Saturday, 14 February 2015

Chicken Bhuna Curry Pie with Crushed Turmeric Tatties

A Chicken Curry Pie Raised to a Whole New Level

Chicken bhuna curry puff pastry pie with crushed turmeric tatties and chickpeas

A chicken curry pie in Scotland (see photo below) is normally just a variation on the traditional Scotch pie which sees the pie filled with a basic chicken curry rather than with minced lamb or beef and onions. While it is a perfectly enjoyable creation, it's not perhaps the most imaginative or visually appealing of foodstuffs. What I decided to do a couple of days ago therefore was play about with the general concept and see if I could raise it to new levels of scrumptiousness.

Conventional Scottish chicken curry pies

The first decision I made was to make the pie similar to a steak pie rather than simply a Scotch pie. This meant it would be made in an ashet (deep pie dish) and topped with puff pastry to serve more than one person, rather than made in to individual pies using hot water pastry. I then thought about what curry to prepare and decided on an Indian bhuna. The first proper curry I ever tasted was lamb bhuna and this probably remains my favourite to this day.

Skinless chicken thigh fillets

When I'm making soup with chicken, I prefer to use chicken thighs as I believe the meat offers the right texture for best results. It's exactly the same when I'm making pies. You could if you wish use breast meat but be aware the results may not be nearly so good.

Ingredients (Serves Two)

1 pound (450g) of skinless chicken thigh meat
1 medium white onion
1 large garlic clove
1 red bell pepper
1 medium strength green chilli pepper
8 ounce (220g) can of chopped tomatoes in tomato juice
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 teaspoon medium chilli powder
1 teaspoon medium curry powder
1/2 teaspoon garam masala
Salt and pepper
1/2 pint (270ml) fresh chicken stock
Small bunch of coriander (cilantro), equating to about three tablespoons when chopped
1/2 pound (220g) puff pastry
Flour for dusting pastry rolling surface
1 small beaten egg for glazing pastry
8 to 10 baby potatoes, or as desired
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
1 ounce (25g) butter
1 small (8 ounce/220g) can of chickpeas in water

Chicken thigh fillets roughly diced


The first job is to get all your ingredients ready for making the chicken bhuna. That is because things will be happening pretty quickly once you start cooking and you won't have time to be chopping as you work.

When I'm going to be using chicken thigh fillets, I usually buy the thighs whole and skin/fillet them myself. That is simply because already filleted thighs can be up to twice the price! On this occasion though, the thigh fillets were on special offer so all I had to do was chop them in to roughly one inch pieces.

Bhuna sauce vegetable ingredients

The can of tomatoes of course simply has to be opened, while the onion and garlic should be peeled and finely sliced.

Sliced onion and garlic

I didn't seed the chilli pepper as I was aware it wasn't especially strong. If you do have strong chillies, however, you may well want to remove the seeds and their membrane before you slice it. The seeds were of course removed from the red bell pepper before it was sliced in to strips.

Sliced bell pepper and chilli pepper

Pour the vegetable oil in to a large pot. Add the spices only at first and put the pot on to a low heat. Stir fry the spices gently for a minute or so just to cook them through and release their full flavours. Be very careful not to burn them or they will turn bitter and waste the entire dish.

Bhuna spices

The onion and garlic should go in to the pot next to be stirred around for about a minute until the onion is just softening.

Onion and garlic added to bhuna spiced oil

Put the chicken in the pot and turn up the heat slightly to brown and seal all the pieces of the chicken. This will take two or three minutes of constant stirring with a wooden spoon.

Chicken thigh meat added to spiced onions

The peppers can be added next and briefly stirred through the chicken mix.

Sliced peppers added to chicken and onions

Pour the canned tomatoes in to the pot, followed by the chicken stock. Turn up the heat until the liquid starts to simmer then reduce the heat to achieve a very gentle simmer (uncovered) for half an hour, stirring occasionally.

Chopped tomatoes added to spiced chicken and vegetables

When the chicken is cooked and the sauce has thickened beautifully, switch off the heat.

Chicken bhuna mix is brought to a simmer

Roughly chop around two-thirds of the coriander.

Fresh coriander

Put the coriander in to the pot and carefully stir it through. Taste and adjust the seasoning as required with salt and pepper.

Chopped coriander is added to chicken bhuna

At this stage, it is vital to leave the bhuna to cool before incorporating it in the pie. If you construct the pie using hot curry, the pastry will immediately become soggy before it can rise and crisp. You could simply cover it and set it aside for a couple of hours but in addition to this, I then refrigerated the bhuna overnight. This means you are not eating an incredibly late dinner and also that the flavours will have extra time to really infuse and become ultra delicious.

Chicken bhuna is ready to be cooled

Spoon the cooled chicken thigh bhuna in to the ashet (or similar). It should approximately three-quarters fill the dish.

Cooled chicken bhuna is added to pie dish (ashet)

The pastry should be removed from the fridge about twenty minutes in advance of being rolled. Also get your oven on to preheat to 210C/425F/Gas Mark 7.

Premade puff pastry

Roll out the pastry on a floured surface that it is slightly larger than the pie dish and will overhang all around when laid on top of the pie filling.

Rolled pastry is carefully laid on top of pie dish

Crimp the pastry all around the edges of the dish and trim. Glaze with beaten egg and cut a steam vent in the centre.

Pastry is trimmed and glazed

Sit the pie on a large roasting tray (to contain any potential spills) and put it in to the oven for thirty-five to forty minutes, until the pastry is risen and golden.

Potatoes are boiled in turmeric water

About ten minutes before the pie is ready, add the potatoes unpeeled to a large pot of cold water. Season the water with salt and the ground turmeric. Put on a high heat until the water starts to simmer and then reduce.

Cooked chicken bhuna curry pie is allowed to rest

When the pie comes out of the oven, I know: it won't look particularly attractive as the pastry will have shrunk. I believe, however, that this makes for better final presentation when it is plated. Leave the pie to rest for fifteen minutes before cutting in to it.

Canned chickpeas are washed under running cold water

Open the can of chickpeas, pour them in to a colander in your sink and rinse under cold running water.

Coriander is added to buttered and crushed turmeric tatties

When the potatoes are softened (twenty-five minutes in this instance but time will vary with different types of potatoes), drain them and return them to the pot. Add the butter and crush them gently (don't mash!) with the back of a fork. Chop the remaining coriander and keeping a little bit back to garnish, stir it through the potatoes with a teaspoon.

Pastry is carefully removed from chicken bhuna curry pie

Cut the pie pastry in half and lift it carefully to a holding plate with a large slotted spoon.

Chicken curry bhuna pie filling ready for plating

The same slotted spoon should be used to divide the chicken bhuna pie filling between two serving plates.

Chicken bhuna curry pie filling is plated

Lift half the pastry on top of each serving of chicken curry.

Pastry is laid on top of chicken bhuna curry pie filling

Arrange the crushed turmeric tatties and chickpeas on the plate.

Crushed turmeric tatties and chickpeas are plated with chicken bhuna curry pie

Garnish the tatties and chickpeas with the last of the coriander.

Tucking in to chicken bhuna curry pie and turmeric tatties

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