Pies are the ultimate comfort food for winter. They remind many people of childhood and we’ve seen an increase in people buying our Extra Special pies this year – maybe because they evoke childhood memories.
I remember my mum used to make big stews and amazing dumplings in the winter. We’d eat stew one night and then she’d make a pie crust and add all the leftovers for tea the next day – delicious!
Now people don’t necessarily want one big pie for all the family. We’re seeing a trend where people eat at different times and where one or more in the family might be vegan or vegetarian.
That’s why the individual pies are so convenient. They’re a good option to have handy in the fridge or freezer to just pop in the oven.
For our Extra Special pie range we’ve gone for the classic pie flavours people will recognise with an autumnal twist. We’re using 100% British meat in our meat pies. And we’ve added the juices from the cooked meat back into the sauce so that nothing is wasted.
There are three individual pies in the range and the two meaty flavours also come in larger sizes.
We know our customers just want a great-tasting pie that looks and tastes homemade. When they talk about pies it’s the crumbliness and flakiness of the pastry they love, as well as tender meat and a rich sauce.
We use a shortcrust pastry technique for the base and more of a flaky pastry for the lid.
It’s the butter that gives the pastry its delicious flavour and flaky texture. The secret is not to add too much water otherwise you start to create gluten. You need just enough to bind the fat to the flour – any more than this and you will end up with more of a biscuity texture.
If you’re making pastry at home it’s important to use really cold fats and to minimise the amount you handle and work it. When you mix in the fat it will coat the flour particles but if it becomes too warm it will become greasy instead.
Our supplier in Nottingham is great to work with – they also supply our Melton Mowbray pork pies.
They slow-cook the fillings at low temperatures so that we’re losing nothing of the flavour. We want the pies to taste and look homemade. Butchers and bakers used to crimp the pie lid to seal it to the base by pinching it together with their fingers. That’s how we want it to look – slightly uneven so that each pie is individual.
I do like a good steak pie, but the chicken pie is my favourite of the Ultimate Pie range. For me, it’s the perfect combination: tender chicken, the smokiness of the bacon and the sweetness of the leeks combined in a creamy filling. It's fantastic comfort food for winter!