Steak & Ale is Dunkleys best seller
A family firm from Wellingborough is celebrating after winning awards from the British Pie Awards.
Dunkleys, based on the Park Farm Industrial Estate, produce one million pies a month, mainly for the pub trade.
They recently entered the British Pie Awards, held in Melton Mowbray, Leicestershire.
In total they got five awards including one gold for a Chicken and Ham pie, two silver and two bronze.
Steak and Ale is the company's best seller, but the firm is not afraid of trying new flavours. "It does have a slight kick to it, to begin with," product developer Dr Mark Beeston said proudly of his new Thai Green Curry suet pudding.
"But it doesn't get hotter with the second bite. And the competition judges have got around 700 pies to taste, so you have to make something that will stand out," he said.
Dunkleys awards 2010
Chicken & Ham Pie - Gold
Ham Hock Pie - Silver
Beef & Ale Pie - Silver
Steak & Kidney Suet Pudding - Bronze
Daube Of Beef Pie - Bronze
According to Dr Beeston, pies are something of an accidental invention. "Centuries ago, the pastry was just a floury paste, there to hold the filling while it was cooking; you wouldn't actually eat the pastry and it probably used to taste pretty awful. But gradually it became an integral part of the pie," he said.
Dunkleys may not be as old as the pie itself, but the firm's Managing Director Simon Dunkley is proud that the company's roots go back to the end of the First World War, when his grandfather was a butcher.
"He came out of the army and married my mum and over the slaughterhouse they started making pies," he said.
The company likes to experiment with new flavours
Dunkley's pie sales have been increasing year on year, despite the recession. Managing Director Simon Dunkley said: "We've remained very very busy. I think it's comfort eating!"
They cook around 20 tonnes of filling for their beef pies every week. "We make in excess of a 120 tonnes a week - more than a million pies a month, so it has to be on an industrial scale. Saying that, there's a lot of hand finishing. We employ around 200 people," said Simon.
The company is now diversifying into puddings and lasagnas, and supplying businesses as diverse as Wetherspoons, British Airways and Heston Blumenthal's new Little Chef menu.
Mr Dunkley said he'll never get tired of the humble pie that started the whole empire. "We hold a tasting panel every day. At 8.30 in the morning, there we are, eating Steak and Kidney Pudding! It's a bit testing sometimes - but I've got to love pies, haven't I?" He added.