Cooking has an architecture of its own. There is the extravagant rococo of chocolate confections, the classical pillars supporting towering wedding cakes, the painstaking science of molecular cuisine, the soft curving shells of magically set egg white and, in my case, the crude shack construction that concerns itself with being waterproof and not falling down. There is a roughness to my efforts at carpentry and construction that is clearly, but safely, reflected in my kitchen craft. Text books on both disciplines are unequivocal in the need for accuracy in measurement and quantity. Such accuracy is not in my remit, as the uneven paving stones and serpentine walls in the garden together with the ragged edge of pastry around the lip of the pie below will confirm. However, my kitchen disasters are, for the most part, a matter of profanity and dish hurling whereas falling walls may have a more terminal outcome. Sticks and stones may break my bones, but curds will never hurt me.
Today’s enquiry into the properties of pie were concerned with circumference and volume. Having successfully made a set of six of Ottolenghi’s individual warm vegetable pies in a muffin tin, I yearned for a simpler way without losing the unforgettable flavour of his choice of spices and seasoning. One of the reasons that I eschew spending time watching television cooking programs, apart my parsimony with time as opposed to money, is the unbearable monotony of seeing the host’s flawless proficiency in each and every cooking skill. I yearn for burns, curses and even a few drops of chef’s blood due to a slip of the Sabatier….for fuck ups and collapsed whatevers…for a bit of that which happens to me. So, even though the solution of making a couple of larger pies rather than the six small ones may not seem ground breaking to you, dear reader, to me it was. Would there be enough pastry to line and put hats on the two oval dishes that I had chosen? Where should I start cutting to ensure I made the most of the rolled out paste? It should be simple but in the end I turned to profanity as my saviour, gave up and made one pie and one Palestinian Pasty.
One of the joys of cooking is that it needn’t be fatal unless you’re very careless or unless you intend it to be so, in which case it is called “poisoning” and always ends badly for all concerned. The same can be said of poorly proportioned concrete: a failed recipe that didn’t set resulting in the dam collapsing and lots of drowned people. The same cannot be said of pastry tailoring which is a relief to me and an object lesson to all of you who may be considering cyaniding Auntie Beryl or buying a dam from an innumerate.