HUMBLE PIE: New Zealand-style savoury pies worth bragging about
When New Zealander Mike Noakes moved to Nova Scotia with his wife, Dartmouth’s Denise Noakes, the first thing he missed was his down-under pies. But his idea of a pie isn’t anything like your grandmother’s desserts in Tenderflake shells. No no, New Zealand pies are hot, full meals to go — butter-flake puffed pastries stuffed with meats, cheeses, chowders and more.
Humble Pie Kitchen is both novel and comforting. With their friend Shauna MacLean, Noakes and his wife started selling Humble Pies at the Alderney Market in 2013. They first introduced the New Zealand classic, Steak and Cheese, with its tender cuts of local, free-range beef slow-cooked in rich gravy and layers of white cheddar. It wasn’t long before their pies caught on.
“We started making 50 pies weekly, and we have grown in bursts,” says Mike. After selling pies at the Seaport Market, the trio opened the Humble Pie Kitchen shop on the corner of King and Ochterloney Streets in Dartmouth in May 2015. They now make up to a thousand pies a week.
That’s because the 7-ounce pies are unbelievable. Along with the Steak and Cheese, you can grab a handmade Chicken Cranberry Brie with balsamic cranberry and creamy herb sauce; or Butter Chicken with a rich Indian masala base, caramelized onions and chicken chunks; or Buffalo Chicken made with Dave’s Famous Chicken Wing Sauce from Windmill Road. There’s also the vegetarian Spinach and Feta roll, BBQ Pulled Pork and the especially Nova Scotian Donair pie with sauce.
“The pies we started with were all fairly traditional Kiwi styles, until one Natal Day we made a batch of the Donair, which has been very well received,” says Mike. “It’s probably our most popular pie on the Twittersphere.” Noakes is inspired by the tastes of the province. He uses West Pubnico haddock in the seafood chowder and feta from Holmestead Cheese, among other locally sourced ingredients. He’s even been flirting with the idea of lobster and lamb pies.
Humble Pie Kitchen is a perfect meeting of two unique culinary cultures, and while it may be new for Nova Scotia, Noakes promises that pies like these are among New Zealand’s most popular and most delicious treats. He’s pretty fly for a pie guy, and he bases his recipes and fillings off of the judging criteria for Bakels Supreme Pie Awards held annually in New Zealand.
Yes, that’s a real thing: “Every convenience store, gas station and bakery in New Zealand has a pie warmer,” he says. “In 2016, 4.5 million New Zealanders consumed over 60 million pies.”
While Nova Scotia has a way to go before hitting those numbers, the trio is currently hoping to expand production to a larger kitchen, “without compromising our quality and consistency,” says Mike.
While the shop has had loyal customers since day one, MacLean says people come in every day who are new to the concept. “We call them pie-curious,” and they often don’t know how to approach eating the pies. “Don’t even worry about utensils,” she says.
The best way to eat a Humble Pie is between both hands like a hamburger. Start in the middle and work your way around. Both the pastry and filling are designed to stay together, even when hearty 200-gram morsels of locally sourced meat from Withrow’s Farm surprise at every bite.
While the shop has fresh and hot pies daily, there’s also a freezer of “storm pies” prepared for take-away with a special method for heating: “Heat up the pie from cold,” instructs MacLean.
“We call it the one-to-ten. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees, microwave the pie for one minute, and then bake it for 10 minutes.” It’s the best way to make sure your pies at home are just as amazing as in-store. And it also allows customers to nab their favourites while they can.
The ever-evolving menu also allows for a pie at every meal. Although the pies are admittedly calorie-rich, the flavours justify it: “Different pies appeal on different days,” says Mike. Have a Breakfast pie in the morning, a Butter Chicken at lunch and a Pepper Steak for dinner.
“It’s a bit like beer, for there are two kinds of beer: good beer and better beer,” Mike jokes.
“I have been eating pies for over 40 years, and I have a very definite picture of how they should be. I tell people we make pies for me, and we sell the ones I can’t eat.” MacLean adds that the mission of Humble Pie has been to make the perfect pie, and it seems they’ve reached that goal. Despite the modest name and simple concept, Humble Pies are worth bragging about.