Today, we are headed to South Africa for a traditional recipe called hoenderpastei.
What is hoenderpastei?
Hoenderpastei is a chicken-pot pie topped with a crust (often shortcrust pastry), and layered with a combination of ingredients that can include vegetables, hard-boiled egg and ham slices, that is baked until light brown and crispy in a medium hot oven.
Hoenderpastei is a Cape Dutch specialty that is reminiscent of an old Dutch recipe called kieken pastey (chicken pie), which was published in the cookbook “De verstandige kok” (The sensible cook) in 1669. The main difference between those two recipes is that the verjuice (juice from sour grapes also used in Persian khoresh bademjan) has been replaced by lemon juice in hoenderpastei.
This dish has also become a staple in the Cape Malay community and is often prepared for celebrations. However, the recipe was adapted to include sago, a starch extracted from palm tree stems.
History of pies
Pies have their roots in ancient Egypt and Greece. Indeed, the ancient Greeks ate pies called artocreas. Those pies were actually mostly savory and included meat in an open pastry shell similar to a tart. The Romans are probably the first who baked pies that included a top as well as a bottom crust, as validated by the recipe for placenta (flat cake) documented around 200 BCE.
Pies were very popular during the Middle Ages. They were called “coffins” or “coffyns” (which meant basket or box). Coffyns were still mostly savory meat pies. Sweet pies became more common during the Renaissance. Hoenderpastei is definitely a version of those coffyns or pasties.
Over the years, the purpose of the pastry shell has often been to serve as a baking dish, but also a storage container, or a serving dish. We already featured a number of such recipes on 196 flavors, including spanakopita, jiaozis, empanadas, Australian meat pie, or even one of the most traditional dishes from Morocco, pastilla, which can be made with pigeon or chicken.
I made this hoenderpastei as a weekday dinner for the family. For some reason, my kids love chicken pot pie. I never made it for them… but their mother, who is as good at cooking as I am at knitting, regularly buys chicken pot pie in the frozen section, when I am traveling for business! Needless to say my hoenderpastei was a hit. Hey, you can’t go wrong with anything filled or topped with a crusty dough!
- 3 lb chicken pieces (with bones)
- 3 hard-boiled eggs , sliced
- 4 tablespoons butter
- 4 tablespoons flour
- 1 teaspoon whole allspice
- 3 tablespoons sherry
- 1 teaspoon black peppercorns
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice
- 2 bay leaves
- 2 stalks celery , halved
- 2 carrots , peeled and halved
- 2 onions , quartered
- ½ teaspoon ground mace
- ½ teaspoon pepper
- 1 egg yolk , beaten
- A few sprigs of parsley
- 2 oz. ham , sliced (optional)
- Shortcrust pastry (14x10-inch / 35 x 25 cm rectangle)
- 1 egg , diluted in 1 tablespoon of water
- Place the chicken in a large pot and cover with water, allspice, peppercorns and bay leaves. Add salt to taste. Add the celery, carrots, onions, and the parsley sprigs.
- Simmer, covered, for 30 minutes, or until the vegetables are tender but still a little crisp. Take the vegetables and chicken out of the pot and set aside. Strain the broth into a bowl.
Preheat oven at 425 F (220 C).
Thinly dice the vegetables. Debone the chicken and coarsely cut the meat. In a 12x8 inch (30 x 20 cm) baking dish, alternate layers of chicken, vegetables, ham, and hard-boiled egg.
- In a saucepan on medium heat, melt the butter and stir in the flour, 2 cups of the strained chicken broth, sherry, lemon juice and mace. Simmer until the sauce thickens.
- Slowly add the egg yolk into the sauce, and stir for an additional minute. Pour the sauce over the chicken and vegetable mixture.
- Cover the pie with a layer of shortcrust pastry. Fold the pastry around the edges.
- Brush the pastry with the beaten egg and bake in the pre-heated oven for 25 minutes.