We are often reminded not to judge a book by its cover. But following that maxim proved to be a challenging proposition when presented with a first sighting of the ‘Men’s Pie Manual’. For starters, it features a photograph of a wholesome looking meaty pie, sat in front of an equally tempting pint of dark brown ale, styled in a manner that might well suit a 1970s action movie (with a pie as its star). Secondly, it’s published by Haynes, the company made famous for its car manuals, giving it a utilitarian appearance and sturdy construction perfect for our messy kitchen habits (if these books can cope with oily mechanic’s digits leafing through them then they’ll certainly cope with our gravy stained fingers). And, finally, it’s called ‘MEN’S PIE MANUAL’. If this isn’t the perfect pie cooking book then I’ll eat my hat (topped off with a puff pastry crust, of course).
But to confirm our suspicions we thought it right that we took a copy of the book for a test drive…
As you would expect from a Haynes manual the book is extremely easy to follow, with each recipe plotting a logical course of chopping, rolling, and baking action using bite-sized chunks of information and plenty of instructive photography. Author Andrew Webb infuses the whole book with a good dollop of enthusiasm, a dash of wit and a friendly, unpatronising tone. And the choice of recipes is comprehensive, with everything from classic crusty meat pies, hearty fish pies and some proper puddings.
As I write, a beef and ale pie is gently cooking in the oven, a bottle of stout* has just been poured and I’m already planning my next pie making adventure**. Even without that magnificent cover, this could be the greatest pie cook book ever written.
Meet the author – five questions for Andrew Webb
1. The cover of your book features a very appetising image of a pie and a pint. What’s your favourite pie and beer combination?
Beer and pies are a classic combination loved my many a man (and woman), but my favourite would depend on my mood and time of day. So if it’s daytime, I think a pork pie with a lighter beer like Hop Back Brewery’s Summer Lightening. Whereas if it’s the evening, in the depths of winter, I might plump for hot steak and ale with a rich stout or porter like beer.
2. Beef and ale pie is one of our all time favourites. What type of beer works best as an ingredient?
As I say in the book, you need a strong, flavourful, dark beer to stand up to not only the beef, but also the long cooking process. Don’t use lager! My favourites are Meantime Chocolate Porter; Brew Dog’s Brixton Porter would work too; and then of course there’s Guinness, but that’s a bit pedestrian. The world of real ale and craft beer is constantly changing, my advice would be to find something you like and play around with that.
3. You also cook with cider. We’ve got a rather potent batch from a few years back which we’re too frightened to drink. What do you suggest we cook with it?
Well the obvious companion is pork, however rabbit also works well with cider (a similar white meat you see). Joint two rabbits and dust with flour, lightly seal in a pan and add chopped onion, smoked lardons, and some chorizo and cook until coloured. Then pour on the cider. Add thyme, season well and pop in the oven at 120 degs for 3 to 4 hours, until the rabbit just pops apart. That’d be a nice stew on its own. But you can remove the solids, strip the meat from the bones and reduce the stock down a bit to make great pie filling
4. This year we grew too many courgettes and are running out of things to do with them. Would they go well in any particular pies?
There’s a lot of water in courgettes, so they’d be liable to make the pie filling soggy I’m afraid. You’d be better roasting them hard with lots of salt and oil, or using a mandolin to slice into courgette spaghetti. Boil until tender and serve with chilli flakes, salt and pepper, and parmesan – very healthy. Then reward yourself the next day with a proper pie!
5. Can you recommend a few pubs where we can get a decent pie?
Try Pint Shop in Cambridge; Craft Beer Co. in Central London; or The Newman Arms, which has a dedicated pie room. Also quite a few London restaurants are offering large pies to share. 32 Great Queen Street in Holborn has Steak, mushroom and Guinness pie for two for £36.00 on the menu, while its sister restaurant The Anchor & Hope has Longhorn mince pie for two at £30.00. Now these are proper big pies!
The Haynes Men’s Pie Manual is available from www.haynes.co.uk priced £21.99.
*Dark Side, Bath Ales
**Gala Pie being the odds on favourite
Note: Haynes sent us a review copy. We liked the book so asked for an interview.