Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Chicken, Leek And Lemon Balm Pasties

The change of weather is finally here, goodbye winter. I'm so excited by these sunny days. Living by the beach has been such a novelty this year, and I can't wait until I can dip more than a toe in the water without losing all feeling in my limbs. I've also loved being out in the garden, it feels like ages since I've even worn a t-shirt as I've kind of been living in my thermals. So my last foray in the garden left me with both a slight tan, as well as the last bunch of leeks for the season. Ordinarily I would just tend to use leek in a soup, but this nice weather called for a different usage. The original recipe uses thyme, but the the lemon balm in the garden has been flourishing so I thought it'd be nice addition instead. I also used ricotta instead of double cream. The recipe is very forgiving. Btw the pasties are just as yum when eaten cold so they'd be great for picnics. You might also want to note that my pastry didn't turn out as 'puffed' as I would ordinarily like, but this was due to me using a soft margarine as it was all I had handy on the day. Like I said, the recipe is forgiving, and you could also chop and change filling ingredients like I did.


For the pastry:
300g plain flour
a pinch of salt
150g chilled unsalted butter, cut into small cubes

For the filling:
25g butter
2-3 medium leeks (about 500g) trimmed and finely sliced
1 small handful of lemon balm leaves, roughly chopped
150ml ricotta
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
400g boned chicken thigh and/or breast meat, or leftover cooked chicken, sliced
1 tablespoon oil
salt and pepper

To finish:
1 egg, lightly beaten with 1 teaspoon milk, for glazing


Make the pastry:
Mix the flour and salt, add the cubed butter and toss until coated. Add only enough iced water to combine the mixture into a firm dough (approx 8-10 tablespoons).
Use your hands to shape the dough into a rectangle then roll it out (in one direction, away from you) on a floured surface, to end up with a 1cm-thick rectangle.
Fold the far third towards you, then fold the nearest third over that (like folding a business letter). So now you have a rectangle comprised of 3 layers.
Give the pastry a quarter turn, then repeat this rolling, folding and turning process 5 more times.
Wrap the pastry in film and rest it in the fridge for 30 minutes, or up to an hour.

Make the filling:
Melt the butter in a fry pan, add the leek and lemon balm, sweat it gently 5-10 minutes until the leeks are very tender.
Stir in the ricotta, cook gently for a couple minutes then stir in the mustard and season well. Leave to cool.

If using fresh chicken, season it well then fry in oil over moderate heat until browned.

Lightly flour a work surface and roll out the pastry until 3mm thick. Use a plate, or cake tin, as a template, and cut out four 20cm circles.
You will have to gather the trimmings and re-roll to get your fourth circle.
Spoon the leek mixture on to one half of each circle then pile the chicken on top.
Brush the pastry edges with water then fold the other half of pastry over the filling to form a half-moon shape. Crimp well to seal.

Place on an oiled or lined baking sheet and brush the tops with beaten egg.

Bake for approx 25 minutes at 190 Celsius, until golden brown.

Serves 4

*the inspiration for this recipe came from a chicken and leek pastie recipe from Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's awesome book "River Cottage Everyday"

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