Tuesday, 8 April 2014

Campaign for Real Pies

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.


David, Little Omenden Farm and Nursery said...

Best pie I've had hereabouts was at the Black Lion at Lynsted: a memorable slice of pie, followed by some epic Goachers.

Cooking Lager said...

you think a chef made it?

it's all from bookers, whatever you get.

Pub catering is scary. Have a walk around a cash & carry. Look in the freezer. All manner of stuff you wouldn't touch with a barge pole if you were shopping for yourself, missus and kids. Ingredients lists no one would get away with if the person eating it got to read it.

the only safe thing to eat in a pub is peanuts.

Paul Bailey said...

Thanks for the tip off David, although I'm not sure where Lynsted is exactly.

I had a fantastic pie, a couple of Saturdays ago, at the Fountain in Cowden, as described in my previous post about he High Weald.

Cookie, I used to be a regular visitor to the cash & carry, back in the day when I had my own business. I'm under no illusions about pub grub, but not all of it comes delivered pre-prepared, or out of a packet.

You really need to drop your cynicism occasionally!

David, Little Omenden Farm and Nursery said...

Lynsted-a bit out of your way, and mine, though work sometime takes me near. In the North Downs, between Lenham and Sittingbourne. Incidentally, the butchers' in Doddington, nearer Lenham , does excellent pork pies.

Paul Bailey said...

Thanks for the info, David. It's very rare that I get over to that part of Kent; in fact it's probably 30 years or more since I last visited Doddington! A nice little village from what I remember, and a nice pub too, even if it is a Shep's house.