The Pie Of Old England

National Pie Week is upon us once more and with everybody throwing their ideas into the pot I thought it might be somewhat calming to re-introduce a few of Granny Robertson’s classic recipes.

This blog has written much about many different regional recipes for pies as well as extensively covering the history of the pie itself.

There are two main types of pie.

The first is where the raw meat and vegetables are mixed with a stock or liquor and topped with a pastry crust which is then slow-baked until done. In this case, unless the original liquor is thickened with a flour or starch of some description can be fairly gloopy bland.

The second is where a cooked meat, or fish, is combined with other ingredients into a basic casserole or stew which is then covered in pastry and baked.

Then there is the style of pastry. Shortcrust, puff, rough puff, suet or hot-water the finish is basically the same.  Some will allow scone, or cheese scone or herby bread but the result is always a pie.

Unless of course you include the cottage pie, the shepherd’s pie and the fish pie that are traditionally topped with mashed potato (with or without cheese)

But be that as it may, when the first pie shop opened in Southwark, London the rule was a bottom of suet pastry topped with shortcrust.

The pie shops of London gained a certain notoriety over the decades that persists today. Eel, a fish that could survive in even the filthy water of the Thames was a constant on the London menu for centuries.

In the meantime, immigration has given gave us the chicken balti pie, the Scotch pie (filled with minced mutton or beef) and the Cornish pasty. Not forgetting of course the, mostly seasonal, mince pie.

Since time immemorial pie sellers have roamed the streets of London in their droves. The first recorded pie and mash shop opened in Southwark in 1844.

Sadly, from over 100 shops in the mid-20th century, numbers have declined sharply, due to rising costs and competition from other fast foods.

London’s pie and mash shops have served the same traditional fare since the 19th century.

Names and decor are much the same, small, cosy shops bearing the founder’s name or initials with marbled tables and seating booths while decoration is minimal.

With thousands of chicken, kebab and fish and chip shops on the high streets of London there are possibly a handful of pie and mash shops surviving.

There are some who assert that the Cornish pasty like the Scotch pie is, in fact, not really a pie, likewise the Welsh or Clarks pie (or Clarkie)

Not that I would say this of course, I’m far too much of a coward!

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