Lads, I’m a fraud. I haven’t eaten pie in over three months. I’m gonna take a break from blogging to go into therapy for pastry withdrawal; hopefully I’ll be seeing all of you in the not-too-distant future.
Easy as Pie
Since starting this blog, I’ve spent more time than ever thinking about that most glorious of pre-weekend dishes, the pie. I think about eating it, I think about admiring it, I think about it as a cornerstone of our sopiety.
Recently, I’ve been intrigued by the expression, “As easy as pie”. Where oh where, I wondered to myself, munching on a Sainsbury’s own mini pork pie, could that phrase have come from?
After all, there’s not a lot about pie I’d call easy. Not buying it, which requires money, and still less cooking it, which requires dealing with that notorious but necessary bastard, pastry. Hell, even blogging about it isn’t that easy – synonyms for filling is one of my Google alerts.
Curiosity piqued, I finished up my snack, brushed myself down, scattering crumbs and gelatin, and headed off to the library with a new sense of purpose.
It was there, surrounded by leatherbound books and ostrich feather quills, that I discovered the truth.
As it turns out, “easy as pie” at the time of its coinage had nothing whatsoever to do with my favourite dish and pet obsession. On the contrary, it is actually Cockney rhyming slang for “lying crying” – confusing indeed, as “mince pies” is already rhyming slang for “eyes”.
At its inception, “easy as pie” really meant as easy as it is to feign tears (or “lie cry”).
The more you know.
Pie Review: Lord of the Pies
This week, my Friday pie was furnished by Lord of the Pies in Macclesfield. The venue has the atmosphere of a hip cafe, with large windows and worn wooden tables, and the pun in the name is pretty good, so I had high hopes for my meal.
As you can see from the menu (click on the image to see a larger version), the creators of Lord of the Pies haven’t skimped on options. I was delighted by the creativity of the fillings – there really does seem to be something for everyone.
Personally, I couldn’t look past the Macc Pie (beef stew, Lyonnaise potatoes, and locally brewed ale). For only £4 it seemed too good to be true – and it was. Neither potatoes, nor vegetables, nor even gravy was included in the price, and my meal ended up costing about £8.50 – still not bad, but not nearly as good.
Filling: The filling was a little dry for my taste, needing a good amount of gravy on top to achieve the proper moistness. The ale, however, was delicious, and the beef was just tender enough – but, as I say, a little dry.
Crust: Fine. There was not a great deal to distinguish this pastry from a supermarket’s finest ready rolled. I did appreciate that each pie seemed to have a slightly different crust to complement its filling – for example, the Pulled Chicken Balti had some spices sprinkled on top.
Gravy: Having begrudgingly paid extra for gravy, I expected a Titanic gravy boat; I got a dinghy. I don’t think it’s overstating things to say I was scandalised, shaken to my very core, by the entire gravy situation.
Sides: The sides, too, were fairly dear. That said, I very much liked the different options of mash, and mushy peas with pie should be a global standard.
Atmosphere: As I said in my opening monologue, the joint had a pretty hip, youth-friendly atmosphere. This is refreshing in the world of pies, where a lot of the best venues are village pubs – often both less accessible and less welcoming.
Overall Expierience: 4/10
Whilst the choice of pie was excellent and I enjoyed the general atmosphere, the pie itself was only average, and in my book it is completely unacceptable to charge for gravy. Indeed, the supplement for gravy and sides turned a very reasonably priced pie into a rather costly meal.
I’d say it’s worth a visit if you’re in the Macclesfield area, but, because of the gravy travesty, I’m not rushing to go back.
(Disclaimer: I wrote this post a few months ago. The owners may have seen the light and stopped charging for gravy since then.)
Recipe: Chicken and Leek Pie
This is a fabulous recipe my mum used to make when my brothers and I were little. It’s pretty quick for how tasty it is, and the chicken means it’s lighter than your typical pie. You could even choose to just eat the filling, like a sort of creamy casserole, with mashed potato.
I had to guess at the recipe, because Mum described it to me as she put on her shoes and answered an email on her phone, so I’m pretty sure I did a lot of it wrong – but it turned out great, if I do say so. I made enough for my mum, dad and I to stuff ourselves, and we even had a whole other, slightly larger, pie to stick in the freezer.
Serves about 7 people.
250g of chicken thigh fillets (breast is fine, but drier);
1 tub of Philadelphia cream cheese or similar;
plenty of garlic;
1 little onion;
filo pastry (I bought mine ready-rolled);
1 beaten egg;
1 stock cube;
a little flour for thickening;
2 bay leaves;
some dry thyme;
and a bottle of white wine (you only need half the bottle – but the other half made the cooking process much more enjoyable).
- Boil the chicken for 20 minutes in plenty of water. Just after bringing the pot to the boil, add the bay leaves, stock cube, some pepper, and stir well.
- Meanwhile, chop your leeks, garlic and onions and put them in a huge frying pan on a low heat with the butter. Let them sweat until they’re almost soft.
- Liberally add wine to the leek/onion/butter pan and turn up the heat until the mixture is bubbling. Add peas, thyme, salt and pepper. Gradually add a little flour until the mixture is quite thick.
- Drain the chicken, retaining the water for stock. Running the hot chicken under the cold water tap so you don’t burn your fingers, shred the meat into whichever size of chunk you prefer in your pie.
- Mix the chicken into the filling mixture, then add the stock from the chicken pan and stir, heating all the while.
- Once the filling is well mixed, use a spatula to spoon the cream cheese in, and stir until smooth. Taste it – at this point it should be so good you wanna sit on the floor and share the whole pan with the dog.
- If you manage to resist that, ladle the delicious filling into a baking dish lined with filo pastry. Add a filo pastry lid and paint with egg. If, like me, you made loads, separate into several different pastry-lined dishes for easy freezing.
- Bake the pie for 20 minutes at 180 degrees, then cover with foil and bake for a further 10 minutes. Serve with your choice of roasted asparagus or kale.
Slice of the Action
Ever since pies shot to fame following their appearance on the 1961 episode of “Big Fat Quiz of the Year” (I didn’t know Jimmy Carr was that old either), other food items have been vying to get a slice of the action. Chefs across the globe knew that if they could get their signature dish on the plate with a Friday pie, they would be set for life – and so began the most hotly contested food pairing championship since the Bread Trials of ’36 (‘and butter’ won, with ‘garlic’, the concept of crustlessness, and ‘tiger’ not far behind).
Indeed, modern day pie eaters, so used to seeing their favourite dish accompanied by mash or chips, might not know that it was not always so. In those first, heady days when pie had just rocketed onto the Friday schedule, it was perfectly usual to see a pie paired with spaghetti or shoe leather – two combinations that would raise eyebrows today.
So how did mash and chips come to share the spotlight with pie? Well, not without considerable difficulty.
In order to determine which side dish was most worthy of sitting alongside the Friday pie, the Pionic Elders devised a complex system of tests, scored out of ten, for all the likely candidates. As these tests were carried out in secret, no member of the public has ever been privy to the selection process – until now.
The Council of Pionic Elders, as a part of the transparency requirements intended to alleviate the public’s concerns about corruption, has graciously allowed me to describe the process, in full, for the people of the Internet.
- Swede fritters
- Soft boiled eggs
- Lemon curd biscuits
- Candied raisins
These contenders were chosen based on a public vote facilitated by the newly founded polling organisation, PiePoll. It’s worth noting that the poll did not specify whether the pie in question was sweet or savoury, hence the somewhat jarring popularity of candidates three and four.
Mash and chips were very much the underdogs in the race, since both had just won high profile pairings, with sausage and fish respectively. Reports suggest that the bookies offered odds of 25:1 for mash and 18:1 for chips to win, and the suggestion that there would be a tie, as was indeed the case, was laughable.
Eggs were the favourites to win, as it was speculated that the soft yolks would mingle with the gravy very pleasingly.
Outside the Houses of Pieliament, an anxious crowd looked on, waiting for the Council’s verdict to be presented.
Round One: Durability.
Method: Prospective sides were flung at a brick wall from a distance of 10yds. Their structural integrity was then rated out of ten, with the highest score going to the candidate which most resembled its pre-flung form.
Rationale: Pionic Elders that if pie was to be widely consumed on a Friday, it risked getting caught up in TGI Friday revelry. Therefore any dish hoping to accompany the pie would need to be able to hold its own despite rough treatment.
- Swede fritters: 9/10. Those firm bastards barely batted an eye at being flung at a wall.
- Soft boiled eggs: 2/10. Carnage. Yolk everywhere, even over the Head Piester’s new robes.
- Lemon curd biscuits: 7/10. Lemon curd smeared; a few crumbs. Biscuits largely unscathed (possibly had been overbaked).
- Candied raisins: 0/10. Scattered.
- Mash: 3/10. Splattered.
- Chips: 4/10. Smushed.
Round Two: Healthiness.
Method: The Council members dined exclusively on one candidate for a week; the least poorly member was deemed to have consumed the most healthy option.
Rationale: The Council believed it had a duty of care to the general public, and were willing to sacrifice their own peak physical condition for the good of the nation.
- Swede fritters: 8/10. Although the Council member vomited at every meal from swede-induced disgust, she had a lovely rosy glow.
- Soft boiled eggs: 7/10. Protein-rich diet meant massive gains.
- Lemon curd biscuits: 1/10. No teeth.
- Candied raisins: -1/10. Dead.
- Mash: 0/10. Butter-based artery congestion.
- Chips: 0/10. Heart disease.
Round Three: Deliciousness.
Method: Council members partook in each contesting dish, rating the flavoursomeness out of ten. The dishes were sampled alongside a pie of the members’ choosing, in order to inject an element of authenticity into the precedings.
Rationale: Tastiness is next to goodliness.
Things were pretty dire for mash and chips, trailing Swede Fritters by thirteen (chips) and fourteen (mash) points. They needed a miracle – and luckily it came in the shape of an over-enthusiastic and very hungry Council member.
- Swede fritters: 0/10. Awful.
- Soft boiled eggs: 4/10. Nothing to write home about.
- Lemon curd biscuits: 3/10. Not to be eaten with pie.
- Candied raisins: 0/10. Clashed terribly with the gravy.
- Mash: 15/10. Fabulous!!!
- Chips: 14/10. Delicious!!! (After a stern glance from the Pionic Elder, the over-enthusiastic council member amended his scores from 58/10 and 34/10 to a more respectable 24 and 19).
And so it was decided – pie was married to chips and mash forever. Potato had triumphed!
The End of the Pie-atus
My friends, it’s been too long. Last time we met, things were said. Feelings were hurt. Dreams were crushed. In my heart of hearts I thought it was over. I thought I would never again have the strength to blog about anything, much less about that sweetest (or savouriest) of topics, pie. Here I am, my friends, eating humble pie, and apologising for my long absence.
It’s 2018 and we’re moving into a new age of pie-eating, pie-cooking, and pie-buying. New for this year, piedayfriday will feature a reviews section and a recipe section, to help readers with their quest for the best pie yet.
If anyone should stumble upon a fascinating recipe or outstanding pie joint, please feel free to submit it to us in return for a gentle nod and a friendly expression of gratitude. (Please note that both nods and thankses will be delivered in gif format.)
Here’s to a new year/new me new pie/new bloggery!
Lucy in the Pie with Diamonds
Pie Day Friday, at its inception, had a zero-tolerance drugs policy. If any Friende of Pye, as members were then called, were found in possession of alcohol, ketamine, or, God forbid, caffeine, they were dishonourably disbarred. Some chapters of the burgeoning pionic movement went so far as to submit those seeming too perky to pseudo-trials – indeed, although the Salem trials are widely believed to have targeted witchcraft, some suggest that they were provoked by a pieoneer caught red-handed with a Venti Mochaccino.
Nowadays, of course, things have changed. Pie Day Friday could hardly be Pie Day Friday without a pint and a hearty dose of ket! It’s true that coffee drinkers are still frowned-upon by pionic puritans, but at worst deviants are asked to read an extensive dossier on the evils of being alert.
Yes, we’re a far cry from the days when mere possession of a Starbucks loyalty card meant expulsion from the Order, and whilst no one wishes a regression to a fiercely punitive system, some Members of Pieliament have regretted a certain nostalgia for the old days. Whereas contemporary platipie aim mainly to bring in the weekend with a delicious meal and some numbing substances, our forefathers saw Pie Day Friday as a valuable opportunity to swap knowledge about dragons, agriculture, and other old-timey things.
These days we tend to text each other about advancements in the field of piestory, thus rendering obsolete one’s ability to cohesively debate pastry developments at Pie Day itself. Again, no one can argue that today’s means of communication aren’t effective; for the first time ever, pie crosses all borders. Despite this, it’s a shame that our Piological Philosophers, the so-called Others, be confined to a minority of pie-goers. Truly deep thinkers are hard to come by.
My dear friend and comrade in pieishness, Pearl Kalfseer, happens to study philosophy with a bias towards pieology. When I asked her what she thought about the so-called decline in pionic depth, she responded, “It’s not about how we change the pie. It’s about how the pie changes us.”
She was right: what does it matter that our dear, drug-addled Friends of Pie aren’t solving the mysteries of the universe. What matters, what’s always mattered, is that we have pie, and pie has us.
Poetry from the Cambrian hills
Our resident Celtic adviser, Graphite Forgetmenot (or Graffit Anghofiominot), was kind enough to compose this moving and thought-provoking piece of art:
Mae Rosie yn banana top,
Mae gan Rosie Danny gwallt mop,
Mae hin hoffi bwyta pei,
Ond dyd’i ddim yngwisgo tei,
Rhag ofn fod yna pry cop.
Graphite assures me that this poem is entirely complimentary. Loosely translated, it means,
Rosie is a tall banana,
Rosie Danny has a mop on her head,
Her hobby is eating pie,
She refrains from wearing cravats,
Fearing the invasion of a spider.
Truly beautiful stuff.
The Man in the Pie Castle
Literally half an hour ago, I was enjoying a chicken, bacon and mozzarella with a side of extra crispy onion rings in my local pie bar, just like every Friday.
However, I had noticed that whenever I settled down to a pie lately, Cat Fences (PDFD’s resident inflammatory pun artist and dystopian speculator) came to bother me with whatever crisis struck her as most important – anything from the university’s policy on tidiness to the non-ethically sourced flour that Neil, the guy who makes the pies at the Fox and Frog, had been sneaking past her Fairtrade Brigade.
For that reason, I had eschewed my regular booth in the centre of the bar, opting instead for a shadowy corner. Not content with half-measures, I had also donned a pair of dark glasses and a stylish floor length coat. Sure, I could hardly see what I was eating and the heavy coat was making me sweat, but at least I didn’t have to listen to Cat Fences rant about tidiness being “an affront to life’s essential chaos”.
I was halfway through my delicious pie (nicknamed the Cheesy Delight) when a gentlemen sporting a coat very similar to mine sat on the table next to me. No worries, I thought. Everyone has a right to a Friday Pie, even people who wear stylish floor length coats for non-espionage related reasons.
Yet this was no average Member of Pieliament. I couldn’t help but notice, as I poured more gravy over my chips, that he kept shooting me curious glances. I did my best to avoid eye contact, but after six tense minutes our eyes, behind their identical dark glasses, met. (Or, at least, I think they did.)
The man stood up, picked up his plate of steak and stilton with mash, and came and sat at my table.
Now I don’t know how it is in your native land, dear reader, but here in the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland one does not at another Pierate’s table sit. Only in completely desperate situations (weirdo at the bar won’t leave you alone, might miss out on having pie) would this be considered anything other than sheer lunacy – and yet here this man – this lunatic – was, sitting across from me, munching his green beans.
I was completely shocked, my pie-laden fork frozen halfway to my mouth. Twenty years of existence on this Earth had by no means prepared me for such brazen insanity – should I call the police? an ambulance? make a citizen’s arrest?
I was building up my courage to ask the gentleman what (on Earth he thought) he was doing, when he leaned across the table and said, “The pastry is blind-baked at midnight.”
Something in his fanatical sincerity rang a bell. With a sinking heart, I realised that this was no random maniac. This was Cat Fences herself, for some reason dressed as a Cold War spy. Despite myself, I was curious.
“Hello, Cat Fences,” I said, as cheerfully as I could manage. “Why are you dressed like a Cold War spy?”
Cat Fences whipped off her glasses, the better to glare at me. “What do you think you’re doing?? Be quiet.” She hissed. “I see from your getup that you got my message.”
I felt it would be unnecessarily cruel to contradict her. “Oh, yes,” I said.
“Good. This is a safe place. We can talk here.” Cat reached into her bag, pulled out a heavily annotated copy of Erika Gottlieb’s Dystopian Fiction East and West and placed it on the table between us. I looked at the book, then back at Cat.
“Did you take this from the library?”
“That’s not important.”
“Only, I was trying to read it the other week for my lit. essay and they said…”
“They said what they were trained to say! This is just like you, Rosamund M. Danny. A real problem comes up, something that will affect all of us, forever and change our lives irreversibly and all you care about is bulking up your essay’s bibliography.” Cat seemed genuinely vexed, so I apologised for my selfishness and asked her to explain what was going on.
“Think of it this way, Rosamund M. Danny,” explained Cat, “everything in the world happens because everything that came before it happened. Do you see what I mean?”
Cat rolled her eyes. “Here’s an example. Try to keep up. You came here for a pie because you were hungry and it’s Friday. But Pie Day Friday would mean nothing to you if you had never been born. Agreed?”
“Stands to reason.”
“I happen to know that your parents got together at their summer job in Butlins,” she continued. I blushed, regretting my transparency in my recent interview with Who’s Pie and Pie’s Who magazine. “And Butlins was founded by Sir William Heygate Edmund Colborne “Billy” Butlin. Billy Butlin was born in South Africa. So if it weren’t for British Colonialism you wouldn’t be here today. You see?”
“I’ve been thinking a lot about what’s happening and how fragile it is. We’re doing pretty well right now but if small things in the past changed – who could say where we’d be? What if Hannibal hadn’t crossed the Alps – would we still have Coca-cola? What if the Nazis had won World War Two – would zips be allowed? Everything we know depends on all those things that have already happened – Pie Day Friday included. Who knows how close we came to having Pie Day Thursday, or, even worse, no Pie Day at all?”
“Right,” I said.
“Not right, Rosamund M. Danny. Not right at all.” Cat leant across the table, eyes bright, slightly breathless. “How can it be right? How can you be fine with the fact that we might have come this close” (she held her fingers very close together) “to not having Pie Day Friday at all? How can you just sit there and accept that if a bullet had killed someone else or a telegram had gone astray, well, you might not even be allowed to eat that pie or run your so-called blog?”
“What do you want to do about it?” I was seriously concerned. Cat Fences was a fanatic, sure, but she generally chose causes within our sphere of existence. This was alarmingly metaphysical.
“I don’t know,” Cat admitted. “But we need to go to the very top. The government has a responsibility to protect us from the past. We need assurances that the past won’t change, not even a little bit, or the world as we know it could be destroyed.”
“…I don’t think the past will change, Cat.”
“You didn’t know anything about this until just now, Rosamund M. Danny, so I don’t appreciate your input. Of course the past changes – that’s why it was OK for me to like Rolf Harris until his past self changed from a lovable Aussie to a sexual deviant.”
“I’m going to draft a petition, Rosamund M. Danny, and I expect you to sign it. Otherwise I’ll change your past to make you a corrupt founder of Pie Day Friday,” Cat said. “Oh wait, you already did that by having no mandate to lead us.”
“…I didn’t -”
“You didn’t what? Allow free elections? I thought not. It’s a good thing I support your ideology, Rosamund M. Danny, or Pie Day Friday would be Toast.” I winced, remembering Cat’s brutal protesting of Toast Tuesdays. Cat Fences, apparently pleased that her threat had hit its mark, swept out of the pie bar, hastily shoving her dark glasses back on and turning the collar of her coat up.
Viva la Pievolución
Pie Day Friday, although officially non-partisan, has always been accused supporting filthy leftist causes, not least because of its popularity amongst filthy leftists.
Just last week, I was enjoying a spicy beef and red pepper in the local pie bar (a well-known hotbed of pievolutionary sentiment) when Cat Fences, Pie Day Friday’s resident pievolutionary and inflammatory pun artist, tossed a sheaf of fresh-from-the-oven pieproganda down next to my gravy boat.
Equal parts intrigued and hungry, I examined the hastily printed leaflets:
“What is the meaning of this?” I exclaimed, slamming my fist on the table and upsetting the gravy boat – a splodge of gravy fell onto the paper. I wasn’t really angry, but I learned long ago that Cat Fences responds extremely well to confrontation. “And why,” I added, affecting an air of intense disgust, “is it in Latin?”
“Everyone knows that Spanish is the most revolutionary language,” Cat Fences explained as I tucked into my pie, “and my school only offered Latin. It was the best I could do. And it means what it says. There’s a pievolution coming. The huddled masses will no longer stand for the monopopie in this country.”
Cat leant in closer, tried to steal a chip, and continued, “Did you know that only 1% of pierates control the entire Pie Day Friday movement?” She tapped the leaflets. “It’s time to seize the means of pieduction.”
I was still nonplussed. “What does Che Guevara have to do with this?”
“That’s not Che Guevara. That’s Neil – he makes the pies at the Fox and Frog.” Cat stood up – she never stayed in one place for very long, fearing that the university feds would catch up with her. “You have been warned, Rosamund M. Danny,” she said ominously. “You’ve had your finger in plenty of corrupt pies. It hasn’t gone unnoticed.”
I watched her leave, stack of flyers tucked under her arm. “Start in the Classics department,” I called just before the door slammed.