Sarah Pettegree of Bray's Cottage is the "Queen of Pork Pies"! Her "perfect pies" are a firm favourite in the Slate picnic counter, particularly delicious when munched on the beach. Meaty, flavoursome and encased in mouth-watering biscuity pastry, these are no ordinary pork pie. Made using high quality pork from outdoor pigs reared locally in North Norfolk and a special combination of herbs and spices, Sarah's hand-raised artisan pies are crammed with flavour.
Since 2007 Sarah has been baking pies in a converted flint hay barn near her home in Holt, Norfolk. Like so many of us, Sarah came to her foodie career after a brush with accountancy having previously worked for the Civil Service in Norwich.
Recently we caught up with Sarah to find out how she got into the pork pie business and her top tip for a pork pie accompaniment.
How did you get into making pork pies and what makes your pies so special?
I started making pork pies because I wanted to work where I live, in beautiful North Norfolk. I’ve also had a lifelong love of good food and flavour, so it was a perfect match.
Our pies taste very different to a traditional pork pie. We make them by hand using real ingredients and lots of care and love. We get lots of compliments on our pastry. I use a secret seasoning for the meat that we mix ourselves and there’s a little smoked bacon in each. Because I love flavour we’ve created some interesting varieties. Our most popular pork pie has Onion Marmalade in it but we also make one with Wild Garlic, another with local Black Pudding and I know Nico’s favourite is the Chilli one. We make ten flavours in all - I think they’re all gorgeous! Oh - and we don’t use jelly.
Do you have a favourite flavour and a particular accompaniment you enjoy with it ?
I make my own kimchi and the salty, hot sourness goes so well with a pork pie. If I’m eating it on its own though, my favourite is probably our summer special "Lemon, Parsley and Garlic". It’s beautifully fresh tasting.
What is your favourite aspect of running the business?
I love the creative side, writing blogs, taking photos, entertaining our customers on social media etc. And the people - I’ve made life-long friends from fellow food producers and customers.
We’ve also had crazy things happen because of the pies, from being invited on Heston Blumenthal’s TV programme and being served magical food by him (100ft above London, dangling from a crane), to meeting heroes such as David Hepworth who edited The Word magazine.
What do you like to do when you are not making pies?
I have a studio at the end of the garden and I love to spend a day in there, painting, printing, drawing and sketching, especially with the door open so I can hear the birds.
I also adore cooking and cookery books. At the moment I’m working my way through Meera Sodha’s wonderful Indian cookery books (Fresh India and Made in India). Sooner or later there’ll be an Indian influenced pork pie experiment happening at HQ I suspect!
Do you have a favourite cheese ?
I’m a fan of a creamy cheese, so a really ripe Vacherin Mont D’or keeps me very happy in winter when it’s in season. Otherwise I love our local cheeses, from Baron Bigod to Norfolk’s Mrs Temple’s cheeses.
And once a year I get to stand, with our pies, next to a whole Westcombe Cheddar at Soho House’s "House Festival" in London and happily nibble slices.