Delicious, authentic Pies and Tarts from Chef Stéphane Reynaud »
Bringing pies down from the sky
By Robyn Lewis
If rotund, pie-loving detective cum chef Henry Crabbe were gracing our TV screens today, he’d be tucking into Pies and Tarts from Stéphane Reynaud – much-loved French chef and author of Pork & Sons (winner of the 2005 Grand Prix de la Gastronomie Francaise), Terrines, Ripailles, Rotis and more – even though it doesn't have his favourite steak, kidney and anchovy recipe.
For this is a pie lovers’ delight, destined to become a baking Bible and record of regional French fare, whose traditions it hopefully will help preserve.
The son of a butcher, Reynaud apparently grew up eating all manner of meat, innards and scraps, long before ‘nose to tail’ was a food trend, let alone a philosophy. He is now Chef and owner of Restaurant Villa9trois in Montreuil-sous Bois, just outside Paris, which looking at TripAdvisor is very popular indeed.
Pies and Tarts arrived in Australia just in time for winter – perfect! What better excuse for a cooking lover to spend his or her time near a warm oven, during chilly weekends or long winter’s evenings?
Even those afraid of pastry have nothing to fear. If you don’t know your brik from your filo, your pâte brisée (shortcrust) from your feuilettée (flaky) or sablée (sweet), you soon will, and even more, the recipes are easier than you might think. All are well illustrated step-by-step, as is the entire construction of the pie.
And yes, you can cheat and use bought pastry, and although Reynaud might shudder to hear this, a lot of the fillings would go well in a pie-maker, too.
The recipes are divided into six sections: Vegetables and Mushrooms; Poultry and Rabbit; Meats (beef, ham, pork, veal, duck, wild boar, and offal); Fish and Crustaceans; Cheese; and lastly Fruit and Sweet Pies and Tarts.
Reynaud travelled the length and breadth of France to bring together the very best in regional pie variations, especially for his pork and other meat pies.
In Vegetables and Mushrooms we have Silverbeet (Swiss Chard) Pie from Nice, sparked up with some root ginger; a French version of spanakopita which is so easy even my ten-year-old could make it; plenty of pies for entrées (hot or cold) including pies with ceps, morels and chanterelles.
Poultry and Rabbit follow, with an easy Sunday Night Pie that you can make from left-over roast chicken and other end-pieces; Wild Duck Pie from Amiens; more cold duck plus rabbit pies hot or cold; Rabbit and Leek Pie, which interestingly uses sauvignon blanc, as does the Rabbit Pie with Basil, Poitevine-style. Australian farmers and those with access to rabbits will love this section!
Meat Pies start with Pâté en Croûte and a Three-Meat Pie, for those wanting a traditional cold entrée, and small bite-sizes pies from the Languedoc-Roussillon region, made from lamb, spices and a touch of Armagnac, which look like their answer to street food (as do the Nîmes Pies to follow).
There’s an Easter Pie from the Berry region, a Lorraine Pie (veal, beef and gewürztraminer), a Champenois Pie, a Muroise Pie from the Grenoble region in Isère, a Ham Pithivier from Reims..... the geographic tour of France’s culinary regions is wonderful, especially as all the pies are constructed and decorated so differently. Visually boring this book is not.
Sous vide fans will be able to slow cook some beef cheeks (or you can do them in a casserole), then put them in a loaf tin, cover with pastry – et voila! A hot or cold masterpiece; so much nicer than serving them with mashed potatoes.
But don’t think it’s all winter fare: the Friand also from Languedoc-Roussillon reeks of summer, with olives, sun-dried tomatoes, sausage meat and sheep’s cheese. There’s even a Cornish Pasty turned into a pie, for die-hard English pie fans, and a Koulibiac from Russia.
Most – but not all – the ingredients are available in Australia; you might have a little trouble finding some of the cheeses perhaps, although a few minutes on Google will locate substitutes for the likes of Mourbier, I’m sure.
Fish and Seafood Pies start with a squid pie, again from the Languedoc-Roussillon region, which would be fabulous for a summer lunch. Want a touch of Asia? Try the Smoked Salmon Spring Rolls, another easy recipe.
There’s Crotoy Pie made of cockles and mussels, and a decorated Eel and Fennel Pie, also from Picardie, so beautifully decorated it looks like it’s stepped out of a Roman Emperor’s banquet.
At the beginning of the book there’s a page on tins, trimmings and decorations – when you finish reading Pies and Tarts you’ll be scouring the internet or your local bakeware shop for cute little pastry shape cutters! (I can't help thinking Reynaud missed a marketing opportunity here).
Every pie is different in shape and design, reflecting regional variances and traditions.
The Rainbow Trout and Horseradish Pie will turn one smallish trout into lunch for six people (most of the recipes serves 6, although those for entrées can serve 8 or more), and I’m especially keen to try to Prawn and Apple Pie, which has a distinct Asian flavour, with lemongrass, coconut milk and tandoori spices.
Or instead of paying tourist prices in St Malo, you can enjoy a Seafood Feuilleté with your white wine aperitif at home, or for lunch by the sea. Have kids? They will love the Tuna Pie, which even contains the humble tomato sauce.
The Cheese Pies section might be more challenging for cooks living outside Europe, especially in Australia with our paucity of raw-milk cheeses, but even though we may not know exactly how the original is meant to taste, there are certainly plenty of sheep, goat and other substitutes you can try out. Easier are Camembert and Apple: Blue Cheese and Walnuts (or bacon, in another) – all sound delicious.
I can't help wondering how Szechuan pepper came to be part of a traditional recipe for Brebis Fingers from the Pays Basque region though, combined with black cherry jam – clearly the recipes are not so hidebound in tradition they aren’t innovative. Another for the children would be Mozzarella Pies.
So to dessert. Many of the Sweet Pies are made with ripe cherries (again, you could use frozen), apple and cinnamon, apricots, pears and other summery fruit, and for Americans there are Maple Syrup Pies and American Pies, made with apples and black cherry jam. The Sweet Pine Nut Pies have rather Tuscan overtones; for me the Gallette des Rois is the most delicious French-looking, and I can't wait to make it.
One of the best features of Pies and Tarts is a list on p 189 of the best kinds of pastries for each type of pie. So, if you have some frozen pastry handy, or you're proficient at making one type, you can work backwards, so to speak, and then decide what filling is best to put in your pie.
Alternatively, the index is also broken down by filling ingredient, so if you have a bounty of mushrooms, some chorizo, pumpkin, olives or game, all you have to do it look through pages 190-191 to see what sort of miraculous pie you can make with them (although for some strange reason it’s not in alphabetical order – note to publishers for the reprint, please).
If you’re thinking of opening a bakery or café, this book is a must-have, and for home cooks, as the media release says, ‘this is a perfect book for creating show-stopping favourites for family and friends’.
The gorgeous photos by Marie Pierre Morel are literally mouth-watering, the price is good, and it will certainly provide enjoyable browsing, baking and dreaming of gastronomic tours of France, even if you only end up making two or three of the recipes!
But I for one am going to brush up on my rather rusty pastry skills, and produce some more of the delights in Pies and Tarts – I just wish I could invite Henry Crabbe to share them; he would be swooning, I’m sure.
Pies and Tarts by Stéphane Reynaud is published in Australia by Murdoch Books (Sydney, NSW, June 2014; hc, 191 pp) and was first published in French in 2012 by Marabout, and in the UK in 2013. It retails in Australia for RRP A$49.99.
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