Column: Roman origins of teatime stalwart pie

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Whether you enjoy your pie with mash, chips, peas or gravy, or a combination of all four, there’s little denying this tea time stalwart is the epitome of British cuisine.

Warm, comforting and ever so slightly stodgy, we think a good pie takes a lot of beating and they’re a true favourite amongst the staff here at Mr Pickles’ Yorkshire Food Emporium.

And as we celebrate British Pie Week (6th - 12th March), you’d be forgiven for thinking the prized dish originates from our great nation as it was actually the Romans who gave us the first pie. Using a simple pastry made from olive oil and flour, they would pack the meat into a case before baking.

Not only was this casing thick enough to keep the air out and preserve its contents, it helped keep the meat tender as it cooked. But, rather than eat the resulting pie as a whole, the hardened crust of pastry would be removed and discarded.

Over time this technique of cooking spread throughout Europe and it became a staple amongst travellers and workers in colder northern European countries. But, as olive oil was hard to come by in these parts, lard or butter would be used resulting in a more palatable flavour and texture. And, although it’s unclear exactly when we started eating the crust with the filling, it was probably around the 12th century.

Now of course, the crust is arguably the most fundamental part. Aside from being highly functional in transforming a casserole into a pie, it’s often hailed to be the ‘best bit’ and the pastry can make or break a good pie.

Which is why we’re excited to be stocking Pie Eyed here at Mr Pickles’. Made with an all butter shortcrust pastry that’s baked to perfection, the crust is irresistible. And a range of delicious fillings including Beef Brisket & Ale,and Cheddar & Caramelised Red Onion mean that they’re proving popular.

Anyone making their own pie this week might like the opportunity to experiment with new flavours. Curried lamb and spinach, slow cooked beef and beetroot, chicken and black pudding, pulled pork and apple sauce are great combinations. You could step up your experiments further and try adding flavours to the pastry. Herbs and spices are easy enough, but why not try cheese or sundried tomatoes?

Whether making your own or buying ready-made, head to Mr Pickles’ on Abbeydale Road to see how we can help celebrate British Pie Week with the very best Yorkshire produce.