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Pies made perfect

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Sarah Pettegree is the brains behind Bray’s Cottage Pork Pies, based on the Bayfield Estate, near Holt. Here she explains why she swapped management accountancy for something a little more fun!

What were you doing before you started Bray’s Cottage Pork Pies?
When I started the business 12 years ago I was a Chartered Management Accountant (trying hard to make it as exciting as possible). I trained at HMSO in Norwich and then worked as a consultant in some fascinating businesses around Norfolk, but was longing to create my own. Management Accountants analyse the financial nuts and bolts of businesses from the inside, so it turned out to be a fabulous boot camp.

Where are you based?
Pie HQ is a beautiful converted flint barn on the Bayfield Estate, between Holt and Cley, surrounded by fields and wildlife, overlooking the sea, so it’s magical for taking our puppy for walks on the beach after work. We’ve got a wonderful and talented little team and have lots of fun.

What can you tell us about your pies?
I didn’t want to recreate the traditional pork pie sold in supermarkets, so I started from scratch and made them the way I liked them. I created a delicious (top secret!) seasoning from herbs and spices and add smoked bacon to the fresh pork. We make them by hand and bake each one by eye, slowly, in a lovely old bread oven. I grew up in the Midlands eating pork pies but never liked the jelly, so mine are jelly-less.

Can you describe the range?
I’m all about flavour. We make pies with onion marmalade (our fabulous best seller), and other varieties with sweet chilli, chorizo, piccalilli (from Monty’s at Reepham) and Black Pudding (from Fruit Pig, the other side of King’s Lynn). In the spring I pick wild garlic to mix in; in the summer we make one with fresh lemon, parsley and garlic; in the autumn we use apples from Sandringham and our winter one is the delicious fig and orange. We make a plain pork pie too (although I resisted for years), which we call The Naked.

We understand you do pies by post?
We have a very busy mail order business through our own website, and a special range on Not On The High Street. We send them all around the UK.

Where can people find your pies?
Good independent retailers, cafés and pubs, including all the best places in Norfolk and Suffolk. We have our stockists listed on our website (it also doubles as a foodie guide to the East!) and we do the unmissable Creake Abbey Farmers’ Market on the first Saturday of the month. We do a few events over the summer too: this year it’s Reepham Food Festival, Felbrigg Hall’s Made In Norfolk, The Aylsham Show and The North Norfolk Food Festival at Holkham.

How popular are your celebration and wedding pies?
Really popular, and growing fast! We make lots of wedding pies and they have been served everywhere from castles and stately homes to village halls. We make large, lettered, celebration pies for all sorts of special occasions around the country such as birthdays, office parties, christenings – and a surprising number of successful marriage proposals have been made via the medium of pie. The celebration pies are always fun, we have some very witty customers and we’ve even baked pies with some very cheeky messages on.

What can you tell us about your courses?
I teach pie courses at Tim Kinnaird’s Macarons and More Cookery School in Norwich. We do it as a double act and people go home with fabulous pork pies and puff pastry sausage rolls that they have made themselves (as well as being served a wonderful lunch by Tim).

Do you cater for vegetarians/vegans at all?
We don’t at the moment – we’ve kept the business very simply about pork
and pastry, and are trying to be the best at that.

Any future pie plans?
We’ve always got plans bubbling away, mostly about even more interesting flavours and crazy celebration pies.

How has becoming a member of Proudly Norfolk Food and Drink helped you?
It’s a terrific organisation of like-minded people who really care about what they do and about Norfolk. So for me it’s a forum for us to work out what we can all do together to make ourselves stronger, keep close, and be ready to help one another, and together really get the message out about how truly wonderful Norfolk produce is, both within the county and across the UK – and maybe the rest of the world.

Published in Feast issue 36 – May 2019

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