What makes the perfect pie? Romford pie maker tells all

11:59 10 March 2014

Ricky Prophet,Terry McDowell, Linda McDowell, Stacy McDowell, Danny Prophet and Lee Kelly outside the family pie and mash shop

Ricky Prophet,Terry McDowell, Linda McDowell, Stacy McDowell, Danny Prophet and Lee Kelly outside the family pie and mash shop


Since the ancient Egyptians debated how many figs to include in their pies, the battle for perfection has baffled bakers.

Ricky Prophet prepares a plate of pie and mashRicky Prophet prepares a plate of pie and mash

A thousand years later, the Romans were faffing around with honey and goats cheese – still not quite getting it right.

It wasn’t for another 800 years that the face of British cuisine was changed forever when the humble pie hit our shores and became part of what makes up our very identity.

So what makes a perfect pie?

Terry McDowells knows a thing or two about making a good pie.

Pie and mash from the family run shop in RomfordPie and mash from the family run shop in Romford

His parents set up the long-running pie shop McDowells Pie and Mash in Romford Shopping Hall, Market Place.

Now he and his two siblings, together with their children, own or work in pie shops around the borough, bringing pastry perfection to anyone in need of old fashioned comfort food.

Every day he crafts thousands of pies by hand, lovingly cooking the meat and gravy and individually glazing each with a dab of milk.

“Good ingredients are what make a good pie,” the 59-year-old said. “We get meat from a Romford butcher whose stuff is all organic and free range and always add the best ingredients into the mix.

“That’s what makes a good pie, well, that and a bit of care.”

Despite his family having experimented with different flavours – including a brief dalliance with curry pies – it is the standard mince beef offering that keeps people coming back.

“We make our own pastry, which is not difficult for us to get right as we have made so much of it,” he said.

“It’s about mixing the right ingredients with a lot of care and then giving the pastry a bit of a glaze with milk.”

Terry’s nephew Rickey Prophet, 31 works at another McDowells branch, in High Street, Romford.

He got involved in the family business at 18 and said the key to a good pie is to keep it simple and to use a good gravy stock.

“You need quite simple flavours, a bit of salt in the mash and liquor sauce.

“Liquor is a bit divisive but I don’t know why, it’s only a bit of parsley sauce.”

Pie and mash seems to be undergoing a resurgence with Romford TOWIE girl Gemma Collins saying no matter how famous she gets, she always “likes a nice plate of pie and mash”.

Young people returning to their East End roots is something Ricky says he has noticed over recent years.

“It’s an East End thing, eating pie and mash,” he said. “It’s unique to our part of London and makes people feel like proper Londoners.

“You also get West Ham fans and I think it part of the experience of going to see football.”

Terry says the tradition of a proper meat pie is passed down the generations.

“East Enders have moved out to Essex and we get mums and dads introducing their children to it.

“I have some customers I’ve been serving since they were children and now they bring in their own children. It’s really nice.”


Latest News Stories

Borough commander Jason Gwillim told the Recorder it was

The Borough Commander and MPs have welcomed the Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne’s decision to scrap cuts to police forces.

Yesterday, 16:10
Recorder reporter Hayley Anderson with her national journalism award

Recorder reporter Hayley Anderson was highly commended in a national journalism awards evening in Birmingham last night.

Yesterday, 15:45
Time FM Steve Allen will host the chat with the Recorder's Chris Carter and Laura Burnip

A swan that got police in a flap, term-time holidays and Havering’s mirocpub were the topics covered on today’s Recorder paper review on Time 107.5FM.

Yesterday, 13:29
Ryan Machin and his mother Michelle Bennett at their home in Romford after Ryan took the last British Airways flight back from Sharm el-Sheikh to London

A 17-year-old who worked in a hotel in Sharm el-Sheikh was one of the last passengers to be repatriated to the UK and calls on people not to be afraid to return to the holiday resort.

Yesterday, 11:28
Two fire engines attended a house fire at an address in Park Lane, Hornchurch on Wednesday evening and a man was rushed to hopistal where he was treated for smoke inhalation

A man was rushed to hospital for smoke inhalation after firefighters were called at a flat in Hornchurch on Wednesday evening.

Yesterday, 10:57
Boys born in Cranham will live healthily for 17 years longer than those in Harold Hill

New statistics show the inequality in expectations for our children

Yesterday, 07:00
A woman was tied up in a burglary

A mother-of-two feared for her life as masked burglars forced their way into the family home and tied her up while her young children played in the living room.

Thu, 16:30
Last night's full council meeting saw decisions being made on the release of £83million to build new affordable homes and the expansion of at least five primary schools

Councillors have agreed to release £83million to provide affordable housing in the borough, expand at least five primary schools to ease the shortage of school places and pledged to ensure more work opportunities for adults with autism in last night’s full council meeting.

Most read news

News from your area


Click on the banner above for full coverage of the centenary commemorations of the outbreak of the First World War.


MAC Makeup

MAC are renowned for their flawless, fabulous make up that is used worldwide by the stars. You too can have the chance to have the perfect makeup to suit your needs with £1,000 to spend on all the glam goodies you like!


You are never far from an Argos, wherever in the country you may be. They are like a magical cavern where whatever you need they seem to have it out the back behind the counter. So why not put them to the test with this great MyOffers competition to win £1000 to spend in-store.

Digital Edition

Read the Romford Recorder e-edition today E-edition
Family Notices 24

Local business directory

Our trusted business finder