Close your eyes for a second. Trust us, it’s nothing nasty- in fact far from it.
Picture yourself opening up a piping hot oven, glove safely wrapped around hand, and taking out a pie dish complete with whatever pastry-based bundle of joy you consider your favourite. Take a knife, slice in, release the steam and scents hiding beneath that buttery casing. Breathe it in. Soak it up. Get ready for a taste sensation that is impossible to countenance.
If we told you that opening paragraph was supposed to be read in a rich, plummy voice, like so many UK supermarkets choose for their TV ads, you hopefully start to understand just how much we love pies. Steak & kidney, meat and potato, game, rabbit, apple, winter berry, summer fruits… the list could go on, ranging from the finest savouries to the most delectable sweets.
But what are the best regional British pies according to public consensus?
To celebrate British Pie Week- AKA the best damn week in the entire year with the possible exception of Christmas- Hallmark Hotels took to trusty social media to conduct some less-than-scientific, but nonetheless enlightening research. We asked the simple question- what’s your favourite British pie, and unsurprisingly the comments came in thick and fast.
Thankfully, despite this being such a (ahem) heated subject, things remained cordial if not downright friendly and celebratory throughout. Here’s the top five, as voted by your good selves…
- Steak and ale
- Chicken with stuffing and thick gravy
- Steak and Guinness
- Butter pie with potato and onion
- Goats cheese, butternut squash, and caramelised onion
First of all, we’re delighted to have seen a vegetarian option make the final cut, so to speak. Pies still have a huge association with meat, but some of the most flavourful pies out there contain no meat whatsoever.
Just look at the exceptional options offered by Pieminister, one of the UK’s leading brands, which makes a wide variety including several veggie types. And that’s just one company, although for proof of how much of a good example it is, take a look at the story behind the business here, which documents how a small startup began providing pies for trendy bars and pubs across the land.
Pies are, of course, not just a major British pastime, but also embedded in the pantheons of international cuisine.
We’d like to think that Britain is the best at the art form, but from America to Australia, people are gorging themselves silly on puff and shortcrusts. In some parts of the U.S. they even call a pizza a pie, although we’d probably prefer not to go into the semantics of that one (it’s a touchy subject).
Inspired by this idea, we thought we’d share with you the following list of pies that have made Britain famous across the globe- call them specialist epicurean exports, if you like. Or just call them remarkable pastry-based creations. Either way, we hope you’ll agree there are some interesting creations here:
The Mucky Mouth
This Yorkshire effort is a sweet delight, and requires the often overlooked but utterly delicious bilberry. You can replace with blueberries, but we’d prefer to keep things traditional. Taking its name from the impact it has on your tongue- don’t be alarmed when it turns bright blue – it’s just the remedy for those in need of a tasty sugar kick. Those staying at our hotel in Hull should be able to find this one in decent gastro pubs throughout the area.
The Stuffed Monkey
Don’t worry, no monkeys will be harmed during the making of this delicacy that has its roots in the Jewish community of London. The reason for its curious moniker is largely unknown- lost in the endless sands of time- but we do know that it tastes incredible. Combining almonds, candied peel, currants, and vanilla extract, it gives an exotic yet homely flavour that is hard to beat. Look out for it when staying at our hotels in Chigwell and Croydon.
Although the term ‘clanger’ usually refers to someone making a mistake- to drop a clanger- this wonderful concoction is anything but. And it has nothing to do with the classic children’s TV series about weird creatures living on the moon, either. It does bare a slight relation to the original Cornish pasty, though, as it’s sweet on one side and savoury on the other; using pork belly slices, cooking apples, black pepper, ripened pears, dates, and lemons, it’s amongst the most unique Britain has ever made. Our Hallmark Hotel Flitwick Manor is a good base camp if you want to try and find one.
A real warmer that stems from the Scottish wilds, consider this one a variant on the famous Christmas pudding. Clootie refers to the cloth bag you’re supposed to boil the ingredients in, although a pudding basin will do the trick (albeit you can’t rightly use the word ‘clootie’ for that). Digressions aside, raisins, sultanas, suet, mixed spice, cinnamon, and treacle all afford it the unmistakable flavour. Aberdeen Airport and Irvine guests are best positioned to get their mouths around a few bites of this.
To learn how to make these at home, take a look at this article on The Telegraph, which gives the full step-by-step recipes for each.
Searching for the UK’s pie capital
By now some readers are probably staring at this tribute to the Great British Pie and wondering where it all went wrong. So many pastries referenced, and yet one region that often shouts louder than the rest when it comes to pies has been notably absent. Well, fear not, North West, we’ve not forgotten about you.
Cheshire, for example, is not only home to four of our finest addresses, it also gave birth to the aptly titled Cheshire pork pie. Not just a clever name, this beauty was first introduced into the common conscious in 1747, and consists of a six inch wide hunk of pastry joy, filled with tenderloin pig meat and apples, which slowly melt as the dish is cooked. Throw in some mixed spices and the delicacy is complete.
Across the other side of Manchester’s sprawl, and Wigan often claims to be the unofficial pie capital. Each year pie fans descend on the town and head to Harry’s Bar, on Wallgate, where the World Pie Eating Championship is held. Quite the occasion, the town has some strong competition from nearby Bury, mind, where a local tradition is a pie barm- put simply, a pie shoved into a bread teacake, often covered in gravy for added moisture. Now that’s real dedication to the cause.
Even stranger than pie sandwiches
Needless to say, none of those feature in our Top 5 British Pies list, nor do they come close to being as bizarre as some of the country’s weirdest pies.
Stargazy Pie, from Cornwall, sees whole pilchards covered in crust, but with the heads sticking out to make a star shape.
Red pudding, on the other hand, hails from Scotland and is basically black pudding, only with a deep fried coating and filled with bacon, pork rind, suet, colouring and beef fat. Dieters need not apply.
And, finally, Sussex Pond Pudding sees stodgy suet wrapped around a whole lemon, with heaps of sugar, and plenty of butter, which is then steamed for hours until gooey and very citrusy.
There you have it, then, a real testament to the breadth and variety of what should probably be our national dish, if it wasn’t actually hundreds of different dishes all lumped together under one rather vague category.
Pastry lid – on or off?
And even when you have the same filling, presentation brings yet another debate to the table- pastry lid on, or off? It’s a quandary that has led to squabbles, fights, and family feuds for years, so perhaps we’d best brush this one over for now.
Hallmark Hotels Chicken and Stuffing Pie
All of which leaves just one thing unsaid- when we asked you for your favourite British pies we then put the top five to another public vote, and promised the victor would appear on Hallmark Hotels menus across the country for the duration of March. As such it gives us great pleasure to reveal that the winning pie is Chicken and Stuffing!