On a cold British evening there are few meals more comforting than a traditional pie. Shepherds Pie is probably one of the most famous, even if it’s not considered a true pie by many people, but there are many more pies which grace the tables of any individual at least once a month in Britain. There is no doubt that Brits love pies and there are many good reasons for that.

Pub owners can boost their sales during this time by promoting the British Pie Week and creating special meals which include a pie and a drink or get more creative in order to capitalise on the celebration of all things ‘pie’.

The origin of the pie

Pie is in the Top 10 UK favourite foods, being a notorious comfort food for the nation, as well as a special treat on holidays. Nowadays there are as many pie recipes as ways to eat it. You can try a savoury pie or a sweet pie, pie made with meat or a vegetarian version and many more. There are people who peel the first layer off and eat the pie base and people who love to cut through the pie with each bite. Others swear by turning the pie upside down and eating it from the bottom to the top.

Whichever way you choose to enjoy this dish, you can trace its origins back to the Ancient Egyptians, who made a pie-like dish from oats, wheat and barley, then they filled it with honey and baked them on hot coals. Romans were the first to embrace a more similar dish made from a flour and water paste wrapped around meat. Historians believe the Romans actually stole the recipe from Greeks as a war prize.

Either way, the traditional pie was invented with a very specific purpose: to be able to cook meat and vegetables. The pastry was the container of the actual food, serving both as a baking dish and serving dish, so pretty much every meal was actually a pie. The pastry was only used to bake the dish, then it was discarded or given to the poor. In medieval time and later on, in the Victorian and Edwardian era pie was made with a hard crust, which was meant to be used as utensil to eat the filling. Miner’s wives made their husbands pies because they were easy to eat with dirty hands.

In time, the pie gained in popularity and people began making the pastry more tasty and soft, which made it edible and an element which proved almost as enjoyable as the filling.

Why are pies so popular?

The popularity of pies has a lot to do with the many variations available meaning there’s something to suit all tastes. They offer a mix of different textures and according to studies, people need to chew, which makes the texture of a dish highly important. Pies have a crunchy, puffy outer layer and a soft and juicy inner layer, which makes for a great dish, that gathers a delicious mix of flavours.

British scientists conducted a survey to find out which are the top 10 most loved pies in the UK. In first position is the steak and ale pie, followed by steak and potato pie and the cottage pie also proving a winner. Other entries that make an appearance near the top are the apple pie, Banoffee pie, pork pie, chicken and mushroom pie, Cornish pasty and the cheese and onion pie. While not all these dishes have the characteristics of a traditional pie, they are all popular among people of all ages.

One of the types of pies which stands out from the crowd is the Stargazy pie. This dish is made from seven types of fish, eggs, potatoes and milk. The fish are arranged so their heads are visible from the pastry topping. This pie is traditionally baked in the village of Mousehole on 23rd of December to celebrate the heroism of a fisherman who braved harsh weather to make sure the locals didn’t starve on Christmas.

Another long time debate is focused on Shepherd’s pie, which, while not technically a pie in the stereotypical sense of a pastry crust and while many pie cooking competitions don’t include it on their list, it still remains one of the most popular pies in Britain.

The dish loved by every member of the family

During the British Pie Week, which takes place between 4th and 10th of March, the focus is firmly placed on the humble pie. Not only to be enjoyed in the home, foodservice businesses can also capitalise on this dedicated week by pushing their pie menus to the fore. Whether offering sweet or savoury options in your restaurant or on your pub menu or creating a dedicated display in your bakery or deli, there’s plenty of ways for businesses to get involved.

Tips for pubs, restaurants and shops to boost sales during pie celebration

Pubs and restaurants can easily boost their sales if they know how to take advantage of the nation’s love for pies. Invest in cake display cabinets to show your sweet pies and to make sure they remain as fresh as possible. Serve over counters such as those from FFD are great for displaying and stocking freshly baked savoury pies, allowing clients to choose the one they like.

Keeping the pies in the best possible condition in a refrigerated cabinet is going to ensure they stay fresh even at the end of the day. If your business can accommodate baking equipment you can make the pies on the spot and keep them in a heated cabinet or serve over counters until they’re ready to serve.

Pies are the ultimate comfort food for Brits, as they evoke thoughts of cosy family meals and happy moments. The smell and the look of a home-made pie are enough to change your mood if you were raised in a traditional British family. Pubs and restaurants can attract customers by promoting special deals during the British Pie Week, creating menus that include pies made from quality pastry and filling and coupled with a high quality beer.

Anna Jones
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