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Traditional South-African chicken pie

A delicious chicken pie that combines delicate flavours and colours: small pieces of pink ham and slices of white-and-yellow egg are gently tucked into a protein-rich mixture of shredded chicken and home-made chicken stock, thickened with sago to be moist but never soggy. You won’t find any vegetables in this king of pies; they are served on the side, together with a crispy garden salad.

Traditionally this chicken pie would have been served with other meat dishes and yellow rice. In the old days the flaky pastry would have been made from scratch, but in the 1980’s a neighbour of Marietjie’s family introduced them to the lovely rich cream-cheese crust that we have incorporated into this recipe.

Serves 6 to 8

Ingredients

Filling

  • 1 plump chicken, about 1.5 kg
  • 4 cloves of garlic
  • Salt and pepper
  • A pinch of nutmeg or mace
  • 2 tablespoons (30 ml) sago
  • Juice of 1 large lemon - about 2 tablespoons
  • 60 gram diced ham (1/2 ham steak)

Tied together with string, into a piece of muslin:

  • 4 cloves (naeltjies)
  • 4 allspice berries
  • Laurel leaf
  • A combination fresh herbs (such as sage, thyme, rosemary and parsley)

And right at the end you will need:

  • 2 hard-boiled eggs, sliced
  • About 1 tablespoon fresh chopped herbs, such as parsley, to add extra colour

Crust

You can use shop-bought flaky puff pastry, or you can try this cream-cheese pastry:

  • 250 gram butter
  • 250 gram cream cheese
  • 2 cups (500 ml) flour

Method

Filling

Because this recipe is made slowly and with love, you want to start in the morning:

  1. Remove fat from chicken and place in a heavy pot.
  2. Add about 2 cups water. You’ll need about 1¼ cup of chicken stock after the cooking process, so don't add to much water at the beginning. You can always add a bit more while the chicken cooks.
  3. Add the salt, pepper, herbs and spices.
  4. If you don’t have muslin and string to tie the spice and herbs together into a bouquet garni , simply place it on top of the chicken before you close the lid.
  5. Simmer chicken until very tender. This can take two hours or so. Don’t boil it!
  6. Remove the chicken from the pot and de-bone it as soon as it’s cooled enough to handle.
  7. Store the chicken in a lidded container in the fridge.
  8. Put the chicken’s bones back into the pot and simmer for another 45 or 60 minutes. You need about 1 ¼ cups (300 ml) of stock.
  9. Allow the chicken stock to chill in the fridge. After 4 hours, the fat will congeal on the top. It is now easy to remove the fat. You should now have a lovely gelatinous stock, almost like jelly.
  10. Put the sago and stock in a saucepan heat gently, while stirring frequently to make sure that the sago doesn’t stick in clumps but become translucent.
  11. If you’re crazy about herbs too, you can add a stalk of thyme or a laurel leave to infuse in the stock.
  12. When the sago has become translucent, add the lemon juice.
  13. Make sure that all the fine bones are removed and cut the de-boned chicken into small chunks. The size depends on your taste, but we cut it into 1-cm cubes.
  14. Dice the ham into small blocks (as small as you can get them) and add to the chicken.
  15. Add your chopped fresh herbs (we use parsley) for extra colour.
  16. Gently mix the ham and chopped herbs through the chicken and then add the thickened stock. Stir through.
  17. Taste and add salt and pepper if you prefer.

Crust

You can use defrosted flaky puff pastry, or you can make a cream cheese crust:

  1. Mix the butter, cream cheese and flour in a food processor.
  2. Sprinkle corn flour over a large, flat surface and roll out to a thickness of about 4 mm.

The pie

  1. Use a round oven pie dish that measures about 22 cm across and 5 cm deep.
  2. Line the pie dish with 2/3 of the rolled out pastry. Trim the excess, but let the pastry to hang over the edges a little bit. Add the trimmed pastry to the remainder and roll out into a large round shape a bit larger than your pie dish.
  3. Fill with the chicken mixture. It should be firm enough so that you can make the middle of the filling a bit higher than the sides, like a gently sloping hill. Leave 2.5 cm (1 inch) of crust exposed.
  4. Slice the cooked egg and cover the filling with it.
  5. Paint the exposed edges of the crust with beaten egg yolk. This will make the pastry stick together.
  6. Cover loosely with the remainder of the rolled out pastry.
  7. Press the top and bottom edges together with your fingers, but leave enough slack, because the pastry will shrink as it bakes.
  8. Feel free to shape the pressed pastry into a decorative shape (after all, you grandchildren will one day tell their children what your crust used to look like!)
  9. Make a few small holes in the pastry to allow steam to escape while baking.
  10. Brush the pastry with the remainder of the beaten egg yolk.
  11. Bake in a hot oven at 220°C for about 15 minutes, then lower heat to 180°C and bake another 40 minutes, or until the pastry is puffed up and golden brown, and chicken filling is steaming hot.
  12. (When you can move the pie around a bit in the dish, or lift it’s one side, it’s done.)

We serve it warm (or cold!) with a crispy green salad.