Friday, 25 January 2013

Inspiration from childhood winters: Chicken and bechamel pot pie

Whilst travelling home on a very windy, cold and snowy evening last week, my thoughts inevitably turned to what I should cook for dinner. I was cold, wet, miserable and desperate for a glass of red, a few episodes of Lovejoy and something warming, comforting and tummy-fulfilling. Gazing out of the window on the train at the dark misery outside, I had a flashback to being in the same position on the way home from school in the winter, and if we needed any further proof that my stomach has always been number one in my mind, wondering what Mum (or Dad) was making for dinner.

One of my favourite ever comfort-food meals was Mum's chicken in white sauce with a baked potato. It's the fact you get creamy sauce, chicken and potato all in one meal - I reckon it's like regressing back to baby food but in a good way. So, here's my slightly updated take on it - gluten free, of course... 

Chicken and bechamel pot pie (serves 4 hungry people)

George wondered whether there were
enough potatoes.
I LOVE how Sainsbury's sell six filleted chicken thighs in a pack now - cheaper than chicken breast, loads more of it for your money and far juicier. Yum.

1. Saute 250g chopped pancetta, 2 chopped leeks, 2 chopped cloves of garlic, 3 diced carrots and a diced courgette in a big knob of butter on a medium heat. After 5 minutes add a packet (usually around 6 small or 4 large) filleted chicken thighs chopped into big chunks. Season generously. When the chicken is browned, add two big ladlefuls of frozen peas and a handful of chopped fresh parsley, and set aside.

2. In the meantime, make a large batch of bechamel sauce - I have discovered that using gram flour makes it lovely and thick, but rice flour makes it lighter, so if you're using gluten-free ingredients this really depends on what you fancy. I think I'd prefer rice flour for something like lasagne but because you want this to be nice and thick and wintery, gram flour is great. 

Bechamel sauce is dead easy - 50g butter melted in a pan, add 5 tablespoons (or a generous packet-shake) of flour and stir in for a minute on the heat. Take off the heat and gradually add a pint of milk, stirring all the time. Pop back on the heat and wait until it thickens, stirring occasionally - should take about 10 minutes. If you want it cheesy, add whatever cheese you fancy at the end and stir in. I love using a bit of cream cheese for some things but probably not for this recipe as you'd lose the chicken flavour. 

3. Slice up three big baking potatoes into thin (3mm or so) slices.

4. Mix the chicken and sauce together, pour into a casserole dish and layer the potatoes on top - mine made two layers but one is fine if you fancy less carbs. Season the potatoes and spread with a few dried herbs. 

5. Bake at 200 degrees for 40 minutes or until the potatoes are going brown and crispy on the top.

I served mine with some steamed mange tout just to give a bit of extra green-ness. It definitely 'filled a hole' as my Dad would say.

Not to be eaten if you want to be able to stand within half an hour of finishing.


  1. It sounds fabulous. When are they bringing in 'scratch and sniff' technology for blogs?

    1. Didn't they try it once with Smelly Vision in the 80s...?!