Potato, leek & chicken mean spring and Irish to me, so if you are looking for something for dinner this Ostara season or any time really, this works in our house, especially when there is leftover mashed potatoes and cooked chicken in the kitchen.
Leeks are first mentioned in Egypt as a method of barter style payment and it is assumed they were cultivated there, even though leeks grow better in cooler climates. Apicus, who gets credit for writing the earliest cookbook we still have access to (from 3rd century Rome), raises the leek above onions and garlic. He writes that leeks are a vegetable in their own right, tasty enough to be served alone and not just used as flavouring in a dish. He also wrote that the best leeks came from Egypt which may explain why leeks are one of the foods it is said the Israelites regretted leaving behind when they fled Egypt.
Although no one really knows for sure where the original source was (Mesopotamia is also in the running) or how leeks moved around the world, wild leeks have for many centuries grown readily around the Irish Sea and are so beloved in Wales, they are one of their national emblems. To the north, leeks are a must in Cock-a-Leekie, considered Scotland’s national soup.
Leeks can be harvested anytime the stocks are over an inch wide and overwinter well in the ground. This allows them to be harvested in early spring, like asparagus, before other fresh vegetables are readily available.
This is a very forgiving recipe, so more leeks or less chicken (or the other way around) is not an issue.
3-4 potatoes or enough mashed potatoes to cover an 8 x 8 inch casserole dish
2 – 4 Tbsp. milk or stock
pinch of nutmeg
2 + 2 Tbsp. butter
1-2 leeks, washed split in two
2 cooked chicken breast or the equivalent in mixed or dark chicken meat (1 1/2 – 2 cups meat)
1 – 1 1/2 cups chicken stock
2 Tbsp. flour
salt and pepper to taste
With all the hand washing going on these days I almost hate to suggest starting there. May you have a wonderfully moisturizing lotion to help keep your skin nourished. Water can work wonderfully well when there is a need to release what I call the “nigglies”, those little bumps along the day that can build up inside and block the sunshine in life. Holding your hands under warm water and visualizing the irritants sliding off and disappearing down the drain can help shift your energy before starting a kitchen project. Deep breaths is another as is intentionally putting on an apron in a way that separates there from here. Close your eyes, come into the present moment and begin.
Wash, peel and cut the potatoes in quarters. Place in a small pot. Cover with water and rinse several times before placing the pot, with fresh water, on the stove over medium heat and bringing the water to a boil. Once boiling salt the water, turn the heat down and replace the lid. Cook covered until tender. A cooked potato quarter will fall off a fork or knife when poked and lifted. Drain off the water and return to the stove. Cover with the lid and shake from side to side or up and down. The potatoes will start to fall apart around the edges. ( If there happen to be leftover mashed potatoes in the house, that is always an option. Just skip this first step and bring the mashed potatoes to room temperature so they can be easily spread on top of the leeks and chicken.)
In a medium sauce pan, add two tablespoons butter (or oil) and gently saute the leeks until they are just beginning to get tender. Sprinkle 2 tablespoons of flour over the leeks and stir together. Add 1 cup chicken stock and bring the mixture to a simmer. Simmer until the liquid has thickened. Adjust the sauce if needed by adding a couple of additional tablespoons of stock.
Take the skin of the cooked chicken and cut into bite size pieces. Add to the pan and mix everything together. Taste, flavour with salt & pepper, and re taste until right for your family.
Mash the potatoes with 2 Tbsp. butter and 2 – 4 Tbsp. milk or stock and a pinch of nutmeg.
Transfer the chicken mixture to the greased baking container(s). I was making these for my step-mother, whose appetite is not large individual ramekins made sense. An 8 by 8 inch casserole will also work.
Cover with the mashed potatoes and bake until the top is nicely browned. If you are feeling creative, piping the mashed potatoes on top is also an option. Use a large tip, it will work better. Serve with your vegetable(s) of choice.Chicken Leek Shepherd’s Pie from My Kitchen Wand