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Madrid City in English
Tuesday 21st of November 2017
9th of July 2010 by admin 9th of July 2010
Pie high

You have to be brave to try to introduce British food to the Spanish market, but some expats have risen to the challenge, as Jeff Wiseman finds out from Madrid’s pie- and sausage-makers

Although you may not have celebrated it, 1 to 7 March 2010 was an important week in the British calendar. “I heard about it on Twitter,” explains Keith Williamson, “and I’ve always been a bit of a fetishist about... well, you know.” From the large plate of delicious-looking food in front of me, I certainly did know. The beginning of March was in fact British Pie Week, and the event had inspired Keith to undertake some expert British pie-making in Madrid.

The proper pie
“There’s no better food product on the planet,” he smiles. I interrupt by adding “than a pie”, but he immediately corrects me. “Than a proper pie,” he insists, emphasising “proper” as if it were a brand name like Harrods. “I mean not just a ceramic dish with sloppy filling and a bit of pastry thrown on top, but a handcrafted product, made with love.”
For anyone unfamiliar with the British diet, pies have been part of the nation’s eating habits since medieval times. The most popular fillings are pork, or steak and kidney, but due to mass-market production they’ve fallen a little out of fashion of late. Keith believes that genuine, handmade pies are ready to make a comeback.
One Pie Week tweet led to a video demonstration by a head baker at a UK pork pie factory. He was using a sort of a potter’s wheel, shaping the pie, filling it and baking it without any mould or support,” he explains. “I’d tried making pies before and everyone’s reaction to them was ‘Wow! You should do this for a living.’”
“In the end, I approached a couple of friends who had expressed an interest and with their financial assistance we thought: ‘OK, let’s do it’.” The production started seriously in April, although the numbers are still extremely small. Surprisingly, the first order came from a Spanish bar in Malasaña, despite expectations that the main interest would be from Irish bars and expats.

Variety show
The essential combination for a great pork pie is a firm-but-succulent pastry, with a healthy filling of minced pork surrounded by a thin layer of jelly. Keith adds his own pickle to the pork, made from a secret recipe, which gives a wonderful edge to the taste. “Our range also includes a layered pie of chicken breast and ham; scotch eggs; and pasties containing beef, potato, carrot and onion. For those with a sweeter tooth, there’s an apple pie with cinnamon.”
I test an attractive-looking pork number, and its flavour and texture quickly distinguish it from the bland examples found in supermarkets. “It’s a labour of love at the moment, and I’m very picky about what goes into the pies, how they’re made and how they taste,” comments Keith as I nod appreciatively.
Tasty pastry
Good pastry is critical, but Keith oozes confidence. “Pastry is super-easy!” he grins. “Cold hands make great pies! You have to keep the pastry cool because it’s important that the fat doesn’t melt into it. You need the fat to break into blobs small enough for the pastry to stick to. The less you touch and warm the pastry while you work with it, the better it turns out.”
With nothing like a traditional British pie on the market in Spain at the moment, he’s optimistic. “A friend of mine, José Luis, runs an amazing restaurant in Ocentejo, a tiny village in Guadalajara. He’s a professional chef who trained in the UK, and after trying a sample pork pie he said, with a grin, that he wanted to marry me. In the end, my wife and I compromised on a dinner with his family and regular customers, and they all loved the pies. It was a very gratifying result.”
Keith originally moved to Madrid as a web designer, after having spent 15 years in Dubai, so the pie development is an unexpected twist to his original plans. The business objective is to start slowly, targeting Madrid’s British contingent, and then expand. A website has just been launched at http://great-british-food.com. “Wouldn’t it be fun to have a Greek temple-style headquarters called the Piethanon?” Keith laughs. But my mind is already drawn to other things. Not least a rather tasty-looking beef pasty.

A sausage meet?
While Keith’s endeavour is recent, Brendan Murphy decided to address the lack of quality sausages in Madrid two years ago. “When I started working in Irish bars, I couldn’t find a decent sausage,” he says. “So one night, after enjoying several ciders, myself and my mate, Cider Dave, decided we’d give sausage-making a go.” Fortunately Cider Dave had some experience, and Brendan started experimenting with various mixes. The result was The Proper Sausage Company, which advertises itself with the wonderful slogan “If it moves—stuff it.”
Production runs are very small, but in addition to Spanish chorizo, they’ve made blue cheese, criollo, and Spicy Demon Hot Saussie varieties. The 2010 World Cup demanded something special, so Brendan opted for a Boereswors (literally, farmer sausage), popular in South Africa. Irish bars such as the Triskel Tavern, Scruffy Murphys and The Lock Inn may sometimes be able to provide the sausages. Also, The Irish Rover runs occasional sausage specials (bangers and mash with onion gravy).

For pie orders big or small, head to Keith’s new website at http://great-british-food.com or email him at sales [at] great-british-food [dot] com. For sausage inquiries, visit Brendan’s blog at www.thepropersausage.blogspot.com or contact Cider Dave on 655 271 475.

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How about a recipe?

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I'd love to know how to make one of those pies!