If you’re interested in the history of pie, I recommend this excellent article from What’s Cooking America called, appropriately, “History of Pies.” In case you don’t want to read the whole thing, however, here’s a brief synopsis of the history of pie as we know it:
Historians believe that the Greeks actually originated pie pastry. The pies during this period were made by a flour-water paste wrapped around meat; this served to cook the meat and seal in the juices.
The Romans, sampling the delicacy, carried home recipes for making it (a prize of victory when they conquered Greece). The wealthy and educated Romans used various types of meat in every course of the meal, including the dessert course (secundae mensea). … The delights of the pie spread throughout Europe, via the Roman roads, where every country adapted the recipes to their customs and foods.
As we enter the finals of the 2013 season of The Great British Bake Off, this Signature Challenge is for a savory picnic pie, made with shortcrust pastry, and the contents need to form some type of design inside. It has to be served outside the pan it’s baked in, so the pastry must be strong enough to hold up to all those fillings.
According to the “History of Pies” cited above, pastry shells were the original vessels used for baking. In fact, “the purpose of a pastry shell was mainly to serve as a baking dish, storage container, and serving vessel,” so essentially, everything that was baked was a pie.
To make sure I got the pastry right for my Chicken Curry Gala Pie, I borrowed Frances’ pastry recipe from her Rainbow Trout Picnic Pie, which she made for this episode. I put my own twist on the filling, though, starting with a coconut rice with cashews and raisins, followed by curried chicken, peas and roasted butternut squash. And then, of course, what makes a gala pie a gala pie is the continuous hard-boiled egg in the middle. My version gives the illusion of one elongated egg with a little slight of hand, er, egg. (See photo #3, below.)
Here are a few tips and tricks I learned from this bake (and from watching the bakers in the Great White Tent):
- Use a long strip of parchment paper to line your loaf pan, allowing the ends to hang over the edges of the pan so you can use them to lift the baked pie out of the pan while it’s still hot.
- Don’t overcook your eggs. Remember, they will be baked again inside the pie, so boil them just long enough for the whites to harden.
- When layering the fillings in your pie, place the eggs on top of the rice, then cover with the chicken. I put the chicken in first, then tried to create a trench for the eggs. It would have been easier to put the eggs in first.
- Don’t cook peas with lemon juice. I thought it would add flavor, but it just turned my peas a drab olive green. I’d rather have vibrant green peas.
My husband is always happy when my bakes are savory, since he’s not into sweets as much as I am. (Opposites attract, right?) This pie has a really good but mild curry flavor. You can always up the spices if you want it bolder. I really liked the roasted squash, so next time I make this I might use even more squash and skip the peas altogether. (They tended to fall out as soon as I cut the pie open.) The beauty of this recipe is that it is infinitely adaptable, so you can really make it your own!
Chicken Curry Gala Pie
Credit for rice: AllRecipes.com
Curried chicken adapted from CottageDelight.co.uk
For the rice:
For the rest of the filling:
For the pastry:
- 5 T. ice-cold water
- 1 T. lemon juice
- 3¾ c. all-purpose flour
- 1 t. salt, plus one pinch, divided
- 1 c. + 2 T. unsalted butter, cubed
- 1 whole egg
- 1 egg yolk
- 1 beaten egg
- To make the rice, heat vegetable oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Stir in rice, and cook for two minutes. Pour in coconut milk and chicken stock. Then add all the rest of the ingredients. Bring to a boil, then cover and reduce heat to low. Cook until rice is tender, about 20 minutes.
- To roast the squash, preheat oven to 425°F. Cut the squash crosswise into two pieces where the narrow end meets the fat end. Trim off the stem and peel the narrow end with a vegetable peeler, then slice into ¼-inch-thick round slices. Spray a roasting pan with vegetable oil spray, and lay the slices in a single layer in the prepared pan. Drizzle lightly with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and roast for 20-30 minutes. Reserve the other half of the squash for another use. (If desired, cut it in half lengthwise, scoop out the seeds and lay both halves in another baking pan, cut-side up. Roast until tender. Scoop the flesh out, season to taste and enjoy!)
- To make the pastry, first mix the cold water with the lemon juice, then put the flour and salt in a large bowl and, using your fingertips or a pastry blender, rub the butter into the flour until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. Make a well in the center of the mixture and add one whole egg and the egg yolk. Bring the pastry together with your hands, gradually adding the water and lemon juice mixture until you have a smooth dough.
- Transfer the pastry to a lightly floured work surface and gently knead it into a ball. Flatten to create a disk shape, then wrap it in plastic wrap and place in the fridge to rest for at least 10 minutes.
- While the pastry is chilling, make the curried chicken. Fry the onion in 1 tablespoon olive oil until soft. Stir in cumin, garlic, chili flakes, coriander and garam masala. Add chicken and cook, stirring occasionally, until it is no longer pink. Stir in chutney and cilantro and remove from heat.
- Steam the peas in the microwave just until hot. Trim the ends off the hard-boiled eggs so that most of the egg white is trimmed off of each end and they will sit flat against each other in a row.
- Preheat oven to 350°F. Line a large loaf pan with a long strip of parchment paper, the same width as the pan but long enough to hang over the ends (to make removing the pie easier after it’s been baked).
- Remove the chilled pastry dough from the fridge. Divide it in half and roll out one half on a lightly floured surface until it is large enough to line the loaf pan. (It should be between 1/8-inch and ¼-inch thick.) Line the tin with the pastry, leaving a slight overhang around the edges.
- Start to layer the pie filling, seasoning each layer as you go with salt and pepper. Start with a layer of rice, filling about 1/3 of the pastry. (You won’t need all the rice. Reserve the rest for another use.) Then place the hard-boiled eggs in a row down the middle of the rice, end-to-end, right up next to each other. Place the chicken mixture around the eggs, covering them completely. Top that with the peas. Then lay the squash slices on top of the peas, overlapping each slice. Cut some slices in half and lay the flat edges along the edges of the pastry so the peas are completely covered.
- Roll out the remaining pastry and cut a rectangle large enough to cover the pan with about one inch hanging over on all sides. Stir the pinch of salt into the beaten egg, and brush a little of the mixture onto the edges of the pastry lining the pan, then place the rectangular pastry lid on top and press the edges down to seal. Crimp and trim the edges as needed.
- Using pastry trimmings, cut ½-inch-wide strips and weave in a lattice pattern on top of the pastry lid. Cut a few small squares out of the center of the pie to allow steam to escape. Brush the surface of the pie with the egg wash, and then bake for 50-60 minutes or until the pastry is dark golden-brown. (Check after 30 minutes — if the pastry is browning too quickly, cover the edges with foil to prevent burning).
- Remove pie from oven and cool on rack for a few minutes. Carefully lift it out of the pan using the parchment paper hanging over the ends. Serve while still warm.