Conversations Food Lifestyle
Willy's Pies for Drake's
Jul 13, 2022
Willy's Pies has been one of the great culinary success stories of the pandemic period. We asked the man behind the pies – pie-maker par excellence Will Lewis – to create a recipe exclusively for us. Our collaborative pie – the Drake's Ox Cheek, Guinness and Kidney Pie – becomes available at 12pm GMT today (Sunday 28th). If you aren't lucky enough to get hold of one (they sell like hotcakes, as it were) Will has been kind enough to provide us with the recipe, so you can make your own at home.
We also caught up with Will about how he comes up with new fillings each week, and what's next for Willy's Pies.
Photography by John Spinks
Drake's: Tell us about how Willy’s Pies came about. Were you anticipating the success you’ve had?
Will Lewis: Willy's Pies began in the first lockdown, March 2020. My flatmate and I decided to break the boredom of home workouts and pre-midday Stella consumption by jumping on our bikes and hand-delivering pies to your door for you to devour. We started at 15 pies, mainly dropping them off to mates, and to be honest we were anticipating it to die off. But word spread through the powers of Instagram, and we quickly got up to 100 pies a week. I was struggling to stick a carton of orange juice in the fridge alongside all the suet pastry and butchered oxtail. We’ve now moved into a commercial kitchen up the road and haven't looked back since.
For you, what makes a good pie?
Generosity – a skimpy filling annoys me. Pies are about comfort and warmth, and a pathetically filled pie does not offer that. Cooking with quality ingredients goes without saying, and homemade pastry is essential for the ultimate end result.
Is it a challenge coming up with new fillings each week? Where do you look to for inspiration if you’re stuck?
Sometimes, but the majority of times I'm zoning out while watching TV, thinking if “this or that” would work in pastry. I usually come to a conclusion half asleep at 2 in the morning, nudging Jenny asking, “you reckon this will work?” (which she obviously loves). Inspiration wise... caffs not cafes, pie shops, cheap bakeries (Greggs). I look to them for brainwaves. Basically, I want to rip them off with a bit of finesse.
With the impact the pandemic has had on the restaurant business, do you see things shifting more towards small, independently run operations such as yours?
Tricky one. Restaurants are the best things in the world, so when this does eventually pass we all need to support these businesses who've struggled over the last year. Personally, I believe we need to support small and local, and anyone who has passion and a skill in an industry which is on the floor. Be more savvy with how you spend.
How did you come up with the Drake’s pie? What’s in it?
I'm thinking Savile Row, tradition, style, grace, decorum... Pints of Guinness outside on a cobbled road. You know what I mean? I've taken a traditional angle. Ox cheek braised in stout, some lamb kidneys nestled in the mix, few shallots for a sweet nudge, a fat whack of chilli powder, and that's just the start of it.
What’s next for Willy’s Pies?
We're going at our pace, and have some really exciting things lined up. I'm enjoying working with different brands like Drake's, and am excited to see where it can all lead too. I've got big aspirations and fully believe in the brand. Let's wait and see.
And now, the recipe...
FEEDS A GOOD FEW: 5-6.
4x veal bones two inch cut
800g ox cheek (trimmed and diced)
200g lamb kidneys (diced)
500ml beef stock
1x can Guinness
100ml Worcestershire sauce
8x cloves confit garlic
4x banana shallot (whole)
1x heaped tsp chilli powder
1 heaped tbsp of dijon mustard
¼ bunch Parsley stalks n all
200g plain flour
4x sprigs of thyme
1x sprig rosemary
1x bay leaf
240g Atora suet
480g Self raising flour
1 tsp salt
Roughly 230-240ml of full fat milk
- In a mixing bowl break down the suet with the flour and salt using your fingers.
- Gradually add the milk working it into your flour mix until a dough is formed. If the dough is too dry add a splash more milk.
- Knead on a floured surface for 2-3 minutes, you are looking for a nice dry pastry.
- Wrap in cling film and rest for at least 30 minutes.
- Whack the oven on to 180 degrees and cook your bones for 20 minutes, reserve the drippings and add to a decent casserole pot and get on a medium to high heat.
- Mix the chilli powder through your flour along with a generous hit of salt and pepper.
- Coat your beef and kidneys with the seasoned flour and sieve off excess.
- Begin to colour the beef and kidneys without overcrowding your pan and giving each piece of a meat the love and attention it deserves.
- Once you're happy with the colour of the meat, remove from pan and put it in with the shallots, confit garlic, thyme, rosemary and bay.
- Drop the temperature on the hob and cook the shallots slowly to a golden brown.
- The meat goes back in followed by a fat dollop of Dijon mustard and all three liquids: Worstershire sauce, Guinness, and stock. We're looking to just cover the meat mix. Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer.
- Roughly chop your parsley, stalks and all, and mix through.
- Chuck 3 of the veal bones into the mix, get the lid on the pot and into an oven at 160 for 3.5 hours.
- Remove the bones. Roll out your pastry, and stick the mix into a pastry-lined pie dish.
- Allow the mix to cool slightly and add the final bone you haven't stuck in the mix in the centre of the pie.
- Apply the pastry lid on top and with sharp knife cut an X over the top of the bone and allow the bone to gracefully stick through.
- Egg wash and bake at 180 degrees for 40-45 minutes.