The reason this Country Cottage Pie is exceptionally tasty is because of the flavoured stock we make through poaching the chicken.
There are all kinds of stocks - fish, meat, vegetable and poultry. Meat stock is made by roasting off bones, such as veal or beef, with vegetables and herbs to obtain caramelisation for flavour and colour. The bones are then simmered in water for a period of time to extract the juices and form a stock. For fish, vegetable and chicken stock we simply simmer the bones or vegetables with appropriate flavours, strain and clarify the liquid. The resulting liquids are intense and flavoursome. I like to have them on hand in my store cupboard or freezer when ever I need some good flavour to add to casseroles, risottos, soups and sauces. Vegetables and herbs such as onion, carrot, mushroom peelings, thyme, bay leaf, parsley, peppercorns and leek are useful companions to simmer with the bones in your stock pot.
As you will see our recipe employs a very quick method of making stock as we poach the chicken with onion, bay leaf and water for a stock which is incorporated into a white sauce that makes the pie so creamy. The sauce is thickened with a roux - more about that later with my tips. I think you will find this a delicious standard sauce with many helpful uses. I often add some freshly chopped herbs and spoon it over cauliflower, broccoli or carrots. It makes a moorish base for cream style soups.