Sort-of Secret: Pies by Squires, savoury meat pies and sausage rolls from a former Buca chef
The sort-of secret: Pies by Squires, a new business with quirky takes on regional English specialties
You may have heard of it if: You follow former Buca head chef Adam Squires’ Instagram account
But you probably haven’t tried it because: These small batches of handmade pies have only been available for a couple of months
What takes a short rib pie from good to extraordinary? A marrow bone stuck in the middle, that’s what. As the pie cooks, the bone bubbles up and sends unctuous marrowy goodness streaming across the surface. This also enriches the top crust, which is already pretty dang flavourful thanks to a suet base. Warning: the circle of pastry directly beneath the bone is worth fighting over.
Pies by Squires—a new business from Bournemouth native Adam Squires, former head chef of Cucina Buca—is about creative takes on proper English pies. “Launching a meat pie business at the beginning of summer isn’t ideal timing, but it is what it is,” he says. Squires started baking pies in January on days off from Buca, selling them on Instagram. In April, he left his job and went full time with the pie business. “I looked around and it seemed like no one in the city was doing British food quite like I wanted to,” he says. “There are a lot of cool, regional British recipes that you don’t see much of here.”
Case in point, the Bedfordshire Clanger: a long, rectangular hand pie filled with apple on one end and pork on the other. Versions of this dish date back to the 19th century, when folks would take it to work as both lunch and dessert in one handy vessel. The pork end, dotted with coriander, is like a juicy breakfast sausage wrapped in flaky pastry. On the dessert side, the sweet, stewed apples retain a pleasing bite. Like most of Squires’ pie crusts, the Clanger relies on suet (that’s beef fat found around the loins and kidneys) instead of butter. More commonly used across the pond, its relatively high melting point means it’s resistant to burning and helps yield a crisp, flaky texture.
One exception to this rule is the cheese and asparagus quiche, a vegetarian option made with a butter crust. A far cry from the bland, homogenous quiches of childhood nightmares, this one is bright, vegetal and gorgeous, layered with a vibrant medley of cherry tomatoes, local asparagus, parsley and cheddar. It’s as good hot from the oven as it is straight from the fridge. Meanwhile, the quirky McSteak Bake is essentially a really good Big Mac with the added delight of sesame-crusted puff pastry. It’s best smeared with the accompanying sauce and showered in crunchy iceberg lettuce.
Hearty sides round out the experience. In the tradition of east London pie shops, proper mashed potatoes are a must. Squires cooks his spuds sous vide to keep them from absorbing water, making for velvety smooth mash. Other sides include tender, marinated green beans with cherry tomatoes.
For dessert, there’s a perfect mini version of a Victoria sponge. It doesn’t get more quintessentially British than this. An airy sponge cake is layered with vanilla buttercream and strawberry jam. “I try to keep the jam as sharp as possible to balance the sweetness of the buttercream,” he says. It’s light, elegant and sweet without being anything close to cloying.
Eventually, we may see a full-fledged traditional(ish) pie-and-mash shop from Squires. For now, he’s focusing on the new 16-seat patio at his Ossington kitchen, where he’ll serve individually sized pies, classic mushy peas, chips (so, fries) and beer, including the his own favourite, Newcastle Brown Ale. Pop by the patio, order online or purchase certain menu items from wholesalers (a list is available on the website). New pies are shuffled into rotation regularly, and the website even includes a “pie archive” of retired recipes that may, one day, see the light again.