Sausagemeat and Chicken Pie

Sausagemeat and Chicken Pie
sausagemeat Christmas pie
Serves 6-8

1-2 tblsp olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
400-500g sausagemeat (US: 1lb)
grated zest of a lemon
90-100g fresh breadcrumbs (US: 3-4 ounces)
85-100g chopped dried apricots (US: 3-4 ounces)
50-75g canned or pacakaged chestnuts (US: 2-3 ounces)
100g fresh or frozen cranberries (US: 4 ounces)
1 tsp dried thyme
500g boneless skinless chicken breasts (US: 1lb), 
      OR 300g leftover turkey breast (US: 3/4 lb)

500g pack of ready-made shortcrust pastry (US: 1lb)
      OR home-made pastry using 350g flour
beaten egg to glaze

Note that you will need a deep round cake tin for this pie, with diameter 20-21cm (8 inches) and a removable base, ideally a spring-form tin.

If not using ready-made pastry, prepare your pastry and leave it to rest for at least fifteen minutes or so. 

Heat your oven to 190C (375F).

Fry the onion gently in a tablespoon of oil until soft. Cool slightly, then put the onion pieces into a bowl with the sausagemeat, lemon zest, breadcrumbs, apricots, chestnuts, cranberries and thyme. Mix it roughly, using a large spoon (or your hands). You can season with a little pepper and salt if you wish. 

If using raw chicken breast, cut each of them lengthwise into two or three then pieces. Heat the rest of the oil, and fry the chicken quickly, turning, for about five minutes until lightly browned on the outside.

Roll out about two-thirds of the pastry on a floured surface making a large circle, and use it to line the deep cake tin. You should not have to grease it unless it is old and likely to stick. 

Press about half of the sausagemeat mixture into the tin, and spread it out roughly so it's level. Then add the chicken or turkey pieces in a layer on top, and cover this with the rest of the sausagemeat. Press it down lightly.

Roll out the rest of the pastry to fit the top. Brush the edges with the beaten egg, and cover the pie with the pastry lid. Pinch the edges to seal. Brush the top of the pie liberally with the egg, then if you wish, roll out the trimmings to make patterns or shapes appropriate to the season or celebration. 

Bake for about  50-60 minutes, then leave in the tin for 15 mins before placing on a large plate and carefully removing the cake tin side. Cut carefully into wedges.

Delicious served hot with a variety of vegetables, and perhaps some baked potatoes, or cold with a large salad. 

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We were introduced to this kind of raised meat pie by a friend some years ago. She told me that it was based on a BBC recipe known as Christmas pie - and, indeed, the recipe above is still quite similar to the original, although we realised that the quantities of ingredients are quite flexible and can be adjusted to suit what you happen to have available.

We usually get too much sausagemeat at Christmas, and keep one 450g pack in the freezer for a suitable occasion; I also freeze some cranberries and chestnuts. If you don't happen to like chestnuts, apricots or cranberries, just leave them out and use rather more of ingredients you do like.

For the first few times I made this, I used packaged short-crust pastry, and it worked well. However, I decided to risk my own pastry when I made it recently; I used 3/4 white flour and 1/4 wholemeal flour, to make it a little more nutritious, and it worked extremely well. This photo shows how it looked before I rolled out the lid.

Do take note of the instruction to cool the pie in the tin for at least fifteen minutes. So allow yourself time for this - it's very important. I neglected it once, trying to serve the pie about five minutes after it came out of the oven, and the pastry sides sagged, making the whole thing collapse. It tasted all right but looked a terrible mess. The pastry really does need time to firm up - and if it's a bit longer than 15 minutes, that's fine.

Make sure, too, that when you pinch the edges of the lid, you don't make them stick out over the edge of the tin. This is a mistake I have made at least twice. You can probably see it in this photo of my most recent effort.

It looked good... but even with a springform tin at its widest, the side piece could not be lifted over the top of the pie without breaking it. In the end, we had to sit the base on a mug and slide the side downwards, then carefully move the cake on the base to a plate for serving.

We find that there is sufficient carbohydrate in the pastry and the breadcrumbs that we just serve a variety of vegetables with it to make a filling meal for about six to eight people; however if you have hungry teenagers, you might like to bake some potatoes to go with it.

This recipe is dairy-free so long as you use dairy-free spread in your pastry. 

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