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Write, repeat; write, repeat ... chicken and leek pie

Updated: Oct 4, 2023

"There is repetition everywhere, and nothing is found only once in the world." Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Feeling a bit uninspired - a repeat statement if ever there was one. I am faced with a week of things to be used in the fridge - some just to be reheated, some to be fashioned anew, and others just vegetables that need to be used up. At this point in time I'm not sure whether I am excited at the prospect or a bit depressed. The weather doesn't help of course - it is raining, raining, raining which although at first a relief after the driest September on record - well for a long time anyway - is now just boring, although the mist that occurs is rather pretty, and you can just - only just - imagine yourself back in time in a tent with your true love with the rain pattering on the roof. But why would you anyway? Camping in the rain is only fun in retrospect.

The repetition 'theme' is because, not only is this an everyday dilemma, but I have written about it lots and lots of times, so will not really have anything new to say - although I did find a few new quotes.

The other repetition factor is chicken and leek pie. I'm sure I've written about it before and I absolutely know that I have written about Charter Pie before - which is sometimes a chicken pie. so I shall be repeating myself somewhat here as well. Not to mention probably requoting Nigel Slater again because he adores pies. In A Cook's Book he has a whole chapter called Sometimes, you just want pie and these words (I couldn't resist):

"A pie is easy to fall in love with. The golden crust, the soft and giving filling, the way the pastry and its contents converge on the plate. Few forkfuls of food are more delicious than the one that marries luscious juices with a pastry crust. I say pastry, but it could just as easily be potato mashed into buttery clouds or sliced like golden coins and arranged like tiles on a roof."

This is his chicken and leek pie - with prunes - which he actually discarded in the version he printed in this book, because, "sadly I fear their inclusion put some people off" even though he felt that their inclusion added a 'treacly richness to the filling."

And I shan't be adding the prunes either, but I'm going for a very traditional, some might say bland, version that includes, as well as the chicken and the leeks, those few beans, some asparagus and lots of lots of parsley. Because that's what I need to use up. I could use the rest of the silver beet but I think I'll save that for a tart I have my eye on later in the week.

I do hope, however, that my pie - well pies - I'm making small ones - will match his requirements:

"What matters is that the crust and filling are as one. The pie whose pastry is perched on the filling like a hat is the pie from hell. The two must meet and merge. The filling needs to soak into the pastry here and there. A layer of puff or shortcrust sodden with meat juices is a thoroughly splendid affair. I remain unconvinced that the pastry underneath the filling needs to be crisp as it does in a tart. Soggy meat saturated and that can be a very good thing."

'Nothing is found only once in the world' says Goethe, which is very reassuring for us ordinary folks, but nevertheless we know that the select few do indeed discover or invent something for the first time. Although I suppose that once they have, others will build upon it. And in the case of chicken and leek pie nobody, but nobody has an origin story. So nobody invented the chicken and leek pie. Housewives who had chicken and leek to hand, recognised their compatibility and just put them together in a pie. Because what is more natural than to put things in pastry.

"When we travel abroad in every country, in every culture, the simplest of ingredients wrapped up in dough are elevated to the sublime. We may differ in many ways and dispute many things, but we agree on this: fold a few good things in a pastry overcoat and the result is a thing of joy." Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall

But how did I arrive at chicken pie? Well the oldest leftover in my fridge is some leftover roast chicken with a couple of green beans and a tiny bit of sauce. Obviously with those ingredients the possibilities are endless, but it's such a miserable day, and Nigel Slater's comment that 'sometimes you just want pie' hit the spot. This one by the way is from Delia - looks great but have no idea what the inside is like. But it's Delia, so it's bound to be good and there's a video too. I was also encouraged by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall in his Love Your Leftovers book saying:

"When you have a substantial amount of meaty or even veggie leftovers and some pastry on standby in the freezer, a pie is a genuinely quick option as well as a very appealing one. Sometimes all it takes to produce a pie is to tip last night's stew into a pie dish, roll over the pastry and bake until golden. Of course can line your pie dish with pastry in addition to topping it - then you get the gooey bottom as well as the crispy top; you'll just need to double up the pastry.

Well I had to do a bit more than tip the contents of last night's stew into the pie - a bit of chopping and heating in a saucepan, but nothing really difficult. And I did have pastry in the freezer. When I make pastry I make a big batch which means that a quiche is a quick and easy dinner. I am now writing this after a break actually getting my pies into the oven you see. So in the end as well as the asparagus I put in some peas and some potato for bulk, and lemon juice and mustard with the wine, parsley and milk for flavour

An everyday problem - what's for dinner? combined with what needs using up? And a pretty everyday commentary I'm afraid. And I do think that is one of those infinitely variable things. I'm also reminded that a long time ago I said I was going to buy the K-Mart pie maker for just this purpose, but I didn't. I did look but chickened out at the last moment, and honestly it's just as easy to line a pie tin with pastry as it is a pie maker.

So here are a few examples that I found - the one at the top of the page is from delicious. UK. I think they illustrate an American's comment:

"Of all the great things that Britain has given the world, savory pies have got to top the list." Sydney Oland/Serious Eats

So to be polite I've included his version as well - his is what they call a 'pillow pie' - a flatter kind of thing. There are two from Heston - well the first one of these is from Heston himself, the second is from his executive chef at one of his restaurants Pete Gray; then Jamie just had to get a look in; as did Felicity Cloake - who gives a rundown on alternatives; Coles represents Australia, and finally a Britisher of immigrant descent - Rukmini Iyer who adds chorizo.

Yes I know I've said all this before. Boring. But it's that kind of day, and just to cheer myself, and anyone else who feels they repeat themselves, up here are a few encouraging quotes that I found.

“If something is worth saying, it is worth saying three times over.” Steven Magee

“Idea, research, discovery, publish, and repeat.” Steven Magee

The eight laws of learning are explanation, demonstration, imitation, repetition, repetition, repetition, repetition, repetition." John Wooden

"Repetition is not failure. Ask the waves, ask the leaves, ask the wind." Mark Nepo

"The repetition of small efforts will accomplish more than the occasional use of great talents." Charles Spurgeon


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