Epic pie mash and liquor sauce: the holy trinity of comfort food

Pie Mash

A classic London dish that has stood the test of time!

Pie mash, or pie and mash – and liquor sauce. This dish is more than just a plate of comfort food; it is a piece of culinary history that has nourished hungry Londoners for generations.

The simplicity of the pie, the smoothness of the mash and the unique flavor of the liquor sauce come together to create a symphony of taste that’s both comforting and utterly satisfying.

And if you are a fan, add some jellied eel to it as well like we love to do!

History

Pie mash has a fascinating history rooted in Victorian-era London.

The story of pie and mash begins in the 19th century, in the bustling streets of East London.

During the 19th century, industrial air pollution was particularly severe in the east and southeast of London due to prevailing westerly winds. As a result, the East End became home to the working classes, while the western part of the city housed higher social classes.

Originally pie mash was the food that was eating by the working class, because it was an affordable and filling option that provided the much-needed energy for these hardworking hungry Londoners.

In the beginning the pies were typically filled with eel, which was plentiful in the Thames at the time, but as tastes and times have changed, minced beef has become the standard filling.

Pie Mash

Who invented pie, mash and liquor?

Good question: who came up with this Cockney classic?

While the exact inventor remains a topic of debate, one chap called Robert Cooke is often credited with being the first to serve pie mash with liquor sauce in 1862.

However Michele Manze, an Italian immigrant who married Robert Cooke’s daughter, is also reported to be the creator of this iconic trio.

So who was the first?

The recipes have remained largely unchanged over the years, making pie and mash a beloved tradition that continues to be enjoyed today.

s Manze Pie and Mash closing down?

Note: the first ever Manze’s pie and mash shop in Deptford will close in March of 2025 as the owner George Mascall is planning to retire. Other Manze’s shops in and around London stay open.

Pie and mash shops

During World War II food rationing was in place and the government threatened to close pie and mash shops because of it.

But due to public outrage, the Ministry of Food allowed these traditional eateries to stay open. As a result, pie and mash supplemented family rations amid widespread national food shortages. Alongside fish and chips, another classic British working-class dish, pie mash gained popularity even among middle-class families.

Today, pie and mash remains an important part of London’s culinary heritage, especially in East and South London, as well as parts of Kent and Essex.

Despite changes in eel availability and high prices, the dish hasn’t lost its popularity.

Why is pie mash so popular in London?

This hearty meal was once favored by working-class communities, providing sustenance and comfort.

The simplicity and tradition of a savory meat pie, creamy mashed potatoes and a gooey parsley sauce evoke nostalgia and connect people to their roots.

Pie Mash

A sauce like no other

Now, let’s talk about the star of the show!

Liquor sauce is a key component of the classic British dish pie and mash.

But hang on: this is not your average kind of gravy.

Liquor sauce is a parsley-based sauce with a distinctive green hue. Traditionally, liquor was made using the water from the stewed eels with which the pies were originally stuffed.

Now over time the eel-based version evolved, and today’s liquor sauce typically consists of parsley, flour, butter and water.

So where’s the alcohol?

And for those who thought that there’s alcohol in it, not at all!

The term “liquor sauce” is indeed be misleading.

However, its name has historical origins that go beyond the modern understanding of “liquor.” In the context of traditional British cuisine, the word “liquor” referred to a flavorful sauce or broth used to enhance dishes.

In the case of pie mash, the parsley sauce (despite its non-alcoholic nature) was named “liquor” due to its role in adding moisture, flavor and a touch of green freshness to the meal.

While it might not get you tipsy, this humble sauce remains an essential part of the beloved pie and mash experience.

Why are jellied eels still served with pie, mash and liquor sauce?

Jellied eels continue to be served alongside pie, mash, and liquor sauce due to their historical significance and the enduring culinary London traditions.

For generations, families have enjoyed this combination as a comforting and affordable meal. Local pie and mash shops, often family-run businesses, maintain their authenticity by serving jellied eels, reflecting the historical flavors of the area.

Despite changes in eel availability (due to overfishing and environmental factors), some pie shops continue to source and prepare jellied eels, keeping this unique dish alive.

Next time you indulge in pie mash and liquor, consider adding a side of jellied eels like we did!

Pie Mash

Modern twists on a classic

It is a flavor that once tried, is never forgotten.

In today’s culinary scene, pie mash shops are embracing innovation while respecting tradition.

You will find vegetarian and even vegan versions of this classic pie, catering to a broader audience while maintaining the essence of the original dish. The liquor sauce remains a constant, a nod to the dish’s rich history and the continuity of London’s culinary history.

Pie and mash, a dish that is emblematic of London’s gastronomic landscape.

It is a testament to the city’s ability to hold onto its traditions while adapting to the changing tastes of its residents. Pie mash, and liquor sauce is not just food; it is a story of London itself.

So, next time you are in the city, why not seek out a pie mash shop and experience a piece of London’s history firsthand?

Your taste buds will thank you!

Where to eat pie mash and liquor sauce

Including a full list of all the pie and mash shops in London is an impossible task.

So let’s just say where we had this iconic dish last time:

Goddards at Greenwich
22 King William Walk
London
SE10 9HU
United Kingdom

You can check their menu here: Goddard’s at Greenwich

Is there another pie mash shop that you recommend?

Tell us which one(s) in the comments!

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