“Have I got a pie for you! Start the story by roasting the birds, giving extra flavour, texture, and smiles all round – it’s worth the wait. Add an aromatic herby hit, your low-and-slow veggie base, encase in beyond-delicious pastry, and you’re on to a winner. All the leftover bones from the birds will make a brilliant stock. ”
Place all the birds in a large roasting tray. Strip the thyme and half the rosemary leaves into a pestle and mortar, then bash up with the bay, juniper berries, a pinch of sea salt and ½ a tablespoon of black pepper.
Muddle in 6 tablespoons of oil, then rub all over the birds. Roast for 1 hour.
Meanwhile, peel and finely chop the onion, carrots and celery. Wash, trim and finely slice the white part of the leeks (save the green for making stock or soup) and the bacon. Peel the potatoes and cut into 2cm chunks.
Drizzle 1 tablespoon of oil into a large pan on a medium heat, add the bacon to render out the fat, then strip in the remaining rosemary. Once golden, add the onion, carrots, celery and leeks, then cook for 45 minutes on a medium-low heat, or until softened, stirring occasionally and adding the potatoes halfway through.
For the pastry, put the flour and a good pinch of salt into a bowl with the suet, cube and add the butter, then use your thumbs and forefingers to rub the fat into the flour until it resembles breadcrumbs.
Beat the eggs, then, reserving just enough to eggwash the pie, stir into the bowl with 180ml of ice-cold water. Use your hands to gently bring it together into a ball, but don’t overwork it. Wrap in clingfilm and chill in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.
When the time’s up, remove the birds from the oven. When cool enough to handle, pick all the meat, discarding the skin and bones. Sieve the tray juices into the stock.
Reduce the oven temperature to 170ºC/325ºF/gas 3.
Stir the flour into the veg for 1 minute, then pour in the cider and cook for 10 minutes, or until slightly reduced.
Shred the meat and stir into the veg pan, then add the stock. Season well, bring to the boil and simmer for 30 minutes, or until thickened.
Carefully drain the liquid through a coarse sieve into a pan, skimming away any fat from the surface. Leave to cool.
Grease the bottom of a pie dish (25cm x 30cm) with a little oil. Roll out two-thirds of the pastry on a clean flour-dusted surface to ½cm thick and use it to line the pie dish.
Stir 300ml of the strained gravy through the meat and spoon into the dish. Eggwash the edges.
Roll out the remaining pastry to ½cm thick and a little bigger than the pie dish, then carefully place on top of the pie, trimming off any overhang. Pinch the edges to seal and make two small incisions in the centre for the steam to escape. Use any spare pastry to decorate the pie, if you like.
Eggwash the top, then bake at the bottom of the oven for 1 hour, or until the pastry is golden and the pie is piping hot.
To serve, reheat the remaining gravy, skimming off any fat from the surface, and serve alongside the pie. Delicious with creamy mashed potato and seasonal mustardy dressed greens.