Pies are not easy to make.
They usually take a long time to construct and often go wrong just at the last minute – more than one attempt has entered the oven with great promise only to split open.
The result is a sort of stew with bits of increasingly soggy bits of pastry swimming across a plate.
Even in pubs and restaurants they can prove hit and miss.
What you need, then, is a specialist guide to getting it right.
And Callum Franklin’s first book offers just that. The Pie Room, is a celebration of the polished Victorian Pie Room in the heart of High Holborn, central London.
From there, his team serve a sensational variety of largely pastry-based dishes, most with an appreciably British influence, from Smoked Eel, Potato & Parsley Quiche to a guide to Venison & Bone Marrow Suet Pie.
The book showcases examples of the pinnacle of pie-making, it also explains how they are made in clear steps packed with tips and techniques.
The recipes range from simple, like the sausage roll, to extravagant – there is a Beef Wellington recipe that advises three days’ prep time.
Whether simple or not, they have clearly all been tried and tested thoroughly in a home kitchen.
There aren’t many cookery books I have bought that make me want to try pretty much every recipe, and in time I expect to get through most.
Here’s a selection of the dishes I’ve cooked to date – almost all are on the more straightforward side of things.
I first cooked the fish pie. A couple of ingredients and methods stood out, and became something of a theme through the book – many call for what I previously would have considered a lot of fresh herbs, and the bechamel required was a lot thicker than I would usually make it.
Capers were an excellent addition to the dish, which was the best tasting fish pies I’ve ever made, and this is definitely the recipe I will reach for in future.
Beef Stilton & Onion Pie
This ended up as one of the tastiest beef pies I’ve ever had the pleasure of eating and was great fun cooking – there’s plenty of technique involved
The one issue I had is with the stock, you need to reduce 2 litres down significantly, and the shop-bought stuff I used already had salt added. Consider making your own or making sure the stock you buy has no salt to avoid an overly salty dish at the end.
The blurb for this dish suggests you get it ‘on the go’ mid Sunday morning, and the house will fill with the smell of roasted lamb.
A nice thought in principle, but in practice I had to start a day earlier as I’m perhaps not as quick an operator as Callum Franklin.
Sausage Rolls and Pork Pies
The sausage rolls weren’t difficult to make, but it was clear the recipe was made after a lot of experimentation – the result was a solid porky roll without me having to spend hours trying to find the right combination of flavours.
The hot pork pies are raved about, but for some reason the ones I made just didn’t land right. It is one to try again.
The Chicken and Tarragon pie, too, didn’t quite come out as I’d hoped – perhaps it was cooking it, and the pork pie, just after Christmas, when rich foods weren’t quite called for.
I do have faith in the recipes, though, and will try them again when I get the chance.
Aside from the dishes themselves, the imagery, print quality and writing are all excellent, making this a book you can pick up and flick through.
It also teaches many techniques – the best way to eggwash pies or lots of tips on making pastry, for example.
It is, therefore, an essential book for anyone who loves British food, in particular the humble pie.