A pie will never betray you. A pie is like a loyal hound, the sort that will sense your mood and curl up at your feet in front of a roaring fire while you lose yourself in a good book. It knows when you need a bit of 'me time', and it does the job. The pie is, in fact, the ultimate comfort food.

I'm talking about pies in the meat-filled sense, none of that sweet nonsense that's more likely to pep you up than a strong coffee. A pie should be a relaxant, something that takes you gently to bed for an early night. Or a culinary wingman that accepts you've had a few pints too many and does its best to soak up the worst of the booze and keep you feeling fit as a fiddle when your alarm rings the next morning.

Not all pies are equal, however.

Let's get one thing clear: a pie that is in a casserole dish with a pastry lid but no pastry to the sides or bottom is. Not. A. Pie. If you're choosing a pie in a restaurant, be sure to clarify this before ordering. If it's just a lidded casserole then that should be a hard pass.

The quality of the pastry is equally important. I'm a fan of shortcrust pastry because it can be crunchy and relatively dry on the outside, but still absorb the moisture of the pie for that delicious millimetre of gooey pastry on the inside. Flakey pastry has its place as well – and a soft suet shell is perhaps unbeatable for bringing back musty memories of your grandma's cooking.

Filling? It doesn't actually matter a huge amount what's in the pie, so long as the gravy's satisfyingly thick and the pie's at least three-quarters full. I'm partial to chicken and leek, or beef in a beery gravy.

Either way, stick a hot pie on a plate with some mashed potatoes (cheesy mash ideally) and a bit of gravy over the top and you have the food equivalent of a hug.

Or am I wrong? Is there a better comfort food? State your case in the comments below!

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