British Pie Week: 7-13th March
British Pie Week is this month from Monday 7th March through to Sunday 13th March. The British Pie Awards is at the centre of the week with judging on the 9th March and the Awards Lunch on the 11th March.
Pies – Britain’s Contribution to International Cuisine
The British love pies, we probably eat more per head than anywhere else in fact the nation consumes over £1billion worth of pies a year. British Pie Awards Chairman Dr Matthew O’Callaghan says it’s our major contribution to world cuisine. “We’ve developed the pie like no other country; hot/cold, sweet/savoury and with a range of pastry to match; short crust, hot water crust, suet, filo, puff.”
A History of Pies
Pies evolved from pasties, the BPA’s definition of a pie is “A filling totally encased in pastry and baked”. So no tarts, lattices or casseroles in a fancy dish which some pubs or restaurants pass off as a pie by putting a puff crust on top with no sides or bottom – more like a stew with a biscuit or cobbler than a real pie! The pie has evolved from regional favourites and simple family pies to the Gourmet individual pie with a variety of ingredients inside so they more resemble a ‘restaurant in a pastry casing’.
There’s a claim that pies or pasties were being made by the Egyptians, they were certainly known by the Romans. In Britain pies, called coffyns because of their shape, were mentioned by Geoffrey Chaucer who gave a recipe for an apple pie in 1381. The recipe book for the cooks of King Richard II in the late 14th century has various recipes for pies. Early pies were made of flour and water (to form a paste – pastry) with no fat. They were filled with meat and vegetables and placed in the oven after the bread had been baked. Once cooked they were broken open and the pastry thrown away with the contents being served on a plate with bread. Alternatively the gravy was drained and eaten and replaced by clarified butter and resealed to make the pie keep longer.
To Eat ‘Umble’ Pie
In Medieval times the lord of the manor would sit at the high table and be served roasted venison meat. The peasants at the bottom of the hall would be served the entrails of the deer baked in a pie. The entrails of a deer are called ‘umbles’ hence the expression ‘To eat umble pie’ – not humble but umble!
The addition of fat to the pastry mix took the pie to a whole new tasting experience such that it was the centre-piece of many a feast in the Middle Ages with elaborate decorations on the pastry and often crowned with a boars head or stuffed swan to denote what was inside.
The Pilgrim Fathers took their apple pie recipe to the Americas. Apples were often called pippins at the time (Cox Pippin) and so apple pies were called pippin pies. Melton Mowbray Pork Pies developed from their association with hunting, Cornish Pasties from tin mining, the Stargazy pie in Mousehole from a famine in Cornwall where fish heads and tails were all that was to eat in some households. Rat Pie was also eaten in famine times!
British Pie Week – Piemakers
Are you ready for it? With local press often desperate for stories now is the time to publicise your pies locally with a short piece, competition, offer and picture of your establishment and pie/s. And of course contact your local BBC or other favourite radio station.
Below is some material that might be of interest to include in any article on pies. Don’t forget to mention in your article if you’re entering your pies in this year’s British Pie Awards and any past Awards or achievements.
British Pie Awards – Celebrating the British Pie
The British Pie Awards has been going for 13 years during which time judges would have chomped their way through some 10,000 pies entered into 23 classes, the winner being called the Supreme Champion or ‘Pie of Pies’. Roughly 1000 pies are judged each year. BBC One TV filmed a documentary on the Awards in 2019. https://youtu.be/neg3ppayA44
A map of Award winning pies on google has had over 135,000 views.
Entries Close on 25th February, Pies delivered to Church in Melton Mowbray 8th March, Judging 9th March. Awards Lunch 11th March. www.britishpieawards.co.uk
Dr Matthew O’Callaghan OBE
Chairman: British Pie Awards