As I write this introduction, I can’t help but giggle at my mum’s comments about this recipe. When I handed a pie to her, on a blustery autumn day, she dug in and without so much as a thank you said, in her Northern accent,‘oh love, there’s a lot of leek in here’. But that’s the point: lots of leeks, because I love them – especially when they are sweetly caramelised and mixed with the dry cider.

Helen Cathcart

Ingredients - serves 4-6 

  • 500g chicken thigh fillets 
  • 400g leeks (about 4) 
  • 400ml dry cider 
  • 100g full-fat crème fraîche
  • 320g packet ready-rolled puff pastry 

The essentials

  • Olive oil, for frying 
  • Sea salt flakes 
  • Coarse black pepper 
  • 50g unsalted butter 


Chop the chicken into 2cm nuggets. Wash and trim the leeks (if not already prepared) and slice into thin discs.

Heat a fairly large saucepan over a high heat and add a glug of oil. Once the oil is hot, add the chicken pieces with a pinch of salt and pepper and fry until all sides are more or less seared. Remove from the pan and put into a bowl, setting aside until needed.

Put the leeks into the same pan with the butter and another pinch of salt and pepper, and reduce the heat to low. Allow the leeks to
very slowly caramelise, stirring occasionally – this will take a good 20 minutes or so. Once the leeks have cooked down, return the chicken to the pan and pour over the cider. Increase the heat to bring the contents of the pan to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and cook, uncovered, for 45 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and allow to cool.

Preheat the oven to 200°C/180°C fan/gas mark 6.

Once the filling has cooled slightly, add the crème fraîche and more salt and pepper to taste, and stir until well mixed. Divide the mixture between 4–6 ovenproof mugs.

For the pastry top, unwrap the pastry and cut out discs that are just a little bigger than the mugs, and place them over the filling, tucking the excess pastry around the inside edge of the mug. Bake the pies for 30-35 minutes, until the pastry is golden brown and puffed up.