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British Pie Week 2024

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a baked dish of fruit, or meat and vegetables, typically with a top and base of pastry
a pie is a filling totally encased in pastry and baked

That's right, pastry! We are not celebrating your shepherds pie, or your fish pie; not even your tart, flan or your puff pastry top on a casserole in a generic oval dish beloved of (some) caterers.

A pie.

British Pie Week, including the British Pie Award, has been a 'thing' for about 16 years, centred unsurprisingly on Melton Mowbray where judges typically sample up to 1000 pies before reaching a decision on the Supreme Champion – the Pie of Pies.

Pies in all shapes, sizes and flavours are judged by an expert panel (who wouldn't want to be on that gig!) ranging from sweet to savoury via fusion, vegan, vegetarian and gluten free – anyone can have their pie – and eat it!

The pasty, strictly speaking, qualifies as a pie – a filling totally encased in pastry and baked, a portable dinner for Cornish tin miners . A pie, as a convenient meal wrapped in it's own edible container is clearly nothing new.

Pies have been with us for a long time – the earliest noted in Ancient Egypt and Rome – a recipe for chicken pie was discovered on a tablet carved before 2000 BC and a Roman discovery was a goats' cheese and honey pie recipe.

In the middle ages the pastry was just a paste (hence pastry) of flour and water used to cook meat and vegetables in and discarded once the contents were served on a plate. Later, with the advent of hot water pastry and the inclusion of lard or other fats, a pie became the centrepiece of a banquet, shaped, decorated, glazed and adorned with symbols and sculptures to indicate its contents.

Humble Pie

Well, that should be 'umble' pie, umble being the offal of a deer. Whilst the Lord of the Manor dined on venison, those seated at the lower end of the table would be served umble cooked with vegetables in a pie. It's not too big a step to get to the oft quoted 'eating humble pie'.

Pie and Mash Shops

Gradually, from the 16th century onwards as ovens became more prolific in home kitchens the pie became a staple of the British diet. Pie and Mash shops sprung up – the pie being a handy way of serving a hot meal in inns and alehouses. Pie and Mash shops still exist, mainly in London and the South East, and you can find out where they are plus add any you know of to the Pie & Mash Club's own website – Check out its Pie-n-Map! Sadly, the Pie and Mash shop is probably an endangered species.

The Pilgrim Fathers took their apple pie recipes to America; regional favourites developed including the Mousehole Stargazy Pie born out of a famine when fish heads and tails were all that was left to a family; pork pies were handy for using up the less desirous cuts from the family pig; and the famous Melton Mowbray pork pie arose out of the popularity of the region in the 18th and 19th centuries for hunting. The Melton Mowbray pork pie with its hot water crust and bone stock jelly provided a dense treat handily transported whilst jumping ditches and hedges.

You can now get your favourite Indian or Italian dish in a pie – a chicken tikka pie, vindaloo or lasagne pies are amongst those submitted for judging at the British Pie Awards.

The British eat £1billion worth of pies of all flavours every year – excluding those made at home.

So whilst it's too late to enter a pie to be judged at Melton Mowbray this week, let's give a cheer for our favourite local pie. There is no prize, no judges, just a shout out and a bit of recognition for the local pub, butcher, deli, bakery or home cook who, in your opinion, makes the tastiest pies! Send your best pies to 

And finally, a hot water crust pastry recipe


  • 225g/8oz plain flour
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 100ml/3½fl oz water
  • 80g/3oz lard


  • Put the flour, salt and egg into a bowl and roughly mix together.
  • Put the water and lard in a small saucepan and heat together until it reaches boiling point.
  • Stir into the flour mixture and bring into a ball. Wrap in clingfilm and rest at room temperature for 5 minutes before moulding into your pie dish or mould.
  • The pastry will harden as it cools.
  • Roll out, shape and fill it with your sweet, savoury or fusion filling of choice.

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