A Brief History Of The Perfect Pork Pie

If you live in Norfolk, when anyone mentions pork pies you know they’re likely to be talking about those made by Bray’s Cottage. In 2017, Bray’s celebrates 10 years of trading and so it was an ideal time for me to meet the founder and owner Sarah Pettegree and chat to her about the porky deliciousness of her pies and sausage rolls and also find out a little more about the woman behind the brand.

After a degree at the University of East Anglia, Sarah found employment as a civil servant at the Ministry of Agriculture, working as a humble clerical assistant because “I needed a job”. The job didn’t pay particularly well and there were no career prospects but luckily Sarah later passed a Civil Service promotion board and was offered a role at HMSO (Her Majesty’s Stationery Office) which surprised her seeing as she wasn’t very good at maths: a management accounting job! There was no other offer on the horizon and so Sarah bit the bullet, learned to do the job well and eventually became a qualified Chartered Accountant.

When HMSO was privatised in 1996, Sarah was made redundant and worked in various contract positions for organisations such as Norwich Union and CITB. Thanks to experience gained in her previous job, she was able to train managers on various in-house business management systems. While this meant she was moving away from accountancy, it was also giving her an opportunity to learn how people ran their businesses. At the same time, the television programme “Dragons’ Den” was in its early days and Sarah was interested to watch the start-up process surrounding new business and whether they succeeded or failed.

Sarah had always felt the pull of the countryside and once she realised she no longer wanted to work in Norwich or London, she moved to the Norfolk countryside in 2001 and took time to think about what sort of business would be sustainable. One of her early ideas was to do something using her arty skills – Sarah had studied painting and sculpture at the Open College of Arts – but realised although it would be enjoyable, she would be unlikely to earn a living from it.

Then she thought of something food-related. A friend had a couple of saddleback pigs and the idea of making pork pies was born. Sarah felt that the traditional pork pies that were generally available in supermarkets or even butchers’ shops were all quite “samey”, with no unusual or interesting flavour combinations available.

Sarah’s pies took off and her initial sales – via a website with a mail order facility -resulted in an article being written by the Food Editor of The Sunday Times. Sarah’s first big customer was “The Green Grocer” in Norwich and in 2006, they told Sarah that her pies were their best-selling product (after potatoes). They are still a valued customer today.

 

Here’s Sarah at one of the many Norfolk foodie events she attends – doing what she does best!

 

These days, you can buy Bray’s Cottage “Pies by Post” via the website otherwise you’ll find them only at independent retailers and pubs. During any given week, Brays could be making between 1,000 and 3,000 pork pies and there are seasonal spikes at times like Christmas and Valentine’s Day. You can even buy a pork pie “wedding cake”. A small range of sausage rolls was added to the Brays repertoire when one of Sarah’s retailers mentioned that the ones available elsewhere weren’t particularly good. There are now two sizes of Brays sausage rolls and two flavours: plain and with onion marmalade. Interestingly, the onion marmalade pork pie is Sarah’s best seller. Having tasted it, I can see why!

 

 

Apart from Sarah and her partner Derek (who gave up his music career a few years ago to help with the business), there are 8 members of staff at Brays who are the “bakers and makers” of the pies and sausage rolls. Derek mostly deals with administration, book-keeping and the local deliveries although Sarah pointed out that he can also bake! Sarah now focuses on growing the business, marketing, PR and maintaining a lively presence on social media.

I asked her if there had been any low points in her pork pie career and she said the early days of setting up a small business are very challenging. You have to work really hard and it takes over your life. Now, 10 years on, Sarah said it’s more manageable now there are people to whom she can delegate and she has time to appreciate the rewards: working in a great environment, supplying a product that people love and also having fun along the way.

I asked what the future holds for the Bray’s Cottage brand and Sarah said “more of the same”. She wants to grow the mail order side of the business and link up with more Norfolk and UK wide retailers. At the moment, some of the places in Norfolk where you can buy Brays pork pies are Picnic Fayre in Cley, Back to the Garden in Letheringsett, Walsingham Farm Shop, Henry’s Coffee Store in Cromer and Blakeney Deli.

There are other stockists of Bray’s further afield too e.g. London, the Midlands, Wales and the North of England. A full list of stockists is on the website.

You can find Sarah at Creake Abbey Farmers’ Market on the first Saturday of every month (during the season) and at bigger local Norfolk events including the Aylsham Show and the North Norfolk Food Festival.

And if you want to learn how to make outstanding pork pies yourself, Sarah runs classes in Norwich. Details are on the website but spaces sell out fast.

 

 

Sarah said her life now is so different from when she used to be an accountant and she thrives on the positive comments she receives about Brays’ products. “After all”, she said, “nobody ever told me I’d produced the best spreadsheet they’d ever seen”!

 

http://www.perfectpie.co.uk

 

This article originally appeared on the Norfolk Places website.

Nadiya Hussain Q & A

To whet your appetite for the BBC Good Food Show at Olympia, London from 11th – 13th November 2016, here’s a mini Q&A soundbite from Nadiya Hussain, the 2015 Great British Bake Off winner (as if I needed to remind you). Sadly it wasn’t an interview with me but via the publicity people who organise the Show who have kindly allowed me to post it here.

Q. What is your favourite dish to cook?

N.H. I love one pot dishes. So a chicken tagine, with preserved lemons and dates. Served with lemon couscous.

Q. What is your top tip for festive cooking?

N.H. Try and do as much in advance. I like to pre prep anything that can be done and then par cook anything that can be finished off last minute. I always par cook/blanch my roasties and then freeze them and cook again in fat to get them really crispy.

Q. What is your most treasured item in the kitchen?

N.H. My favourite thing in the kitchen has to be my micro plane. I can’t believe how well those things grate the zest of any fruit. I’m always mesmerised. But my treasured item would have to be my oven as without it I’m quite literally half a person. Recently moving house I hadn’t used an oven for 9 days – it’s the longest I have been without baking and it was pretty tough.

Q. What are you most looking forward to about the BBC Good Food Shows?

N.H. I have attended the BBC Good Food Shows before but this year it will be interesting to come back since so much has changed. Very excited to be a part of it all.

Q. What new ingredient or ingredients are you inspired by right now?

N.H. I am loving yellow ras-el-hanout. It works so well as a coating on fish but it’s even better with slow cooked lamb.

 

Don’t forget that I have two *FREE* tickets up for grabs – you can go to the Show in London on Friday 11th November or Sunday 13th November 2016. Follow me on Twitter for details of how to enter the draw – @TheLittlePK.

 

www.bbcgoodfoodshow.com

*FREE TICKETS* to BBC Good Food Show Olympia 11th – 13th Nov 2016

It’s that time of year again! The BBC Good Food Show is back in London this month and I’m ridiculously excited about it.

 

BBC GOOD FOOD SHOW LONDON

11-13 November, Olympia London

The capital’s largest food show returns to Olympia with live cookery demonstrations, exciting shopping areas and plenty of recipe inspiration. Visitors can see their culinary idols creating Michelin magic live in the SuperTheatre including Tom Kerridge and Michel Roux Jr or enjoy the Great British Bake Off winner Nadiya Hussain cooking live. Plus visitors can enjoy highlights from their favourite weekend TV food show in the Saturday Kitchen Live sessions.

 

To see what’s on at the Show and to plan which celebrity chef you’d like to see or which stands you want to visit and buy culinary goodies from, pop over to the website: www.bbcgoodfoodshow.com

 

FREE!  GRATIS! BE IN IT TO WIN IT!   And all that sort of thing……..

The Show’s awfully nice organisers have kindly provided me with two free tickets to the Show – valid for either Friday 11th or Sunday 13th November 2016 (sorry, not the Saturday). Sorry but the tickets DON’T include entry to the SuperTheatre or any tasting sessions.

BUT –  the best news is that these two free tickets aren’t for me but are in fact for a *GIVEAWAY*. In other words, a *FREEBIE*!

If you’d like to be in with a chance of winning the two free tickets, follow me on Twitter (@TheLittlePK) for details. I’ll be posting the tickets to the lucky winner so you’ll have to DM me your address, which of course I won’t share with anyone else.

I’ll be at the Show on Friday 11th November and I’d love to meet up with members of the Twitter cakey crowd if any of you will be there too.

 

Never Say Diet!

My foodie interests are quite wide-ranging and in my time I have tried all sorts of eating regimes including vegetarianism, veganism, raw foodism, high protein and everything in between. Over the last 30 years I’ve been slim (ish) and I’ve been overweight. In fact, I’m on the rather generous side of the “Rubenesque” scale at the moment with the genuine intention of doing something about it this year. As I do every year (oh dear). In 2015 I managed to lose just over 2 stone (30lbs) and to date only 1 of those (stones) has gone back on. So, somewhat unusually, I start a new year lighter than I was at this point 365 days ago. Which is a good thing. But I want to do better.

My downfall as far as diets go is that I absolutely love food and if I’m not eating it, I’m thinking about it, reading about it or writing about it. I love cooking and experimenting with new ingredients and baking makes me feel really good. Unfortunately, with cooking comes eating and that’s my downfall. As a result, I’ve joined various slimming groups over the years including WeightWatchers and Rosemary Conley (RIP that company), and I’ve tried diets like Atkins (lost over 3 stone) and LighterLife (lost almost 7 stone). I’ve realised that all sorts of diets do work – when you stick to them. I get to the point when I feel I’ve done really well and decide I don’t need ‘the diet’ any more …… and I duly go back to my poor eating habits and pile the weight on again. Plus a little bit more for good measure.

In December 2015, I moved with my husband and our dog to North Norfolk to escape our busy, stressful, and traffic fume filled existence in south London and have a better quality of life in the country. We’re staying temporarily in my mum’s former holiday rental cottage on the coast – very “bijou” with a tiny kitchen – while we look for a house to buy. I’m also looking for a job. Lots of changes at one time so not ideal really.

I’ve decided to bite the diet bullet (here I go again) and join a local “Slimming World” group because their Jan/Feb 2016 magazine proudly claims that you can eat the food you love and therefore have decent meals. No sparrow sized portions. How great is that? Apparently, there are also “free foods” that you can eat in unlimited quantities which I’m curious about, seeing as eating food in unlimited quantities is what has made me fat in the first place! I’ll be toddling along to my first meeting on Tuesday 5th January 2016 – watch this space and I’ll report back on how it goes.

So, bearing in mind that I’ll be able to eat proper food while I’m on the Slimming World programme, I’m going to treat myself to some new cookbooks and write reviews of each one I buy. This will be an interesting project seeing as I seem to buy quite a lot (ooops) but I hope it will be helpful for other people who may be struggling with their weight as well as for people who just wonder what the XX cook book may be like.

I want to be able to eat the same food as my husband. I don’t want to be eating celery and lettuce or cutting out any major food groups while he tucks into a hearty chicken or beef dish. I’ll be looking for recipes that are immediately “diet friendly” as well as those I can tweak to make more suitable e.g. by reducing the fat or portion sizes. It has taken me a long time to appreciate that diets are only short-term fixes. If I’m ever going to conquer my 30 year history of yoyo dieting, I have to change my lifestyle once and for all. As we moved to Norfolk to improve our lives, this seems the ideal time to do it. Carpe diem, and all that.

When I buy books, I like to read reviews first but I’m never sure how reliable the ones are that you see on Amazon: there has been the occasional scandal of dodgy reviews posted by an author’s competitors or times when a writer’s friends and family post excessively positive reviews. People that know me appreciate that I’ll be honest and unbiased and also that I won’t be malicious or unkind.

The things I look for in any cook book are:

  1. Are the recipes “do-able” for the average home cook? Too much faffing or fancy / obscure ingredients put me off right away;
  2. Are there decent photographs? We may all know what a lasagne or chocolate cake should look like, but I’d like to know how the dish I’m making at any one time is expected to turn out. I tend not to buy recipe books with a lack of pictures;
  3. Are the instructions clear? Cook books are usually aimed at domestic cooks or people who wish to improve their skills in the kitchen. Too much jargon or vague explanations are not helpful nor are authors who patronise their readers;
  4. Do I want to eat the food or am I buying the book for another reason? This may seem to be a silly question but if you think about it, do we buy the recipe book or do we “buy” the person who’s written it? At the time of writing this piece, I’ve seen a couple of Sunday newspaper supplements and Davina McCall has a recipe book coming out and Bear Grylls – not usually known for his culinary skills – is also publishing a cook book. The extract from the book by Davina frequently refers to her “team of nutritionists” which does make me wonder who created the recipes that she’s selling. Sorry Bear and Davina, your books aren’t going to make my list of purchases this year.
  5. Nutritional information. This could be calories per portion or how much fat, protein or carbohydrate is in a dish. While Slimming World doesn’t work on the basis of calories, I find it helpful to know how much fat a recipe contains as this is something I can change when I make it.

During this year I’ll be reviewing newly published cookbooks by a diverse group of writers, including Anna Jones, Amelia Freer, Ella Woodward, Jamie Oliver, Fiona Uyema, Hemsley & Hemsley, Anya Ladra, and Natasha Corrett. Please be aware that these aren’t “diet books” as such but ones I happen to be interested in anyway that I hope will help me to lose weight while eating rather well.

 

Happy New Year!

 

Win FREE Tickets to The Bakes & Cakes Show, London, 13th – 15th November 2015

FullSizeRender - Copy (9)

The awfully nice people who organise The Good Food Bakes and Cakes Show have given me 2 free tickets for the show, to pass onto a lucky reader of this blog!

The tickets are valid for either Friday 13th or Sunday 15th November 2015. The Show is at Olympia this year, so it’s easy to reach on public transport.

All you have to do to enter the draw is *FOLLOW MY BLOG* and ideally post a comment underneath this post.

I’ll draw for the winner on Sunday 1st November and announce who the lucky person is on Twitter later in the day. I can only post the tickets to a UK address.

Don’t miss your chance to win tickets to a great day out – you’ll be able to see various cakey bakey celebrities like Great British Bake Off alumni John Whaite, Luis Troyano, and Mary and Paul of course.

See you there!

Tracy x

“Ravens’ Nests” – John Whaite’s Sophisticated Hallowe’en Dessert

John Whaite Raven's Nest

In the lead up to this year’s Good Food Bakes and Cakes Show in London (13th – 15th November 2015 in London), the awfully nice people who organise it are allowing me to share a dessert by John White, the charismatic winner of The Great British Bake Off in 2012. It’s not just any old dessert though – John has created a chocolate cherry delight that will wow your guests at any time, but would go down particularly well at Hallowe’ en.

So if you fancy making – and eating – a rich chocolate cake topped with a light cherry mousse and decorated with chocolate ‘feathers’, read John’s reminiscences about how his mum planned Hallowe’ en and what inspired him to create this recipe. Then go for it!

RAVENS’ NESTS

MAKES 4

Essential equipment

3 disposable piping bags, one fitted with 10mm nozzle, one fitted with a large star nozzle and one with a number 1 writing nozzle

4 mini savarin moulds, greased, frozen, greased again then dusted with flour

Sheet of acetate/baking paper

For the cake

30g cocoa powder

100g dark muscovado sugar

50g hot water

50g Greek yoghurt

1 egg

1 tsp coffee extract (optional)

50g dark chocolate, melted in a heatproof bowl over a pan of barely simmering water

1 tsp bicarbonate of soda

50g plain flour

For the cherry mousse

2 gelatine leaves

200g pitted cherries (frozen are cheaper, defrost first)

80g golden caster sugar

250g whipping cream

Red food colouring paste

For the feather decorations

100g dark chocolate, tempered

2 tbsp cocoa powder (optional)

 

When I was a tot mum used to throw the best Halloween parties for us: bin bags torn up and hung from the doorways, cobwebs covering the entire ceiling, and even disco lights in the dining room to create an eerie environment. Bin bags, however effective in the Nineties, wouldn’t quite cut it nowadays, and so I need to impress my guests with food. These little rounds of cake, filled with cherry mousse and adorned with a tempered chocolate plume of feathers, are just the thing for an adult Halloween party. They were inspired by Edgar Allan Poe’s ‘The Raven’, that haunting poem of waiting and fear. These beautifully light chocolate, cherry and coffee cakes are well worth the wait.

 

1 Preheat the oven to 200°C/180°C fan/Gas 6.

2 Place the cocoa powder and sugar in a mixing bowl and stir together until well mixed and fairly lumpfree. Add the hot water and stir to a smooth paste, then beat in the yoghurt, egg, extract if using, and the melted chocolate. Sift over the bicarbonate of soda and flour and fold to a smooth batter. Put the batter into the piping bag with a 10mm nozzle and divide between the 4 prepared moulds.

3 Bake for 10–14 minutes, or until a skewer gently inserted into one of the cakes comes out clean. Remove from the oven and de-mould immediately, and allow to cool on a wire rack until completely cold.

4 To make the cherry mousse, soak the gelatine leaves in a jug of cold water – put them into the water one at a time or else they’ll stick together and never dissolve. Blitz the cherries to a mush in a food processor or with a stick blender, then put into a small saucepan and add the sugar. Bring the cherry pulp and sugar to a boil, then simmer and allow to reduce down to a loose compote consistency. While the cherries are still hot, squeeze the surplus moisture out of the gelatine leaves and add to the pan with the cherries. Add the food colouring. Stir until the gelatine has dissolved, then allow to cool completely, but don’t let it set.

5 When the cherry compote is cool, whip the cream to soft, floppy peaks, and gently fold together with the cherry compote. Put the mousse into the piping bag fitted with large star nozzle.

6 Place the chocolate nests on serving plates, and pipe a large, indulgent swirl of the cherry mousse in the centre of each one. Chill until needed.

7 For the tempered chocolate feather, put the tempered chocolate into the piping bag with small writing nozzle. Pipe a fairly thick line of chocolate about 10cm long, then, with the tip of the nozzle, drag the chocolate out diagonally on either side of the line to create a feather shape. Make 12 in total, each a slightly different size, and allow to set at room temperature.

8 Once set, place 3 into the mousse of each Raven’s Nest to create a dramatic, haunting finish. Sift over some cocoa powder if desired.

Luis Troyano’s recipe for Chocolate Hazelnut Star Bread

JS42944408As most of you reading this will know, Luis Troyano took part in the 2014 series of the Great British Bake Off and was in the final along with Nancy Birtwhistle (who won) and Richard Burr. Luis is now a published author – his book is called “Bake it Great” – and he will be appearing at the BBC Good Food Bakes and Cakes Show in London, which this year runs from 13th – 15th November. The nice people at the Bakes and Cakes Show have kindly given me two FREE TICKETS that followers of my blog can win (more about that later).

In order to tempt you even further, they also gave me one of Luis’s delicious recipes from his book to share with you. So please read on to see how you can ‘bake it great’ like Luis and enjoy a delicious bread made with – * drools * – chocolate hazelnut spread.

Chocolate Hazelnut Star Bread (in Luis’s own words)

This is a stunning, delicious chocolate and hazelnut tear and share loaf. If you don’t have a jar of chocolate hazelnut spread handy, you could use jam or marmalade. You can even make a savoury version with a pesto and feta cheese filling. In fact, you can fill it with anything you like as long as it’s not too wet. It looks complicated but is actually very easy to do. I would usually make the dough and prove it overnight in the fridge for improved flavour, before finishing the loaf the next day. But you can make it all in one day if you prefer.

Makes 1 star bread

Time required: 60 minutes preparation and two proves

Baking time: 20–25 minutes

Optimum oven position and setting: centre and no fan, with a baking stone

Essential equipment:

A kitchen mixer fitted with a dough hook

A baking sheet; mine is aluminium and measures 38 x 32cm.

Non-stick baking parchment

A large bag to put the baking sheet into for proving

Ingredients:

135ml boiling water

135ml whole milk

500g strong white bread flour

14g instant yeast

1 tsp fine salt

2 medium eggs

100g soft unsalted butter

rapeseed oil, for greasing

2 tbsp smooth apricot jam

For the filling:

200g chocolate hazelnut spread

finely grated zest of 1 orange

75g chopped roasted hazelnuts

Method:

Add the boiling water to the milk to give you a warm liquid. Place the flour, yeast, salt and eggs in the bowl of a kitchen mixer fitted with a dough hook. When adding the yeast and salt, place them at opposite sides of the bowl. Add two-thirds of the liquid and begin to mix it all together. Add more liquid gradually until all the dry ingredients are picked up and you have a soft dough. You may not need all of the liquid.

Mix for about 8 minutes. You will work through the wet stage and eventually end up with a smooth, soft, silky dough. With the mixer still on, gradually add the butter in thumb-size pieces until it is all incorporated and the dough is smooth and shiny.

Lightly oil a large bowl and place the dough in it. Cover it with cling film or a shower cap and leave it on one side until doubled in size. Depending on your room temperature, this can take 1 hour, but it’ll be fine for 2 hours.

Find the largest round plate you have that will fit completely on your baking sheet.

When the dough has proved, tip it out onto a lightly floured surface (I use rice flour). Fold the dough over on itself several times to knock the air out of it. Divide the dough into two equal pieces. Roll out one half of the dough on a piece of non-stick baking parchment into a circle just a little larger than your plate. Place the plate on the dough and trim around it with a knife.

To make the filling, place the chocolate spread in a heatproof bowl. Warm it gently in a microwave to make it runny. Using a palette knife, spread it evenly over the dough, leaving about 1cm bare all around the edge. Sprinkle over the orange zest and 50g of the chopped hazelnuts. (You could also sprinkle any other finely chopped nuts or dried fruit of your choice.)

Roll out the other half of the dough on a lightly floured surface and trim to the same size circle. Carefully place it over the chocolate-covered dough and press to seal around the edges.Luis Troyano - Folding star bread photo

Get a small bowl with a diameter of about 12cm and make a light imprint in the centre of the dough circle. Using a sharp knife, cut 16 equally spaced slices up to the circle imprint. The easy way to do that is to cut four evenly spaced, then another four in between those and so on. Gently lift each slice, spin over twice and lay back down. This will give you the amazing pattern. Twisting in one direction only will give you the pattern depicted in the photograph on page 110. Twisting each alternate section in opposite directions will give you the pattern depicted on page 111.

Slide the whole thing onto the baking sheet. Place the baking sheet inside a large bag to prove. Make sure the bag doesn’t touch the dough. Prove again for about an hour until doubled in size.

Preheat the oven to 200°C fan/220°C/ 390°F/gas 7. Place your rack just below the centre of the oven. Bake the bread for about 20–25 minutes until golden.

Warm the apricot jam and brush it over the hot bread to glaze it. Sprinkle some chopped hazelnuts in the centre circle of the loaf – use a pastry cutter to sprinkle into and get a perfect circle of nuts. Eat warm or cold.

Luis Troyano - star bread finished photo

Luis Troyano’s new book Bake it Great – Pavilion is out now. Recipe image credit to Clare Winfield. Luis will be cooking live on stage at BBC Good Food Shows this Autumn.

  • HOW YOU COULD WIN FREE TICKETS *

If you want the chance to win TWO FREE TICKETS to the BBC Good Food Bakes and Cake Show in London, you’ll need to FOLLOW my blog and my Twitter account @TheLittlePK and then you’ll be entered into a draw. I’ll announce the winner on Sunday 1st November 2015 via Twitter. The tickets can only be posted to a UK address – the winner will need to provide me with this (it won’t be shared with anyone else).

Good Luck!

Tracy