Food Editor Caitlin Dickinson reviews a rejuvenated menu at Birmingham's PiemasterWritten by Caitlin Dickinson on 21st October 2017
British Pie Week in Birmingham
To celebrate British Pie Week, Food Editor Phoebe Radford checks out Birmingham's favourite pies
“Savoury pies are undoubtedly Britain’s favourite with £145 million a year being spent on pork pies alone
Pies are a classic British dish, with the earliest known mention of a food pie dating as far back as 1301. In the past, the pastry was used only as a means of holding the filling as it was cooked. The pastry was then given to servants whilst the nobles ate the more expensive meaty fillings. All this has changed however, and nowadays the quality of the pastry is just as important as the innards of the pie.
Another quirky pie fact is that the rich used to enjoy ‘surprise pies’ with live animals inside. If you’ve ever watched The Tudors you may remember a scene where Henry VIII gives the King of France a pie. When the King of France cuts through the crust, several birds fly out of the pie, much to everyone’s amusement. If you’re not a fan of The Tudors you might be more familiar with the nursery rhyme Sing a Song of Sixpence which describes ‘Four and twenty blackbirds, Baked in a pie.’ Fortunately, (for us and the poor birds), this unusual pie tradition is confined to the past.
Savoury pies are undoubtedly Britain’s favourite with £145 million a year being spent on pork pies alone. Meat dominates the pie scene, with steak and ale being another British staple. However, there are increasingly a wide range of vegetarian savoury pies on offer, with cheese and onion, vegetable curry, and goats cheese pies just to name a few. We Brits will eat a sweet pie, but it’s the Americans who go nuts for sweet; the quintessential American dessert is a fruit pie. And who could imagine a Thanksgiving dinner without a sweet pumpkin pie?
Pies are part of our culture, and what better way to celebrate British Pie Week than by either making your own (see a selection of recipes below) or by getting out and trying some of the fantastic pies on offer within Birmingham’s food scene.
Famed for their amazing cocktail menu, The Botanist also has some of the best pies in Birmingham. I tried the vegetarian Sweet Potato and Spiced Lentil pie (£11.50) just last week and it was incredible. Just the right size for one, it was chunky and spicy and came with extra curry sauce and mash or chips.
There are two other pie main courses: the unusual but yummy sounding Chicken and Chorizo (£11.50) or a classic Steak and Stout (£11.50). Both come with mushy peas and gravy and chips or mash.
If you choose the Deli Board (£10.50 for any 4 items), you can try a pork pie with fig chutney as one of your four choices.
Square Pie is a pie shop in Grand Central where you can buy ready-baked pies or unbaked to cook yourself later. Their main pie menu is quite extensive with three different steak pies (ale, mushroom, kidney, or cheese) several chicken pies (mushroom, bacon, and a few halal chicken options), a lamb and rosemary pie, and a cheese and onion or spinach, sweet potato and goats cheese pie for vegetarians.
If you didn’t fancy a big pie or were just popping in for lunch you can opt for a mini pie. The steak and ale, chicken and mushroom, or the cheese and onion are available in the mini size.
Pietanic is a well-known member of the Birmingham street food scene, with regular appearances at Digbeth Dining Club and other street food events. They hand make all their pies and have previously offered classics like a pork pie and a steak and ale. More unusual offerings include a bacon and cheeseburger pie and a pork and chilli scotch egg finished by rolling it in frazzles (granted, not a pie, but too good not to get a mention!)
Who could forget the infamous McDonalds Apple Pie? Only 99p, mouth-burningly hot, chunky and sweet. If you’re stuck for money on a student budget but really fancy a pie, McDonalds is the place to go.