Australian Paul O’Donnell and his American wife, Pippa Malmgren, were bankers in the City until, on holiday in Sydney, they visited a famous pie shop and sampled its delicious bakes. The result was that, in 2006, they set up Humble Pie, initially just selling freshly baked pies to festivals such as Goodwood and Longleat. Now, with a shop in Buckingham Gate opened for tourists and office workers last August, another opened this month in Harrods, and more planned for Portobello Road and St Pancras, Humble Pies empire is distinctly less humble. ‘We thought there was a gap in the market, and we spent a year thinking about it. Having seen businesses from the other side of the desk as bankers, we believed that 75% of the skills needed are common to all businesses. We then recruited a lady in catering who had the other 25%.
‘Our principle was to use no additives, colourings or preservatives. Low-end Australian pies are dire, with stodgy pastry and only 9% meat content. So we developed our own pastry. It’s very elastic, made with cold unsalted butter and strong flour. We make it very thin only 2.4mm so it’s not going to run down your arm.’ The production kitchen in Enfield makes the fillings chicken, avocado and Brie; Yucatán pork with Mexican spices; three mushrooms with Gruyère, cinnamon and sun dried tomatoes; or smoked salmon with vodka and the pie is completed with uncooked rough puff pastry, then blast frozen. ‘It’s tremendously exciting to use the skills we had and see it grow.’ As well as at the shops and festivals, you can buy Humble Pies by mail order.
They are sent off frozen in chilled packs that hold out for 36 hours. Another speciality is the weekend pie, which can serve 10 people. All it needs is 20 minutes in the oven, and your lunch guests will think you’ve been slaving over a hot stove for hours. A visit to the website (www.eathumble.com) will get you there.