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Cooper's Kitchen

How to serve up the perfect pie - my philosophy

Hello there! And let me offer you a warm welcome to Cooper’s Kitchen. Pull up a seat at the table, help yourself to a glass of my internationally renowned home brew and immerse yourself in my words of culinary wisdom.

Some of you will doubtless be familiar with the work of so-called “celebrity” chefs like Jamie Oliver and Gordon Ramsey, but they are mere novices when it comes to expertise in the kitchen. After all they are simply a pair of chefs of fair to middling talent who have attracted the attention of the media.

And, pray tell, for what, exactly? One’s a nice boy who rides a scooter and pimps for Sainsbury’s and the other is no more than a failed footballer who swears and shouts a lot. Imagine being a celebrity for swearing and shouting – and a failure as a footballer!

On that basis Steve Bexfield should be the most famous celebrity of his day, cavorting with the likes of Girls Aloud and appearing on Strictly Come Dancing. After all he wasn’t much cop as a footballer and the amount of times I’ve heard him shout and swear as he’s stood futilely by watching some of my tastiest long hops and juiciest pies disappear all over Offley, well if that doesn’t make him the equal of Gordon Ramsey then I’m a goalkeeper for Luton Dustmen.

On the other hand I can claim to be a genuine celebrity chef, a talented athlete who took more wickets than any other bowler for Offley & Stopsley before swapping my cricketer’s cap and sweater for a chef’s hat and apron.

I like to think that I have always been a most generous player on the cricket field (and as that sarcastic sod Barker would probably note there are few opposing batsmen who would agree with that diagnosis) and I am anxious to take this opportunity to give something back. Therefore I am delighted to have this opportunity to share with you some of my secrets, both culinary and cricketing.

In short I am going to teach you how to serve the perfect pie!

The most crucial ingredient you can have in preparing the perfect pie is a shiny red cherry. After all there’s no pointing in wasting a pie on a batsman who’s not going to fully savour it and experience has taught me that no accomplished batsman enjoys anything more than being served a pie on a plate by an opening bowler. Remember, nothing beats a gleaming cherry offered up on a silver platter. It’s just not the same thing when you finally get the chance to serve your pie and discover that instead of working with a shiny, sparkling cherry you’re expected to make do and mend with a battered old item.

Such a scenario is an affront to the true pie master – after all bog-standard pie merchants from Simon Warrington and Tony Maidment down to Philip Gourd have proved that anyone can serve up a sumptuous offering with a tatty old ball.

Faith in your own ability is also of paramount importance, as indeed is your ability to sell your talents and convince your captain to believe in your skills. Many a pie has been wasted by the failure to persuade the captain of the need for two slips and a gully, allowing an extra cover or midwicket fieldsman to prevent the batsman being able to enjoy the pie in the appropriate manner by pulling off a terrific stop.

Remember that while a chef can only work with the ingredients he is given – and no one can be expected to make chicken kievs out of chicken shit – there is no excuse for not trying to get the most out of what you have.

Therefore it is simply inexcusable to bowl without at least one slip and a gully. The finest chefs will ask for a short leg. Should you be insulted with the prospect of bowling to a defensive field, complete with boundary sweepers, you must be true to your integrity and refuse to bowl. (Try threatening to go home to do the ironing if the captain cannot be persuaded to set the field that you require to allow your pies to flourish).

Length is also important in serving the pie. I have always found that the shorter the pie, the juicier it is and the more inclined the batsman is to lick his lips and lean back and crack it away. Width is equally crucial. There’s nothing better than a short, wide juicy pie with which to help a batsman sate his appetite. Indeed most batsmen will admit that the short, wide juicy pie is their favourite dish.

Never be afraid to experiment when serving your pies. As an example I used to like to serve my pies quickly, rushing to offer the batsman a choice selection of sumptuous delicacies for his consumption. However, a couple of years ago I experimented with a more leisurely approach, slowly tempting the batsman with my creations. Imagine my delight when I discovered that no matter how quickly – or slowly – I served my pies, they always disappeared, invariably leaving the batsman hungry for more!

That’s just about it. I hope you’ve found my tips helpful and that by following in my footsteps you will soon be able to serve up the perfect pie yourself and bring plenty of cheer and happiness to batsmen this coming year.

And remember, if the pie isn’t fresh, short, wide and juicy it will never meet with the Cooper Seal of Approval.