in praise of pies

Savoury or sweet, short crust, flaky or puff everyone loves a pie. I have a memory of a favourite childhood pie from my friend the late Bessie Mortimer. Adelaide Hills cherry and Brussel sprouts growers Bess grew wild blackberries over the house shed. Bess’ blackberry pie made with lard pastry and gritty with a coarse sugar crusted top and a huge dollop of clotted cream…the thought of it still makes me salivate.

There are many forms of pies and theoretically a pastie is a type of pie. I am using the definition of filling encased in pastry…with one exception the classic French lidded pie. The lidded pie is such a showgirl and if you follow the rules so easy to make.

I still make all of my own pastry including puff pastry. For me there is joy in maintaining my skill, however, in South Australia we are blessed with the stunning Carême brand frozen puff pastry which is used by most restaurants and should be the home cooks first choice. It is available in most supermarkets. Many cities will have similar boutique pastry makers and should not be too hard to find.

I have stopped making traditional puff pastry in favour of Philip Searle’s rough puff which is a stunning recipe shared with me so many years ago. I still remember the first time I ate Philip’s puff….served with butter poached fruits it was exquisitely flaky and buttery and led me on a long, and often frustrating journey, before I came close to mastering Philip’s perfection.

AO 21 MAY 20

the easiest

The French lidded pie is a favourite because everything is done ‘in advance’ and the number you make are only governed by the size of your oven. Puff pastry is a must but what a show girl?  Once cooked 35-45 minutes @ 180°C they will hold hot for 10-15 minutes before serving provided you keep the oven door slightly ajar. We love the classic ‘Lion bowls’ that are still available from Pillivuyt but after many years we only have a couple left and most often use soufflé dishes. There has been the resurrection of old-style enamel pie dishes which are also great for lidded pies.

Watch the video which makes very clear how to make this style of pie… here


  • Pastry [all types] is best rolled and rested at least 30 minutes before assembling and is always better when rested in the fridge at least 30 minutes before cooking. Longer is better.
  • The pie filling must always be COLD.
  • With the exception of the lidded French style pie it is best if the fillings are not too wet. One also needs to remember that most sauces including béchamel become more liquid as they heat.
  • Foils are great for traditional pies with pastry tops and bottoms. Putting a few slits in them and cooking the pies standing on a rack really helps getting a crisp bottom. A traditional commercial pie often has a different pastry that is less likely to go soggy on the bottom and a different pastry lid.
  • We love silicon forms…no rusting can go in the dishwasher and better still last for years. Because most of our pastry recipes are butter or fat rich using a hole punch to punch some small holes in the bottom of your form that are solely used for pastry is an excellent idea.
  • Metal pie forms that are not enameled are precious, I have some belonging to my Great Grandmother that must be over 100 years old and some other forms made by my Grandfather Quinn. Making specialised forms for baking is a tradition that continues to this day in our family. It used to make me so angry when working in restaurants that no one took proper care of them. They require special washing and must be thoroughly dried before putting away. A 200°C oven is great and when they are cold again, I carefully wrap them in plastic, and sometimes vac those forms that may only be used once a year. Some, where, nothing has spilled onto them, do not require washing and instead are wiped with a clean tea towel.


winter food...pie fillings

slow food
lamb shanks

Inexpensive and super tasty Lamb Shanks with celery, shallots….spiced with dried mandarin peel, liquorice and star anise…..recipe next week.

But, the point is a pie can be meaty or vegetarian or sweet and in the next two months we will be adding weekly new recipes and ideas for pies.


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at their best for pie making


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