At long last January is over and that is more than enough reason to celebrate with a dinner party. For my first series of dinner party menus for SheerLuxe, I’ve chosen the humble chicken pie. A pie may not seem like the most glamorous thing to serve at a dinner party but believe me when I say it delivers.
I like to serve my chicken pie with a vibrant salad, making the most of the season’s bitter leaves and citrus fruits. Chocolate mousse is guaranteed to be met with joy and it is a pudding that you can make ahead of time too.
I recommend drinking something crisp and zesty with this, and have been enjoying this rather beautiful white wine from Drink Amie.
Discover Alexandra's Menu...
Blood Orange, Chicory, Fennel & Radicchio Salad
I love the colour of this salad. Vibrant enough to bring cheer to even the wintriest of evenings, it is the perfect contender for a February supper. You can prepare the dressing and the leaves ahead of time and toss it all together just before serving. Ruby-flecked blood oranges look spectacular in this but regular oranges will do just fine if you cannot get hold of them.
Finely slice the fennel using a mandolin or sharp knife (reserving any leafy fronds for the garnish). Separate the leaves from the chicory and radicchio.
To prepare the blood oranges, slice the top and base so you have a flat bottom. With a serrated knife, work your way around the oranges to remove the peel and as much of the pith as you can. Turn the skinless fruit on its side and slice into rounds.
In a large bowl, combine the olive oil, mustard and honey with the zest of the lemon and half of its juice.
Add the fennel and leaves and toss well. Then add the blood orange slices and gently toss again.
Transfer onto a serving platter. Roughly chop the pistachios and sprinkle over the salad. Sprinkle over any fennel fronds, or you could add a little chopped parsley or mint if you like.
THE MAIN COURSE
Chicken & Leek Pie
Wholesome and warming, a chicken pie is just the thing for a dinner party in February. There are many ways to make one, but I like to poach the whole chicken and make use of it in full. True, it requires a little more effort than working with prepared thighs or fillets, but the result is a much more flavourful pie – and you are rewarded with a bounty of delicious stock to use in curries, risottos or soups. You will be reassured to know there is no need to make pastry. I use a shop-bought puff pastry which does an excellent job and saves time. I suggest getting on with something else while your chicken poaches – perhaps setting the table or making pudding.
Reserve a few sprigs of thyme so that you have 1 tsp of leaves. Finely chop the leaves and set aside for later. Tie the remaining bunch with string.
Place the whole chicken, bunched thyme, bay leaves and peppercorns into a large stock pot. Halve the onion and the carrot and add to the pot. Fill the pot with water to just cover the chicken. Bring to the boil, then reduce to a simmer and cook until the chicken is done. About 30-40 minutes.
Remove the chicken and allow to cool slightly. Then pull the meat of the bone (discarding the skin for stock) and chop and shred it into convenient-sized pieces.
Allow the poaching liquid to cool slightly, then skim the fat from the top and reserve about a mugful of liquid.
I like to enrich the stock and return the carcass and skin to the liquid, before simmering on a low heat for 1-2 hours until it has reduced slightly and smells rich with chicken flavour. Strain the stock, allow it to cool once more (I tend to place it in the fridge overnight). Skim the fat once more and reserve the stock for risottos, soups or dahls. I always like to have stock on hand in the freezer.
Returning to the pie, wash, trim and chop the leeks into roughly 1cm rings, discarding the tough green leafy ends, or adding these to the simmering stock.
In a large casserole dish, heat a good glug of olive oil. Add the leeks and cook over a gentle heat until they have started to soften (about 5 minutes). Add the grated garlic and finely chopped thyme leaves and cook for one more minute.
Add the mushrooms and cook for a further 5 minutes, until the leeks are well softened and the mushrooms have begun to sweat.
In a small bowl, use a fork to mix the cornflour with enough of the reserved poaching liquid until it resembles the consistency of double cream. Add to the vegetables and cook for 2 minutes.
Increase the heat and add the wine, allowing the alcohol to cook off until almost evaporated. Then add just 100ml of stock, the dijon mustard and a good pinch of sea salt. Stir to combine, then add the chicken. Stir and taste to season. You are looking for a loose filling for the pie. If you feel it could be wetter, add more of the stock.
Switch off the heat and preheat the oven to 180ºC Fan.
Roll out the puff pastry and cut a disc about 1.5cm wider than your pie dish. I find the easiest way is to place the dish upside down on the rolled pastry and score a circle slightly bigger than the dish using a small knife.
Place the filling into the pie dish, then top with the pastry lid, pressing the sides into the top of the dish. Use a fork to crimp the edges. Cut four dashes in a cross shape in the centre of the pie to allow steam to escape whilst cooking.
Brush with beaten egg and bake for 30-40 minutes until the pastry has puffed up and is golden.
Serve the chicken pie alongside kale. Some roasted squash or sweet potato goes very well with this too.
Wash the kale and tear it from the woody stems. Peel and finely slice the garlic. Heat roughly 2 tbsp of olive oil in a large saucepan over a gentle heat and add the garlic. Cook very gently for about 4 minutes until the garlic has softened and is beginning to look translucent. Then add the kale.
Using a wooden spoon, toss the kale to coat in the garlicky oil. Add a good splash of water and cover with a lid to allow the kale to steam gently. Check after 5 minutes. The kale should be cooked but still have texture. Add another glug of olive oil or a knob of butter if you like. Season to taste.
Serve alongside the chicken pie.
Fluffy Chocolate Mousse
A good, rich chocolate mousse is a delightful way to finish a meal. I use amaretto in this as I love the almond flavour but a splash of brandy or whisky would go down very well too. I suggest making these the morning of the dinner party. If you are making them for lunch, it is a good idea to make them the day before.
Separate eggs and yolks placing the whites into a large bowl and the yolks in a small bowl. Whisk the yolks briefly.
Melt the chocolate and butter in a heatproof bowl over a pan of simmering water. Remove and allow to cool slightly (about 5 minutes).
In a separate bowl, whisk your cream using an electric whisk until stiff peaks form.
Fold the egg yolks into the cream. Then pour the chocolate in and fold to combine. Stir in the amaretto.
Whisk the egg whites using an electric whisk until frothy, then add the sugar continuing to whisk until you reach stiff glossy peaks.
Add about a quarter of the beaten egg-white mix into the chocolate and fold through to loosen the mix. Then pour the chocolate mix into the remaining egg-white mix and fold until smooth.
Divide between 4 glasses or ramekins and refrigerate for at least 5 hours, or overnight.
Garnish with a spoonful of whipped cream and chocolate shavings or crumbled amaretti biscuits if you like.