Nora's exotic pies with an Oriental twist
PUBLISHED: 13:29 05 March 2018 | UPDATED: 13:29 05 March 2018
Black truffle, Chinese bacon and sweet dried mandarin feature in Nora’s unique pies.
Boredom in retirement. It’s a common problem. Some people are content to potter on an allotment, take on a new hobby, or perhaps even go back to school. But for one Norfolk resident who found herself “climbing the walls” after retiring to the county from London, the solution to feeding her mind was setting up her very own food business.
Nora Chan moved to East Anglia with her husband nearly three years ago, having worked in the luxury retail sector. “My partner had a stroke about four years ago,” she explains. “We really wanted to live somewhere quiet, and he’d been coming up to Norfolk shooting for the last 40 years. We knew people up here and thought it would be a nice pace of life.”
But for Nora, who once ran a Chinese restaurant in London’s Holland Park with her husband, her idle hands proved itching for a new challenge.
“Someone said ‘why don’t you go back to food?’, and the only different thing we could think of doing was a pie. We thought we could bring in some more Chinese influences, and change the pastry so it’s made with goose fat, which makes it softer and more flaky. We tried selling them in Hunstanton and it went really well.”
Nora, who set up Bakeshack, hasn’t looked back, and relishes combining local ingredients with authentic Chinese aromatics to produce pies that really stand out.
“People are always stunned by them, but it’s a struggle to explain they’re not regular pork pies. You need to try them to know they’re different.”
Within a thin crust of flaky pastry, every single element of each pie has been hand-chopped rather than minced for a more interesting texture, and some unusual additions have been included to create flavours that really do dance on the tongue.
A favourite is a duck pie that captures the essence of that restaurant favourite, crispy duck, which Nora’s customers love.
“Another one is pheasant with goji berries. I marinate the pheasant with spices like star anise, I make my own dried bacon, which goes into the marinade, and I cook it in port. Another pie takes the flavour of Chinese ribs. Everyone knows that flavour, with yellow bean sauce. I add the Chinese bacon to that as well.”
Local venison is married with sweet dried mandarin, a crunch of bamboo shoots and citrus and soy, with a hint of Chinese spice.
Chicken mixes with sesame, soy and rice wine.
And another pie blends game with the botanicals used in Norfolk Gin. “There’s a bit of Chinese black vinegar in there for a tang at the end,” Nora says. “People say it’s like having gin without the gin!”
A very decadent addition to the range is chicken pie paired with one of nature’s most luxurious bounties. “I add chopped black truffle. It’s quite a simple pie. But more times when you buy a product with black truffle it uses truffle oil. I actually chop in black truffles and add truffle oil, porcini, shitake and oyster mushrooms for a wonderful flavour.”
Meet Nora and try her pies at Creake Abbey, Wyken, Bury St Edmunds and Wymondham farmers’ markets, as well as at various events such as the North Norfolk Food Festival, Royal Norfolk Show, Aylsham Show, Reepham Food Festival and Norwich Food Festival.