatine enriched stock into the finished pie, the filling is bound together with a gravy thickened with cornflour.
I like to take slices of this pie for lunch as it is strong enough to not break whilst it is carried around and it also tastes great cold as well as hot. I hope you enjoy the pie and this introduction to hot water crust inspires you to try other meat pies.
Hot Water Crust Chicken Pie
Cook time: 20 minutes for filling, 1 hour for baking
Prep time: 30 minutes
Cost per portion: around 90p (for the pure chicken pie)
For the pastry:
250g butter (or lard if you prefer)
600g plain flour
120g strong white flour (bread flour)
1 tsp salt
½ tsp cayenne pepper
¼ bunch parsley finely chopped
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp onion powder
For the filling:
2 chicken breasts – thinly sliced
500g onion – finely diced
4 large cloves garlic – minced
2 large carrots – cut into ½ cm thick semicircles
300ml chicken stock
¼ cup cornflour mixed with ¼ cup water
Salt and pepper to taste
2 tbsp oil
½ tsp smoked paprika
½ tsp cayenne pepper
¼ bunch of parsley finely chopped
125g choritzo/150g bacon
To make the filling, heat the oil in a large pan and add the onion.
Fry until the onion turns translucent and then add both the garlic and the carrots.
Continue to fry for another five minutes and then push the vegetables to the edge of the pan to create a well in the middle.
Add the chicken into the well and fry, stirring regularly until the outside is white and the chicken is sealed.
Pour in the stock and stir it through.
Once the stock is boiling, cook for two minutes and then quickly stir through the cornflour mixture. This will immediately turn very viscous as the cornflour cook but the mix will slacken as you mix in the stock in the pan.
Stir in the parsley, remove from the heat and leave the filling to cool.
Once the filling has mostly cooled (it can still be a little warm), it is time to start the pastry.
Preheat the oven to gas mark 6 (200°C). You can keep the pie uncooked for a few hours if you wish to make it ahead of time.
If you wish to add bacon or choritzo to the pie, chop the choritzo into half centimetre thick half moons or slice the bacon to the desired size.
Place one tablespoon of unflavoured oil into a heavy based saucepan and add the meat.
Fry the meat until most of the fat has rendered out and the choritzo/bacon is starting to go crispy.
Remove the meat from the pan (reserving the fat) and stir it into the filling.
Measure how much fat you have got left.
To make the pastry, place the butter and water into a heavy based pan and heat until the water is boiling. If you have used choritzo or bacon, take the volume of fat in ml away from the weight of the butter in grams and use the fat instead of some of the butter. This will help flavour the pastry.
Stir together the dry ingredients in a large bowl, make a well in the centre and pour in the boiling water.
Using a spoon, mix the dough as much as you can and when it becomes too stiff to mix with a spoon, pour it out onto a surface and kneed the dough together. Don’t worry about overworking it, just be careful not to burn yourself if the pastry is still very hot. A good way to work the dough is to roll it out to about one centimetre thick, fold it into three and repeat this three or four times.
Once the dough has come together, place it to one side and lightly grease a 10” springform tin.
Place a third of dough to one side and roll out the rest to about three quarters of a centimetre thickness. Use this to line the tin ensuring some of the dough is hanging over every edge. If you need to squish down some folds to get a flat outer edge, that is absolutely fine!
Put the filling in the pie and spread it into all the corners. Be careful not to push it through the pastry walls.
Roll out the remaining dough and top the pie with it making sure to seal the edges to the pastry on the sides. Using fingers can give a lovely crimping effect.
Beat the egg and brush a thin layer over the top of the pie. Use any off-cuts to decorate the top and egg wash those too before you bake the pie.
Bake the pie for an hour or until the top is golden brown and the base is cooked through.
Serve with fresh vegetables. You don’t really need potatoes as there should be a decent portion of pie crust in every slice.
This pie keeps really well and can be eaten both hot and cold. It also freezes very well which is perfect if you are cooking it for yourself as it makes a lot of portions.
I hope you enjoyed the recipe. If you fancy a slightly lighter dinner, try treating yourself to some smoked salmon risotto or if you are looking to try out a dessert instead, chequerboard biscuits are an impressive (but surprisingly easy) snack to try.
Have a good one and I will be back next week with a recipe for a fruity dessert.