Pies offer a comforting hit of pastry and fillings, but with global flavours making waves on the UK stage, is it time manufacturers branched out of their comfort zone?

Don’t mess with the classics – that’s what NHS bosses learned earlier this year after they dared to suggest Cornish pasties could be made with filo pastry to make them healthier.

Naturally, it sparked outrage, particularly given the Cornish pasty’s PGI status. So, rather than mess with beloved UK dishes, perhaps bakers should be offering customers classic savouries from other countries? Ones that deliver the comforting hit of pastry and filling – but with a twist.

There are already signs of this happening when it comes to pie and pasty fillings. The Pieminister range, for example, now includes the Mexicow spicy beef chilli pie, the Thai Chook green Thai chicken curry pie and the Saag Pieneer, which is inspired by Punjabi meat-free paneer cheese and spinach curry. Ginsters’ range is also evolving, with the business this year adding products with an emphasis on global flavours including a Moroccan Vegetable Pasty, Katsu Chicken Slice and Piri Chicken Slice.

“Tex-Mex, modern Asian and North African spices are continuing to gain momentum with younger consumers… tapping a growing demand for ingredients with vibrant colours and flavours,” notes Ginsters managing director Kieran Hemsworth.

The use of spices lends itself to vegetarian and vegan pastries, a trend snowballing in recent years. Notably, Aryzta has just rolled out a four-strong line up of vegan-friendly savoury pastries including a Saag Aloo Lattice Slice.

But fillings aren’t everything. As consumers become more comfortable with exotic flavours in familiar pastry casings, an opportunity to change the carrier has presented itself. The likes of Spanish empanadas, Jamaican patties and Japanese gyoza (dumplings) have already curried favour with UK consumers, with listings in supermarkets and restaurants.

Börek pastries (see box-out above) are also gaining traction thanks to Turkish bakery chain Simit Sarayi, which has 15 stores across London and is in more than 22 countries worldwide.

Malaysian curry puffs, called karipap, could also prove popular, according to Nicola Swift, head of development specialist Food Innovation Solutions.

“Although some retailers and restaurants have launched chicken curry or katsu pies, I’ve yet to see a proper curry puff on the high street. Stuffed with curried potatoes and chicken, curry puffs are similar to a Cornish pasty, only with a welcome dose of spice.”

Others to watch, notes Swift, include Eastern European pierogi and Mumbai frankie – a hot roti with spiced potatoes, vegetables and sometimes meat, flavoured with ginger, garlic and onions.

Meanwhile, Dina Foods says there is still plenty of potential in Mediterranean classics such the company’s best-selling fatayer, bastille and sfiha (see above).

“Small bites make a great choice as buffet/finger food options for a party or social event. You can pick and mix the ones you like or can try new flavours and fillings without being constrained by the size of a portion when sharing a large pie,” says Dina Foods managing director Suheil Haddad.

Although UK consumers are getting more adventurous, some global delicacies may be a step too far. The Russian coulibiac – flaky pastry filled with salmon or sturgeon, rice, eggs and vegetables – is one example.

Swift, meanwhile, says texture should also be a consideration when catering for a UK audience. “You get some very glutinous textures in parts of central and south-east Asia, which don’t always translate well for the majority of UK consumers,” she adds.

But with the right combination of pastry, fillings and global inspiration, boosting sales could be as easy as pie.

Small bites

With many products having their origins in street food, small savoury pastries naturally lend themselves to the burgeoning snacks market.

And snacking deserves the attention of all bakery businesses, with analyst MCA noting it as the most important day-part when it comes to out-of-home bakery consumption.

“Hailed as ‘the fourth meal’, lots of people are embracing an extra snack in a bid to stay energised throughout the day,” explains Nicola Swift, head of Food Innovation Solutions. “As we continue to move away from traditional meal times, savoury pastries are a perfect meal on-the-go, and would work well in a lot of QSR and fast-food operations.”

Ginsters has already acted, with the brand expanding its snacking portfolio to include a bite-size range of some of its best-sellers, including the Cornish pasty and sausage roll.

“The launch is all about embracing modern British flavours and the economy of sharing by creating a range of lighter bite options compared to the full-sized originals. The cartons close easily, so it’s a snack that lasts as a fridge filler or on-the-go snack,” says Kieran Hemsworth, managing director of Ginsters.

Pieminister is also taking note and is due to launch a new snacking range in early 2019.

The world at your feet

1. Börek: Hailing from Turkey, börek is a family of filled pastries made of thin flaky phyllo (filo) dough. It can be cut into portions or served as individual pastries. It is typically filled with cheese, spinach or ground meat and topped with sesame seeds.
2. Empanada: These pastries – of Spanish and Latin American origin – are similar in shape to a pasty, but are often much smaller. They are either baked or fried and are traditionally filled with spiced beef or chicken, although fillings such as peppers, ham and spinach have also been introduced.
Fatayer (main image): A staple of Lebanese cuisine, fatayers are typically triangular in shape. The most popular filling is spinach and cheese, often feta, but like many savoury pastries there is room to experiment.
3. Pierogi: These filled dumplings are made with unleavened dough wrapped around a savoury or sweet filling, and then boiled or fried. They are typically filled with simple ingredients such as potatoes, mushrooms, sauerkraut or minced pork.
4. Sfiha: This pie-like dish comes in two variants – folded into a triangular shape like a fatayer or served open like a flatbread. Traditionally, sfiha is served with ground mutton and is topped with cheese, curd or vegetables.