I´m not among those whose childhood winters were tainted with the scent of overdone cabbage – lucky me. In fact, my mum´s wonderful Spitzkohl, perfectly tender and al dente, has always been one of my favorite sides during the cold season. So this time of year, a pale head of cabbage is almost always residing in my fridge, patiently waiting to find its way into one weeknight meal or the other. Braised cabbage with a handful of lardons or sliced pancetta, then tossed with penne or rigatoni pasta is my fastest version, or whenever I don´t have a better idea. But when I have the time, I love making pies. They´re the perfect antidote to those chilly, rainy days we´re having right now, and whatever you put in, the flavors will almost inevitably melt together quite beautifully. If you prepare the pastry in advance – or simply buy it – , its not even that time consuming, and I simply love the decoration part of it all, cutting a few leaves or carving little patterns with a fork or knife.
Of many pies I´ve made during the last weeks, this was one of the most welcomed.
Chicken & cabbage pie (serves 4-6)
500 g flour
250 g cold unsalted butter, cubed
1 tsp fine salt
half a small glass of cold water, 40-50 ml
alternatively, buy 2 packages of puff pastry
500 g cabbage (1/2 head)
50 g pancetta
500 g chicken thighs/breast
40 g pine nuts
1/2 bunch of parsley
a dash of curry powder, optional
100 ml cream
salt, pepper, a dash of piment d´Espelette or mild chili
butter and olive oil for frying
1 egg for glazing
baking: approx. 60 min at 180°C/350 °F
For the pastry, combine all ingredients until you have a firm, elastic dough. Cover with cling film and refrigerate for 2 hour or over night.
For the filling, roast pine nuts without adding extra fat in a large non stick pan until golden. Set aside.
Cut cabbage into quarters and remove the strunk. Slice 2 quarters into about finger-sized stripes. Slice pancetta.
In the same pan, heat 1 tbsp olive oil and 1 tbsp butter over medium heat, and fry pancetta until most of the fat is rendered. Add cabbage, season with salt, toss and cook for 3-5 minutes, covered – until softened, but still underdone. Set aside.
Cut chicken breasts into cubes and/or cut meat from the thighs, depending what meat you prefer. Adding a little more olive oil to the pan if needed, cook meat over high heat for 2 minutes, until somewhat browned, but not cooked through. Season with salt, pepper, piment d´Espelette or chili.
Return cabbage and pine nuts to the pan and mix with the meat.
In a small bowl, whisk an egg with cream and a good pinch of salt and curry (if using).
Roll out the pastry – you can divide it in two, so it´s easier to roll out. Cut out 2 circles, and one or two large stripes to fit the base, cover and sides of the baking dish, allowing for a 2 cm overhang on the sides. Cut a small hole from one of the circles destined to become the cover of the pie (so the steam can get out and the pie won´t puff up).
Grease a baking dish ( 22.5 cm/9 inch), and line with the pastry. Brush the edges with a little cold water to “glue” the pastry edges firmly together. Add filling, press in with a fork. Pour the egg & cream mixture. Cover with the second pastry circle, sealing the edges closely.
Decorate to your liking. Brush with egg wash. Bake for about one hour in a preheated oven.