Dear Readers,

I hope this week’s newsletter finds you in good health and fine spirits. I have a short (crust) “pie” story that I’d like to share with you if I may. This story ended up prompting me to write a short poem which I also thought I would share with you.

The other day my wife decided that she wanted to bake some pies, something that she very rarely does, and she asked me what sort of pies I fancied. I told her that I would kill for a rhubarb pie. “Rhubarb! I think it’s next to impossible to buy rhubarb in Tokyo, I can try but I doubt very much if you’ll have rhubarb pies waiting for you when you get home, most likely they’ll be apple.” “Apple is more than fine”, I said, “but do you know where rhubarb is grown in Japan? I assume it must be up north, in somewhere like Nagano or Hokkaido, and is it possible to buy it over the internet ?” “I’ll do some checking and see what I come up with”, said my wife and out the door I went to work. When I got back home, sure enough, a couple of apple pies were waiting for me, and they were looking pretty good, I might add. My wife used to make a French type of flaky pastry when we first got married and she never used to pre-cook the apples. Don’t get me wrong, they were tasty enough, as far as it went, but after introducing my wife to short crust pastry and the concept behind stewing most fruits before putting them into the pie that’s how she does them these days and if anything she bakes better pies than I do. Fruit pies; apple, rhubarb, cherry, bramble, blackberry and so on are comfort food for me, they remind me of when I was growing up back in my hometown of Goole in the north east of The UK. I’d get home from school on one of my mum’s many baking days and as soon as I’d open the entrance gate to my home the smell of fruit pies on cooling racks would waft down the garden path and greet me. Upon entering in my home my mum would have a great big piece of warn apple or whatever he’d used on that particular day, waiting for me with a glass of cold milk – what cherished memories!

Back to rhubarb; according to my wife’s research, rhubarb does grow in Japan, and it seems that quite a lot of it is grown as well, but where does it go? I do have a sneaking suspicion that it’s used within the pharmaceutical industry in something like Campo or some other sort of herbal type medical concoction. Most of the farms cultivating it seem to be promoting it for either making desserts such as ice cream, jams, pickles and also mixing it in with salads and white rice. It is also expensive in Japan, which means that I doubt very much if I’ll be ordering any anytime soon. I think I may have mentioned in an earlier blog about rhubarb, if I have then I do aplogise for the encore, but being such a passionate fan of eating the stuff when it’s thrown into a pie or a crumble I just had to try to write a poem about it sandwiched between a couple of short crust pie sheets. Until next week, take care and keep smiling.

When in doubt make a pie

Peel some fruit, cut it up and throw it into a pan.
Add some lemon juice and wine, white or red, either is fine.
Stew the fruit until it’s soft, make sure you regularly lift the lid off the pan to take a look.
Because fruit is easily overcooked.
When the fruit’s soft enough remove it from the heat.
Then prepare all your ingredients to make a short crust pastry sheet.

Rub fat and flour together in a bowl, it’s relaxing work and it’s good for the soul.
When mixed to a consistency of fine breadcrumbs add some cold water perhaps mixed in with the yolk of an egg.
Add a pinch of salt and mix it together to make a dough, and if you used an egg yolk the pastry will look pale yellow.
Cover the bowl with a tea towel and leave the pastry to rest a while in a cool place.
Cut the piece of dough into two, one piece for the base of the pie and the other for the top.
Flour a wooden board and a rolling pin, but don’t roll the pastry out until it’s two thin.

Switch on the oven and wait for it to reach the temperature required.
Place the short crust base into the pie dish, arrange it and make sure it just hangs over the edge.
Once all the fruit is in the dish I put water around the edge, pop on the lid and seal it all in by pinching the bottom to the top.
I trim off all the pastry I don’t need and put two cuts in the lid, and brush it with milk mixed with an egg
and sprinkle on a little sugar, the same as my mum always did.
If you fail to make the cuts, the steam generated during baking will lift off the lid.

A poem by Stephen Austwick