Tuesday, 17 March 2015

When is your pie not your pie?

Call for help from a friend asking me to come by and help her bake a beef and mushroom pie.  I’m passing shops on way so ask if she needs anything – “some beef?”   Hmmm.  

I’m in my work suit and this is a long detour but also an excuse for a natter on the way to an afternoon meeting.  I love cooking with friends so can’t resist.  When I arrive, we start to make a beef casserole sauce from scratch;  sweat some onions, brown the beef, add some flour and cook for one minute, stir in some red wine, balsamic vinegar and beef stock. Bung in some mushrooms at some point and la-di-da, we have a sauce on the go. 

Curious thing is during all this, I’m instructed not to touch anything, which is weird as we usually cook together and I’d thought this was a joint venture. She gives some excuse about my work suit smelling of onions, but I’m not convinced.    So, I’m dictating, with my hands behind my back, not allowed to touch and making a bit of a joke about it.  Friend keeps drifting off to text while I hop around the frying pan calling, “quick, it needs stirring, it needs stirring!”. 

It turns out the pie will not be eaten for hours and over two supper sittings; the first for her kids and the second sitting for her new gentleman friend.  He is coming over for supper for the first time (and confirming his appearance by text).  We split the pie filling into two dishes and discuss vegetables and chips or no chips (no to chips – carb overload!).   I advise serving the pie to gentleman in its dish on a wooden chopping board with a side dish of vegetables.  “Imagine you are in a gastro pub” I suggest, (like that would be a good thing) “– that’s how they’d do it and he can serve himself, otherwise you are dictating his portions and I just hate that for adults”   

We also discuss pastry and decide that just a puff pastry topping the pies will work. She’s only used short crust before and we agree that it can be topped now, but not cooked until just before ready to eat.  Job done, I head off to my meeting smelling of onions.  Hours later I receive panic phone call – the pastry has shrunk!  After some probing, it turns out she rolled out the puff pastry quite thinly (as we’d done previously with short crust).  Thankfully she had some more and is able to redo it and bung it back in the oven.  (Pies are quite forgiving).  She is fretting a lot over this pie and I realise now, why I was not allowed to touch; it’s so she can tell gentleman friend that it was all her work.  It dawns on me that this is how celebrity ghost writers must feel at publication time.   I asked what she would do if it turned out a disaster and she replied “oh, I’d just tell him that you’d come round and made it”.   

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