My mate, Paul aka Northern Casual found himself in Glasgow again recently. I received the following message:
“I’m going to a butchers/deli nearby, on their website it says they sell homemade steak pies so if they’ve got some in, do you want some to try?”
Is there ever likely to be a negative answer to this question from your correspondent here?
Murray’s Butchers and Deli is in central Glasgow, The Gorbals in fact and produce a range of pies and meats to suit all tastes and appetites. Now, there’s lots of places out there that claim their produce to be home made. The pedant in me, could point out that even this was made in a SHOP.
However, what happens when a steak pie is ordered, is that they go out the back and MAKE IT!!
What I received back from Glasgow the next day was a slightly flattened oblong tray with a large over hanging short crust pastry. Oh, yes and it was completely uncooked.
What to do here? I decide to go with my time and tested “20 minutes at 180 degrees in the fan oven” with a view to extending it to 40 minutes if I don’t think it is ready.
Twenty minutes later and what I thought was shortcrust is actually puff pastry. It is golden coloured and rising nicely. The pastry is wafting through my kitchen and I decide on another ten minutes (as I can’t see the meat).
On the 30 minute mark, all seems good so I pull it out and start to examine. There is a foil tray underneath, and a sheet of tin foil, so what’s going on here then?
What is going on here is the oddest pie set up I have ever come across! It is essentially a “do it yourself” pie.
I carefully extract the pie from the foil tray and only the puff pastry crust drops out. I then peel back the layer of tin foil and there lies a portion of prime steak and gravy.
And that is it! Put that one back together!
It feels like some kind of elaborate April Fool’s joke. For all the good it is, I may as well stick it on a barm Wigan-style!
I decide to put the crust on the plate face down with the meat on top so the pie is upside down and get a knife and fork. I struggle with the taste of metal on metal, you see, and can’t cope with a fork touching the foil tray.
Whereas there are only two pieces of meat, they are indeed prime cuts of steak. Soft and juicy and easily broken up into four of five chunks and surrounded with a few blobs of rich gravy.
Now, you know what is coming. The pie purists, of which I consider myself one, would not deem this to even be a pie, due to it’s lack of full encasement in pastry and there is no getting away from this.
I still find it quite a novel and enjoyable experience however. So, in the interests of balance, I reached out to my good chum, sweary stand up comedian and Glaswegian, Barca Jim, to ask if this is a common tradition….
He has previously told me that they do make pies in Glasgow where the steak and gravy are just loaded into a big foil tray and then pastry is crimped over the top, it is indeed a traditional steak pie, or as I would call it, a stew with a lid. He did at least give me the liberty of sending me a decent one.
By the way, here’s one Jim sent me earlier:
Now, THAT does look good, fully encased or not…..
The finer details
Date: 8th September 2021
Price: A small steak pie costs £1.95, they also do scotch pies, bridies (pasties) and larger pies but I cannot vouch for the structure of them.
It was once again a pleasure to attend the British Pie Awards in Melton Mowbray this week. The previous awards were held in March 2020, just a matter of days before the country plunged into the first of several lockdowns and the world changed for bakers, and indeed most people, everywhere.
This year’s event was moved from March to September in order to give it a greater chance of going ahead but I can confirm that it was a roaring success, with around 800 pies entered and judged.
It is a fair old drive for me to get to Melton but I arrived at 10am and met up with my Pie at Night cohort, Chris and went for a wander around the town, before heading to St Mary’s Church to sign in.
Yet again, I found myself in possession of a red “class leader” apron, something I have always felt a little bit nervous about. I may have dedicated much of my life to researching, seeking out, and writing about pies from across the country but I am no baker and the imposter syndrome always hits me a little. Like, what do I know about pies anyway?
But pie judging isn’t rocket science, although it is a little bit more advanced than my initial Life of Pies approach of “is it a big pie, is it hot and does it taste good?”.
The key categories bookmark several smaller ones at each end. Up front, there is appearance: if it doesn’t look good, why would anyone even want to eat or buy it?
And of course, at the other end: texture and taste, because of course, the taste test, is the ultimate barometer. Not to say the crust, the pastry, the filling, both capacity and blend/ratio of ingredients physically and visually, all contribute to a good pie as well.
I always like to suggest a range of scores to my partners when judging rather than an absolute figure, to ensure we start with a ballpark and then discuss / disagree exactly what mark it deserves. Another method is to deduct a mark or mark(s) for each fault I can find with it and if there are none, then it stays as is.
In one sense, it is a fun, light hearted event, set in a church covered in bunting, and a marvellous celebration of everything British.
However, do not think for one minute that any judge takes their responsibility lightly, without concern of the impact judging can have, both negatively and positively.
A theme with everything I do, firstly with the Life of Pies, and now the Good Pie Guide, is a general appreciation of ANYONE who puts themselves out there by being a small, independent butcher or baker. These local businesses need all the support they can get against the global dominance of supermarkets and other fast foods outlets.
Not mentioning names but yes, I am looking at you, Greggs!!
No, I’m not dissing Greggs, it has a place in today’s society but they don’t even do pies any more, so they are irrelevant for this dialogue.
The feedback is such that those bakers who perform well at the British Pie Awards get an immediate flurry of media interest, followed by a positive uptick and growth in business. So when I say judging is a serious business, well, very often, people’s livelihoods depend on it.
This year, I was placed in Class 3: The Cold Eating Savoury Pie. Now, a few people have commented that this sounds daft. What else are you going to do with a pie, other than eat it?
However, it essentially means, you eat the pie when it is cold. All the pies are all out on the judging table ready for us, whereas other categories are warmed over a period and brought out to judge when ready. I also gather the 600 gram max weight rule is waived in this category as there are some proper hefty pies on show here.
There were three main types of pie in this category. Firstly, there were game pies, consisting of two or three ridiculously rich tasting, thick and chewy meats. I had pheasant, grouse and venison in one pie. Secondly, there were variants of chicken and ham, Huntsman style pies. And the rest generally consisted of pork with something else. For example, pork and black pudding, pork and chorizo, pork with chilli (or chilli jam), pork and stilton mmmmm.
There were about 50 entries and two judging teams. We had quite a few silvers and a handful of golds. Upon moderating at the end, the other team had the best 2 or 3 pies (gold award) and I think that was fair. I think we possibly had the best tasting pie (a pork and stilton) but the stilton had melted and boiled out of the top, causing the crust to look a bit of a mess in parts.
Not that we were too harsh, but I have learnt over the years about the importance of appearance, as mentioned above. I actually used to like a really messy, sloppy looking pie as it’s lack of uniformity evidences that it is home made, and reminds me of the pies I used to eat growing up in Wigan.
However, the more I have become involved with judging, the more I have learnt terms that I had previously been unfamiliar with, such as boil out, seepage and the now ubiquitous soggy bottom.
Incidentally, to contrast the appearance perspective, by far the best looking pie on our table was a circular, wreath style pie, which looked stunning, but both pastry and filling were almost raw. There was also a pie twice the size of the rest, which I made my one dictatorial decision of the day about “we’re all judging that one” but the flavour wasn’t quite as exciting or powerful as it’s dimensions.
I should also add that there is a very diverse mix of people amongst the judges and on this occasion, I was working with a director from Borough market, an agriculture lecturer from a nearby college and a rural support network leader. All from different parts of the country where they are likely to eat different kinds of pies. There is also a team of dedicated event leaders who make it all happen and run the whole event down to a tee to make sure everyone knows their role.
In terms of timings, the event starts properly just after 11am and I had barely stopped to look at my watch until nearly half two (not that you need a lunch break at such an event!) At that point, a moderation takes place and the best three pies are submitted for selection to become class winner and Supreme Pie winner (the best pie out of all 23 classes)
The actual pie makers are on strict instruction to stay out of the way on judging day itself, but if they are fortunate, they get called back on the Friday to attend an award ceremony, where the winners are revealed.
Following this, it was time for us to visit a couple of farm shops for research purposes (always on duty). Pies were collected from nearby Brocklebys and Nice Pie and then me and Chris retired to the pub for a debrief and a Neck Oil or two in the glorious sunshine. I’m not saying the village we visited was posh, but there was a gate to get into it. Probably to stop farm animals escaping but let’s not spoil the narrative.
By 5pm, it was time to hit the road north, and after getting stuck for an hour and half on the A50 near Uttoxeter, it was nearly 9pm when I walked through the door at home, a full 14 hours since I had left that morning. So it is not all glamour, but regardless of the six hour’s driving, it remains one of my favourite days of the year and long may it thrive and continue.
For full details and results of the British Pie Awards, check out the website here
To buy a copy of my first book about pies, Life of Pies for just £4.99 plus P&P, please click here
The Rheged Centre is a shopping complex just off junction 40 of the M6 by Penrith, and has a great little deli counter which is actually in the petrol station. As you’d expect, it also serves a fine range of craft ales, gins and jams and sauces, so I am more than in my element.
There are hot options available, but the cold pork pies are what I have been craving, after a failed trip to Pooley Bridge (I’ll be back!!) So I opt for the Gloucester Old Spot pork pie and the pork and black pudding pie, both selling at £2.30 each.
They are average sized for a single pork pie, and definitely hand made, given the uneven shape, delivering an intriguing looking crust.
The crust feels a little tough so upon arriving home, I pop it in the oven for 15 minutes, before letting it cool back down to something like room temperature.
It enables the aroma of the light brown hot water crust to breathe. It softens it up for the chomp and it smells excellent, almost fruity. Upon cutting in half, the black pudding is equally as prominent as the pork meat
The pork is moderately seasoned and the black pudding is both sweet and fruity, and both fillings consist of a gentle texture. There is no blood aftertaste with the pudding, just a herby, moist flavour. Though if I have a small criticism, it is the absence of jelly which will always add a bit of moisture to any pork pie, if we discount the adding of additional condiments, such as brown sauce or mustard.
The Rheged Centre filling station also has a range of hot pies, I noticed minced beef and onion and meat and potato pies. Plus it also sells those ridiculously fat sausage rolls which have a good inch and a half of meaty goodness in the middle.
Of course, the Rheged Centre is just a few miles up the road from Tebay, and the Gloucester old spot pork pie, definitely leads me to believe they are part of the same chain, but fortunately I bought one of those as well…
The old spot is a rare, geographically protected type of pig, which predictably is white with dark spots. The pork meat is traditionally fattier and sweeter, due to the tradition of pigs munching on apples falling from the orchards where they graze.
Again, I warm it up gently to soften the pie and the soft crust glistens gently as I bite into it. The pinkish grey sausage meat is exceptionally tender. It’s soft, sweet and tangy, only broken up with the occasional peppery after kick. There is a thin layer of jelly sprinkled around the edges, which moistens the crust interior. For a dinky pie, it certainly is a rich and filling experience.
The finer details
Date: 30th August 2021
Price: The price was £2.30 for an individual sized pork pie, cooling on the deli counter
We spend a lot of time up in the Lakes, and whereas, on a good day, it is only an hour or so up the M6, on a bank holiday weekend, it can take three hours of snarly traffic each way. Upon getting kicked out of our accommodation mid morning, we first stopped at the Rheged Centre for pork pies (more on those later!) and by the time, it hits early afternoon, we had barely got past Lancaster.
So, time to pull off the M6 onto the A6 to find a random place that feeds children. We stopped in Garstang on the way up and paid a trip to Booths, and the drag from Lancaster to Preston usually has a smattering of decent pubs on it’s course. With the time gone 2pm and the kids (and me) getting tetchy, we pulled over and called upon The Crofters Tavern, with a wide, open front and pleasant looking terrace outside.
It is part of a hotel complex but the interior has some low hanging wood beams and is highly decorative. I am impressed by the beer range, with Camden’s, Goose Island, Budvar and Lowenbrau on tap along with a range of hand pulls, including some from the local Bowland brewery. However, it is food we are here for, and a man with my reputation can’t be seen to go too long without a pie, so I am delighted to see “HAND CRAFTED TAVERN PIES” available in a highlighted box.
There is a choice of steak and ale or cheese and onion, so I plump for the former and a pint of Goose Island Midway pale ale to accompany it. Well, I am on my holidays!
The service is good and the food arrives in reasonable time, and it is visually appealing. It is, as advertised, hand crafted with a plait-style crust formed by hand.
The pie, or the Cumbrian Steak and JW Lees Ale Hand Crafted Tavern Pie to give it it’s full title, comes with some plump, golden chips, a mound of garden peas and a ramekin full of gravy.
Upon cutting it, I am hit with a sweet, hoppy smell as the braised steak is infused with dark ale. There are amply quantities of thick chunks of soft meat inside and you really can taste the ale marinated in the meat.
After a while, I pour over the gravy and there are plenty bits of meat and stock remnants in there, this has clearly not come from a tub of Bisto granules. It is definitely a “knife and fork” pie. Due to the curious shape of the crust, it breaks up into slithers, so that you can pair it up with a piece of meat and soak it up with the gravy.
In any case, I’m not brave enough to pick up a pie and eat it with my hands, whilst having a meal with my wife and children in a pub. I get enough stick when I pull my phone out to take a sneaky pic.
Overall, a very filling and satisfying meal. I still nicked a load of my daughters’ chips which they didn’t finish but that is not because I wasn’t full, it’s just WHAT I DO 😊
The finer details
Date: 30th August 2021
Price: The price was £11.95, which is about standard for a sit down pub meal of pie and chips
Scotch pies are popular in the central areas of Scotland. They have a distinctive tin shaped side to them and a loosely placed top crust. They are usually made with mutton and heavily seasoned with salt and other spices. In some senses, they are not dissimilar to the pies of my youth in North west England and originate from working class roots.
I’ve got four of these and I have been advised that they should be eaten with Beans or Marrowfat peas on top but this one is going to be done au naturelle, so that I can actually examine and review the pie closely as to what it tastes like.
Firstly, I am eternally grateful to Paul aka @NorthernCasual for picking these up for me on a trip up North, and also to Glaswegian @BarcaJim for the recommendation. The only downside to me not being there myself, is that I don’t get to savour the on premise ambience of a traditional butchers.
According to Jim, they are not hugely famous, just a very well respected local family butcher. Their steak pies are exceptionally good and hugely popular around New Year when it’s the traditional Hogmanay scran. As you’d expect, they do square sausages, indeed the full lorne, which Jim used to get imported to Barcelona when he lived there (I had to ask for the picture below….LOOK AT IT!!!!)
Back to the Scotch pie and as I pull the pie out of the oven, I get a glorious waft of buttery pastry. The pie is a bit on the smaller side but as mentioned, standard protocol is to double up and add your choice of topping.
I love the look of the pie, with it’s uneven top and sides, and razor sharp crust lip. Probably not the best idea to stick your teeth directly into that, I reckon, if eating by hand, it is best to approach it at a right angle.
Even if it is made in a tin (and I’m not sure to be honest), that lack of uniformity shows something that is traditional, home made and unique.
Inside there is a healthily thick slab of minced mutton, pinkish grey in cover and the meat is rich, chewy and juicy, with a slightly salty aftertaste. Easily eaten by hand, though it is best to turn on the side to get a bit of the crunchy side crust.
Obviously, I have gone a bit off track by not adding sides or condiments, but there is plenty moisture inside to not need that at all, and a gentle sprinkling of salt on the top crust and inside.
My biggest regret is not putting two in the oven as my mouth is watering for more as I polish the first one off. Just as well, I’ve got three more in the fridge then really.
The finer details
Price: As I didn’t buy this myself, I’m not sure of the exact price, but I am told that most standard sized pies retail between £1.00 and £1.50 each
Let me come clean from the start, I was heading to Booth’s primarily to get a La Trappe glass to pour my La Trappe keg of beer into. I’d had a tip off, that they had some nifty Benelux based glassware in. However, a trip to Booth’s always seems to mean buying more than I came for. Booth’s are a supermarket, predominantly based in the North of England, and mainly found in quite affluent market towns. This means it isn’t cheap but the produce on offer is absolute quality throughout.
If I was to get imprisoned in a building with no escape, then so long as it was the food hall at Booth’s, I think I’d survive. The beers, wines, cheese and deli counters are simply stunning, and that is where I find myself today, politely pointing at the pie I want.
It is a chilli pork pie from Topping’s Pies, a long standing supplier to Booth’s over the years. Doncaster based Topping’s do a wide range of pies, both wholesale and retail. They have carved out a niche in this supermarket for their pork pies, both standard ones and pork plus something else: pork and black pudding, pork and chorizo, pork and scrumpy, pork topped with cranberry or, in this case, speciality chilli pork pie.
The pie costs £2.50, and is wrapped and chilled, and that is how it stays as I pop it into the fridge as I get home.
Topping’s Chilli Pork Pie Purchased from Booth’s Supermarket, Burscough Price £2.50
The first thing that I notice is that this is a deceptively heavy one! The dark brown crust has a decorative leaf and a little porthole, giving us a glimpse of what hides inside. Is it a pork pie with chilli? Or a chilli con carne pork pie? Would that even work served cold?
It requires a big knife to cut open, as it is solid throughout, with a firm, well cooked base. There is a thin layer of jelly in the casing but otherwise it is wall to wall, fine sausage meat, with a few red flecks of chilli moulded into the filling. I was perhaps a little surprised to see red and green pepper in the ingredients, I want hot peppers!! I can’t even taste them as it transpires, the spice is underlying and subtle rather than distinct.
From the very first bite, once I munch into the sticky crust, I encounter a pleasant bit of heat. It’s not so overpowering that you can’t taste the succulent pork filling though. In fact, the two combine well to melt in the mouth, along with the juicy jelly. As mentioned, there was little doubt this pie was going to be good. You don’t get onto the deli counter at Booth’s unless you are half decent.
This is a deceptive, generous pie which perhaps could be shared, if indeed, you approve of such things. I find my bites getting smaller even as I finish the first half of it. The flavour continues it’s consistency with the chilli tickling along and without ramping up the in-mouth temperature. In summary, served and eaten at room temperature from the fridge, it is a little firecracker of an effort from Topping’s, who are long standing masters of the pork pie game.
The finer details:
Topping’s Chilli Pork Pie purchased on Saturday 31st July 2021 Price £2.50 from Booth’s Supermarket, Burscough, Lancashire, L40 8AD
I paid my first visit to McRobb’s Butchers on Saturday, primarily to get BBQ gear but of course, there was no way I was leaving without a pie.
McRobb’s are based in Chorley, Lancashire but also have an outlet in a nearby retail centre, where I have previously bought their meat but now, they have a shop in the centre of Standish village. And what a shop it is! It is hard to distinguish from a posh wine bar with the dark green canopies and wood panelled signage, all giving off an air of opulence. Upon entry, it is wall to wall, fridge to fridge meats, seasonings and pies. Not sure my missus would appreciate the dead animals hung up but if you want to know whether the meat is fresh….you can literally name your cut and point to it and one of the helpful chaps and ladies in aprons bustling around the counters will sort you out.
I picked up a load of sausages, burgers, and skewers and then cast my eye over the pie selection. I have been notified of this one before but yet to try it. The subtle difference between my first book Life of Pies and my next one is that I have learnt to deviate from the bog standard meat and potato pie, much as I love them. So I felt duty obliged to taste test the Wigan “Lobbie” pie with beetroot.
The beetroot, I should add is IN the pie. If I’m honest, I’d prefer it without beetroot, purely to make room for more meat. But then beetroot is a super food so maybe it will help me power through the afternoon’s calls and meetings. And perhaps turn my wee a funny colour.
But what is a lobbie, you non North West natives, might ask? Well, lobbies (plural) are a pan of stew, akin to Lancashire hotpot but without a crust lid. It’s actually thought to originate in Leigh not Wigan. So this, of course is technically a lobby and beetroot filled pie, in a whole crust. Or a meat and veg pie, with a layer of beetroot in it. Into the oven you pop then.
The top crust looks a bit crinkled, possibly due to me buying it on Saturday and sticking it in the fridge for a few days, but upon removing the paper wrapper, I am suitably impressed with the size and dimensions of it.
Twenty minutes later and it is ready and there is a pleasant pastry aroma floating around the kitchen. The pie slips effortlessly out of the foil tray and on to my plate and the density and weight of it surprises me a little. The pastry has darkened a touch in the oven and is slightly flakey on top, but it has held together nicely. I cut it in half to see what purple delights lie within and find a perfect layer of beetroot, evenly spread and nestling just below the top crust. It bleeds a little bit into the crust and into the filling below but it is very aesthetically pleasing and the pie holds together in the hands throughout.
The beetroot is sweet and crunchy and compliments the soft fluffy potato and mince very well. I must admit that when I have an actual hot pot, I tend to go for pickled onions over beetroot and red cabbage but the flavour is well balanced within and the pastry is soft on the inside, with a crisp outer texture.
If I’m truthful, I could take or leave the beetroot, it is there purely to add a slightly sweet and pickled taste to the pie and provide a bit of novelty value. Nevertheless, there is still a good inch of so of filling underneath consisting of mince meat, potato, carrots and gentle seasoning.
It is also priced competitively at £2.30 and in line with the nearby pie shops. They also have a hot counter with all manner of pies and sausage rolls, so that you can pick one up ready to eat. I’ve only just scratched the surface here.
McRobbs, I shall return!
Current pricing (June 2021)
A Wigan “lobby” pie with beetroot costs £2.30. They also sell chunk steak, lamb and mint, chicken and leek, meat and potato pies and a lobby pie without beetroot. Plus a load of other stuff including some terrific cuts for your barbecue…
Slattery’s are somewhat better known as a cake maker and patisserie these days. My good lady, who is not a proficient pie eater, has been known to go there for afternoon tea.
Nevertheless, way back in 2012, they came highly recommended to me as a quality North Manchester pie maker, from a friend at FC United, one Maurice Twomowers, so I decided to seek them out. They still knock up a decent pie and buffet to this very day.
I should add that this was a FOUR PIE DAY for me and this was the first. For a while, Hampsons (now Pound Bakery) in Wigan used to do four pies for a pound when I worked in the centre. The first two slipped down easily, the third presented a bit of resistance and by the time I got to the 4th my stomach was growling like a hungover lion.
When you come off the motorway at Bury, after the Manchester sign you can shortly see another which says “Slatterys – World class bakers and confectioners”.
I should add that when I did this review, I visited a back street shop, which I believe has now closed as they have gone fully blown on their main site on Bury New Road. Yet even then, aside from the huge plate pies, pasties and sandwiches, I was taken aback by the cakes which looked so sweet they could make your teeth drop out, by just looking at them.
Slattery’s Meat and Potato Pie
Purchase: Meat and potato pie £1.50
Place: 8 If Willy Wonka made crusts instead of chocolate, it’d look like this place
Pastry: 7.5 A glazed top crust, with a little porthole and a large crack running through the middle, giving a seductive peek at the delights which lie inside
Presentation: 7 Authentic aroma and of a very good temperature
Package: 8 Upon attempting hand based consumption, gravy spilled down my sleeve. This is indeed a wondrous experience!
Palate: 7 Slight lack of seasoning but this enabled the individual components to come through
Price: 7 £1.50 Feels like a “value ceiling” in the meat and potato market
Portion: 7 Average size but devoured in record time as you’d expect for the first of the day
OVERALL: 51.5/70 An impressive pie and an impressive start to the day. It appears that the man in possession of both a Flymo and a Qualcast knows his stuff pie wise.
It certainly gives off a powerful aroma. I’m sat in a retail park making a proper mess of the wife’s car here, so I wander over to B&M Bargains and get some binbags and air fresheners. More accessories carried around by mass murderers basically.
The finer details:
The original review took place on Saturday 28th January 2012. As mentioned, they are a primarily a cake maker and offer lessons in baking but they still serve a range of pies and hot and cold food to take out, along with a myriad of excessively sweet and yummy things for afters.
Current pricing (June 2021)
A meat and potato pie is £2.15, they also sell cheese and onion, steak and ale and beefsteak pies, along with various specials
Chapter 4 of Life of Pies was a hard lesson learned about the intricacies of pie eating in the capital city. You see, I foolishly thought that, like in Wigan, you would just walk into a bakers cum pie shop and get one delivered in your luck, hot off the rack. No such luck as schoolboy error after school boy error was performed.
Percy Ingles, Tuesday 24th January 2012
“Do you sell pies luv?”
A simple enough question I thought. It might get you a funny look if you walk into a bakers in Wigan and ask that question, seeing as you are likely to be confronted with racks of the buggers.
The pie lady, and I’m not being sexist here as it nearly always is a lady, might think you’re being a touch sarcastic you see. When up North, you’d have to offer some variation along the lines of:
“Have you got any pies left?” or a more genteel
“What pies have you got left?”
Both acceptable, albeit the second can show you up to be something of a pie novice in the jungle that is a North West pie shop if you cannot decipher the product line on sight alone.
I digress. So we’ve established it’s a bloody stupid question to ask in a bakery in the North West of England. However, it also garners an equally profound “have you just been beamed down from outer space sunshine” type expression should you venture that query forward in certain other parts of the country.
I’m in Poplar. Cockney country. Within the sound of Bow Bells, not that I can hear them today. It’s February: still freezing, still snowing. I get off the tube at All Saints and wander through Chrisp Street Market in search of a Percy Ingles bakery, famed throughout East London and Essex. The irony here, is that I practically have to walk past a pie and mash shop to get there, I need to get my product and move quickly, but I’ve not ruled it out for a visit another time, even though it looks like I’d get stabbed as soon as I walked in and opened my mouth.
I find it easy enough with it’s bright green frontage in the precinct within the market and wander in. It’s a bakers right? Just like thousands of others up and down the country – they MUST sell pies?
THREE TIMES I ASK.
It might be the accent, I don’t know, but each time the Eastern European girl serving laughs a little louder, until she is openly cackling in my face like one of those double crossing Russian bond girls. She repeats the last word “Pies?” eventually adding a “no, no” at the third time of asking as if I’d just walked into a launderette by mistake and asked for a short back and sides.
“OK I’ll have a steak bite then”
Some climbdown. A sheepish retreat but I need summat to eat. It’s bizarre. She looked at me like I was some kind of madman. You know what a pie is don’t you? There’s a sit down type shop flogging it with mash around the corner?
It seems that in the East End of London there are rules: bakers sell bread, cakes and a selection of puff pastry type savoury products. If you want a pie, you go to a pie and mash shop and never the twain shall meet.
Far be it for me to question it, even though they then go and put eel liquor instead of gravy on their pie and choose to have the potato on the outside. I’ve learnt the hard way. Despite an aversion to fish, mushrooms, peppers and all other kinds of things which are probably good for you, I fear I may have to try a pie the Cockney way some time soon. In the meantime, I settle for scoffing this steak slice/bake/bite/pasty whatever they call it.
Upon reading the above piece, it has had me rueing the fact, I have never tried a Tottenham cake and never will. But for those interested, here is a picture. If they don’t sell them at White Hart Lane, then they absolutely should do…..
I may not have been too happy that I couldn’t order a pie in their shops, but the fact that a traditional baker of many decades standing has shut down is indeed a sad day.
PS If you are in the area and have a hunger to sate, then the actual pie and mash shop on Chrisp Street is called Maureen’s pie and mash. They actually do home delivery. Hmm I wonder: https://maureenspieandmash.co.uk/
As you can see, I am slowly in the process of adding the hundreds of pie reviews I captured over the years. If you don’t want to wait a while, you can read all 314 reviews in Life of Pies for the bargain price of just £4.99 & P&P here
Following my extensive review of Taylor’s Peppery Pie, I also tried a couple of their other top sellers.
The steak and ale will follow soon but I also sampled the large meat and potato pie, which is well padded with a creamy mash filling and sweet flavour. Again, there is lots of pepper present, to add a bit of seasoning, to the melt in the mouth mince and mash filling, although there are also some beautifully fresh chunks of potato in there.
The crust again holds together very well with a crunchy crust and a firm yet soft shortcrust base and sides. It is a little less heavy on the seasoning but still a very filling and tasty snack. Anyway, enough chat this time, simply enjoy the pictures!
You can pick up Taylor’s pies from their shop at Leigh: Hill St, Leigh WN7 4DT, or for many stockists across the North west.