6 April 2012

Turkey, chestnut & cider pie - surprised us all!

The flavour of the turkey used in this pie filling matched up perfectly with the thyme and cider, to create a beautiful sauce/gravy that was embellished by the addition of the cream.  The sweetness of many of the ingredients was tempered by the strength of flavour from the turkey leg meat, earthiness of the carrots and lightness of the celery.

Mistakenly, I left the chestnuts whole (should have halved or sliced them), which gave a bit too much chestnut per mouthful - but it was a simple job to just cut them in half as you went.  Using them to scoop up a dollop of that lovely gravy, they were just divine.

This pie certainly surprised hubby, in that the bit he was most dubious about (the cider gravy) was the bit he liked the most, whereas the bit he wasn't too bothered about (the meat), was the bit he liked the least!

For son & heir, he was surprised at liking it at all - and he ate every little bit of it, including the sliced mushrooms.

Pie filling, all ready to have its pastry lid - delicious!

For me, I knew I'd like it and indeed I wasn't wrong.  The surprise for me was at the poor quality of the Turkey leg meat that I'd bought.

I'd been sent a pack of Asda's turkey thigh meat, previously, which had appeared to be in a very dodgy condition once defrosted.  So, I'd gone out and replaced it with exactly the same (but with a better "use by" date!) - 600g of diced turkey thigh.

Now I don't use pre-diced meat like this ordinarily.  I'd rather buy a couple of turkey thighs and dice the meat up myself, so it is quite probable that every pack of pre-diced meat is the same, but I wouldn't have expected to have had to go over every little piece to remove the veins, gristle and fat.  I had to with this pack!  Some of the pieces of meat were gut-churning because of what they had attached to them.  Lord, if I'd have just thrown it into the pan and cooked it, only for it to have then arrived on hubby's plate, he'd have turned vegetarian there and then.

Aside from that, the quality of the meat when cooked was so random that I had pieces cooked perfectly adequately and were tender to the bite, but others were just like bits of india-rubber.  I am sure they would have required a minimum of an hour's cooking to have rendered them even near to being tender.  How can you cook a pie filling satisfactorily, if the meat doesn't cook through at the same rate?  Impossible.

As for the flavour of the meat - well that isn't in question, as it was really lovely.  Everybody was in agreement that the flavour of the filling was exceptional and the whole thing would have been perfect, if the meat had have been tender throughout.  Of course, the flavour was helped along by the lovely Essential Cuisine's Chicken Stock powder, which can't help but make a gravy delicious.

So I just don't know, really, what the answer is.  Apart from to recommend using turkey breast in the pie filling - which is reflected in the recipe below.  However, I can't help but feel that this is something of a copout, as a pie is a vehicle for a cheaper cut of meat - and turkey thigh is perfect.  However, not if the quality is going to be so random!

I'd definitely like to use turkey more often as it is high in protein but low in fat and will be investigating what turkey meat products are available through our local butcher, not just the supermarket.  However, for more turkey ideas - and information on turkey generally - why not go along to Lean on Turkey and have a bit of a browse.


Ingredients :

1 onion, diced
350g turkey breast meat, cubed
2 medium carrots, peeled & sliced fine
2 celery sticks, de-stringed & diced finely
125g chestnut mushrooms, cleaned & sliced
225g chestnuts, halved
300ml dry cider
150ml chicken stock (I used Essential Cuisine's stock powder, so added a little more than was necessary for 150ml, just to boost the flavour a little).
2 tbsp fresh thyme leaves
4 tbsp double cream
1 egg yolk
150g (approx) puff pastry.


1.  Pre-heat the oven to 200degC/400degF/gas 6.

2.  Heat the oil in a heavy bottomed saucepan and cook the onion until just soft but not coloured.

3.  Add the mushrooms and continue to cook, on a higher heat, for a few minutes.

4.  Add the turkey meat and continue to cook until it has all changed colour.

5.  Add the celery and carrots, chestnuts and thyme and mix well.  Season.

6.  Once the vegetables have all warmed through, add the cider and chicken stock.  Bring to the boil then reduce the heat and simmer for 15 minutes or until the gravy reaches a suitable consistency.

7.  Reduce the heat and add the cream.  Stir through, then leave to cool slightly.

8.  Decant into your pie dish and brush the outer edge of the dish with the egg yolk.

9.  Place the (rolled out) pastry on top and press the edges down onto the rim of the dish.  Trim off the excess pastry and press the tip of a knife all around the edge to finalise the seam.

10.  Cut a hole in the centre of the pie for the steam to escape, then give the whole pastry top an egg wash for a lovely shiny finish.

11.  Bake for some 15-25 minutes, or until the pastry is golden and the filling is discernibly hot and bubbling.

Serve with steamed vegetables of your choice.

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