"It's plain and simple working class grub !" ... everyone from office workers and businessmen to tourists in search of a more traditional London experience are trying stewed and jellied eels, steak and kidney pot pies and mashed potatoes doused in a green parsley gravy called `liquor'.
Pie and Mash Shops have been part of Cockney Culture since Victorian times. Many are found in East London street markets and also most Essex suburbs. They are meeting places, communities in themselves, enclaves where people treat each other like real people, run by third and fourth-generation families.
The three families that run most shops are the Cookes, the Manzes and the Kellys. Their businesses have survived not only two world wars, but also soaring rents; changing eating habits and various national food scares.
Walking into a Pie & Mash Shop can be like stepping back in time. Look at the walls, often decorated with intricate blue, white and green tiles, ornate mirrors and photos, maybe of famous customers. Note the furnishings; take a seat on one of the wooden benches; see the other customers hunch over white marble tables, splashing their eels and pies with vinegar as they hold down their food with a fork and cut it with a spoon rather than a knife. Order a hot steak and kidney pie, a scoop of mashed potatoes, a ladle of "liquor'' and a bowl of stewed eels - it should cost no more than a few pounds.
Hot pies, a reasonably priced sustenance food have been a London tradition since Victorian times when they were sold on the streets by piemen. Fish pies were stuffed with eels, but with fish becoming scare during the Second World War minced meat became the standard filling. Most shops serve boiled eels as a side dish, they taste a little like pickled herring.
Changes in London's commerce and population; the popularity of American style fast-food outlets, the proliferation of Indian and Chinese restaurants; the arrival of peoples from the Caribbean, Africa, Europe and the former Soviet Union with their own distinct culinary traditions, have reduced this traditional trade. To boost support for London's remaining eighty odd Pie and Mash Shops a Pie 'n' Mash Club of Great Britain has been formed.
You can buy Pie and Mash and store in the freezer. Or maybe you want to make it yourself? This recipe uses a mixture of cut up leftover roast beef and vegetables, i.e. peas or carrots.
Cover with puff pastry and bake in 350 degree oven for about 35 to 40 minutes, until golden brown.
Serve with mashed potatoes on the side.
Eel Pie and Mash:
This is a variation of Pie and Mash. A mixture of eel cut up in half-inch chunks and boiled with salt, lemon, pimentos and shallots.
Cover with puff pastry and continue as above. Also served with mashed potatoes on the side. Authentically served with a so-called green liquor, which is made of potato juice, fresh parsley and seasoning to taste.
Liquor (Parsley Sauce):
Chopped Parsley, butter, flour and ¾ pint water.
Wash parsley. Melt ½ oz (10g) of butter in pan and stir in 1oz (25g) flour.
Remove from the heat and stir in the water. You can use milk or fish stock instead of water, if you prefer.
Faggots and Peas:
Pork pieces mixed with liver and kidney and onions, and seasoned with sage.
Serve with peas.
Flaky Pastry Crust - Ingredients:
1 cup all purpose flour
½ teaspoon salt
A third of a cup shortening, plus 1 teaspoon shortening
2 to 2½ tablespoons ice water
1. Mix flour and salt together.
2. In medium bowl, with a pastry blender or sharp knife, cut shortening into flour until mixture resembles course cornmeal.
3. Quickly sprinkle ice water, one tablespoon at a time, over all of pastry mixture tossing lightly with a fork after each addition, and pushing dampened portion to the side of the bowl.
4. Sprinkle only dry portions remaining (pastry should be just moist enough to hold together, but not sticky.)
5. Shape pastry into a ball, wrap in wax paper and store in the refrigerator until ready to use.
6. Flatten with palm of hand to achieve desired shape.