One of the important things to also consider when making a Picnic Pie is the pie tin, and I knew an ordinary loaf tin wouldn’t be high enough. I knew exactly what to search for though and if you are going to make a traditional English pie it’s probably best you search for a company in England specialised in making high quality professional-grade bakeware. I have known of the SILVERWOOD brand from my cake decorating days and was thrilled to see they had the exact tin I would need. For this picnic pie I used the 11 x 4 1/2 inch Rectangular Large Sliced Pie Tin . Apart from being a deep tin, it comes apart in 4 pieces, which makes ‘unmoulding’ the pie child’s play.
The quantities for the shortcrust pastry is perfect for this sized tin and I had very little scraps once I had secured and decorated the pastry lid. The filling can be left totally up to your imagination, but I do suggest you think carefully of the layers, the colours of the ingredients and the order you want to place them in the pie. Apart from being delicious the Picnic Pie does have a ‘wow’ factor when sliced. It isn’t difficult but is time consuming, the cooked fillings must be cold be fore assembling the pie.
The pie is usually prepared and cooked the day before it is eaten. I also like to prepare the pastry the day before I prepare the filling ingredients.
Filling (you may find you have too much of one ingredient for the layer in your pie… but best to have too much than find you don’t have enough. It all depends how thick the layers are).
To make the pastry, add the flour and salt to a food processor. With the motor running on high speed, slowly add the butter cubes, one at a time. Process until all the butter is incorporated and the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. Add the eggs, yolk and cold water, one tablespoon at a time. The dough will come together in a ball.
Turn the pastry dough out onto a lightly floured board, knead just enough to form a smooth ball. Flatten roughly into a rectangular shape, cover with plastic kitchen wrap and refrigerate for a minimum of 30 minutes.
Place the chicken pieces in a saucepan with the carrot, celery and onion. Cover with water, add salt and pepper and bring to the boil. Cook for an hour. Discard the vegetables. Remove the chicken from the bones. Chop roughly
Peel and slice the onions, and cook in a frying pan with a little olive oil on a medium low heat. Cook until they are soft, a little golden, and sweetly caramelised. Put aside.
Slice the mushrooms and cook in a frying pan with a little olive oil and a pinch of salt. Cook until the juices have evaporated and the mushrooms are slightly browned. Chop finely by hand or in a mini food processor.
Boil the eggs for 5 minutes, peel and separate the hard boiled yolks from the egg whites.
Cook the asparagus to your liking, by boiling it in abundant salted water. I like to keep my asparagus with some bite and hate it overcooked and mushy.
Peel and slice the sweet potatoes in 1cm slices. Place on a baking try with olive oil and roast at 180°C until the sweet potato is cooked (soft) and brown around the edges. Set aside and allow to cool.
On a lightly floured board, roll out the pastry in a rectangle. Measure the pie tin length, width and height to ensure you roll the pastry to the correct size. Line the pie tie, and allow a little excess around the sides before trimming excess. Roll all the remaining pastry dough in a rectangle long and wide enough to be the lid for your pie. Cover in plastic wrap and refrigerate until needed.
Use a spoon to place the finely chopped mushrooms along the base of the pastry lined pie tin. Press to create a flat and even surface.
Next, take the sliced pancetta and lay the strips lengthwise on top of the mushrooms.
Arrange the onions on top of the pancetta.
Place the egg yolk down the middle of the pie tin and add the egg whites to either side.
Lay the asparagus evenly on top of the egg.
Place the sweet potato slices on top of the egg. Break pieces to ensure that the whole surface is covered and there are no gaps.
Roughly chop the chicken and place on top of the sweet potato.
Top with the slices of ham.
Remove the pastry from the fridge and lay over the filling. Gently press down and seal the lid around the edges and cut off all overhang leaving a 1cm excess. Fold over the excess and crimp the pastry all the way around.
Roll out any pastry scraps and decorate the top of the pie. Poke a couple of holes in the pastry and then brush with beaten egg.
Cook in the oven at 190°C for 50 minutes to an hour or until the pastry is a rich golden brown colour. Remove the pie from the oven and allow to cool.
Slice the pie cold from the fridge or at room temperature the following day. To be eaten as is, or if you are at home and not outside eating ‘al fresco’ picnic style, you could easily warm it up too.
Recipe and photography courtesy of Tony Brancatisano
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