Historical Norfolk Plough Pie

Three and a half years ago my wife gave birth to our first baby boy.
Anyone who’s had children knows there’s no shake up like it. I can’t speak for Mothers, but Dads I know, agree that there’s no preparing that can be done to get you fully ready for fatherhood, the emotions you’ll feel, the love, the frustration, the confusion, the pure joy! Everything you think you know, once that baby arrives, think again..
As a chef I’ve always cared about where my food comes from. After all, good provenance is half the battle won when it comes to good cooking. I want my ingredients as fresh and as local as possible, I want my business to be known for quality dishes, using the abundance of Meat, Fish and Vegetables on our doorstep.
After all, this is farming central!
East Anglia is where the majority of the UK’s agriculture takes place. Turnips are to us what hip hop is to Bristol or the flat white is to Shoreditch. Not as sexy, tho I have seen some lush turnips in my time.. but still something to be really proud of, we are the country’s pantry. We keep the wheels turning in many ways. I guess most of what is produced is very classic maybe a bit boring slow burning carbs. Good for refining into sugar in Bury St Edmunds, or mashed baked and bashed in every pub with sausages or pie. Anyone who’s grown up in east anglia will have those great mountains of beet, spuds, turnips or swede we see on every country outing etched on their childhood memories. Those strange sudden concrete platforms at the edge of a field, 30 meters squared of car park here? In Tunstall! Eh? Only to make perfect sense come harvest time.

I have a lot of respect for farmers.

They know what they’re doing, they have to.

They’re modern Englands equivalent of a soux chief, they know the land, they are effected by rain, sun, wind, hail..they shield us from the brutality of nature, so we can bash our neeps come burns night, yes, of course there is financial reward, (mostly, depending on that rainfall!)  though the fact is that most farms are handed down from generation to generation, an ancestral path if you like. ‘It was your great grandfathers, and now it’s yours…respect it..’ 

That’s heavier business than most of us have to deal with. Having a farm is a huge burden, a noble profession even. Becoming a farmer is to embark on a rocky path, I know, because I’ve heard it on The Archers!

We do live in a detached from nature age, no doubt about that. To stay in touch with where our food came from is increasingly hard. I’m told that even family mealtimes are disintegrating into different dishes for different tastes and diets, at different times watching different screens. I’m really not one to preach, but as a chef, I do find this news rather sad. I like to believe that there is something slightly sacred about eating the same meal together, something shared. We don’t share a hellovalot these days..soap, a bottle of wine..eating together has always been throughout history where humans celebrate, seal deals, propose marriage, fall in love, fall out, make plans, break plans, create dreams..it’s a very human thing to do eat together. 

I’d really like my children to know about the area they were raised in, what role it plays in the bigger picture. I’d say it would be good for their sense of perspective, their view of how the world works. I think food production is a good place to start if you want to know how the world works.

Perhaps a way to keep the kids interested in mealtimes and away from pads and phones is to try to keep the interest and focus on the food? One way to do this may be to introduce them to the cooking process? Now as a parent myself, I realise that this won’t be for everyone (my ears are burning with scoffs and lols as I write!) but I remember as a kid, the most interested I ever got over food was when Mum would involve me with the cooking process, we’ve all had the cake mixing bowl handed to us to ‘clean’ moment right?

Yes I’m aware that most parents won’t have time or just simply don’t have the energy between work, kids clubs and general life admin to cook with their children. But for those that like the idea, and even if only once a month, year even, just to touch base with the ‘food cycle’ this column will aim to provide simple kid parent friendly locally relevant recipes for you to hopefully have a crack at. 

Norfolk Plough Pie.

I thought this delicious Norfolk pie would be a perfect place to start, historically baked for the field workers of Norfolk to come home to from a long day in the fields, traditionally made in a bowl like a steak and kidney completely surrounded by suet pastry, this version has been simplified so the pastry crust is more a lid. For those of you slightly wary of suet pastry, believe me it is in fact the easiest pastry to make, not least because of the little nuggets of suet we now have courtesy of Atora save much ‘rubbing’ in of flour to fat, suet pastry is literally simply stirred together.

Equipment needed..

  • Scales
  • 1x pie tin or any 2 inch ish deep oven proof dish
  • 1x mixing bowl
  • 1x knife
  • 1x pastry brush
  • Oven preheated to 150oc

For the pastry…

  • 300g plain flour
  • Good pinch salt
  • 150g Suet
  • Water to bind (about 100ml)

For the filling…

  • 350g good quality sausage meat
  • 10 sage leaves shredded
  • 1 large onion finely chopped
  • 1 Bramley apple peeled and grated
  • 1 floury potato peeled and grated
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • Salt and pepper


Mix the pastry ingredients, wrap in cling film, put in the fridge while you mix the filling.

Mix all filling ingredients together well, tear off walnut sized clumps and place evenly in the pie tin (this will create a lighter pie than throwing in one large clump!)

Roll out your pastry on a generously floured surface to 1/2 inch thick, wide and long enough to cover your pie dish.

Wet the very edges of the dish with water using a pastry brush and lay your pastry on top with the edges overlapping the dish.

Lightly press the pastry around the edge of the dish, trim or leave the overhang, whichever way you like it.

Bake in your preheated oven for 45 minutes or until your pastry is lightly golden

Allow to settle slightly, your pie is ready to eat.

Serve with some hearty rooty mash of your choosing and buttered greens