My favourite meal – proper pie and mash

20140105-192308.jpgAnd I really mean PROPER pie and mash, which comes from the pie and mash shop. I do not mean shortcrust pies or ‘pies’ (not in my book!) half topped with puff pastry, runny insubstantial gravies with the odd piece of meat and mashed potatoes whipped up with cream and butter. Not that there is anything wrong with a bog standard pie, but it’s not the same as what you get from a pie and mash shop.

And what is the pie and mash shop? Well, there are only a few left in London now, and some others that pretend to be the real thing but oh so are not. Usually they still sport their original Victorian interiors – tiled walls and narrow benches designed for you to eat and go, not hang around at your leisure.

20140105-192343.jpgYou order at the counter as soon as you walk in from a menu limited to pie (minced steak pie – no choice), mash, eels (jellied or stewed) and soft drinks. Unless you say otherwise (and why would you?) then your pie and mash will be served with liquor – a parsley sauce originally made with the liquid used to cooked the eels, but I doubt they do that nowadays.

The pies are eased out of their metal cases onto the plate, followed by a mound of mash which is literally scraped onto your plate, and then liquor is sploshed on top. You pay, pick up your knife, fork and spoon and find a seat and dig in, after seasoning your plate with chilli vinegar, salt and white pepper. It’s the ultimate fast food, but unlike MacDonalds, KFC, PIzza Hut and the like, the food is freshly made, wholesome and healthy … and will keep your tummy full and satisfied for the rest of the day.

20140105-192317.jpgI grew up on the stuff as both sets of grandparents lived near Elephant and Castle, and so each weekend when my brother and I visited our Nan and Grandad we’d start off Saturday morning by a quick torment of Grandad by making the phone ring by dialling 1571 until I think he genuinely wanted us dead (it kept us amused for hours, and he never wanted to risk not picking up the phone in case there was a genuine caller), then going with Nan to do the week’s shopping at East Lane market, then take a detour to M&S so my brother and I could choose a few treats (typically spoilt by our grandparents). We would then have the choice of lunch at the pie and mash shop or MacDonalds. Invariably we chose pie and mash and so walked down to Arments on Walworth Road (which was originally opened in 1914), keep a sharp eye out for our other less popular Nan (hiding if we saw her) and each have pie and mash with loads of liquor. Beautiful.

20140105-192327.jpgI dreamed of pie and mash for many years after our grandparents left the area and we had no reason to go back just for the food. One day Andrew and I were walking around Angel in North London, near where we lived, and I suddenly noticed Manzes pie and mash shop on Chapel Market. I must have walked past it without noticing 100 times, but as soon as I saw it I could have cried. I dragged Andrew inside (he had no clue about pie and mash, growing up in Wales) and ordered double pie and mash twice, with liquor on the side for Andrew.

Oh it was one of the best things I had ever tasted. The flavour of the pie was the same as I remembered from growing up, the mash was the same silky texture, and the liquor was the same glorious green. I loved seeing the mash scraped onto the plate in the same way I remembered from my childhood, and watching regulars eating their dinner with spoons (the traditional way to eat pie and mash, but something I never got into the habit of).

I can stomach stewed eels nowadays, but the thought of jellied eels still makes me retch. Luckily they are normally sold out by the time we get there!

20140105-192335.jpgI went back to Manzes yesterday for a new year’s treat of double pie and mash, and it tasted as glorious as ever. If you haven’t tried it, please do, and let me know if you like it in the comments section. For around a fiver you’ll have a hearty, filling, nutritious meal and you’ll never look back. My new year’s resolution is to have pie and mash more regularly – it truly is the food of the gods!

18 Replies to “My favourite meal – proper pie and mash”

  1. Delicious!

  2. Love it! I was brought up on this stuff, I think it was the first solid food I ever had!

    1. You really can’t beat pie and mash. Even the photo of it makes my mouth drool a little!

      1. Haven’t had it in ages! Moved house just before Christmas so need to find my new local 🙂

  3. john Rutland says: Reply

    I live now in Australia,from poplar east london,after all this pie and mash talk will be trying to make some this weekend.Any recipes you might know off would be much appreciated

    1. Hi John – I wish I did have a real pie and mash recipe! I have never been able to recreate that amazing pastry. Mash I’d say keep very plain (no butter, splash of milk only) and for the parsley sauce I have almost got the right taste by using the potato water to make the roux … and LOADS of parsley. Here’s a recipe – which I haven’t tried – – if you do give it a go and it’s any good, please let me know! Good luck.

  4. It’s great to hear Arments was one of your childhood memories. We take pride in giving our customers a great service and great food. You will be happy to know we are still open after 100 years service and would love your return to enjoy the great taste of our traditional pie and mash. We hope to see you soon.

  5. says: Reply

    Arments are by far the best pie and mash shop EVER!!

  6. Live in Australia now 41 years ,visited back twice everything had changed but not Manzes pie and mash shop Walthamstow high street. It’s great to see this tradition is still popular to this day, through my childhood and teenage years a trip to ” the pie and mash shop ” was a yummy treat! “Guess” where my first stop will be if I ever visit again? Having been a baker/ pastry cook by trade i don’t make a bad reproduction myself. Love your segment “long live tradition”

    1. Thanks for commenting all the way from Australia! If you have any tips on recreating that delicious pastry I’d love to hear them. I am 8 months pregnant and was just speaking today about looking forward to introducing the baby to pie and mash!

  7. No knife though only spoon & fork

      1. Paul Dalby says: Reply

        You really must change your profile photo. A glass of wine does not look right with pie mash.

  8. Paul Dalby says: Reply

    I was born 10 minutes from West Ham football ground (Boleyn) 5 minutes from the London Docks. My Dad was a Docker, so its odds on I would like pie mash. We gradually moved out of the East End and into Essex where there are no real pie mash shops. So, I have tried to make it myself. I have tried and tried but fall short with the pastry. The bottoms are good, its the lids that are the problem. They dont come out like the shop ones. When I make them, the lids are just ordinary shortcrust lids, in the shops they are similar to the bottoms. Must be the ovens, something special about the ovens. Got a feeling they are steam ovens. Anybody know the secret please let me know

    1. I wish I could replicate the recipe, those pies are the best. I am gutted that my local pie and mash shop (Chapel Market, Islington) is closing due to increased business rents, so I need to make the most of it while it is here. Thanks so much for commenting, and yes, agree re the profile pic – a new one is coming.

      1. Debbie Wells says: Reply

        Hi there, I’m a lover of pie n mash, and have been trawling the net, looking at videos and blogs in the last couple of days its madness. So here’s what I’m going to attempt. The pie has a suet bottom and shortcrust top, filled with the best minced beef and a little gravy + seasoning. I have brought the actual proper tins off Ebay, and before putting the lids on spray some water over them, no egg glaze or milk on top just water. I believe the ovens have something to do with how they are baked, i.e. in a very hot oven, so I am in the process of purchasing a single deck stone bake oven to use, and I may put the pies in a tray with a little water, a bit like a ban marie, as its suet based….I maybe wrong, but Im going to try.Oh and I forgot to mention the flour used will be a wheat flour, its what I read. The liquor I will use the potato water with a helping of some mashy potato, and plenty of curly parsley, with some arrowroot mixed to a creamy consistency, again its what I read, and the mash is plain n simple mash, Maris piper potato’s. I cant wait to try, the pies are the biggest thing I need to replicate. I just wish it wasnt such a BIG secret, as there are fewer and fewer of these shops, and soon they will be no longer, I really hope not tho x

        1. Thanks for commenting Debbie – how did you get on with replicating your pie and mash dish? I hope it was delicious!

  9. Mr Cooke says the oven should be at a temperature of 550F (which is about 290C) for 12 minutes from raw. Give that a go.

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