I feel a little pretentious today with the title of this post. But pithivier is just the french word for a round pie with a filling in the middle – but I am going to stick to the title as it lifts the ordinary to something a bit more special. Winter is upon us in South Africa and it is time for pies, stews and soups and I thought why not combine two of my favourite dishes: pie and soup!
I love pies, especially a good one made with a lovely rich buttery puff pastry, nothing is more comforting and homely than a good pie. Soup just remind me so much of home and my dad, he used to make the most amazing soups from fresh veggies from the garden and I still love soup very much. This recipe is a marriage, and I hope for many of you as for me, a very happy one. If you don’t have the time or inclination to make your own pastry, then buy a good quality one, it will be worthwhile for this recipe. This recipe serves 6 people and as a starter not a main. The pies do require a lot of preparation and work, but it is so worthwhile spending time on it! If you cannot find duck legs, use chicken thighs instead or even pork.
For the soup:
- 250g Fresh Watercress
- 100ml Cream
- 400ml Chicken Stock (a light one not too strong)
- 20g Unsalted Butter
- 1 Shallot Chopped
- 1 Clove of Garlic Crushed
- Black Pepper & Salt to taste
For the Pies:
- 3 Duck Legs
- 5ml Smoked Paprika
- 5ml Cumin Powder
- 5ml Coriander Powder
- 15ml Wholegrain Dijon Mustard
- 5ml Salt
- 100ml Chicken Stock
- 250ml Mirepoix of onoin, carrot and celery – fine dice
- Fresh Thyme
- 400g Puff Pastry Sheet
- 1 Egg
- Some coarse salt flakes
Soup: Fry the shallots and garlic over low heat in the butter until soft. Then add all the other ingredients and simmer for 5 minutes. Transfer to a liquidiser and process to a smooth soup. If you want a smoother soup you can strain it or serve as is. Transfer back to pot to reheat just before serving the pithivier.
Duck: Take all the spices and salt for the duck and mix it with a little water until it forms a paste. Rub the spice mix into the duck legs and bake in a heavy pot with the 100ml of Chicken stock in the oven at 140°C for about 2 hours until the meat is soft and fall from the bone. Once the duck is cooked and cooled down a little, use two forks and pull the meat from the bones. The meat should actually fall of the bones. Use some of the duck fat in the pot and lightly fry your mirepoix mix in a pan, when soft add the pulled duck. Ensure the duck mix is fairly dry by cooking off unnecessary liquids, this will also intensify the flavours. Add the thyme now, remove from the heat and allow to cool down before you use it in the pithiviers.
Pie: While the duck is in the oven you can prepare your pastry. If you bought your puff pastry, thaw it, unroll it on a floured surface and lightly roll flat. If you made your own, you can take it out of the fridge now and roll it on a cold floured surface to a 5-7mm thickness. Use a 10cm cookie cutter with a scalloped edge to press out as many rounds as you would like or at least to serve your number of guests. Remember, each pie must have a top and a bottom, so you’ll need 12 rounds for 6 guests. Once the duck is cooled, you can start to assemble the pies. On 6 bottom rounds place a decent lump of the duck (do not spread it) in the middle leaving about a 1.5cm clean edge, brush the edge with some of the egg. Now place the other pastry round on top of the meat and press down around the edges ensuring that the two rounds seal properly. Take a 8-9cm cookie cutter and press a neat pithivier out. It has the appearance of a hump and is traditionally decorated with spiral lines drawn from the top outwards with the point of a knife. The edges are already scalloped by the cookie cutter. Brush with egg, sprinkle some flaky salt on the top and bake until golden and brown in the oven at 180°C for 25 minutes.
- Heat the soup and once hot ladle about 125ml of soup in the plate.
- Set a pithivier in the middle and serve immediately while still hot.
You can make bigger pithiviers to serve as a main course as well. Enjoy!