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 Romford News Stories

59 minutes ago
Hornchurch Country Park

A man has been arrested on suspicion of indecent exposure and sexual activity towards a child after an incident in Hornchurch Country Park.

Sergo Park Rainham's enterprise quarter

The developer behind a multi-million pound scheme to regenerate run-down industrial sites is to hold an official groundbreaking ceremony and launch.

Perry Hayden joins mum Suzanne Hedges, Kieran Dunne, Perry Watling, April Hayden and Paul Hayden

A grieving mum says “overwhelming” community support helped her family cope after her son was stabbed to death outside his home.

Simona Boycheva has won Photography for Little People's photographer of the year award twice in a row.

A baby photographer has received an award for the second time just three years after buying a franchise.

The Brewery Centre. Peppa Pig and brother George visiting for storytime with Peppa activities. Livia Bartlett (21mths) and mum Nicci meet Peppa and George.

Peppa Pig and her little brother George paid a visit to the Brewery in Romford for half-term fun on Saturday.

Bridge Close could be redeveloped with up to 840 homes.

Residents said they are “heartbroken” to have to leave their homes, which will be bulldozed to make way for a new housing development.

Yesterday, 12:00

A look back at the biggest local stories from this week 20, 40 and 60 years ago.

Yesterday, 10:00
Athlete Christine Ohuruogu visited her secondary school St Edwards Church of England School in Romford to present a piece of the London 2012 Olympic track.

A former Olympic athlete wants to encourage young people to aim high as she presented her school with a piece of track from the London 2012 games.

Newsletter Sign Up

Most read news


Show Job Lists

News from your area


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


£3,000 goes a long way at Boots

Cosmetics, toiletries, vitamins and more. Boots is the number one choice when it comes to purchasing daily essentials.

Kit yourself out and go Apple mad!

If you’re obsessed with Apple or just love a good gadget, this is a prize that will blow you away! An incredible £3,333 to spend on Apple goodies! How would you like to be the proud new owner of the Apple Watch?

Digital Edition


Enjoy the
Romford Recorder
e-edition today


Education and Training


Read the
Education and Training
e-edition today

Read Now