Making a name in pie business

GRUNT, GOBBLE, zoom and coo is just one of the imaginatively named pies invented by an award-winning pie-maker in County Durham. He uses ingredients such as red wine and brandy to add flavour to a range of meat and game products, all of which are topped with a delicious, hand-rolled pastry crust.

Grunt, gobble, zoom and coo pie is made from a combination of wild boar, turkey, hare and pigeon. It is very popular with farmers” market customers, says Ian Grainger, known locally as “the mad pieman”.

A former Royal Navy chef, Ian was runner-up in the 2004 British Turkey Awards” turkey butcher of the year competition. He has also worked in several top-class restaurants.

Traditional game pie does not appeal to everyone, and has been viewed as a dish that can only be enjoyed by the upper classes, says Ian, who runs the North Country Lass pie and cake-making business with his wife, Margaret.

“I like to think I have helped to change the image of game as a posh” food,” he says. “Instead of using aspic jelly – which some people don”t like – I add a rich sauce to the meat, usually with some kind of alcohol in it. The traditional game pie also has a raised crust and the pastry is made with hot water, but I prefer to use conventional short-crust pastry instead.”

Ian is often asked for tips on making good pastry. He insists he prepares it in the conventional way, although he is prepared to give away one useful bit of advice: “I follow the normal recipe for short-crust with half fat to half flour, plus water and salt. But I always soften the fat first, stirring it well to make sure it is smooth when it is mixed with the other ingredients.”


Ian and Margaret make several thousand pies a month at their bakery on the Meadowfield industrial estate near Durham. As well as having a stall at a number of local farmers” markets, the couple also sell their products wholesale. The pies come in several sizes, ranging from a smaller version that will comfortably feed two people, to a larger, buffet pie for parties and events.

More than 25 pie varieties have been invented by Ian, who celebrated his 73rd birthday this year. One recent development is the “extremely posh chicken pie”, made from free-range chicken, tarragon and fresh cream. His duck and pork pie – called “quack and oink” – is a customer favourite, along with “drunken rabbit” pie, which is laced with Newcastle Brown Ale. Wild boar has been added to the list of regular ingredients in recent years.

“Some of our pies are bought as a novelty at first, but once customers have tried them, they will come back for more,” says Ian. “People can either buy them ready cooked, or take them home and bake them themselves.”

Game is sourced from a local dealer, and almost all the other meat comes straight from farms in the region. Ian finds it hard to say exactly why he is so keen to buy direct.

“I suppose it”s because I need to be confident about what I”m selling. My meat has to be fully traceable, and produced in a welfare-friendly way. It”s partly because of my own personal preference, but also because my business relies on building up trust with my customers.

“I also believe that extensively produced meat has a better flavour – there really is a marked difference in the taste.”

North Country Lass speciality pies and cakes can be contacted on 0191 3780838, or e-mail northcountrylass@bt

See more