Pies date from the middle ages, when, with the limited ovens and equipment of the times, perfecting a pie required exceptional skill. Pies were therefore often used to impress and to showcase technique. (Just think of the nursery rhyme: ‘Sing a Song of Sixpence’ where Four and twenty black birds were baked in a pie!)
Chicken pie is such a tradition in South Africa and this recipe from our Cape Winelands Cuisine cookbook is for an old Cape version made with ham, hard-boiled eggs and salted preserved lemons. Before the first lemon trees planted by Jan van Riebeeck at the Cape could bear fruit, cooks had to rely on salted preserved lemons for their dishes. When lemons became more widely available, the use of salted lemons fell out of favour.
Try this recipe for a delicious Cape Chicken Pie and serve it with the 2017 La Motte Chardonnay.
Recipe for Cape Chicken Pie
1 whole chicken
5 whole cloves
1 Tbsp (15ml) coriander seeds
2 bay leaves
5 sprigs fresh thyme
12 cups (3 litres) water
300 g salted ham
4 gloves of garlic
Place the chicken and all the spices in all the spices in a large saucepan and add the water.
Bring to the boil, reduce the heat and simmer for 5 minutes, skimming the surface.
Add the rest of the ingredients and simmer 1 hour until the chicken is tender.
Remove the chicken from the broth and leave to cool. Pick the chicken off the bones and break into small pieces. Discard the skin and bones.
Remove the ham and cut into small cubes.
Strain the broth through a sieve and reserve for chicken stock.
¼ cup (60 ml) butter
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic
¼ tsp (1ml) ground cloves
¼ tsp (1 ml) ground coriander
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
½ cup (125 ml) cake flour
½ cup (125 ml) preserved lemon rind chopped
3 Tbsp (45 ml) chopped fresh parsley
5 hard-boiled eggs, sliced
400 g Flaky pastry or 400g (ready-made flaky pastry)
1 egg, lightly beaten
Preheat the oven to 200 °C (400 °F)
Heat a saucepan and brown 2 Tbsp (30 ml) butter. Add the onion, garlic cooked and cubed ham and spices and sauté for 5 minutes.
Add the remaining butter as well as the flour. Cook over a low heat for 5 minutes.
Whisk in 4 cups (1litre) reserved chicken stock and add the lemon, parsley and chicken pieces. Add the more stock if the sauce is too thick.
Check seasoning and pour the mixture into an ovenproof dish (20 x 20 cm, x 10 cm deep). Layer the egg slices on top and leave to cool. (Only refrigerate once the chicken is completely cool, to prevent contamination.)
Roll out the pastry on a lightly floured surface and place over the chicken pie mixture, making sure the pastry covers the top of the pie and touches the sides of the dish.
Brush the pastry with beaten egg and make a small incision in the centre of the pastry to allow steam to escape. Bake for 20-30 minutes, until the pastry is golden brown.