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They’re Great, They’re Pies

Great North Pie Co. talk pies, policing and perfect pastry

Written by . Published on July 11th 2013.

They’re Great, They’re Pies

NEIL Broomfield is obsessed by food.

As he talks about his pies and all the new ideas, it’s with a manic energy and an almost religious fervour, converting anyone and everyone to his cause: top quality pies.

Rather than being the biggest, Neil concentrates on trying to be the best. With a plethora of awards, it seems he’s well on his way.

The Great North Meat Pie, which won a gold award at the 2013 British Pie Awards, heads the current list. It’s a mix of Yorkshire Beef, free range pork, black pudding, biscuits, nutmeg and pepper with a little bit of Neil thrown in.

Every last part of every last pie is imagined and re-imagined, designed and re-designed, tasted and tested until it passes muster. ‘Dainty’ isn’t a word that springs to mind when you think of pies but dainty they are. Made in custom-made, straight sided tins, each pie is two fingers deep, which according to mad scientist/food genius Heston Blumenthal, is the depth of the perfect mouthful.

Neil beavers away in a small, anonymous upstairs unit which forms part of The Bramhall Centre in, you’ve guessed it, Bramhall. There is no sign that anything at all is going on, let alone the slow march to world domination, one perfect pie at a time.

Inside, for all its utilitarian functionality, this really is Willy Wonka’s savoury counterpart to his chocolate factory. Neil’s brain is always whirring with ideas for things that can be encased in a pie. Mac’n’Cheese with some mini orzo pasta as a more suitably sized pie filling? Some more of that ubiquitous pulled pork anyone, this time reinvented and transformed into a pie?

Pies, pies, pies

Pies, pies, pies

It’s not just pies that get this whimsical treatment. Neil likes to experiment and invert the traditional with his accompaniments too. No bog standard pie and mash here. I was served potato gravy and onion mash. The mash was reminiscent of apple sauce made with slowly caramelised onions and was a great foil to the meatier pies.

The slow march to world domination has stepped up a gear and the company are moving to bigger premises in Wilmslow but it is fitting that, for the moment, the Great North Pie Company are cooking their pies in the same kitchen where a schoolboy called Neil Broomfield used to come and eat his lunch above his auntie’s deli.

That’s the thing with these pies. They’ve all got a little bit of Neil in. Not in a gruesome Sweeney Todd kind of way, obviously, but they are full of heart and passion and childhood memories and local produce and anything else he can dream up.

The menu changes five times a year with a menu for each of the four seasons and a special Xmas pie range. There are always four pies on the menu and, after it got the seal of approval from Nigel Haworth, winning Neil the title of North West Fine Food Producer of the Year in 2011 and giving him the boost he needed to change from policeman to pieman, the Cheese and Onion remains a permanent fixture.

from policeman to piemanFrom policeman to pieman

I munched my way through the summer menu and I can now honestly say, “I ate all the pies.”

The Great North Meat Pie, which won a gold award at the 2013 British Pie Awards, heads the current list. It’s a mix of Yorkshire Beef, free range pork, black pudding, biscuits, nutmeg and pepper with that little bit of Neil thrown in.

Rather than the expected Bury Black Pudding, Stornoway Black Pudding is used as Neil’s mum is from Stornoway.

The pies are also based on the traditional Scotch Pie shape (but without the need to bite into the pastry and then pour out the grease and fat). The richness of the black pudding is balanced out with crushed Hobnobs and Ginger Nuts, from childhood memories of driving past the McVities factory in Levenshulme. These pies are a labour of love, mixing traditional aspects of meat pies such as white pepper with something a little bit different and something personal. Although there are no offal pies on the menu as yet, they certainly contain heart.

The pie didn’t have the killer blow of rich black pudding I was expecting, it appears in a more refined form in the after taste. Maybe they could up the black pudding content, but as it is, the taste is subtle and not overpowering. The pastry, as in each of the pies, is thin and crisp rather than stodgy and soggy. It doesn't bloat you and leaves you with room for something else. Another pie perhaps?

Next up was the Lamb Curry ‘Keema and Peas’ with minced lamb, homemade curry sauce, garden peas, toasted almonds, sultanas, cumin and black onion seeds. For a curry, it has a light, summery feel; you could eat it outside with some Bombay potatoes and a mango salad.

Instead of being padded out with potato, it is all cheese and onion. Like a Northern fondue in a pastry hug.

The pie seems inspired by Neil’s time in the police force – on his beat in Rusholme and Longsight he had a knack for snaffling out where to buy the best samosas. He would chat to the chefs and try a different takeaway every night and the experience shows. The pie has a kick, but a gentle kick. More like a gentle prod with the toe that leaves you wanting more.

Nige's FaveNige's FaveNige’s fave, the cheese and onion pie, is made with Dewlay’s Tasty Lancashire Cheese – a special reserve that’s aged for longer, caramelised white onion, white pepper, nutmeg and Japanese panko breadcrumbs. This one stays on the menu. Instead of being padded out with potato, it is all cheese and onion. Like a Northern fondue in a pastry hug.

The prettiest of the pies is the Beetroot, white Cheshire, feta and apricot. It’s quite sweet, the dessert of the pie world. Rather than a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma, this is more like a cheeseboard within a pie. But despite the analogy, this isn’t hearty trencherman fare, it’s elegant, delicate, and it was my favourite.

pretty as a picturePretty as a picture

You can buy Great North Pie Company pies at Farmers’ Markets such as Castlefield Artisan Market every week and local independent restaurants and shops such as The Whim Wham Café, Chorlton Green Brasserie and Out Of The Blue – where they come in beautiful octagonal paper cases, like cakes. 

The company is expanding its horizons and its pies are due to go on sale at Tebay services in the Lake District - the only service station with a reputation for food that is anything other than dire. If this seems a small step, the Great North Pie Company's plan for world domination was always going to be about quality rather than quantity.

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5 comments so far, continue the conversation, write a comment.

Wall-EJuly 10th 2013.

Got the cheese and the lamb curry ones from easy fish on sat and they were beautiful.

StephJuly 10th 2013.

Woooooo! Northern pies!!! Better than those Pieminister southern soft pies. You need a city centre shop, do you want a pop up one?

GordoJuly 11th 2013.

I had the curried lamb at OnThe7th yesterday, knockout. They did a little matching gravy as well in a small jug on the side. Fab.

Barry MaginnJuly 14th 2013.

These pies are pretty small, and cost £13.50 a pop with side at Chorlton Green. So pretty overpriced and not really fair to compare against Pieminister (£4.30 for pie and £1.50 for side).

AnonymousJuly 15th 2013.

The most expensive pie in the country made with hobnobs and biscuits??????????????????? do me a favour

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