Pasty. Bridie. Calzone. Empanada. Pastel. Knish. They come in different names from different cultures, but the concept is the same: delicious filling encased in dough (flaky or crumbly, buttery or bready), baked or fried, served hot or cold. Having just returned from my trip to England and Scotland, I had my fair share of Cornish pasties and Forfar bridies. They were fresh baked in the morning and delicious hot, but having a second one at room temp for lunch was just as rewarding! Don’t just take my word for it, though; historically, Cornish pasties were made and designed for miners to carry into the mines with them. It’s the perfect portable meal, no utensils required!
These handheld pies can be made in bulk and frozen; it’s great to make on the weekend then just bake off individually throughout the week. From traditional English steak & ale pasties to Italian chicken pesto calzones and everything in between, the filling options are limitless. Today’s recipe is another English classic, and can even be made with leftovers (Sunday’s roast chicken is the week’s pie filling) – nothing goes to waste.
Whether you’re a uni student on the go, busy at the office, or picnicking after a long hike, these pies fit the bill… and fit in your lunchbox. Enjoy!
• 2 large chicken breasts (or 3–4 boneless, skinless thighs), pan-seared or roasted and cubed
• 3 rashers of thick cut bacon, diced
• 10–12 large button mushrooms
• 1 medium onion, diced
• 2 cloves garlic, minced
• 2 tbsp. butter
• 2 heaping tbsp. all purpose flour
• 1 ½–2 cups milk (depending on how thick or runny you would like the filling)
• Depending on the texture you’re looking for, boxed flaky pastry or fresh pizza dough are readily available at supermarkets nowardays. Shortcrust pastry is also quick and easy to make at home, with just four ingredients: a 2:1 ratio of all purpose flour to butter (rubbed into the flour until it resembles coarse meal), a pinch of salt, and a few tablespoons of cold water to bring it all together. The dough can be made and rested well in advance, or while your filling is chilling down.
1. In a deep saucepan, render the fat out of the bacon until it browns and begins to crisp up.
2. Add in the diced mushrooms, onion and garlic, and sauté using the bacon fat. You may need to add a pat of butter or a drizzle of oil to help it along. Season to taste with salt and black pepper.
3. Once cooked down, scoop out into a bowl and set aside. In the same pot, melt the butter and whisk in the flour to create a roux.
4. Slowly add the milk, continuing to whisk so clumps don’t form. As the mixture heats it will thicken into a sauce.
5. Stir the mushroom mixture into the sauce along with the chicken, and simmer on low heat for a few minutes, adjusting the seasoning as necessary. Keep in mind that the filling should be slightly over seasoned, so that it isn’t bland when combined with the pastry. Also note that the sauce consistency should be relatively thick – too runny, and it could turn the pasty into a soupy mess. Ensure the mixture is at room temperature or cold before putting the pasty together.
6. Roll the dough out to approximately ¼” thick, and cut out 6” circles.
7. Scoop generous tablespoons of the filling into the centre of the circle, ensuring there’s enough room around it to seal the dough.
8. Though pasties are traditionally crimped to one side, some others are crimped across the top. You can seal the dough both practically and decoratively by crimping, folding or pinching – or even just by pressing down with the tines of a fork.
9. Bake the pasties on a parchment-lined tray at 375˚F for approximately 18 minutes, or until golden brown.
10. Serve hot… or cool, pack it in your lunchbox, and take it with you!