The opening of a French-style patisserie less than ten minutes from my home has inspired me to once again dip into the delicious pages of Stéphane Reynaud's Pies and Tarts, which, I must shamelessly confess, arrived for review at this time last year (at about the same time that I broke my foot!). Now, I realise that a broken foot is no excuse for not showcasing a cookbook, but I wanted to give this title a decent run. And, besides, despite 22 years of appraising new cookbooks, I have never been one to rush into my reviews.
Monsieur Reynaud is a distinguished French chef and award-winning cookbook writer, owner of Villa 9 Trois, in Montreuil, a suburb on the outskirts of Paris. It is said to be one of the most famous restaurants in France. He won the 2005 Grand Prix de la Gastronomie Francais with his book, Pork & Sons, and other cookbooks that he has written include Terrine, Ripailles, 365 Good Reasons to Sit Down and Eat, French Feasts, and Book of Tripe.
For chef Reynaud, the best and most important part of the day is sitting down to the evening meal with his family. He says: 'There is something so joyous about enjoying a meal with those you love, and pies are tarts are the perfect sharing dishes. They are simple and can be made ahead of time so I can have fun at the table rather than spending all my time in the kitchen!'
He grew up in a little village in the Ardeche region of France, where his grandfather owned a butcher shop. In a conversation with ABC RN's Richard Fidler, Reynaud said he spent a lot of time with his grandparents, and his love of food stems back to those days. He has fond memories of a pig killing festival when he was just seven years old and says he learned from his grandpa that 'if you don't love animals you can't be a good butcher'. In other words, to have good meat, the animal has to have had a good life, he explained.
Reynaud entered a school of hotel management and catering at the age of eighteen, and at just twenty three he opened a bistro in Paris. It was in the kitchen of his busy and friendly restaurant that he really learned how to cook. Drawing on his love of good meat, he served roasts, rather than nouvelle cuisine.
In Pies and Tarts, chef Reynaud shares a collection of his favourite recipes for rustic pies and tarts. 'These are the recipes I make at home for my family and friends,' he writes. From traditional French dishes such as ham pithiviers to chicken and tarragon pie, he has created the ultimate collection of sweet and savoury pastries. This book arms home cooks with 'pastry power', as Reynaud calls it. 'Where there are pies, there is inevitably pastry,' he writes. 'Whether it is flaky, short or sweet... roll, chop, fill, glaze, bake and enjoy. Yippee!' he adds.
One of my favourite sections is 'The Pie, Step by Step', a series of illustrated pages, each of which demonstrates the simple steps to producing a delicious pie. For instance, 'Step 1: 'roll out the puff pastry into a large rectangle. Step 2: divide the dough into two equal pieces. Step 3: Place the filling on one of the two rectangles, making sure to leave 1cm border all around the edge. Step 4: Glaze the edges with beaten egg then cover with the second rectangle of dough. Step 5: Seal the edges by pinching them together. Step 6: Roll the edges inward. Step 7: Place the pie on a baking tray lined with baking paper. Glaze the whole pie with egg. Step 8: Put it in the oven, sit tight and enjoy!' Et voilà.
The recipes include pies and tarts with vegetables and mushrooms. There are poultry and rabbit pies, as well as meat pies, fish and seafood pies, cheese pies, and sweet pies (with or without fruit). The recipes are clearly written, concise and easy to follow. More than that, they are achievable and absolutely delicious!
Pies and Tarts by Stéphane Reynaud, Murdoch Books $49.99 and worth every cent! Thank you kindly to the publicity team at Murdoch Books for giving me the opportunity to review and road test this mouthwatering, enjoyable and well written title. It is already well used.
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