Recipe #8: Chicken, Leek and Mushroom Pie


“Don’t ever change anything about this recipe” – The boyfriend, on eating this pie

Chicken is the ultimate pie-filling, yet it’s almost impossible to buy a good chicken pie. If the pastry’s not stodgy, the filling is niggardly:  white sauce with stringy bits of salty bird floating around in a lonely sort of way. Fortunately it’s so easy to make your own!

The secret to this chicken pie’s simplicity is to cheat. There’s nothing wrong with the pre-roasted birds sold at the supermarkets, nor with pre-rolled frozen pastry. Use both, and your biggest headache is going to be chunking your chicken without eating half of it. (My chickens always mysteriously lose both their legs and wings.)


  • 1 medium to large roast or barbeque chicken from Woolies, Pick ‘n Pay or similar.
  • 1 roll frozen puff pastry (‘Today’ brand is good)
  • 4 rashers streaky bacon
  • 4 leeks
  • 1 punnet button mushrooms
  • 1/2 packet powdered cream of mushroom soup (not cup-a-soup – the big packets)
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • A bit of butter
  • Milk to brush the pastry with
While cooking this pie, it is recommended that you drink cider.

While cooking this pie, it is recommended that you drink cider.

What to do

  • Remember to defrost your pastry in the fridge overnight. If you forget (I always do), you can defrost it in under an hour by putting it in a bowl of cold tap water. (Just make sure the packaging is waterproof, or seal it in a ziplock bag.)
  • Preheat the oven to 180 C
  • Chunk your chicken. As in, remove all the flesh from the carcass (you choose whether to keep the skin. I do), debone and then chop into good-sized chunks.
  • Chop up your bacon, leeks and mushrooms and fry in a generous pat of butter.
My dad made me take this photo because he thought it looked nice.

My dad made me take this photo because he thought it looked nice.

  • When they’re fairly well done, add the sour cream, white wine and mushroom soup powder and stir well. Simmer for a few minutes to allow the sauce to thicken a bit. Salt and pepper to taste.
  • Put this in a good-size oven-proof dish, add the chicken and mix it all up nicely. Leave to cool a bit.
  • In the mean time, put a layer of cling film on your counter top to keep both clean and roll out your pastry so that it just fits the top of your dish. Place on top of the chicken mixture and trim off any excess. Use the trimmings to make decorations, if you’re so inclined. (Pastry is a bit like play-dough.)

Pastry is a grown-up substitute for modelling clay

  • Brush with milk/egg and sprinkle with sesame seeds if you happen to have any.
  • Bake according to instructions on the pastry packet until golden brown.


  • Leave to cool for about 10 minutes before serving with a green salad or mash and peas.
  • Leftovers will keep several days if refrigerated  When reheating, microwave for a minute or two first and then put in the oven at about 120 C for a few minutes to crisp up the pastry again.

Wine pairing suggestion

Knorhoek Sauvignon Blanc-Chenin Blanc


While it’s a great idea to drink cider (especially one as good as Windermere) while cooking this pie, eating it requires white wine – preferably the one you used in the pie (a lesson I learned from the Coq Au Vin). A Sauv Blanc-Chenin blend is just the right combination of crisp and fruity. #Happiness

Time taken

  • Preparation: 20 minutes
  • Baking: 20-30 minutes

Dishes dirtied

  • 1 frying pan
  • 1 wooden spoon
  • 1 chopping board
  • 1 knife
  • 1 oven proof dish

Recipe #4: Coq Au Vin à la Sud-Africaine

Just what you want when it's cold and dark outside.

Just what you want when it’s cold and dark outside.

I took my (slightly chewed) apple crumble with me to a dinner party last week, where we were served superb pistachio-nut soup topped with Turkish saffron, followed by a traditional French coq au vin, stewed for hours in a Le Creuset casserole, complete with shallots brought specially from France. My hosts had slaved for hours over these dishes, so I felt a little cheeky pulling out the humble crumble, but it seemed to go down rather well anyway.

Despite the exotic allure of the soup, I was put off by grim stories of spending hours shelling nuts so, although I asked my friend for both recipes, I only intended to try the coq au vin. And, of course, I planned to make it as easy on myself as possible. Good news: I succeeded.

Here then, is my coq au vin recipe à la Sud-Africaine.


Yes, there are a lot of them, but they’re very simple and you should have most of them in your kitchen already.

  • 1 very cold and rainy day when you have a few hours to kill and want an excuse to drink wine.
  • 1 large, fresh chicken. Or two. It depends on how many people you plan to feed and how big your casserole dish is.
  • 2 or 3 bottles of Pinotage. Traditional coq au vin calls for Burgundy, which is usually Pinot Noir. But with the price of Pinot Noir in this country, there’s no way I’m cooking with it. I chose an el cheapo Black Tie Pinotage, available for about R26 a bottle at Pick ‘n Pay.
  • 2 or 3 shots of brandy. Not your best stuff, please.
  • 1 packet streaky bacon, chopped
  • 2 onions, chopped
  • A few sprigs of fresh parsley, thyme and rosemary, tied up with string. Or, in my case, an elastic band. I’ve seen Bridget Jones.
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 3 or 4 cloves of garlic
  • Juice of half a lemon
  • Small sachet of tomato paste
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 3 tablespoons of flour
  • A punnet of white button mushrooms
  • Plenty of butter and olive oil
You need a fairly large frying pan to fit a whole chicken into. Remember to turn it over.

You need a fairly large frying pan to fit a whole chicken into. Remember to turn it over. The chicken, not the frying pan.

What to do

  • Preheat the oven to 140 C.
  • Fry the bacon, onions and chicken (whole) in a large frying pan with some olive oil. Then put them all in the casserole dish.
  • Pour the brandy over the chicken. Attempt to ignite it, as per friend’s fancy French recipe. Fail. Sulk. Carry on.
You probably need two people to do the 'igniting the brandy while pouring it on' routine.

You probably need two people to do the ‘igniting the brandy while pouring it on’ routine. Poking the brandy-splashed chicken with a match doesn’t work.

  • Add 1 bottle of red wine, the herbs, bay leaves, sugar, lemon juice, tomato paste and garlic, cover the dish, and put it in the oven for 2 to 2.5 hours. If your chicken/s aren’t covered by the wine, take them out and turn them over once or twice.
  • In the same large frying pan as before, fry the mushrooms whole, with plenty of butter and olive oil and a bit of fresh thyme. Keep them until the chicken is ready.
  • When the chicken is very tender, melt some more butter (about half a cup) in a small saucepan, add the flour and mix to form a creamy paste (it’s called a beurre manié if you’re posh. Or French). Take the chicken out of the oven and add the beurre stuff to it, along with the mushrooms.
  • Serve in the casserole dish, sprinkled generously with parsley (after all, it’s the only green stuff in the meal).
It's going to take a fair bit of willpower not to just gobble these up as soon as they're fried. Maybe wait until just before the chicken is ready.

It’s going to take a fair bit of willpower not to just gobble these up. Maybe wait until just before the chicken is ready to fry them.

Wine pairing suggestion

I was almost stymied until I realised that there is only one wine you can serve with coq au vin, and that is the wine you made it with. That is why, my observant readers, I said you need 2 or 3 bottles of wine, even though the recipe only calls for one.

I did try drinking a very good Bordeaux-style blend, but it simply didn’t work, and I had to recork it. Which is why tonight I am drinking this:

It's cheap, but you can drink it.

Black Tie. It’s cheap, but you can drink it.

It’s really not as bad as it looks. A friend of mine reckons that some winery had oodles of excess good stuff and just packaged it in these awful-looking bottles so they could sell it off cheap. I don’t think that’s true, but it’s still quite drinkable and exceptional value. And, if you’re making this meal for a boozy dinner party, here’s the really good news: It comes in five-litre boxes too.

Time needed

  • Actually doing stuff: 20-30 minutes
  • In the oven: 2-2.5 hours

Dishes dirtied

  • 1 chopping board
  • 1 knife
  • 1 large frying pan
  • 1 small saucepan
  • 1 wooden spoon
  • 1 casserole dish