Is there anyone, who, deep in their heart of hearts, doesn’t like a pie? Whilst I’m sure there’s a metric fuck-ton of various foods that — under intense questioning — others would choose as their comfort items and the traditional Death Row prisoner’s “last meal” is a continual moveable feast for me*, I know deep in my heart, that a pie would have to anchor any of my choices.

Sweet or savoury, meat based or not, it surely has to be the ultimate “go to” dish to eat when you “find yourself in times of trouble” or simply when it’s cold and pissing down with rain outside. Sod Mother Mary’s attentions (unless she comes bearing a just cooked hot one), no, simply bring me a pie; it comforts, swaddles, soothes, excites, teases and satisfies.

Who ate all the pies? The burgers and the fries? You fat bastard, You fat bastard, You ate all the pies!

Despite this football terrace chant, pies aren’t simply the preserve of a glutton or the desperately hungry half-time fan nor — putting aside the rather disturbing detail that the Ginsters family (of “Ginsters Pies” ‘fame’) were originally in the business of supplying horse manure to sand casting foundries for use in moulds — should remembering those truly awful “no name” things, edges hard singed, flaking apart, dry as dust ‘pastry’, filled with diced gristle and cat food rejects (or so they tasted), wrapped in plastic, encased in a foil base, that you could always find slowly cremating under hot lights in cabinets behind the bars at music gigs or in backstreet pubs or dingy trains stations across the country, let it spoil your appetite for, nor stop your search to find, good variants.

I don’t have enough years left to even attempt to start to write a definitive history of pies around the world, but then that’s fine, I don’t need to. There are much better writers than I who’ve pretty much covered the waterfront and there’s two I’d recommend you start with:

A charming little UK specific one “Life of Pies” by Martin Tarbuck, a monomanical explorer for and eater of, English pies and a more scholarly one called “Pie (Edible): A Global History” by Janet Clarkson. They’re both fully in agreement with my claim that pies, at their best, can be and are works of art.

Here’s a quote on pies by Fergus:

We have recently reclaimed the pie. Here is a shameful admission: there was a period of time when our suet pies had tops only; a grave error. But here is an expression of our evolution: we realise now that a pie must have a bottom. When it comes to suet pastry fear of sogginess is misplaced; the lower layer communes with the filling to achieve a deeply desirable dumpling-like quality.

Fergus describes another misplaced pie fear, ‘I once sat next to a lady at dinner who, when the pies arrived at the table, admitted to pie phobia. Her condition worsened every second that went by before the pie’s filling was exposed, only then could she compose herself. It’s a bit like having a gimp in the larder, not knowing what’s going on under that rubber onesie or, in the case of pie, its suet crust.’

Capturing steak and kidneys in a pie is an expression of power. Put your trust in pie. All will be well.

And with no more delay, I give you a “look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!” set:

©John Carey

So, clean in shape, so precise in measurement, so airy in looks, so consistent in colouring, almost as though they were produced, laid down, cut around, stamped out, via those shapes you’d see in the old plastic — mainframe-days — flowchart templates…

…or as Calum describes them, “The Geometry Of Pies”:

Whilst the title, “King Of Pies” landed, imperial garland like, on the shoulders of Calum Franklin (but emphasising that his book is well worth buying & there’s one of his recipes at the bottom)…


…now I’m pleased to see that Nokuthula (Nokx) Majozi, a woman of colour, originally from South Africa, currently employed by him as the senior pie maker and sous chef at The Pie Room in Holborn Dining Room, and being rightly celebrated.

* My (current) “Prisoners’ Last Meal” request:

Start off with a slice of Worcestershire Sauce topped Welsh Rarebit, take a piece or two from each of these pies (add some buttery mashed spuds & garden peas, a generous dollop of HP Brown Sauce), then finish off with some treacle tart with Rodda’s clotted cream. ©Chris Bulow January 2022

Nothing finer past your lips; go on, debate me!

There’s nowhere for the small number of ingredients to hide, no way to conceal any bad cooking choices, so they just shout, joyously at you.

And so this piece now moves onto discuss YASJA. “Yet Another St John Alumni”.

This selection pictured above is by one such, Will Lewis — he of Willy’s Pies — who started out with Fergus, followed up working for Margot at Rochelle Canteen…

It wears its fabulousness lightly. How on earth have I never been? This is nourishing for body and soul, and huge fun, via Marina O’Loughlin.

…and then moved on after that, to a stint alongside Tomos Parry at Brat

The culinary equivalent of an Anthony Hopkins performance, via Jay Rayner

…he of the wondrous turbot, amongst other plates… what was an eminently sensible career move after all, requiring no increase in his commute time, you gotta say, whilst all along the way proving he has some serious cooking chops (see what I did there?).

Willy left Brat during the first lockdown; and, well, let’s hear what he had to say about the new pie gig:

I was working at Brat when all this madness started and was furloughed right at the beginning during the second week of lockdown. Me and my flatmate thought: “let’s do it.” We went to a local butcher near where we live in Leyton and made that our one form of exercise a day. The first week we sold out but we put it down to our mates supporting us and thought after that it would be a flop but it hasn’t stopped since.

©Time Out/Andy Parsons

So much so, that his pies, ingredients being newly updated each Sunday and then going on sale each Monday AM — and sadly only available in a few parts of London still — sellout within minutes and he’s had to setup shop in a new industrial kitchen (as the one in his gaff just wasn’t up to the volume any longer) and Willy’s Pies are now Watford FC’s official food supplier; I don’t do sport at all but that sounds like a pretty profitable and fun gig, esp. if he actually likes Watford’s team, although he’s yet to hit the number One spot on the Pie Rate site which is another labour of love one, well worth a deep dive into to see the width and breadth of pies available across football clubs all over the UK…

Looking back at these images, I’m reminded of another Bourdain description of pies, from the last book he was involved with “World Travel” of this place in Sydney, Australia.

“Curried beef, a heaping scoop of mashed potatoes, a volcano crater full of mushy peas, and an eruption of brown gravy. Come on, you know you want that. Look at that: a volcano of love. This is one of those things you just kinda gotta do in Sydney [Curried Tiger Pie, the signature dish at Harry’s Café de Wheels].”

“It may not be the best meat pie in the world, or even in Sydney, but it is certainly the most famous, it is certainly the most traditional, even inevitable. And it’s just damned good. You’ve only got to ask yourself, of any town, ‘What do they do better in this town than anyplace else?’ And the meat pies are pretty fucking good here.”


Rolling pin, pastry brushes, pie dishes and (possibly) stand mixer aside, you don’t even need much kit to start making pies. But there’s probably quite a lot you’d like. eBay is your ‘friend’ here. How about this Vaughan’s pie trimmer & sealer…

…a product of some night-time eBay browsing, whilst my day-time dreams continue to be haunted (in a very good way) by this face from St. John…

©St John restaurant

And finally? Here’s that Calum recipe I promised you, via the team at Foodism.

©Foodism/Calum Franklin

And a final, final thought: there was a late 60s/70s super-group fronted by ex-Small Faces, (“Little”) Stevie Marriott, he of the small frame but big voice, called “Humble Pie”, who wrote some pretty banging songs, but I’m pretty sure they weren’t named after the original humble pie or have anything to do with this rather strange poster image of a patriotic injunction to its citizens, from the UK government during WWII. Although the flag-shagging, NHS-selling, BBC-hating, Russian-bought, Blonde Spaffer currently hiding away in Number 10 probably sees himself as our best pot-luck. Fuck him. Fuck him very which way from Sunday. Then burn it all down.



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Salute The Pig

Salute The Pig

Charcuterie, smoking, curing, brining and all things porcine. Brought to you from deepest Cambs, England. Salutate porcum!