|A Proper Pie|
Part of the joy of pub-going, particularly at weekend lunchtimes, is the opportunity to enjoy a hearty pub meal. This treat is all the more enjoyable these days as I don’t frequent pubs as often as I did when I was younger. My local CAMRA branch tries to hold at least one weekend social and one mid-week social a month. The former take place during daylight hours, primarily because they are normally visits to hard to get to pubs in isolated rural spots, which would otherwise be impossible to get to during the evening. The latter, on the other hand, are normally held in one of the three
|Another Proper Pie|
main towns (Sevenoaks, Tonbridge & Tunbridge Wells) which make up our branch area, where public transport links run well into the evening, and pubs are much easier to get to.
As I said earlier, a pub meal is a welcome and enjoyable part of these weekend outings, and one of my favourite dishes is the humble pie. Steak, steak and kidney, steak in ale, chicken, chicken and ham; you name it and I’ll eat it. Recently however, I’ve started to call into question exactly what exactly constitutes a proper pie, as there is a growing tendency for pies to be debased, with dishes masquerading as pies when they are quite clearly something else.
|A Stew With a Hat|
To elaborate, order a pie in many pubs these days and like as not you will be presented with a stew in an earthenware dish, topped with a layer of soggy puff-pastry! A proper pie should be encased in pastry all round, with a good crusty top and bottom and a juicy filling. A casserole with a ludicrous puff pastry top is not a pie; it’s a stew with a hat! I’ve become so fed up with having one of these bastardised abominations plonked down in front of me that I now ask before ordering, and if it’s a stew with a hat, I’ll order something else. I would ask all true pie lovers to do the same, as only by getting our contempt for these “lazy chef pies” can we hope to consign them to the dustbin of history, which is where they belong!
Describing these stew with a hat offerings as “lazy chef pies” is not being flippant, it is a statement of fact. It takes far less skill to fill an earthenware dish with a pre-prepared meat stew, slap a layer of shop-bought puff-pastry on top, shove the thing in the freezer and then cook to order, than it does to construct a proper pastry pie with a base and sides, fill it with meat and gravy, before carefully affixing a pastry lid and crimping it all the way round to provide an adequate seal.
I can understand why many pubs have chosen the “lazy chef” way, but despite the convenience and ease of serving they are doing themselves and their customers a grave disservice, and are undermining a great British culinary tradition.
In the course of writing this post I did a little on-line research looking, somewhat tongue-in-cheek, for a “Campaign for Real Pies”. Well I found a Facebook page plus a website; both dedicated to proper, pastry-encased pies. Have a look for yourselves by clicking the links above, and if you agree with their sentiments, give them your support.