Pies as you may already know are part of the Nigerian culture. Similar to most cultures with a heritage of British colonialism. However, the transition of the classic British pot pies into the Nigerian culture has a distinct yet still similar result. Meat pies have a variety of fillings, including beef, fish and chicken. Making Nigerian chicken pies has some differences in comparison to the typical British meat pie.
- Runnier VS concentrated filling: The typical british way of cooking a meat pie is in a pot/pan (i.e. ramekins). The british pour the meat filling iinto a small pan already lined with the pastry. As you can imagine the british filling is basically a gravy with chunks of meat, potatoes and carrots. Which is delicious! However cooking the pies on a baking tray is the Nigerian way. The filling for the Nigerian meat pie is a thick, rich and creamy stuffing.
- Spicy & Favourful: A known fact about most Nigerians is our love for spicy food. Although the typycal british meat-pie is rich and delicious, it falls on the delicate side when it comes to flavour. Nigerian dishes tend to offer a richer flavour, thanks to the knowledge and wealth of seasonings.
- Hand pies or Turnover pies: As previously stated, Nigerian pies are not cooked in a pot/pan, but rather on a baking tray. The pies are made of rolled out pastries which are cut into shapes (typically a round shape). Each pastry is then stuufed with a thick meat filling. Of which one side is turned over to stick to the otherside. Hence, locking in the meat stuffed inside. As is fiting with the shape and size of the pie, we hold the pie in our hands to eat as a snack or a quick bite.
Unlike with most meat pies, this chicken pie stuffing is leaner. I used that classic Nigerian technique of flour and water mixture as a binder instead of heavy cream. Different pie can use similar techniques or different techniques, there are no rules. I always like to consider if there are any health requirements or dietary needs from my guests. This influences my decision on if I will be using chicken, shrimp, beef, pork or a mix as my stuffing. I also consider what pairs better, for example, shrimp or any seafood has a richer taste when cooked with heavy cream. Hence, why I used heavy cream in my Shrimp turnover pies. The only unspoken rule when making the stuffing is the use of carrots and potatoes. I can’t think of any other thing that tastes better than potato and carrots in a meat pie. There are other delicious options, but the balance in the sweetness that carrot brings and the starchiness of the potatoes are unmatched.
Why I used Margarine instead of butter for this recipe:
When baking, butter is usually the go-to option. However, there are times when the use of butter is not my first choice. An example would be when someone is lactose intolerant, so I opt for vegetable fat. The fat in my opinion that closely mimics the taste and molecular structure of butter (which influences the pastries texture) is margarine. I have shared details on this on my recipe for The best flakiest Nigerian Meat-Pie. That pastry recipe uses both butter and margarine for different reasons. You can substitute the recipes for both pastries as you see fit. Just be aware that the measurements are different.
Perfectly stuffed Nigerian chicken pies
For the Pastry:
- 4 cups flour
- 1 tsp salt
- 250 g margarine (chopped and refridgerated for at least 30 minutes or overnight)
- 1 cup cold water
For the chicken filling:
- 400 g minced chicken (or turkey)
- 1 ½ cup potatoes (chopped)
- 1 cup carrots (chopped)
- 1 red onion (chopped)
- ½ tsp thyme
- ½ tsp ginger powder
- ½ tsp garlic powder
- 1 tsp paprika powder
- ½ tsp chilli powder (optional)
- ½ tsp nutmeg (grated)
- 2 tsp salt
- 2 tbsp flour
- 3 tbsp warm water
- ¼ cup Vegetable oil
- 1 egg
- 2 tbsp water
Make the pastry:
- In a bowl, combine the flour, salt and already chopped margarine (it should be cold). Mix all together with your fingers until it looks like breadcrumbs).
- Make a well in the middle of the mixture and pour in the cold water. Mix until combined, then transfer to a clean surfaced. Sprinkle with a little flour and quickly knead until it forms a ball. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and keep it in the fridge whilst you prepare the stuffing.
Make the stuffing:
- Place a pan over medium-high heat and add the vegetable oil. Once hot, add the chopped red onions, stir and fry for 1-2 minutes. Then add the chopped carrots and chopped potatoes. Stir and fry for 2 minutes.
- Add the minced chicken with all the spices and seasonings (thyme, ginger powder, garlic powder, paprika powder, chilli powder, grated nutmeg and salt).
- Stir together, reduce heat to medium-low, cover with a lid and simmer for 5-7 minutes.
- In a small bowl mix the flour and warm water into a paste. Add to the chicken and stir all together. Remove from heat set aside to cool.
Form and bake the pies:
- Pre-heat oven to 200 degrees celsius. Line 1 or 2 oven trays with baking paper (depending on the size of your oven).
- Remove the chilled dough from the fridge and cut out a small chunk at a time.
- Using a rolling pin, roll out the chunk of dough on a lightly floured surface into a flat pastry.
- Using a large ring cookie cutter (or a medium-size soup bowl), cut out a round shape of the rolled out pastry.
- Take a scoop (about 1 1/2 tablespoon) of the cooked chicken stuffing and place it on the middle half of the pastry (leaving a little space on the edges).
- Turn the empty side of the pastry over to cover the chicken. Using a fork, press the edges from one end to the other to seal the pie. Place on the lined tray.
- Repeat the last 3 steps until all the dough is rolled, stuffed and the pies formed and on the tray.
- Crack an egg in a bowl and add 2 tablespoon of water, then whisk together to make an egg wash. Brush the egg wash over the top of each pie.
- Place the tray of pies into the preheated oven and bake for 15 to 20 minutes or until the pies are lightly browned on top