This week, 7-13th March, is British pie week, in case you didn’t know, and we at Menu Fresh need no excuse to celebrate the great British Pie!
The pie is one of the absolute staples of British food and we consume £1billion worth of these tasty pastry goodies every year.
We’re looking forward to a week of pastry encrusted delights but have immediately run into controversy: Just what qualifies as a pie?
What is a Pie?
Heated, sometimes vicious debate has broken out within the team, and after protracted conflict we have settled into two camps:
They believe that a pie must be pastry all the way round. “What is a pie without a base?” they cry and insist on referring to the chicken pot pie with a puff pastry on top as “stew with a lid”. They cannot decide if a Shepherd’s Pie is a pie, but agree it is certainly known as one.
Their sworn enemies are:
They agree with Mary Berry, that pies do not need pastry all the way around, indeed there’s no need to be so rigid at all.
In order to settle this, we have referred to The British Pie Awards which has been running since 2009 and is being held in Melton Mowbray, the Rural Capital of Food, hosted by the Melton Mowbray Pork Pie Association.
If you want to submit a pie to the awards, their website clearly states:
“For the purposes of the Awards, a pie is defined as the following: ‘A Pie is deemed to be a filling wholly encased in pastry and baked”.
Well, now that’s sorted, let’s talk pie!
The History of Pie
We may think of pie as a quintessentially British food invention, but there are records of something like a pie from Ancient Egypt, over 4,000 years ago. Some think this can still be experienced in the modern Egyptian dish “Feteer”.
The Romans enjoyed a pie as well, of course, they did, we don’t seem to be able to discuss the history of any food without the Romans getting a mention. Many believe it was the Roman Empire that spread the idea of pie to all corners. Although their pies used pastry more as a sort of Tupperware of the day, to preserve the filling, and was not designed to be eaten.
This frankly disgraceful disregard for the pastry continued well into Medieval Britain. You may recall Heston Blumenthal’s Medieval Feast where Salt Dough was used to recreating the “4 and 20 Blackbirds baked in a pie” nursery rhyme, rendering the crust more of a salty birdcage.
In fact, the word “Pie” may come from this period.
The Word Pie
It is thought by many that the source of the word “pie” comes from the magpie, due to its habit of collecting odds and ends together in one place. Indeed, our medieval ancestors seemingly put everything and anything into pies. This is a habit that seems to have lasted until relatively recently, with the British Library recently tweeting about Parakeet Pie from the Victorian era. The parakeets were sadly no longer able to tweet themselves. Or even squawk.
The Best Pie
According to a recent report on takeaway trends pies rank as follows:
Topping the list are three potatoes topped favourites, in a serious blow for the purists:
Cheese and onion pie – is our first vegetarian, though not vegan, entry but we’re not sure it counts as a healthy alternative
Pork pies – this majestic favourite still hold a place in our hearts
Homity pie – made with potatoes, onion and leeks is a new favourite, but an old recipe, dating from the second World War when meat was hard to come by. This has a pastry base, but no crust, which reignited hostilities in the office all over again.
The Queen enjoys a good pie, apparently, with a frankly tantalising list of different options from mini chicken curry pies, venison, steak and kidney and apple pies all featuring on her immaculately dressed table.
Put Pies on the Menu
What does this tell us? The British public loves a pie! Not only is it a guaranteed favourite, but it’s an incredibly versatile dish to feature on your menu.
We know our customers are always looking for ways to increase GP and pies are a really good way to use ingredients across a variety of dishes. With potato-topped pies remaining so popular you could really be missing a trick if you aren’t featuring it at least through the winter months
It doesn’t have to be a “budget option”, famously budget-busting London restaurant The Ivy is known for its Shepherd’s pie, and it’s anything but leftovers thrown together.
If you’re looking to see what you could bake in a pie, give one of our produce experts a call and they can help you find the ideal ingredients to encrust (all the way round) in pastry.