The Pie Book

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The Pie Book
By Caroline Bretherton
Dorling Kindersley Limited – £16.99

‘’It’s time that pies and tarts had their moment in the sun. For too long these versatile dishes have been neglected, thought by many to be old-fashioned and heavy. However, there are as many different types of pies and tarts as you have the imagination to create, from heart-warming winter dishes such as suet-crusted Steak and Kidney Pie to the delicate, multi-layered puff pastry confections that are Summer Fruit Millefeuilles.’’

So writes Caroline Bretherton, the lady responsible for The Pie Book, a deliciously fantastic gastronomic volume if ever there was one!

It is indeed true what she writes: when most people think of pies, they normally conjure up an image of a soggy pie and chips from a roadside stand or something your granny used to make several decades ago. But if you just tried one of these superb recipes, I guarantee it would feature most regularly in both your tummy and in your household.

To be sure, this household has now tried several of these recipes, and our absolute favourite has to be the Chicken and Sweet Corn Pie (page 83), for which we substituted the recommended puff pastry lid with a very naughty albeit uber tasty suet crust pastry lid. And I have to confess, it scored a colossal one hundred and eighty on the taste-o-meter. Admittedly, in so doing, we were reminded that a few calories would invariably evolve unto assorted forget-me-nots.

But hey, ‘tis perhaps necessary to indulge every once in a while.

That said, some of the pies included in this book really aren’t of the solid mass one might imagine. There are delicious filo parcels such as ‘Spicy Butternut Squash and Feta parcels’ (page 191) or exceedingly satisfying ‘Spanish Chicken Pie’ (page 91), the latter of which simply oozes with smoked paprika and rosemary.

Layout wise, at the head of every page, there’s a brief description of the recipe to follow – along with suggestions as to either a vegetable, salad or potato dish to accompany it – which comes with both a simple, quick preparation and cooking time(s). What I found of particular interest was the rather compact section, ‘In Praise of Pastry.’ A step-by-step guide perhaps aimed at primarily novice chefs, which addresses not only the making of various types of pastry (such as puff-pastry, short-crust, suet-crust etc), but also how to assemble a pie replete with a professional, decorative finish.

Let it be said: it’s easier than you think!

With the obligatory ‘sweet’ section towards the back of the book, I have to confess that an entire new pie world does beckon. Okay, some are a bit more involved than others, utilising ingredients that are not generally found in the average persons larder; but none-the-less, many are moth-wateringly ambrosial: ‘Cardaman Custard Tartlets,’ ‘Double Chocolate Raspberry Tart’ and ‘Chocolate Walnut Truffle Tart’ to name but three.

Suffice to say, we like cooking in this household and we really like The Pie Book. Not only is it crammed with oodles of fantabulous ideas, it really is beautifully presented; which in this day and age of fly-by-night, cookbook saturation, makes for a more than welcoming change.

David Marx

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