Life of Pie
With research revealing that 75% of people enjoy a pie at least once a month*, British Pie Week (6-12 March) is the perfect opportunity to lift the crust on this delicious favourite and bake up some profits all-year round.
“British pies are all about quality ingredients and homemade provenance,” said pie and pudding ambassador Mark Beeston, director of the Melton Mowbray Pork Pie Association and a British Pie Awards committee member. “It is far less common these days for consumers to make pastry from scratch in their own homes – there is now a stronger desire to order pastry-based dishes in pub restaurants which has resulted in putting pies firmly in the top five best sellers and becoming a permanent fixture on British menus.”
The perfect pie
Is the secret to the perfect pie the filling or the pastry? “People love pies because they are a comfort food; the filling oozes out, and it smells divine,” said Katherine Pritchard, joint owner of Blueberries in Clitheroe, whose homemade meat pies and cheese and onion pies are the cafe’s best sellers. “A pie has to have well made pastry and a tasty filling.” According to the British Pie Awards, a true pie must be fully enclosed. “The filling of a pie is equally as important as the pastry – consumers expect a great filling with, in the case of meat or fish pies, lots of protein,” said Mark Beeston. “Meat with British provenance is also something that consumers are drawn to.”
Steak & ale
Chicken & leek/ham
Steak & veg or cheese
Steak & kidney
Chicken & mushroom
Source: Mark Beeston
When it comes to the number one choice of pie, it appears that customers stick to tradition. Steak and ale wins by a country mile with pubs tending to use their own beer when crafting their signature pies. Other traditional favourites include steak and kidney, beef and ale and pork pies. The Plough Inn, in Statham, Leicestershire can prove this. “Our steak and ale pie made with homemade puff pastry is still the firm favourite,” said landlord and owner Martin Wilson. “But other fillings that are popular include our chilli mince beef, chicken, leek and bacon and we even have a breakfast pie – sausage, bacon and egg.”
Chips or mash?
Handmade chips or creamy mash – the choice is yours! To make it a less premium pie, serve with chips – chips, peas and gravy are the most cost effective accompaniments, but more premium pies are served with mash and fresh steamed vegetables. Remember lots of children prefer baked beans with their pies, and they’re also a popular side to go with cheese and onion pie.
Pies are an indulgent treat, so can there be a healthy version? “On average, pies are getting smaller in size, which ultimately reduces the calories people are consuming,” said Mark Beeson. “Producers now also tend to use less salt and MSG. The British Pie Awards introduced a popular ‘free from’ class in 2015 – producers can only enter their pies into this category if they are legally classified as gluten free.” Having more than one vegetarian and gluten-free option on your menu is vital.
Pie and ale pairing
• Steak & ale – Brown Ale, Fullers ESB & Lagers
• Steak & kidney – English Bitter
• Beef & oyster – Guinness
• Chicken & mushroom – IPA, Blonde & Golden Ales
Help your pies make more profit with a 2FOR1 offer during quieter times or a ‘beat the pie’ offer on specific days – the time you order is the price you pay. Have a seasonal theme; Guinness pies for St Patrick’s Day (see recipe for Steak & Guinness Pie), or pumpkin for Halloween and so on. The Plough Inn has a Friday Pie night every week. “It’s really popular,” said Martin Wilson. “We always have a choice of five pies – including two vegetarian – and serve them with our very popular home-cooked chips or creamy mash, peas and gravy for just £5.50.”
The annual World Pie Eating Championship held in Wigan has been going since 1992. To win the Bradley Piggins Trophy, contestants have to eat a meat and potato pie in the least time; current record is 45.5 seconds
*Source: Jus-Rol Professional