Best of British Pies

From sweet and savoury to pork pies and clangers, we explore the glories of this traditional British pastry-covered delight.

Bedfordshire Clanger: gunns bakery, bedfordshire

Bedfordshire Clanger

The Befordshire Clanger is a delicious pastry with a twist—its contents are half savoury and half sweet. Traditionally it was a food for labourers, made from joint leftovers alongside jam or stewed fruit, steamed in muslin and taken by wives to their husbands. For some  reason it fell out of popularity and was forgotten.

In the mid-Nineties, however, Bedfordshire’s own Gunns Bakery decided to reintroduce it to the masses, and since then it’s been on the up; even Jamie Oliver has got behind it. Gunns also created some lip-smacking new varieties to bring the clanger into the 21st century—one of our favourites combines beer and beef with rhubarb and custard in a single pastry!


L. Manze: walthamstow, London

L. Manze Walthamstow

The capital’s pie-and-mash tradition might be hidden behind masses of trendy pop-up food stalls and hipster cafes, but it certainly hasn’t disappeared. In fact, its historical legacy is everywhere—as culture minister Ed Vaizey says, “Pie-and-mash shops are as intrinsically linked to London as black cabs and beefeaters.” It’s no wonder that L Manze became the first such shop to gain listed status, securing its place in history.

L. Manze Walthamstow

Walking through the doors into its “exceptionally complete interior”, in Vaizey’s words, is like taking a step into the 1920s, when it first opened. But it isn’t just the furniture; the home-made meat pies, the mash and liquor (parsley gravy), the tills and even the serving methods are authentic. So if you find yourself in the area, keep an eye out for these immaculate nuggets of local history—they’re still as delicious as ever!


The Chicken Balti Pie: Nationwide

The Chicken Balti Pie: For Footballers

An icon of British football, this matchday pie has its beginnings in the midlands, where Shire Foods (a family run company founded in the 1970s) saw a niche in the footie market. 

“A typical Friday for many young males is lager and a curry,” says one spokesman. “So if you get all that authenticity in a pie product, we thought it would work at the football.”

First sold at the home ground of Walsall Football Club, it’s now sold at over 60 clubs nationwide. This delicious combination of east and west is the quintessential modern Britishpie, and has since been adapted by numerous companies—from family favourite Birds Eye in the frozen aisles of supermarkets, to the slightly posher Pieminister’s thai pie found in trendy pubs across the country.


Hinchcliffe Farm Pork Pie: Huddersfield

Hinchliffe Farm Pork Pie

A hundred miles north of pork-pie capital Melton Mowbray reside a group of individuals who call themselves the Pork Pie Appreciation Society. From their humble beginnings as a group of friends relaxing in the pub every Saturday, the society has grown into a competitive beast. Each week, a member is selected to bring forth the pork pies—the pie-fetcher—and rest of the group keeps score.

“The amount of sauce used gives a good indication of how the tasting is going,” according to its website. “HP sauce is a regular favourite to provide a little more taste, but should members reach for soy sauce or Worcester sauce, things aren’t looking good, and should anyone reach for Tabasco then the pie is likely to be considered a disaster.”

Butchers and bakers across the UK participate in the annual competition, taking place this month, eager to get their pies rated by the expert bunch. And with over 50 entrants, competition is fierce. One to reckon with is last year’s title-holder Hinchliffe Farm Butchers—with three wins under their belt, can they make it a fourth?


Stargazy Pie: the ship inn, Cornwall

Stargazy Pie: It's History

If you like your pies served with a local legend, this is for you. The stargazy pie was reportedly created one stormy winter in the fishing village of Mousehole, Cornwall, in the 16th century.

The waves were thrashing down so heavily that no fisherman could take out his boat, and the community were facing starvation. On December 23, fisherman Tom Bawcock finally braved the elements and brought back seven different types of fish, which were then baked into a huge pie.

This story is a little suspect—if they had the ingredients for a pie, were they really starving? Even so, Tom Bawcock’s Eve is celebrated locally on December 23 every year, and local pub The Ship Inn has kept the tradition of serving a large stargazy pie on this day.


Scotch Pie: murrays, Perth

Scotch Pie: Murrays Perth

On winning the World’s Best Scotch Pie in January, Murrays, a small family bakery in Perth, has been inundated with letters, cards and flowers—all from lifelong customers. Murrays is an institution in Perth, and owner Linda is a fourth-generation baker.

“We’ve been going for 115 years, and the recipe we use was perfected by my dad almost 50 years ago,” she says. “I haven’t changed it one wee bit.” As for what that recipe is, her lips are sealed. Scotch pie is traditionally made from mutton, but beef is more common now. The meat is mixed with rusk and spices, and it’s the spice part that Linda refuses to divulge.


Wye Valley Pie: the goat major, Cardiff

Wye Valley Pie The Goat Major Cardiff

This creation was the winner of the Best Pie in Wales 2010, but it’s had a staying power beyond that competition and beyond the Cardiff pub that created it. Incorporating local ingredients, this pie is the epitome of Welshness in a pastry crust.

“I included leeks because it gave it more of a Welsh element, then I put in cheese because it’s local to Rosson-Wye, where I’m from,” says creator Adam Pavey. “It bridges the boundaries between England and Wales.” It certainly does—this recipe is now a cookbook staple.


The Denby Dale Pie: west yorkshire

Denby DalePie, West Yorkshire

Denby Dale is a village with a rather bizarre pie history. It all began in 1788, when locals decided to bake a huge pie to celebrate George III’s recovery from mental illness. Perhaps the king’s relapse was a sign of things to come—random incidents, such as a collapsed platform and a rancid pie that had to be buried, have dogged the tradition from the start.

Denby Dale World's biggest pie

That said, the pie in 1928 attracted 50,000 visitors and fed 20,000 people. And since 1788, they have also baked ten colossal meat-and-potato pies in celebration of, well, whatever takes their fancy, including the millennium. The recipe consisted of three tons of beef, a ton of potatoes and 22 gallons of John Smith’s Best Bitter. And although it’s uncertain when the next festival will take place, the legacy lives on through individual-sized versions courtesy of Denby Dale Pies