Sweating the vegetables slowly with thyme and then reducing the white wine vinegar gives a lovely flavour to the filling for these pies. If you cut the chicken across the grain into thin slices, it breaks up the fibres and helps make the chicken very tender. The pies freeze well so you can bake and serve one and freeze the other three. Or bake in larger dishes to feed the whole family.

Makes 4 individual pies    
Preparation time: 25-30 minutes    
Cooking time: 30-35 minutes   
Suitable for freezing

  • 45g/1½ oz butter
  • 1 small shallot, diced
  • 1 medium carrot, peeled and diced
  • ½ small leek, thinly sliced
  • ¼ tsp chopped fresh thyme leaves
  • 4 tsp white wine vinegar
  • 20g/ 3/4 oz cornflour
  • 400ml/14fl oz hot chicken stock
  • 2 tbsp crème fraîche
  • Salt and pepper
  • 500g/1lb 2oz potatoes, peeled and cubed
  • 3 tbsp milk
  • 225g/8oz skinless, boneless chicken breast, cut into thin, bite-size slices
  • 1 egg white, lightly beaten (optional)

Melt 30g (1oz) butter and sweat the vegetables with the thyme for 10 minutes until soft. Add the vinegar and boil until it has evaporated. Stir in the cornflour, then add the stock a little at a time, stirring, to make a smooth sauce. Add the crème fraîche and season to taste with salt and pepper. Allow the sauce to cool.

 

Cook the potatoes in plenty of boiling salted water for about 15 minutes until just tender. Drain the potatoes, then mash well. Beat in the remaining butter and the milk, and season to taste.

Divide the chicken among four ramekins or small ovenproof dishes (I use 9.5cm/scant 4in diameter ramekins) and spoon the sauce on top. Cover with the mash and fork the surface to mark lines.

Preheat the oven to 200°C (180°C fan), gas 6. Put the dish(es) on a baking tray and bake for 30 minutes. If the pies are fridge-cold, bake for an extra 5 minutes. The tops can be browned further under a hot grill – if you brush them with a little egg white they will brown nicely.

Note: To freeze, wrap the potato-topped pies well; thaw overnight in the fridge before baking.

From Annabel Karmel’s ‘The Baby and Toddler Food Diary’ DK