Mini Chicken, Bacon, Leek & Chestnut Pies

These pies just say Christmas! Big enough to be generous, but small enough for a party snack, if I saw a plate of these beauties any time over the festive period, I would instantly know I was welcome.

If homemade shortcrust pastry isn’t your thing, you can buy pre-made shortcrust pastry in most grocery stores. However, don’t be afraid – it’s actually incredibly easy. Get yourself a pastry cutter, available cheaply online. Turn on some festive music, relax, and give it a go!

Makes about 20 pies

You will need: a pastry cutter, 1 – 2 standard muffin tins and a pastry brush

Ingredients

For the filling:

4 slices smoked streaky bacon, sliced

1 tsp olive oil

3 boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into small pieces

2 leeks, washed and thinly sliced

1 tbsp fresh thyme leaves, stripped from the stem

1 heaped dessert spoon of flour

¼ cup dry white wine

250ml low sodium chicken stock

180g cooked and peeled chestnuts (I buy packets of cooked peeled chestnuts), roughly chopped

¼ cup chopped fresh parsley, minced

Salt and pepper

For the pastry:

3 cups plain flour

1 tsp salt

1 cup vegetable shortening, chilled

2 eggs

Ice water

Method:

To make the filling, heat a large skillet or frying pan over medium heat. Add the bacon and olive oil and fry the bacon until crisp. Remove. Add the chicken pieces to the pan with a little salt and pepper and cook until brown. Remove. Add the leeks and a pinch of salt, then cook down for about 20 minutes, until soft and golden. Add the thyme and cook for a minute or two, then add the flour, stirring to combine. Cook the flour out for a minute, then add the wine and let it reduce. Add the chicken stock and stir everything together, scraping up any brown bits from the bottom. Add the chicken and bacon back to the pan and cook the filling until it looks thick and rich. The filling will be drier than your usual pie filling, but this is what you want. Turn off the heat and let cool. Stir in the chestnuts and parsley. Refrigerate until cold.

Tip: Chilling the pie filling will prevent melting your pastry during the assembly stage.

Make Ahead: Pie filling can be prepared in advance and refrigerated for up to 2 days, or frozen for 3 months.

To make the pastry, ¾ fill a mug with water and ice. Set aside.

In a large bowl, add the flour and salt and stir to combine. Cut the cold shortening into little pieces and add to the flour. Use a pastry cutter to mix the flour and shortening together so it resembles coarse breadcrumbs.

Remove the ice from the water and beat one egg into the cold water. Add about half the egg and water mixture to the flour bowl and use a fork to stir. Keep adding water – a little at a time – until the pastry just starts to come together. You may not need all the water and egg.

Split the dough in half and wrap each half in plastic wrap. Press gently to form discs, then refrigerate the discs for 20 minutes, or longer.

To assemble the pies, start by rolling out your pastry on a floured surface. You want it rather thin – not see-through, but about as thin as you can get it. (This helps with the ratio of pastry to filling later on.) Cut out circles for your pie bases and lids. For a standard muffin tin, I use a 3 inch / 7.5cm diameter circles for the bases – cut out, then rolled again just slightly to get a thin enough pastry, and a 2.5 inch / 6cm circle for the lids, no need to roll these again.  

Tip: Drinking glasses make great cutters if you haven’t got circle cookie cutters.

Tip: This isn’t the kind of pastry you can re-roll and cut out again, so try to get as many circles as you can from a single roll-out.

Place the bottoms in the muffin tin, pressing gently to get the pastry about ¾ up the sides. Then fill generously, so the filling comes to the top of the pastry.

Beat an egg into a small bowl for your egg wash.

Use your finger to paint a little egg wash around the edge of the pies, then pop the lids on top. Use a fork to press around the edges to seal. (Dust the fork in a little flour if it’s sticking.) Paint the tops all over with egg wash, then use a knife to poke a hole in the centre.  

Bake the pies in a preheated oven at 375F / 190C / 175C Fan for 25 minutes, after which time the tops will be golden all over, and the edges will be a dark golden brown. When the pies come out, use a knife to loosen the pies in their tins to make sure they don’t stick. Leave to cool for two minutes in their tins, then transfer to racks. Serve warm or let cool completely.

Make Ahead: Let cool completely, then return the pies to their muffin tins and freeze until solid. Transfer to an airtight container. Cooked pies can be frozen for up to 1 month. Reheat from frozen by baking in the muffin tin at 300F / 150C / 140C Fan for 20 minutes.

Ideas to serve

Pack up the pies in foil while they’re still slightly warm and enjoy a festive picnic outdoors. Lovely with some clementines and a thermos of mulled wine.

These little pies make a fantastic centrepiece for a grazing table as part of a selection of party food. Line them up closely together on a wooden board next to a big bunch of salad leaves (or holly, if you can get some). Serve with small plates and forks.

For a sit-down affair, serve one pie per person as a first course with a small green salad on the side. As a main, serve two pies per person with a salad.

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