December 13 2013 Latest news:
Tuesday, June 26, 2012
A blog by KoS reader and home chef Paul Ratcliffe
I only have to think about a pie now to feel a little saddened. This humble stalwart of our cuisine, so often overlooked for dishes of greater style or shunned in favour of foods with more exotic names, has done nothing wrong, simply continuing to do what pies do best: being, well, pies!
Granted, if we’re talking food fashion then a carefully constructed plate of ingredients masquerading as artwork – smears, droplets, blobs, micro-herbs et al - could be deemed more visually appealing and thoughtful than a large slice of pastry, meat and gravy, but is it as satisfying? Honestly? Sweet or savoury, the unique feeling of breaking through the crisp, golden lid to the filling below is so appetising, so appealing, that the pie should be named a champion rather than pilloried as the butt of fat jokes.
Having said all that, I hadn’t had a single slice for about six months – some campaigner I turn out to be! Not since it was decided, during the rosy, post-Christmas glow, that one way to use up turkey was to ‘pie it’– and a thing of beauty if was too, with the turkey plus sausage, chestnut stuffing and cranberry sauce all cocooned safely inside a crumbly, short crust casing – has the merest portion passed my lips, and I’m cross with myself because of it. It took a trip to a weekend farmers’ market to reopen my eyes, where a local lady had used simple ingredients yet managed to create a vast array of flavours.
Baked both small and large, the majority of her offerings had been cooked that morning, only just cooled, and ranging from traditional steak and kidney to tasty chicken, mustard and spring onion, meaty mixed game to interesting sounding - and vegetarian - broccoli and mixed bean. Snapping up one game and one chicken, a single bite was enough to remind me what I had been missing. Now I love stir fry, adore curry, am mesmerised by a good steak and couldn’t live without pasta, but these little pies were right up there, bringing a smile to my lips as well as my stomach.
It made me wonder why it had been so long, and I don’t know the answer to be completely honest. Making pastry can be time consuming, but it freezes well, or can, at a push, be bought. Fillings are no more complex and take no longer to cook than other dishes and baking is a relatively short affair too, so with this in mind and with my commitment reaffirmed, I will be making at least one pie a fortnight, if not more. I promise! And the first will be tonight, where pork fillet and (eating, not cooking) apple meet Kentish cider and wholegrain mustard, to be tucked forever beneath a golden blanket.
Whilst a good, crusty pie may be seen as more akin to autumn or winter months, I have a lot of time to make up for and will be trying to think of new and light fillings each and every time. Never again will I leave it so long; it’s good to see you old friend. Long live the pie!
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