The Melting Pot: Lifting the lid on perfect pies!

With British Pie Week taking place this month (March 4-10), we’re joining the ‘upper crust’ and sharing some genius recipe ideas for the nation’s beloved dish.

While chicken and mushroom tops the list of the UK’s favourite pie fillings, we’re lifting the lid on interesting new flavour suggestions, as these pie-loving chefs and industry experts share their thoughts and ideas…

Antony Amourdoux

“The Bollywood Baker” and Great British Bake Off contestant 2018

It’s almost three years now since I discovered one of the country’s culinary treasures – the Melton Mowbray pork pie. With spiced pork encased in jellified pork juices in a hot crust pastry, I was inspired to make my twist on this classic savour snack. I added my South Indian twist – back home (Pondicherry, India) my mum made the most delicious peppered pork fry with the addition of Garam Masala and one of my favourite ingredients – the curry leaf. So taking the inspiration from her here’s my version of a Great British pork pie. Turmeric and cumin seed hot crust pastry filled with layers of saffron rice, peppered pork fry and caramelised onions. The rice helps to absorb the extra juices from the meat helping avoid a soggy bottom.

Preston Walker

Chair of the NACC Midlands Region and director of Oak House Residential Home

Pies are always a favourite and, by using lard in the pastry, we create a lovely crust and traditional taste that our residents love. For sweet pies, a sprinkling of sugar adds caramelisation and a crunchy texture. For residents that require dysphagia diets, we modify the texture of our pies by separating the filling and crust, then processing separately. Providing the filling is soft enough, it can be simply chopped or fully puréed to the correct consistency. The crust is blended with either gravy or custard to reach the required consistency. This approach allows the food to be presented like the original dish, with the crust layered on top of the filling. This improves the presentation and overall enjoyment of eating.

Kevin Berkins

Country Range customer and MD of the awardwinning Fence Gate Inn, Lancashire, holders of Guinness World Record for the world’s most expensive pie

The pie cost £8,195 – or £1,024 per slice when ordered by eight guests on 14 November 2005. Its ingredients included £500 worth of Japanese Wagyu beef fillet, Chinese Matsutake mushrooms (£500 per 1kg), Winter Black truffles, French Bluefoot mushrooms at £200 per 1kg, gravy made from made two bottles of vintage 1982 Chateau Mouton Rothschild wine at £1,000 each and finally the pastry was topped with edible gold leaf costing £100 per sheet. It started as a bit of silliness and gained momentum because of the oddity of the ingredients. It was a very sophisticated pie!

Richard Phillips

Executive chef and owner of Pearson’s Arms in Whitstable

At our cosy seafront pub we serve a number of different pie flavours throughout the year. Our fish pie is always popular, as is the beef and oyster pie but one of the real favourites is our vegan butternut squash and spinach shortcrust pastry pie served with roasted butternut, glazed baby onions, butternut squash velouté. It’s completely plant-based, hearty, healthy and full of flavour. In January this year we launched a three-course vegan menu to showcase the quality and variety of different meat-free options available, we wanted to show that reducing meat intake doesn’t mean you can’t eat great tasting, fresh, locally-sourced food.

Sam Platt

Vegetarian Society Cookery School manager

Great veggie and vegan pies are easy! For vegan pastry, swap fat content for vegan fat like Tomor or coconut oil. Bump the umami of your pastry with mustard or nutritional yeast. For vegan glazes, use melted coconut oil or beaten aquafaba.

Choose tasty vegetables for your filling, paired with a protein source: cheese, pulses or beans, meat alternatives; add flavourings: herbs, spices, garlic, chilli; and you’re good to go! Swap meat content for alternatives; Quorn steak strips in steak and onion pie; Oumph! The Chunk in chicken and leek or green lentils for minced beef.

Matt Owens

Business development manager and development chef for Major International

At any time of year, the key to getting your pie offer right is to take full advantage of seasonal produce. Fruits like rhubarb and apple are both in season at this time of year and work with a wide selection of other ingredients to make interesting fillings that will pique the interest of your customers. Classic apple and cherry is one of my favourites in spring and is easy to make with our new Cherry Fruit Compound, which can be added to your apple filling to give a sweet and juicy cherry flavour, even though it’s out of season.

Matthew White

Chair of the University Caterers Organisation (TUCO)

With the move towards plant-based eating and the growing number of Millennial and Gen Z consumers seeking meat-free dishes, chefs are looking for new and interesting spices from further afield. Our Global Food and Beverage Trends report (available at www.tuco. co.uk) found that adventurous Millennial and Gen Z consumers crave chilli heat and constantly seek out new varieties, while firm favourites such as spices, smoke and fermented flavours are on menus everywhere. Flavours such as a smoky and aromatic Moroccan spiced aubergine pie are becoming increasingly popular. By adding interesting spices to dishes, it taps into their search for authentic flavours.

Robin Dudley

Business development chef, Essential Cuisine

The secret to a good pie, as with most cooking, is lots of little elements done well. Get each step right and the end result will be sensational. It all starts with good pastry. I prefer hot water or shortcrust for mine. Then you need a fantastically cooked and well-seasoned filling – my personal favourite is slow-cooked beef and ale, using shin and dark local ale. Then, of course, there’s the gravy. It’s just not the same without a good gravy.

Olivia Shuttleworth

Brand manager for Whirl, the liquid butter substitute from AAK Foodservice

Pies are by their nature an indulgent treat, but it’s possible to create a lighter shortcrust pastry by replacing the butter with a liquid butter substitute. Whirl, made from vegetable oil, has up to 60% less saturated fat than butter, yet brings a rich, buttery taste to pastry. It goes straight into the mixer with no preparation required, and is perfect for both savoury and sweet pastry. Try it filled with beef brisket slow-cooked in a maple and bourbon BBQ sauce, or a spicy, meat-free filling of chickpeas, sweet potato, mushroom and red onion simmered in Middle Eastern hot sauce.