Pie makeover for Britian

To devotees, it is British comfort food at its best. To others, it is as appetising as its nickname, a "rat's coffin".

by: Brian Rohan | 20 Nov 2007

The savoury pie, a mainstay of the British diet for thousands of years, is getting a makeover as Britain sheds a once-sagging culinary reputation and top chefs return to traditional fare.

In the wake of industrialisation, pies became cellophane-wrapped rubbery microwave fodder, mass-produced on assembly lines and often oozing with fat and additives.

Britain's culinary revolution has forced the dish out of hiding. New chains selling traditional hot pastry-wrapped delights have sprung up throughout the country, many with the focus on quality and fresh ingredients.

"Everyone loves a pie, it reminds you of mum," said Martin Dewey, founder of the Square Pie chain, which he set up in London in 2001 to offer a more wholesome variety of pies. "But pies needed an update – they had been neglected for too long."

Bulking up
Other small companies also report fast-growing sales.

"We've been doubling our annual sales for several years running, and we're selling about 25,000 pies a year now," said Jonathan Simon, co-founder of Bristol-based Pieminister, which offers its pies wholesale, retail and online.

"It's one of those products everyone knows but is often disappointed with, there's lots of room for high quality pies," he said.

West Cornwall Pasty plans to open 50 new shops in Britain and its new management has not ruled out its previous owners' dream of selling as far away as New York or Hong Kong.

"The Cornish pasty has all the right qualities to be a huge success around the globe," chief executive Richard Nieto said.

Part of the new brands' appeal lies in local ingredients and fillings that reflect modern Britain, with recipes stuffed with curries, coconut milk and spicy jerk chicken.

"Our best-sellers are traditional recipes like steak and Stilton cheese, but we also do vegetarian, chicken balti, and even a turkey and cranberry sauce recipe for Christmas."

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