The naming of the pie

If it didn't have pastry underneath, would it still be a pie?

If it didn't have pastry underneath, would it still be a pie?

The differences between a tart, a pie and a quiche are a blur. Yotam Ottolenghi

I'll keep this brief.

Once in a while I find myself involved in a conversation about what a pie actually is. 

Picture the scene. I invite you round for a bite to eat. I make a classic white sauce, season it, add some chopped parsley, perhaps some lemon juice. Then I fold in some white fish and probably some glorious smoked fish from Cley Smokehouse. I'll have made this in my blue Le Crueset casserole. I'll top the fish with mashed potato, run a fork over it in a hither and thither pattern to make some mini peaks and dot with butter in the hope that the mini peaks will go brown and crunchy. There may even be a decorative tomato or two on top. I love cooked tomatoes, especially if slightly browned. I'll pop the whole ensemble into the oven until it meets my satisfaction.

We sit down at my old wooden table, with a glass of crisp white and a bowl of green peas. What are we tucking into?

Go on...

A Fish Pie. We move on to enjoy our food and have wide ranging conversation, never for a moment questioning whether what we are eating is indeed a Fish Pie, unless we start wondering if it would be a Fish Pie if neither of us were in the room to observe it. We're probably on bottle two at this point.  

If I make you a steaming chicken and tarragon pie in a beautiful earthenware pie dish (I've a weakness for a nice pot), topped with buttery puff pastry, I'm not only spoiling you, I'm feeding you Chicken Pie.

Next time you come round I'll try not to give you Shepherd's Pie, but you get my drift.

I burden you with these images ( I don't actually have any images as this is a virtual meal, so you'll have to imagine) of tea at my house, because once in a while I'm asked about the definition of a pie, usually by someone who anticipates, as a pie maker that I'll have a very hard and fast approach to the matter. Well, I don't.  Really, as long as it tastes nice, I find it hard to get excited about the definition.

There is a school of thought that a pie should have pastry on top and below. It so happens that my pork pies fall very neatly into this category, but I don't feel compelled to exclude other less well encompassed pies.

I can see why it can be useful, practically, to categorise in certain circumstances - for example to limit the definition of pies for my friends The Pieraters, who, incidentally, hold a very different view to my own. But our supper at my house is neither the time nor place.