I recently found myself running a relative to Leigh Infirmary for a hospital appointment, one that would require a bit of wait time. Well, what is there to do in Leigh with said wait time?
I suppose a man’s got to eat for a start…..
I have tried out quite a few pie shops in Leigh and the surrounding areas but my knowledge is by no means comprehensive. I’m getting compelled to Dawsons Pies of Atherton cos they are amazing and there’s also Sargents which is close by. I think I have had Sargents in the past in a pub in Standish (a pub that gives away pies on a Saturday night is always a winner in my eyes) and I am more than familiar with Dawson’s Pies, the only question is whether since re-opening, they are of the same high standard.
There’s also Taylor’s marvellous peppery pies, as previously reviewed on here by yours truly, so you could say that the locals of Leigh are spoilt for choice on the pie front.
Clapham’s are an unknown quantity. My new book will feature not 314 pies but 1,000. Whereas I’d never eat that many personally, getting up to half should be the bare minimum, so that is 186 new pies to try over the next 12 months or so in order to make this project real. So, on we go.
Clapham’s is a very traditional bakery, situated just on the periphery of Leigh town centre. It appears that there may have been some kind of incident a day or two before my visit, as the windows appear to have been boarded up, but the shop is open, so I venture in undeterred.
There’s two blokes in front of me, clad in work gear. I’m always curious to earwig on their order, in case of any local culinary tip offs, and on this occasion it appears that “minced beef pie on a barm please” is the preferred option.
A meat and potato pie is priced at ONE ENGLISH POUND, I am also taken aback by the meat pies, which look small and deep and very reminiscent of Dawson’s down the road in Atherton / Tyldesley.
Other pies available include steak pies, minced beef and pasties (meat and potato and also cheese and onion). The shop is a bit sparse but there is steady flow of pies and sandwiches coming from the kitchen.
I opt for the meat and potato and a meat pie. My little duo arrive in a paper bag, which is hot to the touch, and the smell coming off them, once I am back in my car is breathtaking. A beautiful gluten-ny, gluttony, buttery, lardy pastry, injecting right up into my nostrils.
I decamp to the car park of BJ’s Bingo across the road to tuck in, and it really doesn’t take long at all to devour this pair.
The meat and potato is not a huge pie, but what do you want for a quid? The pastry is wonderfully soft with a firm crust lip. The filling is predominantly mashed potato, with a few clumps of mince thrown in. The flavour is sweet and gentle, with none of the fiery pepper seasoning, I have come to expect from round these parts, the main heat comes from the fresh potato filling, which is burning hot yet delicious.
I bought these a while ago and was that underwhelmed that I never bothered to pass on this information. My guess is I bought them in June to coincide with the Champions League final, given the branding
I like crisps almost as much as I like pies, beer and hot curries, so I felt duty bound to give them a whirl.
To be fair, it says on the packet, that it contains flavouring only, not any actual pies. It would be quite the trick to manage that in the first place. However, seeing as the content is in a fully encased package, then it is perhaps more of a pie than some of the barely pastry-clad sights that come across my timeline on a daily basis. DON’T GET ME STARTED AGAIN!!
Upon opening the bag, I get a faint whiff of what Walkers used to call Steak (Beef?) and Onion, with not quite the kick of a chargrilled steak Max product. The crisps are golden coloured but lacking in any visual signs of seasoning.
The crisps are of standard Walkers size (I find them a bit flimsy these days compared to some of the posh, gourmet crisp makers out there but they are still the market leader, so why change a traditional brand?)
I suppose at this point, there are only three tests:
Does it taste of: a) Steak b) Ale; and c) Pie To which the answer would be yes to a) (sort of) but no to b) and c)
1 out of 3 is 3.33 out of 10. Maybe you should of stuck to making pies, Walkers? You didn’t know they made pies?
That’s a story for another day, or one to read about it in Life of Pies
Having said all that, I’m a sucker for trying a new crisp flavour, so I don’t want to be too harsh. In fact, I’ve just seen they are doing a beef madras flavour. I’ll be having some of that. Only problem is that, if they aren’t very good like this flavour, I’ll get bollocked for sticking the other bags in the kids’ lunchboxes….
Oh and PS, I don’t normally pour a bag of crisps on to a plate before eating them, what on earth of a monster do you think I am??
After our recent pie judging trip to Melton Mowbray, we decided to see what else the town has to offer in pie form, in addition to the “famous” Dickinson & Morris pork pie.
There are several other independent pie makers in the town, and two of them in particular, are very highly regarded in their own right. Myself, and my cohort Chris, decided to pay a visit to the noted pie makers, Brockleby’s on our way back from Melton to see what they have to offer.
As if to underline, the importance of pastry around these parts, Brockleby’s actually offer pie making tutorials at their premises, and they also sell a wide range of pies, which you can buy in person or online for shipping across the country.
I think you’d have to take a look at their website to get the full details of flavours and combinations that they produce, but if I was to sum up their range in one word, it would be diverse.
I’ve just had another look since my visit eight weeks ago, and it has changed dramatically again, most noticeably the addition of a Christmas themed reindeer pie (venison) and a range of Greek and Moroccan inspired flavours.
They are also one of the few bakers to really take on the fish pie theme to it’s proper conclusion and actually put fish into a fully encased pie crust, with salmon pie and a “Penguin pie”. Made with haddock and cheese, I should add, not penguin.
I picked up a range of pies on my visit and whacked them in the freezer when I got home. Of the two larger, plate pies I bought, I gave the lady of the house the choice between The Northerner (meat and potato) and Cocky Leeky (chicken and leek) for tea tonight, and she chose the former.
It feels only right that a man of my credentials, brought up in the meat and potato pie capital of the world should roadtest their Northerner minced beef and potato pie at the earliest opportunity, in any case, so here goes.
The Northerner Pie by Brockleby’s
The pie comes in an attractive, decorative box, giving details as to the origin of the ingredients and suggested cooking instructions.
The pie is deep, circular and very heavy in the hands, with a beautiful, golden egg glaze brushing the pastry lid.
It takes a full fifty minutes to cook from frozen but it’s not long before the sweet, lardy pastry flavour starts to permeate out of the oven and around the kitchen.
Upon removal, the pie is scorching hot and it is filled to the brim. From my perspective, it makes the “double flip” required to get it out of the tray and on to a plate, quite challenging. So forgive my cack handedness in the photo, and take my word for it, that this pie is jam packed with filling.
The contents are high quality, tender meaty chunks of mince, soaked in stock, onion and a bit of garlic. Kind of feels like a cottage pie type filling and Emma commented that there didn’t seem to be a lot of potato in there. Of course, her point of comparison is with the Wigan meat and potato pie, which is generally all potato and a bit of meat. The traditional North west meat and potato were actually forced to rebrand a few years back, because they were mainly potato and a bit of mince or mutton.
The ratio in this pie is strictly the other way. This pie is absolutely rammed with meat and dark gravy that has soaked into the filling and turned the potato chunks brown. I should add that my missus is not a big meat eater but I am certainly not going to complain about a high meat content and both the flavour and the texture were a delight.
As this was a proper tea, I added some chips coated with chardonnay vinegar and sea salt and a load of veg, and I was absolutely stuffed at the end of it. In short, half a pie of this size was enough for me, but obviously I could have tackled the full monty.
This was certainly a very decent appetiser for the Brockleby pies to come and I look forward to consuming and reviewing them in due course.
Sadly, this is one from the archives, from a place that is no more, yet it was one of the favourite pies I had whilst on my previous mission.
They were another Maurice Twomowers recommendation, similar to Slatterys but of the four pies I had that day, this was by far the best. Sadly, the Crusty Cob ceased trading a few years back. It now appears to be a kebab shop ☹
In any case, I’m still going to share my review of one of the finest pies ever made. To all the young entrepreneurs out there, making visually gastronomic pleasures, with all manner of daft flavours. Well, why not try and make these hand made, odd shaped, leaking with gravy beauties instead. They might not garner the same level of Instagram likes, but bloody hell they tasted amazing and they will fly off the shelves if you can make them half as good.
The Crusty Cob Meat and Potato Pie
On to Ancoats and the irony of Man Utd lads sending me to one of their hidden treasures situated in the shadow of the Etihad isn’t lost. Though technically this is where Manchester United started off, back when they were just a bunch of workshy railwaymen, who’d rather kick a ball about than stoke a steam engine, with no grand designs on Premier League domination.
I drive through part of the “Shameless” estate, finding it relatively genteel, after having gone through much gentrification in recent times and arrive in Beswick Street. The Crusty Cob sits in a secluded row of shops, perched on a hill, which runs down to the stadium.
It’s well kept and I’m queuing up trying to ascertain the menu. Manchester is firmly meat and potato country. There’s meat pies and potato pies and meat and potato pies, all of them look homemade and delicious as I tune in to other people’s orders. The fella in front orders 12 [twelve] meat and potato pies and six cream horns.
Purveyor: The Crusty Cob Premises: Manchester Purchase: Meat and potato pie £1.22 Place: 6.5 Queuing system a bit of a mess Pastry: 9 Home made, impeccably soft, short crust pastry, made to perfection. The crust is the first thing you see and I can’t take my eyes off these beauties, from the second I walk into the shop. A quite simply stunning uneven top crust. Presentation: 9 A real looker, highly distinct. More importantly, it’s piping hot with more steam coming off it than an irate Popeye. Package: 9.5 Fantastic dark gravy spilling out and wrapping up a crowded filling of meat and potato chunks Palate: 9 Dark, mysterious and opulent gravy coating steak and potato which has a remarkable freshness about it Price: 8 I endorse the fact it’s £1.22. It implies they are resisting the lazy option of whacking the price with all their might in multiples of 5 or 10. Putting the customer’s pocket before their own ballache of handling masses of coppers Portion: 7.5 Average size but great volume
OVERALL: 58.5/70 Equally as suitable for an Arab sheikh or a humble railway worker. I’m beaming away like a small child in Openshaw Matalan car park, whilst I’m being observed closely by a security guard on a fag break, who is probably wondering what the hell I’ve got to be so pleased about on a drab Saturday morning.
The finer details: The original review took place on Saturday 28th January 2012. The owners of the Crusty Cob retired in 2018, after 47 years service. As an aside, I got friendly with the owner and his son, a year or two after I published the book. I was working in the Northern Quarter at the time, and faced with a shed full of books to sell, I finally answered my phone to a tabloid press agency, who wanted me to do a feature. There was only one place to go for a (reluctant) photoshoot.
My face ended up in the Daily Star, Daily Mirror and Daily Mail (I know) and, far from the spectacle that getting your name in the paper or on telly used to entail, I sold a mere 30 copies of the book off the back of it. It hardly seemed worth it, but the hospitality from Dave and his son was second to none. They were genuinely proud that their pies were one of the best out of the 300+ I sampled, and even sold the book in the shop for several years. Which of course, gave me any excuse to return again and again and sample their lovely pies.
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
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
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…
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.