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Champagne chicken vol-au-vents

You'll need

2 sheets of puff pastry (375gm each), chilled for 2 hrs and rolled to 4mm thick 1 egg, lightly whisked 2 tbsp double cream 2 tbsp thinly sliced tarragon leaves 1 lemon, finely grated rind and juice only To serve: celery cress   Champagne chicken 250 ml Champagne or sparkling white wine ½ small leek (40gm), white part only, thinly sliced 2 tarragon sprigs 1 small chicken breast (about 250gm), tenderloin removed for another use


  • 01
  • Preheat oven to 200C. Cut forty-eight 4cm-diameter rounds from puff pastry, then using a 3cm-diameter pastry cutter, press two-thirds of the way through each round, leaving a 1cm border. Place rounds on baking paper-lined oven trays. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour, then brush rounds with eggwash and bake until lightly golden and puffed (7-10 minutes). Remove from oven and detach and discard centre piece of pastry with a small sharp knife, leaving base intact. Bake bases until golden and pastry is cooked through (3-5 minutes). Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
  • 02
  • Meanwhile for Champagne chicken, combine Champagne, leek, lemon rind, tarragon and 125ml water in a saucepan small enough to fit chicken snugly. Bring to the boil over medium heat, add chicken, return to the boil, cover, remove from heat and cool completely. Remove chicken, finely shred with fingers and refrigerate until needed. Strain liquid into a clean saucepan, bring to the boil over medium heat and cook until reduced to 50ml (15-20 minutes). Cool completely.
  • 03
  • Combine chicken, reduced cooking liquor, cream, tarragon and lemon rind in a bowl. Season to taste with lemon juice, sea salt and freshly ground white pepper, then divide among pastry cases. Place in oven and bake until warmed through (1-2 minutes). Scatter with cress and serve immediately.

Just as sartorial trends define an era, so too do food trends. So while guests at a cocktail party in the 60s and 70s would’ve been decked out in safari suits (men), maxi dresses (women) or tight flares and body shirts (both), it’s likely they’d have been sipping Moselle and snacking on vol-au-vents. And perhaps pineapple and cheese skewers, but there’s really no need to go there.

Despite a recent revival, the provenance of vol-au-vents goes way back. Literally translating as ‘flying in the wind’, the term was first recorded in print from 1800 and Carême, the inventor of puff pastry, is credited with their creation. Vol-au-vents were constructed from two circular layers of puff pastry, and the centre of the top piece removed to form a ring. The removed centre was baked separately to form a lid. Traditionally served as an entrée, the favoured fillings of the time were always bound with a velouté sauce. The bite-sized version was known as a bouchée, or mouthful. Vol-au-vents, however, have come into the modern vernacular as a catch-all term.

To bring vol-au-vents into the millennium,we eschew the gluggy fillings of the past – canned asparagus anyone? – and embrace a lighter style. Think Champagne-poached chicken spiked with lemon rind and tarragon, as we’ve done here. Prawns treated in a similar way would also work beautifully. Or try blanched fresh asparagus, refreshed and lightly dressed in vinaigrette.

Flares and maxi dresses have re-appeared on the fashion radar, so it’s high time vol-au-vents made a comeback, too. What better party piece than light-as-air puff pastry cradling a flavoursome filling?

At A Glance

  • Serves 48 people
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At A Glance

  • Serves 48 people

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