How can you make a traditional british pie?

November 27, 2023

In the realm of British cuisine, few dishes are more iconic than the traditional pie. A quintessentially British staple, originating from the medieval times, pie is a beloved dish that has evolved through the ages but still maintains its traditional charm. With its flaky pastry crust encasing a hearty filling, typically of meat, it’s the perfect comfort food for any time. But how can you bring this classic dish to your own kitchen? Let’s delve into the world of British pie-making and provide a step-by-step guide to create your very own masterpiece.

The Basics of Pie-Making

Before diving into the actual process of pie-making, it’s important to understand the basics. A traditional British pie is a baked dish which is usually made of a pastry dough casing that covers or completely contains a filling of various sweet or savory ingredients. Typically, the British prefer savory pies, such as beef, pork or chicken pies.

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The pie-making process essentially involves two main steps – preparing the pastry dough and the filling. The pastry dough is where you create that perfect crust that is crispy on the outside and tender on the inside. The filling is the heart of the pie, where the main flavors reside.

Preparing the Pastry Dough

The first step of making a pie is preparing the dough. A standard dough for a British pie typically involves flour, butter, water and sometimes, an egg for richness. The process begins with combining flour and butter, which is then followed by the addition of water to bring the mixture together.

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Start by adding 250g of flour to a large mixing bowl. Then, add 125g of cold, cubed butter. Using your fingers, rub the butter into the flour until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Next, gradually add cold water, a tablespoon at a time, until the dough comes together. Be cautious not to overwork the dough as it can result in a tough crust.

Once your dough is mixed, wrap it in clingfilm and let it rest in the fridge for at least 30 minutes. This resting time is crucial as it allows the gluten in the flour to relax, making the dough easier to roll out later.

Creating the Filling

While your dough is resting, it’s time to make the filling. The filling can be made with a variety of meats, but for this recipe, we’ll focus on a classic British choice – beef.

Start by browning 500g of diced beef in a pan over high heat. Once browned, remove the meat and set it aside. In the same pan, add a diced onion, two diced carrots, and two diced celery stalks, and cook until softened. Then, add the beef back into the pan along with 500ml of beef stock, a splash of Worcestershire sauce, and a sprig of thyme. Let the mixture simmer until the beef is tender and the flavors are well combined.

Assembling the Pie

Now that you have your crust and filling ready, it’s time to assemble the pie. Roll out your chilled dough on a floured surface until it’s large enough to cover your pie dish with some to spare. Place the dough into the dish and press it into the edges. Prick the bottom with a fork to prevent it from puffing up during baking.

Then, pour your filling into the crust. Make sure to remove the sprig of thyme. Roll out the remaining dough to create the top of your pie. Brush the edges of the bottom crust with a beaten egg, then place the top crust over the filling. Firmly press the edges together to seal the pie, then brush the top with more of the beaten egg.

Baking the Pie

The final step in the pie-making process is baking. Preheat your oven to 200°C (180°C fan) mark 6. Bake the pie in the preheated oven for 30 minutes, or until the crust is golden brown and the filling is bubbling.

Remember, baking times can vary depending on the type of oven and temperature, so keep a close watch. Once done, allow the pie to rest for a few minutes before serving. This will give the crust time to set, making it easier to slice.

With these steps, you would have made a traditional British pie. It may seem time-consuming, but the satisfaction of creating this hearty, comforting dish from scratch is absolutely worth it. After all, nothing can compare to the taste of a homemade pie.

The Versatility of British Pies

British pies are versatile and can take on a variety of forms and flavors, thus making them a favorite across the country. With a myriad of filling options, you can experiment with the recipe as per your preference. While the classic beef pie is a British favorite, other variations like the pork pie, shepherd’s pie, and steak ale pie are equally popular.

Pork Pie, a classic British dish, is traditionally made with a hot water crust pastry. This pastry is a bit different, as it’s made using hot water and lard, resulting in a sturdy crust perfect for holding in the rich, flavorsome pork filling.

Shepherd’s Pie, on the other hand, is a comforting dish made with minced lamb and vegetables, topped with a layer of mashed potatoes and baked until golden and crispy.

The Steak Ale Pie is yet another classic, where the beef is swapped out for steak and is cooked in a rich ale-based gravy.

No matter what filling you choose, the fundamental steps of making the pie remain the same – preparing the dough, creating the filling, assembling the pie, and finally, baking it to perfection.

Perfecting the Pie Crust

The crust is a crucial element of any pie, providing structure and a delicious, flaky contrast to the hearty filling. Just like the filling, several types of crusts exist. These include the standard pie crust made with butter, the hot water crust pastry, and puff pastry.

The puff pastry is light, flaky, and rises significantly when baked, creating a gorgeous, golden-brown top. It’s used mainly for pies that only require a top crust, such as a pot pie.

Shortcrust pastry is another type, and it is crumbly, buttery, and perfect for both the bottom and top crust. This pastry is made similarly to the standard pie crust, but with the option to add sugar for a sweet version.

No matter what type of crust you choose, always remember to brush the pie with an egg wash before baking. This will give your pie a beautiful, glossy finish.


Making a traditional British pie from scratch is an enjoyable process that results in a dish packed with flavors. From the crispy, buttery crust to the savory, hearty filling, every element of this dish is designed to provide comfort and satisfaction. Remember, the key to a great pie lies in the quality of ingredients and the care you put into each step of the process.

Also, don’t shy away from experimenting with different types of pies. Whether it be a classic meat potato pie, an ale-infused steak pie, a pork pie with hot water crust, or a shepherd’s pie topped with mashed potatoes, the possibilities are endless.

So, grab your pie dish, roll up your sleeves, and start baking. Don’t forget to season your filling well with salt, pepper, and Worcestershire sauce. After all, the journey is as gratifying as the destination.

Here’s to bringing the tradition of British pie-making into your own kitchen. Happy baking!