For those of you who are unaware, we are currently slap, bang in the middle of National Pie Week. A week that aims to celebrate and unveil the best pies in all of the land.
The finalists for the coveted foodie award included Smoked Fish & Cider Pie, Venison & Stilton Pie, Fudgey Apple Pie and Blue Cow Pie (basically steak with Stilton), but the winner was a Wye Valley Pie which included chicken, asparagus, leeks, potatoes and Tintern Abbey cheese - all locally produced in its ingredients.
None of these creative and luxurious contenders, though they sound scrumptious in their own way, could in my opinion, ever compete with the humble pie found in the traditional Pie, Mash & Liquor Houses scattered around various parts of London.
Hailing from Victorian London, these old-fashioned food outlets have long been popular amongst the working class. With their plain tiled walls, bench-like seating and often non-matching crockery, Pie & Mash Shops are easily comparable to the style of a greasy spoon cafe.
The pies are filled with a minced beef in a rich gravy-like saucel some places do now offer variations on this, but being I traditionalist I would never deviate from the original. The iquor for those of you who have never had the pleasure, is a white-green parsley based sauce, normally made from the stock of the stewed eels, that are also a speciality in these shops. Liquor may vary from shop to shop in thickness and hue - I have experiened liquor in some very vivid green shades before!
Mostly prevalent in East, South and some parts of North London, and spilling out into areas of Essex, Pie & Mash Shops are still seeing a massive trade, not just with the older generations but with youngsters too. Shops such as Maureen's Pie Shop in Poplar, now offer frozen pies to their customers as well as catering functions such as weddings, and even funerals.
Growing up in Essex, in a family full of former and current East Enders, Pie & Mash was always a regular and welcome treat for me, synonymous with days out, visiting favourite aunties, grandparents and cousins.
To this day, walking into a Pie & Mash Shop makes me feel as though I am being wrapped in a very warm and comforting blanket - I suspect this stems so many happy childhood memories, of fun days spent with the family and being generally spoilt by a host of older relatives.
Aside from all the nostalgia, I happen to find the meal of Pie & Mash a very filling and delicious one. It isn't something I have on a regular basis, but I find that every couple of months I find myself craving what I think of as a plate of the East End's Finest.
As a little girl I proclaimed that when I grew up I wanted to be a 'Pie,Mash lady', a career ambition that although has passed me by, I now recognise this was my childish way of thinking that I could have an endless supply of my favourite food.
Although to those for whom Pie & Mash is alien, the dish may sound dull and boring, I predict that any person who enjoys food, especially food with a story to tell, will enjoy this simple, historical and hearty dish.
Bistro_Becs Top four tips for eating Pie & Mash
1. Always eat with a spoon and fork - never a knife
2. Always apply liberal amounts of vinegar - preferably chilli vinegar to compliment
3. As above but with black pepper
4. Always eat in the shop rather than taking away - it is always SO much better
Bistro_Becs Top four Pie & Mash Shops
1. The Eel & Pie Shop, High Road, Leytonstone
2. Maureens Pie Shop, Chrisp St Market, Poplar
3. M Manze's, Tower Bridge Road, Bermondsey
4. G. Kelly's Pie Shop, Roman Road, Bow