LAST YEAR at the request of a friend, Robert Corrigan was asked to produce a vegetable pie for sampling at the Crail Food Festival. The pies went down a storm and this year he’s keen to showcase his full range of award-winning pies.
Robert owns and runs the Fife-based Mr C’s Hand Crafted Pies and was keen to tell me how he got involved with this year’s festival:
‘Last year my good friend Christopher Trotter, Food Writer and Consultant (Fife Food Ambassador) phoned me and explained he was doing a platter at the festival but everything contained meat. He asked if I would I be able to make a vegetable pie for sampling, and of course, I said “yes”.’
Although the vegetable pie was a resounding success, Robert currently has no plans to add it to Mr. C’s range but is looking forward to giving visitors a proper taste of his products this year:
‘I would rather have people taste pies that they can actually buy, rather than one with my name on that they can’t and I really want to let the people of Fife try them; this year I’m delighted Mr. C’s will be at the festival.’
In 2006 Robert was looking for a new catering project and while representing the UK for Slow Food at Terra Madre in Turin, he attended a workshop where he learned of farmers’ frustration with chefs neglecting so called lesser cuts of meat in favour of prime cuts and not utilising the whole animal.
On his return to the UK, Robert came up with the idea of a high quality, hand-made pie similar to a Melton Mowbray one.
He spent time with some of the best pie producers in Britain, honing his skills by studying their techniques. Combining that knowledge with a trusty pork stuffing recipe, Robert now had a finished product.
Robert tells me about the recipe for his Savoury Pork Pie:
‘The recipe is one I’ve used for about 27 years; in various hotels I worked in I instructed the chefs to use my recipe for the stuffing for Christmas. I just took out the breadcrumbs, egg and chestnuts and that became the Savoury Pork Pie mix.’
Robert’s pork, leek and pancetta pie gained the company award-winning status very early on in the life of the business and Mr C explained how that mix came to life:
‘The pork, leek and pancetta mix was actually a sausage mix from Crombie’s (of Edinburgh) that I using to make pies and selling back to them. I did not know Crombie’s had a UK producer’s number so I could not use this mix for other customers.
‘I knew Lord Hopetoun was a fan of these pies I made with that mix and decided to make up a mix of my own for a presentation pie to celebrate the opening of the Hopetoun Farm Shop. I made the first batch myself and the rest went in the freezer for another day.’
‘The mix for Lord Hopetoun was the very first pork, leek and pancetta mix I had ever made and he was happy with it. I froze the other pies from that same batch the week before and sent one to the British Pie Awards where it won me gold! I hadn’t even tasted it!’
This is an incredible honour, especially for a business in its infancy; I wondered how Robert reacted when he found out:
‘I was actually making pies with a friend and an email came in (this was around three weeks after the awards) saying I could now order the gold sticker and I said to my friend, “What are they on about?”
‘So I phoned up the Melton Mowbray Pie Association and asked about the email and she replied “Oh, you won gold!” and that was how I found out I had won! So did I expect it? No, I didn’t even check the results; I was too busy making pies!’
Despite stacking up a host of awards since and being championed by food broadcaster Hardeep Singh Kohli, Robert decided to rebrand the company. Originally known as Acanthus pies, he wanted to give the company a more personal touch and told me how this came about:
‘I wanted something personal to me but that’s also not hard to pronounce, as many people couldn’t pronounce Acanthus and didn’t know what it meant.
‘My surname is Corrigan which I didn’t want to use because in Glasgow there’s Bernard Corrigan’s, the fishmonger.’
‘You then have Richard Corrigan the chef, which was another potential mix up. Then I remembered many of the staff in the numerous hotels I’ve worked in called me Mr. C. At the end of February, we changed from Acanthus and launched Mr. C’s.’
Using the best produce is very important for any artisan producer and Robert is no different. He sources his produce from suppliers such as Ramsay’s of Carluke, who supply him with outdoor reared Scottish pork, Smoked Streaky bacon and black pudding, Shipton Mill for organic flour and Highland Game venison.
Asked if he was keen to add to his impressive tally of medals this year, Robert responded modestly:
‘Eh, who knows? I’d rather say nothing and if I win something you’ll hear about it!’ (As we prepared this article Mr C found he’d won the Richard III award – A Pie fit for a King – at the British Pie Awards).
Make sure you pop by and taste the Mr. C’s delicious pies at the Crail Food Festival – we should be proud of the artisan producers we have here in Fife!
Along with the celebrated Pork, Leek and Pancetta pie and Savoury Pork variety, you can also enjoy fillings such as Savoury Pork, Chicken and Ham (Bronze award, 2012) and the bronze award-winning Piggy Black (pork, leek and pancetta with black pudding) from various stockists.
The pies are available at Donald Russell of Inverurie, Crombie’s of Edinburgh, Hopetoun Farm Shop, Peelham Farm, Cornerstone Deli , Loch Leven’s Larder, and the Wee Pie Company, Campbells Prime Meats, Fortnum and Mason London, Forman and Field London, Inverawe Smokehouses, East Coast Deli – Ullapool, The Spey Larder Aberlour, Gloagburn Farm Shop, Lochbyre Rare Bread Meat – Newton Mearns and The Scottish Cafe, The Mound, Edinburgh.
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