Can I cook like ... Vladimir Putin?
Vladimir Putin’s appetite stretches to a number of things, not least a good chunk of the Ukraine, but one of his preferred meals is pie. His mother used to make pies of various kinds, which is one reason why he hankers after them now.
Most pie recipes are fairly easy – you make a big bowl and a lid out of pastry, make some kind of stew, pour said stew into your big bowl, put the lid on, put pie in oven for 40 minutes, and congratulations! You’ve got pie.
Making a pie brings out my inner Kremlin diplomat – or perhaps it brings out the condescending westerner in my colleagues. One thing that happens when you tell people you are going to make a pie, is they ask what pastry you will be buying. To which, of course, I reply that, as a cookery columnist, I will be making my own damn pastry, and any suggestion to the contrary is deeply offensive without a thorough UN investigation first.
“But why?” asks someone in the office. “Because my own pastry will be a lot tastier than anything I could buy ready made,” I explain. To which they reply: “Will it, though?”
And so I decide to find another desk. Then I realise that it is getting a little hectic at work, so I text my partner to ask her to buy me some braising steak. She replies: “Of course, and what type of pastry shall I buy?” And I say: “I will be making pastry myself, and any suggestion otherwise will be met with the strongest possible diplomatic response.” And she replies: “Seems like a waste of time.”
I return to my desk in a huff, and my colleague asks: “So, what type of pastry?” And I say: “Probably shortcrust as that is quite easy.” And they say: “Oh, are you still pretending you will make the pastry yourself?” And I say: “Look, I really must protest in the strongest terms.”
Then my working day ends and I head to the supermarket, where I buy unsalted butter to make pastry. But I feel tired, and think: “Honestly, who will know?” So I buy Jus-Rol puff pastry and use that to contain my excellent beef stew. And it is delicious, yet also unsatisfying. And I think: I bet this is how Putin feels about the Crimea.