The secret behind the best pies you’ve ever eaten and a heart-warming comPIEtition…
Today marks the beginning of British Pie Week: a national celebration in honour of our passion for pastry. From today until the 8th March we are free to consume as many pies as we so desire; to bake to our heart’s content and generally get our pie-on!
Turns out a whopping 75 per cent of us eat a pie at least once a month and the success of this week-long celebration just goes to show how potty we go for pies. Yet, we’re a nation of discerning pie palates. Not just any old pie will do – they have to be lovingly made, hearty and comforting and when it comes to ticking all of these boxes, Tom’s Pies has it covered. Once a Devon secret, Tom’s Pies are now loved nationwide and have won a number of awards from Taste of the West to the British Pie Awards and now grace the shelves at Harrods and Fortnum and Mason, yet they retain a homemade, heartfelt authenticity.
Tom’s Pies are a firm favourite here in Bristol, especially at Fed Up & Drunk HQ. News of a Friday evening spent at The Windmill or The Avon Gorge Hotel with family and plenty of pie and mash is met with appreciative nods and ‘mmms’. So, we are giving in completely to our pie-passion this week. We’ve teamed with Tom’s Pies to offer readers the same pie pleasure to enjoy delivered to the comfort of your own home; and to get pie week off to a roaring start we have an exclusive interview with the pie man himself. Read on for the secret to his perfect pies and what family means to Tom.
A foodie childhood
“I grew up in a secluded part of Dartmoor where my mother ran a hotel called Thornworthy House. It was a place which won a string of awards and the emphasis was consistently on great, well-prepared local produce. This was a wonderful environment for a child to grow up in. It was rustic and traditional; the kind of place where everyone gathered around a communal kitchen table and ate clean food with punchy flavours. We enjoyed each others’ company as well as ingredients which had been grown on the doorstep. This foodie upbringing certainly sowed the seeds of my understanding and appreciation of great flavours, great produce and great service.
“It’s this ethos that I have carried with me throughout my life and plays a part in the pies I create today. A good pie is just a good casserole in a pastry and I always strive to keep it local – every pie has been influenced by my home-county of Devon. I want flavours that really pack a punch but are simple and hearty, just like I remember my mum’s cooking to be.
There’s no place like home
“I have travelled the world a fair bit with my career, working in Australia and the Caribbean. Cooking in the Caribbean really taught me how to fully utilise the produce around you. When you’re on a small island, you only have what that island can produce but the ingredients were bountiful: meat, fresh fish and veg. It’s an experience I draw on daily with the work I do now.
“Devon to me is home, and always will be. It’s where my house, my family and my business are. Dartmoor is a beautiful place with picturesque landscapes and I love it. I still love travelling but nothing beats a country walk around Castle Drogo with my dog.
From small beginnings
“I always knew that I wanted to have my own business, and my first was a small organic farm, just outside Chagford called Little Ash Farm. We grew all our own organic veg on a tiny three acre plot and there was an old cow barn where I first started creating Tom’s Pies. The first pie we made was a steak and ale with pot carrots made using carrots we grew ourselves and our herd of Red Ruby cattle – they are a very Devon breed and you might recognise them from their long red coats and big horns – and Exeter ale. This first pie is a classic example of the idea of a pie as a casserole encased in pastry. We stewed this filling for four hours to get a beautiful flavour before decanting it into pastry cases. We still do steak and ale and it’s classically one of those pies that conjures a real sense of comfort and home. As Tom’s Pies took off we outgrew the farm, but we are still based in Devon.
The work-life balance
“It’s busy work running your own business, but when it comes to spending quality time with my family we love to eat out. One of favourite spots at the moment is The Salutation Inn in Topsham. It’s local to us, there are plenty of walks around it and I love having a good old chin wag with the chef there, Tom Williams, as we have similar values when it comes to food and ingredients.”
“My personal favourite is the new chicken and wild mushroom. It’s our newest pie and is packed with wonderfully earthy flavours and a sprinkling of tarragon.”
“My mum loves the Moroccan inspired pie with melt-in-the mouth lamb and chorizo and spices. It’s great with sweet potato fries.”
Tom’s Pies are offering one lucky winner their very own ‘Pie Dinner Party’. Tom’s Pies, mash, minted peas and gravy will be delivered to the door ready to heat up and serve for up to twelve people!
So how do you win? Nominate whoever you think deserves this delicious treat to turn up at their front door. Easy! Family, friends, work colleagues, anyone! Email us your nomination as to why they deserve this perfect night in with friends or family in no more than fifty words to [email protected]. Who knows, you could be sat down for a pie feast before you know it!
Entries close at midnight on Sunday 8th March. The winner must be based in mainland UK to qualify. For full terms and conditions for entry please see the website.
Tom says: “We’re really pleased to be offering this competition to readers and pie lovers this British Pie Week.
“If I had to nominate anyone, it would definitely be my mum. She’s been such an inspiration to me and always supported my venture. I’m sure she’d appreciate putting her feet up with friends and family (and not having to do the washing up!).”
In the meantime, you can find Tom’s Pies tasting stations at the following venues:
Tom’s Pies kicked off their tour with tastings at Dart’s Farm last Saturday. This week they’ll be visiting River Cottage, Axminster, London’s Sourced Market, Fortnum and Mason in London and Lye Cross Farm Shop near Bristol.
Catch up with us tomorrow, when we’ll be lifting the lid on our family’s best pie recipes.