The late Carl Sagan, renowned American astronomer, astrophysicist and cosmologist once said that “If you wish to make an apple pie from scratch, you must first invent the universe.” Well that’s a little too fundamental for a lazy cook like me, but with Stéphane Reynaud’s new book, “Pies and Tarts” (Murdoch Books), I have at last stepped away from the freezer and produced my own pâte feuilletée. Or puff pastry, as I like to call it.
Stéphane Reynaud is chef and owner of restaurant Villa 9 Trois, on the edge of Paris, and author of eight cookbooks including Pork and Sons which won the 2005 Grand Prix de la Gastronomie Française. He comes from a family of butchers and pig farmers so it’s no surprise that he demonstrates a fondness for meat, but in this latest cookbook he shares a collection of mouth-watering rustic pies and tarts that the most basic of cooks can pull off.
With the use of one of my favourite kitchen appliances, the food processor, even I can knock out a half way decent short pastry but the buttery flakiness of puff pastry has long been seen by me as the domain of far more accomplished and diligent cooks than myself. Stéphane’s clear instructions and step-by-step photography made it a simple matter to master the basics of puff pastry. I was quite pleased to find that it was much simpler than I had thought and my very first attempt left me glowing with pride (and expanded with calories).
After showing us the basics of pastry-making, the book is then divided into six sections covering vegetables and mushrooms, poultry and rabbit, meat, fish, cheese and sweet pies and also includes some regional variations on Reynaud’s favorites. Far from being fiddly, these are hearty, full-flavoured, rustic pies that can be made ahead of time, leaving the cook free to enjoy their own time at the table.
Lets face it, we all like pies and I’d be proud enough of these to put them in front of dinner guests – especially some of the richly indulgent en croute creations. But even these aren’t at all daunting. In fact, one of my favourites is one which features camembert, using the little round, wooden box it comes in, with the pastry as a lid! The final recipe instruction – to eat it with a spoon – particularly appeals.
As the winter temperatures drop in the southern hemisphere I can’t think of anything more perfect to serve for dinner than a golden, steaming-hot, home made pie and “Pies and Tarts” offers 80 of them – it’s a no-brainer!
Professional images from Pies and Tarts by Stephane Reynaud, Murdoch Books, rrp $49.99, photographed by Marie-Pierre Morel.
My copy of the cookbook “Pies and Tarts” was a complimentary review copy supplied by Murdoch Books.