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Favourite cookbooks # 1.

A quiet moment. Perhaps even an entire afternoon.

There's no sound except the tick of the clock in the hallway and the occasional twitter of birds in the garden.

The ancient brown leather chair in the quiet room is beckoning.

There it is, sitting regally in the corner, over an old frayed afghan rug. It must weigh a ton. Its leather is worn but its springs are like new. (Isn't it a pleasure to throw yourself into a chair and not have it shoot halfway across the room like some of today's staple-gunned rubbish that passes for furniture!)

Time to read a book and then maybe take a nap.

Now reach an arm out to the sideboard, groaning with old books and well-thumbed magazines. Place a drink down within easy reach - use a hardback book for a coaster, naturally - and pick up a book at random.

Oh, look - it's a cookbook. What a happy coincidence!

Written by one of the great food writers, Tamasin Day-Lewis, Tarts With Tops On is her foray into a world of pies, a far greater culinary journey than one might imagine.

Traditional British pies are here, of course, but then we go around the world with Galician Pork and Sausage Pie; Roquefort and Spinach Parcels; Italian Cottage Pie (I've tried that, it's great); Lamb in Vine Leaves and Filo Pastry (I want some of that NOW); Kulebiaka, a Russian salmon pie served with sour cream; Kentucky Sweet Potato or Pumpkin Pie and much more besides.

Then, having circled the globe on a pie crust, we're back in Britain (in the book, I mean - I personally am in Australia) with a melting masterpiece: Stilton, Onion and Potato Pan Pie; and one of the most famous pies of all - a traditional Steak and Kidney.

Sweet pies? Dozens. In fact a whole chapter is devoted to apple pies.

Tamasin Day-Lewis writes, in her introduction:

'What could be more tempting than a classic steak and kidney pie, the meat trapped in its sea of wine-dark gravy, a faint, yet full-on scent of kidney, a lingering bouquet? A soothing chicken pie, the ivory flesh gently poached, with a back note of celery, leek, onion and carrot, a velvet mantle of bechamel, enriched with cream and the poaching liquor. A turret of raised hot water crust pie, all crisp crumbliness without and soft yielding whiteness within, where sharp apples bite the rich moistness of pork, musky sage and sharp, dry cider. Perfect picnic or wild walk fodder.'

I told you she was a great writer. The book is bursting with her delicious, appetising writing. Just like a pie!

Tarts With Tops On
Or How To Make the Perfect Pie

Tamasin Day-Lewis
Weidenfeld and Nicolson 2003


Oh, look at the time! Where did the afternoon go? A golden shaft of late afternoon sun, low in the sky, has stolen in to wake me from a slumber filled with dreams about walking through some wild landscape with a pork pie in my backpack ...