Humble Pie Gets Spicy Makeover With British-Indian Recipe

Chef Calum Franklin is a champion of the humble pie, using his French classical training and love of British traditions to create something special at his London restaurant, theHolborn Dining Room, and its adjoining Pie Room for takeaway treats.

“I am proud of this city in terms of what we represent for food and the thought of tourists coming to London for a traditional British dish like a pie,” Calum says, “I’ve always been interested in savory pastry. When I did old-school French cookery, we would do things like salmon en croute. I like things that are crafted and also that you can’t cut corners.”

Calum’s debut cookbook, The Pie Room, published this week by Bloomsbury Absolute, is a celebration of pies and puddings, with recipes and tips for sauces and chutneys, as well as pastry.

For Bloomberg, he has offered this straightforward recipe for Keema-Spiced Cottage Pie. (Calum, whose wife Shenali is Sri Lankan, enjoys spicy food.)  I found it fairly simple, but I took a big shortcut by using prepared mash potato for the British-Indian mash-up, which I confessed to him.

“I like that,” he said. “There is no shame in using ready-made puff pastry, for example. I have the luxury of a kitchen with 35 chefs where we’re not going to buy in pastry, but at home you don’t have the luxury of time. You can make this pie in an evening: Come home from work and have it ready for the family meal. It reminds me of the comfort food I had as a child.”


1 tablespoon vegetable oil

1 medium onion, finely diced

½ teaspoon ground turmeric

2 teaspoons garam masala

½ teaspoon cumin seeds

2 garlic cloves, minced

2 teaspoons grated fresh root ginger

2 red chilies, finely chopped

500 grams (17.5 ounces) beef mince

350g tinned chopped tomatoes

300g frozen peas, defrosted

25g coriander, leaves picked

For the potato topping:

1 kilogram (2.2 pounds) peeled potatoes, cut into chunks

150 milliliters (5 ounces) milk

80g unsalted butter

1 teaspoon ground turmeric

1 egg yolk


Preheat the oven to 180°C fan/200°C/gas mark 6.

Heat the oil in a large frying pan over a medium heat. Add the onion and sauté for 10 minutes until it starts to brown.

Add the turmeric, garam masala and cumin seeds and toast for 2 minutes. Add the garlic, ginger and chili, then sauté for a further 5 minutes until soft and lightly browned.

Add the beef mince and sauté until any liquid has evaporated and then add the tomatoes and cook for a further 15 minutes. Add the peas and coriander leaves. Taste and adjust the seasoning, if necessary.

Spoon into a 24 centimeter (9.5 inch) round ovenproof pie dish, level the surface and allow to cool.

For the potato topping, boil the potatoes in a pan of salted water for 15–20 minutes or until soft in the center and then drain. Add the milk, butter and turmeric, then mash together well. Finally, fold in the egg yolk and mix well to combine.

Spread the potato topping over the minced beef mixture in the pie dish. Ruffle the surface of the potato topping with a fork for added texture.

Place the dish in the preheated oven and bake the pie for 30 minutes or until the beef mixture is bubbling up the sides of the dish and the potato topping has a crispy golden crust. Serve immediately.

Richard Vines is Chief Food Critic at Bloomberg. Follow him on Twitter @richardvines and Instagram @richard.vines.

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