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Today, Pilchard Pie Made My World A Better Place

Yes, I know what you are thinking. Trust me, when you read this, you will know why. It is part of so much more than the sum of its simple ingredients. It is decadent, warming, moreish, and more. I love it so much I had to share.

By Caroline JanePublished 28 days ago • 4 min read
Top Story - November 2023
My Humble Pilchard Pie.

Alongside my love of writing sits a love of cooking. I find both creative endeavours deliciously therapeutic and rewarding. Today epitomises why.

Outside, the new November wind is howling around my house, and the skies are cold, heavy, and grey, threatening further exponentially inclement weather. I have spent the morning at my kitchen table on my laptop. The dog is fast asleep in her bed after returning from our bracing and windswept walk to school to drop my son off. My cat has not moved a whisker; he has sat all morning on the chair next to me, purring intermittently.

I have spent the last few hours revising and writing a chapter of my work-in-progress novel. I have been transported into the hearts, minds, and lives of characters that fascinate me. Characters that I have created, living a story that resonates deeply and profoundly with me. I have enjoyed both the challenge and the escape of it.

When I reach the point in my writing that I recognise will demand more reflection than production from me, I break off, and I take from my fridge the shortcrust pastry that I prepared last night. I roll it out on a floured surface and pop it into a buttered pie dish. I open a tin of pilchards in tomato sauce, a stalwart of my childhood mealtimes. I debone the fillets and pull apart the flesh. I place it in the pastry, grate a good chunk of mature cheddar cheese, stir it in and add extra on the top for good measure. I pop it in the hot oven alongside some potatoes that I shall bake ready for another day, happy that the heat I am using to cook has achieved more than one win.

Now, I have returned to my laptop to write this to share with you. The air is filling with a rich and succulent tomato and umami flavour. The dog is snoring peacefully. I have, to the left of me, a huge mug of English Breakfast Tea in one of my favourite sunshine yellow mugs. The rain starts to fall, tinkling against the window, the wind in fierce percussion.

I type, and I wait for my lunch to cook through.

An hour later, around the time it took me to make my cup of tea and write this, my pie is ready. I take it out of the oven. It is bubbling and golden. I remember the first time I had this pie, cooked by my mother, for a meal after school. It stirs connected memories, I feel connected to my past. I see my mum smiling, happy her brood was well fed. I think about saving some for my son for when he returns from school. I feel a warm glow rise within me in anticipation of sharing this with him. I wonder if he will like it as much as I always have. Whether he does or not, it does not matter; it will be interesting to discover either way.

I take a slice, sit and eat and think about the past, about today and about tomorrow. I plan to take one of the baked potatoes to work for my lunch, and when I pause for breath in the middle of what will be a frenetic day looking after the thousands of people who pass through my shop, I shall enjoy that added thoughtful gift to myself and reflect on how rich my life is and how much I have to be thankful for.

How it looks before going in. Simple pastry made with plain flour, butter, and a large egg to bind. Left in the fridge to rest. Leaving overnight is best as it bakes crisper. Roll out to around 5mm thick. Quantity depends on the size of your pie.

Picture of the pie straight from the oven. Because the dish was well buttered and the pastry well rested, it comes away from the sides so it can be lifted out neatly without breaking.

A slice of the pie. Serve with a crisp, undressed green salad. It is simple but really rich and flavourful.

Authors Note:

This was inspired by the closed Nourishment challenge and a Vocal conversation with Donna Renee, a Vocal Creator and food blogger who encouraged me to share some recipes.

Although far from orthodox, all my recipes are based on the principles of resourcefulness, sustainability, and nourishment. I celebrate the simple, the homely, and the considered. This is perhaps one of my more unusual recipes, but every single word of it is true.

This is not an entry for a challenge. I simply felt like sharing. I am curious as to how it will be received.

By the way... just because... here is a picture of Dave, my cat - who has just moved as I went to take his picture:


And still asleep in her bed, this is Sandy:



About the Creator

Caroline Jane

Open hearted maverick.

Reader insights


Excellent work. Looking forward to reading more!

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Comments (23)

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  • Scott Christenson20 days ago

    Something smells fishy...

  • Babs Iverson24 days ago

    Your love of writing and cooking is evident in your wonderful pilchard pie story!!! Love it!!! Congratulations on Top Story too!!!

  • C. H. Richard24 days ago

    Wow that looks delicious and your pets are so cute. Congratulations on Top Story too.❤️

  • Very delicious 🤤 and great narrative

  • JBaz25 days ago

    Never heard of this, and I love to cook. You wrote this in such a beautiful way Congratulations

  • Avijit Das25 days ago

    Just loved the article and food pictures.

  • Cathy holmes26 days ago

    Congrats on the TS.

  • Great Article and you explained this well, I would rather try your rendition it looks Delicious 😃😉💯📝♥️Congratulations on your Top Story🎉🎉🎉🎉🎉🎉🎉🎉🎉🎉🎉🎉

  • Dana Crandell26 days ago

    I have to admit, I googled "pilchards." As someone who loves sardines, in both tomato and mustard sauces, I'm 100% on board with this and will be giving it a try. I won't have to worry bout sharing. I've considered putting some of my recipes out there. I enjoyed the way you shared this one. By the way, what I can see of Sandy looks a lot like our Gypsy.

  • Kageno Hoshino26 days ago

    I also love cooking and writing lol

  • Jay Kantor26 days ago

    Dear CJ ~ As I 'Nosh' on your Words/Scrumptious Delights. I'm heading to he Diet-Doctor. JK

  • Dana Stewart27 days ago

    Loved this glimpse into your cozy morning, it's all so charming! I devoured your words, as though I was a fish on the hook, I could not look away. If you decide to write more of this kind of piece - I'm game to read. This is a really good niche! Thanks to Donna for encouraging you! I also love to cook and find that I bake more in the colder months, bread especially. I can double dip and use the heat from the oven to warm my little kitchen. I did have some disbelief after I google what a Pilchard is, since that pie looks savory. But I do love sardines every now and then. P.s. - A proper quintessential British pub just opened for business near my house, the food is amazing. And I love Sandy and Dave!

  • I had no idea what pilchards were so I Googled it to see what kinda fruit it was. Tell me why pictures of fish were staring at me 🤣🤣🤣🤣 You gave me a plot twist unintentionally and it made me laugh! I gotta remember that there are savoury pies too! Also, Dave and Sandy are sooooo adorable!

  • Zara Blume27 days ago

    We share the same passions. I would love to write a cookbook someday, with real stories to accompany the recipes. And I would love to read your novel, because I cannot get enough of your writing! I had to Google what pilchard is. I love sardines, anchovies, and tuna so you could say I have a thing for tinned fish. The pie sounds delicious! Like a deep dish version of the anchovy pizza I love. The pictures confirm this is something I’d devour. So glad you shared this even after the challenge closed. I enjoyed this vignette, a little glimpse into your life through a rain dappled window. I love English Breakfast tea too, and I could legit see your sunshine yellow mug in my mind’s eye. 🤍

  • Thank you for sharing this, and the photos of the pets too

  • Canuck Scriber28 days ago

    Great little warm hearted, yummy story

  • Oh my goodness- Don't knoww here to start. Firstly Dave has a beard! That is so cute! And love that Sandy snoozed through food! I loved the whimsy in this so much, made all the more wonderful real=time thoughts as you were waiting for lunch x Beautifully done. Somehow I feel that cooking and writing are different sides of the same coin, creating something out of nothing, putting all the ingredients in order and enjoying the satisfation of an end product x Abyway, sorry for eassy! Loved this! 🤍

  • Mariann Carroll28 days ago

    This was an awesome cozy story, reminded of the napping house children book. If you enter this to the Challenge make sure to include the recipe. The pie look so good, I hate for this story to be disqualified due to it not having the pie recipe. Love the pictures of you pets and the mouth watering pie 🥧🥰🥰🥰🥰

  • Naveed28 days ago

    A beautifully written and evocative piece of writing. It is clear that the author is passionate about both cooking and writing, and their love for both comes through in the writing.

  • Cathy holmes28 days ago

    I like how you told the story. I felt like I was there in the room with you, Dave and Sandy. Also, the pie looks great, but....pilchards. yeah, no.

  • Hannah Moore28 days ago

    Oh my, I am so soothed just reading this. So nourished. I love it so much. Though pilchards, bleurgh. But still. What a perfect morning, I could snuggle it. Its how you tell it.

  • Rachel Deeming28 days ago

    There was something so natural about this, Caroline, like I was there in the kitchen with you, just sharing a cuppa and a chat. It made me feel warm and invited and I thank you for that. I'm not sure about pilchard pie as a dish I will make but it has enthused me enough to make sure that I use the sausagemeat in the fridge to make sausage rolls tonight. And Dave and Sandy look pretty cool pets.

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