British-Indian recipe gives a spicy makeover to humble pie

Richard Vines

BLOOMBERG – 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, the Holborn 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 said, “I’ve always been interested in savoury 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. He offers 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.”

Keema-spiced cottage pie. PHOTO: THE WASHINGTON POST



One tablespoon vegetable oil

One medium onion, finely diced

Half teaspoon ground turmeric

Two teaspoon garam masala

Half teaspoon cumin seeds

Two garlic cloves, minced

Two teaspoon grated ginger

Two red chillies, finely chopped

17.5 oz ground beef

12 oz chopped canned tomatoes

10 oz frozen peas, defrosted

One ounce coriander

For the potato topping:

Two pounds peeled potatoes, cut into chunks

Five oz milk

Three oz unsalted butter

One teaspoon ground turmeric

One egg yolk


Preheat oven 400 degrees. Heat oil in a large frying pan over medium heat. Add onion and sauté for 10 minutes until it starts to brown.

Add the turmeric, garam masala and cumin seeds and toast for two minutes.

Add the garlic, ginger and chillies; sauté another five minutes until soft and lightly browned.

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

Spoon into a 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 centre. Drain.

Add the milk, butter and turmeric and mash well. 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 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.