Friday, 7 March 2014

Guinea fowl, smoked ham, cider and leek pie with a mustard, thyme and Lincolnshire Poacher crust

This week my blog will take a slightly different spin. Instead of cooking something that I have had planned for a while, this time I have been asked to create a pie recipe by Le Creuset to celebrate British Pie Week. Although all of the recipes that I post on here are my own, and the focus on the food, I am always game for a recipe writing challenge. And anyway, I barely need much of an excuse to make a pie! I am also more than happy to collaborate with Le Creuset in this post. Their cookwares are long ingrained in my childhood memories; I have forgotten the amount of things that I have cooked in my parent’s lovely orange cast-iron saucepans that are probably older than me. 

The main challenge with this post was coming up with the recipe itself. The brief was simple; make a pie, any pie. Sweet or savoury. The PR lady chuckled as she stated the only stipulation, that human parts could not be included. But this openness caused a problem, as although my mind was flooded with different things to include, my indecisiveness made it difficult to pinpoint. Should I make use of the lovely forced rhubarb and make something seasonally focussed? Should I go off-piste with a wacky bone marrow creation? I was very tempted to make something along the lines of that wonderfully Scottish invention, the macaroni pie. But part of recipe writing is to try and inspire and give people recipes that they actually want to cook, so in the end I decided on a pie that is just a joy to eat.

My favourite pie is without doubt chicken, leek and tarragon. A combination well and truly made for each other, able to balance fresh tanginess and unctuous comfort. This recipe is my spin on the classic. Guinea fowl is such an underused and underrated bird, and just gives that stronger chicken-y flavour. Now farmed and widely available we should be eating them loads more, and they’re dead easy to cook too. Cooking the legs separately in the cider takes a little longer than just throwing everything together and baking, but the result is a lovely rich sauce that makes the pie all the better when you finally tuck in.

Instead of opting for the traditional puff pastry topping here I’ve gone for something suet based. This is also another happy result of my indecisiveness, as it creates the balance of a lovely crunchy top and an almost dumpling-like underside; all the best bits from a stew and a pie. Normally a hard cheese such as parmesan would be first choice for flavouring, but being British Pie Week I wanted to choose something a little more local. I had never used Lincolnshire Poacher in cooking before and found that the strong, fruity flavour worked really well. As Katie commented, the edges were like cheese straws and the middle like a scone. And that can’t be a bad thing!

As with all slow cooked baked things, this recipe benefits with making in advance and only gets better with age. That’s if you have the self-restraint to not gobble it all up straight away…

Makes enough to fill a 28cm oval pie dish.


1 whole guinea fowl, jointed with the carcass kept

For the guinea fowl legs and sauce:

Olive oil 

The legs, wings and chopped carcass of the guinea fowl 
1 carrot, roughly chopped 
2 leeks, roughly chopped 
4 cloves of garlic, crushed 
2 bay leaves 
10 sprigs of thyme 
500ml good dry cider 
Approx. 1lt chicken or ham stock, or enough to cover

For the filling:

The breasts of the guinea fowl, skinned and cut into chunks 

200g smoked and roasted ham, torn into generous pieces 
2 large leeks, thickly sliced 
2 shallots, thickly sliced 
200g chestnut mushrooms, thickly sliced 
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped 
1tsp wholegrain mustard 
100ml double cream 
30g butter 
50g flour 
Olive oil 
1 bunch fresh tarragon,leaves picked 
50g Lincolnshire Poacher cheese, finely grated

For the pastry:

500g self-raising flour 

1tsp baking powder 
125g suet 
75g cold butter, cut into small cubes 
1.5tsp English mustard powder 
50g Lincolnshire Poacher cheese, finely grated 
2tsp fresh thyme leaves 
Cold milk 
4 egg yolks 
1 egg for glazing, beaten


To make the pastry, put the flour, suet, cheese, mustard powder, thyme leaves, baking powder and a good amount of seasoning into a large bowl. Toss in the butter until evenly dispersed. Create a well in the middle of the flour and add the egg yolks and a good splash of milk. Fold the mixture together with your hands or a wooden spoon, adding a little more milk if needed to form a dough. Wrap with cling film and put in the fridge to rest for a couple of hours. 

Set a large saucepan onto a medium-high temperature. Season the legs and wings of the guinea fowl and fry in a little oil until browned all over then remove to a plate. Repeat the colouring process with the chopped up carcass, then add the chopped vegetables and herbs and continue to fry for a couple of minutes. Pour in the cider and bring to the boil. Return the wings and legs to the pan and top up with the stock to cover. Bring back to the boil, then reduce and simmer for about 45 minutes. When the meat is cooked, allow to cool slightly then strain the stock into a clean saucepan. Heat over a high temperature and reduce until about 400ml of liquid remains. Shred the leg and wing meat into chunky pieces and set aside to add to the filling later.

To make the filling, add the olive oil to a large frying pan or skillet on a medium heat. Dust the guinea fowl breast pieces in the flour and fry quickly to seal, then transfer to a plate. Melt the butter in the same pan and gently cook the leeks, garlic and shallots until softened. Season well. Add the mushrooms and continue to fry for another couple of minutes before stirring in the ham and the leg and wing meat. Add the cream, reduced stock, cheese and mustard and bring to the boil. Reduce the liquid slightly to thicken and then finally stir in the breast meat and tarragon. Transfer the filling mixture into the pie dish and allow to cool. 

Preheat the oven to 180⁰C.

When the filling has cooled, roll out the pastry on a well-floured surface until about 1cm thick. Place the pie bird standing upright in the middle of the filling. Brush the beaten egg around the rim of the dish then lay the pastry over the top, cutting a hole to allow the bird’s head to poke through and let the steam out. Crimp the edges so that they are sealed to the dish. Brush more of the egg over the top of the pastry and decorate with leaves made from the pastry scraps. Bake in the oven for about 40 minutes, or until the crust is crispy and golden-brown. Serve with buttered greens and creamy mash.

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