I may have made a breakthrough with pastry. Yesterday, I rubbed 40 g of butter into 80 g of flour. I added iced water just until -- and not beyond -- the stage at which it had reached the consistency of Play-Doh. Having read Giorgio Locatelli's instruction in Made in Italy to wrap pastry in a damp towel (and not wanting to use a towel), I sprinkled a little water on to the square of cling film that I had waiting on the table, spread it around, then wrapped up the pastry and refrigerated it. Rolling it out, half an hour later, was straightforward.
Before that, I had put a couple of ladlefuls of chicken stock into a small saucepan with a finely sliced onion and a whole garlic clove. Now I made a roux with enough butter to turn a heaped tbsp of flour into soggy sand (about 28 g of each). After cooking it for a minute, I poured in about 125 ml of milk in two doses, incorporating the first with the roux before adding the next. Then, rashly, I poured in all the stock and onion. The resulting sauce seemed too thin, so I let it bubble while I chopped a good handful of flat-leaf parsley, and cut the meat from the half of the chicken that we did not eat at the weekend into fork-sized chunks.
The sauce still seemed thin, but it would have to do; I added a little salt, quite a lot of pepper, a grating of nutmeg, and the parsley and chicken. Now the stew was just right; I realised that a bechamel of a good, pouring consistency was appropriate in this case. I tipped the stew into a 16 cm dish; it came about two thirds of the way up the sides. (I had meant to crush the garlic into the sauce, but did not get round to it; the clove never got eaten, but did contribute some flavour.)
I rolled the pastry, wet the rim of the pie dish, and laid the pastry on top. Of course, it sagged in the middle; that did not matter. I slashed the surface, to let steam escape, and put the pie into the centre of the oven at gas mark 5/190 C.
Is my oven starting to play up? Nigella Lawson's chicken pie recipe in How To Eat (the book is not traceable on her publisher's website, for some reason) suggests a cooking time of 30 to 45 minutes, but cautions that you may need to cover the dish with foil if the pastry browns too quickly. After 45 minutes, my pastry was still moist. This follows my problem with an undercooked roast at the weekend; but yesterday, worried about my oven temperature, I put a thermometer next to the pie. It read 200 C; so I am no wiser.
I turned up the heat to gas mark 8/230 C. Ten minutes later, the pie was nicely browned.
It was good. The glutenous sauce put it in the category of comfort food rather than of haute cuisine; but, on a wet weekday night in autumn, that is what you want.