Creamy chicken and vegetable pot pies

I love creamy chicken pies, especially in winter, but that’s just it, they are creamy, which often equals butter, cream and cheese, which equates to a high fat content, which then means extra winter padding! I try to avoid unnecessary calories that can add up in some of our favourite winter meals, but flavour is crucially important to me so I experimented with this classic winter dish.

This recipe is a fantastic because you don’t need too much chicken and you can disguise as many vegetables as you like once you’ve conquered the simple base sauce. These little chicken pot pies look and taste so good and they will undoubtably warm through your chilled winter bones.

Base ingredients

1 large chicken breast or any cut of chicken (500 grams approx.), fat removed
1 large brown onion diced
2 stalks celery cut into small cubes
2 carrots cut into small cubes
1 medium sized potato cut into small cubes
2-heaped cups of mushrooms chopped roughly
3 cloves garlic chopped finely
1-2 sprigs rosemary and/or thyme finely chopped
1 cup frozen peas
2 very large handfuls fresh spinach leaves

Creamy sauce

5 tablespoons plain flour
2 cups warm chicken stock
1 ½ cups warm milk
Salt and pepper to taste

Topping

1-2 sheets reduced fat puff pastry cut into quarter squares
1 beaten egg

  •  Pre-heat your oven to 180c.
  •  Cut the chicken into small-medium bite-sized chunks.
  •  Add a dash of olive oil to a non-stick large fry pan and seal the chicken on a high heat for about 2-3 minutes or until very lightly browned. Set aside.
  •  On a medium heat in the same fry pan (you shouldn’t need additional oil), soften the onion, garlic, potato, mushrooms, celery, carrots, herbs, chopped mushrooms and add some salt and pepper. This should take 10 minutes or so.
  •  Once these ingredients have softened, add the flour and cook it through by stirring for 2 minutes.
  • Gradually add the warm chicken stock and milk, stirring constantly, and just bring to the boil so the sauce thickens.
  •  Reduce heat and simmer for 5 minutes. Stir in the peas, spinach and browned chicken and season well with salt and pepper if you need to. Simmer for another 2 minutes.
  •  Let the mixture cool slightly when it’s ready.
  •  Transfer the mixture evenly between 4-6 ovenproof ramekins so they are generously full and top with a 1/4 square of thawed puff pastry.
  •  Cut a small slit in the centre of the pastry to allow steam to escape, brush the tops with beaten egg wash and firmly seal the pastry around the edges of each ramekin. I like to top my pastry with a sprinkle of sesame seeds or fresh herbs.
  •  Bake in the oven for 40-50 minutes or until the tops are golden.

* To cut a few extra calories you could top the base ingredients with mashed sweet potato instead of puff pastry.

** Once you’ve mastered the simple creamy sauce you can add any ingredients you like. The key is to add as many vegetables to the base mix as you can. You could even make this dish vegetarian by using vegetable stock and substituting ingredients as required.

*** To make this dish gluten free, use a mashed vegetable topping and substitute the plain flour for rice flour.

**** These chicken pot pies can be made ahead of time and refrigerated or frozen. Reheat accordingly.

Chicken

Chicken is a great source of protein and amino acids that provide energy and assist in sustaining your health and wellbeing. Protein is a hugely vital element for the growth and repair and maintenance of your muscles, including your heart. It also helps maintain and build other structures in your body like bones and cells. Chicken breast is a great option as it contains less fat than other sources of protein or cuts of chicken. The problem with many protein-based dishes these days however, is that quantities are too large, whereas this dish is fantastic as it only uses one large chicken breast but easily serves 4-6 people.

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