One key to a strong St. Patrick’s Day is being prepared for the day after St. Pat’s… particularly when it falls on a Monday, like this year. For that reason, we turn our gaze east to Ireland (and the British Isles in general) for one of their culinary staples: the savory pie. Which is especially fitting when you consider that Friday, 3/14, was Pi Day. We are not making this up.
Before founding Pieminister, Tristan Hogg spent time in the music biz. Specifically, feeding it, as a touring chef. His one regret: “Snoop Dogg sadly did not eat my pies. I think he had chicken wings instead… you can take a horse to water but not make him drink.”
Americans see pie as a dessert: beyond chicken pot pie, it’s rare to get one that isn’t improved by a scoop of vanilla. Across the Atlantic, however, great pies feature meat. And one of the finest practitioners of savory pie comes straight out of Bristol, the English city that’s given the world great things in music (Massive Attack, Portishead, Tricky) and art (Banksy, international man of mystery and director of the Oscar-nominated Exit Through the Gift Shop). The place is called Pieminister—a pun on “Prime Minister” coined after a few pints—and it’s bloody good.
Offerings include the Deerstalker (venison and bacon with red wine and lentils); the Free Ranger (free-range chicken and ham hock with leeks and cheddar); the Moo and Blue (steak with stilton cheese and white wine, pictured at bottom); the vegetarian Wild Shroom (wild mushrooms, asparagus, white wine, and cream); and the St. Pat’s-friendly Shamrock (beef steak and Irish stout, pictured at top), all enclosed in a deliciously portable pastry for about six bucks. They’ve proven a hit everywhere from the massive Glastonbury music festival to assorted weddings for grooms who decide, “If I gotta be married, I’m gonna be full.”
Hungry for more? Tristan Hogg, its co-founder and cook, sets us yanks straight on this culinary wonder and offers some tales about his days on the road cooking for the Rolling Stones, Robbie Williams and the former Snoop Dogg…
Keys to a Proper Pie
“Simply put, a great savory pie is just delicious slow-cooked stew or casserole made with great quality fresh ingredients all encased within delicious pastry,” Hogg declares. “There are no real secrets to making pies taste great, just make all the elements that make up the whole as good as possible.”
“My favorite savory pie is what we call our Matador, made with beef, Spanish chorizo, butter beans, tomatoes and sherry. It’s a real hot-blooded pie.” For pudding (Brit slang for dessert?), Hogg favors “pumpkin pie topped with maple syrup and pecans, a truly unbeatable combination.”
Sex and Drugs and Rock ’n’ Roll (and Pie)
Before founding Pieminister, Hogg spent time in the music biz. Specifically, feeding it, as a touring chef: “We always served pies on rock tours and they always went down so well with bands and roadies alike.” While the Stones remained mysterious (“I wasn’t able to establish what flavors they liked best”), he confidently asserts Robbie Williams is a “steak and ale man.” Hogg does have one regret: “Snoop Dogg sadly did not eat my pies. I think he had chicken wings instead… you can take a horse to water but not make him drink.”
How Americans Can Experience A Proper Pie Here at Home
“I think savory pies are not an American strength,” observes Hogg. Having insulted us, he then adds that we have “many, many other strengths in terms of food.” Hogg’s cruel mockery aside, savory pies have indeed reached American shores, coming not just from Britain, but also from Australia and New Zealand.
New York City now boasts the Pie Face chain, which has Aussie roots but has taken pies in its own unique directions, such as the Thai Chicken Curry and the Philly Cheese Steak.
It’s also increasingly easy to have pies awaiting you at home. Savory pie makers include Kiwi Cuisine, launched by a New Zealand Maori rugby player (really) and now carried by many Whole Foods.
And, of course, you can look out for shops opened by ex-pats in your city. Blog posts like this one by the original “Rise and Pie” guys, Men in Blazers, seem to indicate great American pie promise. And remember: there are no limits to what you can put in a pie (though Amish funeral pie sounds kinda creepy).
So pick up a pie March 18th and discovery a delicious way to stay functional, no matter what damage your devilish devotion to St. Patrick hath delivered the night before…