Every now and then we are going to hang out with some of the cool foodie folk we get to work with to find out a little bit more about what makes them tick, both on the ‘shop floor’ and in life more generally.
We call the series “5 Food Minutes with …“
This week, we are chatting with the talented and irrepressibly upbeat Sarah Pettegree (The Queen of the Hot Water Crust Pastry) who makes just the MOST stunning pork pies, which fly out of the chiller at The High Street Delicatessen!
Hi, who are you and what foodie mischief do you get up to in your day job?
My name is Sarah Pettegree (often answering to ‘The Pie Lady‘) and I run Bray’s Cottage Pork Pies.
What inspires you?
Being able to work where there’s abundant fresh air, swallows and wild flowers. I’ve always loved good food too, so being able to combine both creatively is heaven for me. Plus fun, I thrive on happiness. Foodwise, I’m inspired by flavour; one of my favourite books, which I marvel at the creation of, is ‘The Flavour Thesaurus’. If you haven’t got it start dropping hints or treat yourself immediately. If I walk into someone’s kitchen, domestically or professionally, and I see its lovely cover I know I’m in the company of a real cook. Beyond work I love art. Art and nature, a stick of charcoal and a flower to stare at, that’s me.
Where in the world do you get to hang out doing your foodie thing? Can you tell us a little of what is so special to you about ‘place’?
We’re in North Norfolk, which has a long, undulating strip of ‘Area Of Outstanding Natural Beauty’ hugging the coast line and it’s so flipping beautiful. Geographically, we’re almost as remote as Mid Wales, just less mountains. The pork comes from outdoor pigs living in one of the local National Trust villages. In the Spring I pick wild garlic in the woods running down to a chalk stream and in the Autumn the apples we use come from Sandringham. If you tune your food to what is going on around you it just works, on so many levels.
Which 3 food (or drink) producers should the foodie world know more about?
That’s almost too hard, I could list hundreds; we’ve been in business for 10 years now so my mental ‘excellent-producers-card-index-file‘ is practically overflowing. I’ll tell you about 3 fabulous people I’ve seen in the last week.
Eastgate Larder Jane Stewart has a medlar orchard; medlars are a delicious heritage fruit, which Jane uses to make classy, contemporary looking medlar cheese and jelly products. As a producer, I like the focus and creativity you need to show when using one ingredient, much like pork pies (which the jelly goes brilliantly with)! Very clever. Will go far.
Fruit Pig have popped up recently on the Radio 4 Food Programme and with Jamie Oliver on Channel 4. While they make lovely charcuterie – their Macon, mutton bacon, is remarkable and stunning – they are becoming famous for their fresh blood black pudding. Most black pudding is produced using imported dried blood but what Grant and Matt do is hugely skilful and also 100% traceable. We’ve only been making black pudding pork pies for a short while. Despite a ‘soft-launch‘ at our local farmers market, our unruly stockists spotted them and ordered loads before I get a chance to get enough stock in hand to launch them properly. Best laid plans etc, etc …
I’ve loved the Pump Street Bakery in Suffolk for years. It is about 2 hours drive from us, so mostly I admire from afar. They’ve branched out into chocolate and when I did a tasting alongside them recently, I was able to really drill down into what they are doing; there are 2 key things going on. They buy raw beans to roast and grind them, which (like Fruit Pig) is very unusual in the UK and highly skilful; most chocolatiers buy chocolate that has been processed to that point. It makes life harder but means that they are completely in control of product quality … and it shows! They only do a very limited range (spot the theme here!). The second thing is that they are also putting some bakery products into the chocolate range (by adding Rye and Sourdough crumb to bars). This means the character of the chocolate is entirely theirs and what they know best; I think the combination of texture and flavour is just gorgeous. I applaud them.
Where was your last holiday … any ‘hidden gem’ recommendations?
Seville. I know a wonderful woman called Shawn who’s lived there for years and runs the original Tapas Tours. We were there for 5 days so once we’d got the obvious tourist places out of the way, we discovered lesser known places which generally were the ones I liked best. Before that was Wales, a lovely medieval cottage by a river in The Black Mountains. I’ve been going to Wales since I was a child and it’s very special to me. I do love having Welsh stockists (thanks, Sarah!).
What is your favourite meal?
So much food, so few meal times. Apart from our pork pies, I adore fish and I am especially fond of really good Thai food. Cake, that’s nice too. I have very few food hells and many, many food heavens.
You have £30 in your wallet/purse and an open mind about supper – where do you head to locally and what do you buy?
I’d get a pair of big fresh crabs from a local fishermen and dress them myself and a couple of bunches of asparagus. At the moment I’m enjoying Cromer crab mixed with mayo, chives, lemon juice and chilli, with steamed asparagus. We’re lucky that, nearby, we have a lot of good independent retailers and farmshops in North Norfolk, so I can get fresh seasonal food easily. So that’s used about a tenner so far! I’d track down a loaf of beautiful sourdough to toast and drizzle olive oil onto and whatever salad looks beautiful on the day. Finally, I’d treat myself to something gorgeous from my friend Dr Tim Kinnaird’s patisserie, Macarons and More in Norwich.
Favourite food writer?
Again, so many! At the moment it’s Dan Lepard; he gave me a lift to Liverpool Street Station after a baking photoshoot and because he’s a total hero and genius. I was, frankly, a bit star struck. His baking book ‘Short and Sweet‘ is the only one you’ll ever need.
Most comforting ‘comfort food’?
Pork pie with a really good chutney. Or almost anything with mashed potato (except mushy peas – why on earth would anyone do that to a pea?).
Thanks for hanging out with us!