Thursday, February 17, 2005

In Search of the Perfect Pie

I'm a bit of a sad git when it comes to pies, specifically those of the steak and kidney variety. There's nothing much to beat a really good s&kp. But such things are very hard to find.

Here's my definition of what makes a good s&kp.
1) Pastry top and bottom. The top pastry can be puff, but savoury shortcrust is preferred. Anything served in an earthenware bowl with a puff pastry 'lid' is not a pie. The top pastry should be golden-brown, with a milk or egg glaze. Part of the appeal of a good pie is that the pastry absorbs the flavour of the filling - glazed ceramic pots tend not to do that.

2) The filling should be about 4 parts steak to 1 part kidney in a rich thick oniony gravy. The steak should be tender, and not have any fat or gristle in it. The pie should be not less than one inch deep, and not more than two.

I'm writing this because today my wife and I experienced the worst s&kp ever. We happened to be in Abu Dhabi, at a pub run by one of the world's leading hotel chains. We'd ordered the pie because of a flyer on the bar, that compared the search for the perfect pie to the Brit equivalent of the search for the Holy Grail. And it showed a picture of what looked like a pretty good example of an s&kp. We discovered later that the flyer referred to a promotion going on in another outlet in the hotel.

When our pies came we were first of all surprised that there were no potatoes or vegetables with it, only two chunks of bread that were toasted dark brown on one side, and not toasted at all on the other. No butter or anything. And OK, the menu didn't say anything about accompaniments, but the price suggested that there ought to be some. The 'pie' had been made in/on something like a side plate. The shallow recess of the plate contained a slim layer of filling. The filling itself was not too bad, but way too salty. The puff pastry top, though, was from another planet. The inch or so of it that was stuck to the rim of the plate was impossible to cut through. The central area was equally tough. The whole thing was extremely greasy - it was actually more like a paratha than anything else.

Unusually, for me, I didn't make a fuss. The staff didn't look like they'd be very interested. So we just paid and left, and more than likely will not be back.

So, I have say the best s&kp's are still those i make myself.