Hidden within the rolling hills of Saddleworth, down a number of narrow, winding country lanes, round the back of an industrial estate and inside an old mill may not be the most likely place to open a bakery. But Tunnel End Pie Co’s pastries have recently won national recognition.
The Diggle bakery only opened in September 2021 and recently won two gongs at the annual British Pie Awards. Ran by husband and wife Mark and Gill Bradley from a small kitchen at Saddleworth Cookery School, Tunnel End Pie Co’s stock ranges from miniature pork pies to savoury and sweet family size plate pies.
The bakery also provides pies for a number of local shops and chippies. It was actually in the ‘Fish & Chip Shop Pie’ category that Mark and Gill won one of their silver awards for their classic cheese and onion pie. However, it was in the ‘Cold-Eating Savoury Pie’ bracket that one of their creations really caught my eye.
Taking my fondness of spicy food and combining it with the undeniable popularity of a pork pie surely has to be a winning combination and sure enough, the bakery’s pork and Scotch bonnet chutney pie also was given a silver award by judges at the British Pie Awards. Considering my affinity for pies, it seemed only right that I made the not-so-short journey from my home in Bolton to Saddleworth to see if it was worth the plaudits.
To ensure that my 52-mile round journey was not in vain, I filled out a contact form on the Tunnel End Pie Co’s website to check on stock and received a swift reply from Gill. She told me that Mark would bake me one especially, which I was extremely grateful for at such short notice, and I set off on my way.
After a very picturesque drive that took me over the Yorkshire border and back again, I eventually found the bakery. Mark and Gill, who had both been there since very early in the morning, were extremely friendly and kept chatting with me as my pie baked.
Their kitchen is only small but they clearly make the most of the space they have and seem to have a slick operation running. I have never visited Saddleworth Cookery School before but I was also extremely impressed with the Bake Off-esque set-up, which is used to help people of all ages gain vital cooking skills.
After a short wait, Mark handed me my piping hot, freshly baked pie. It smelled and looked incredible, so much so that I got a bit too excited to try it and burnt my mouth in the process.
Once it had cooled I tried again and polished it off in about five bites. The pastry itself had a wonderful golden colour to it, was baked expertly and was not at all greasy.
The pork seemed to be of good quality and the flavour of the meat was very well balanced – not overly seasoned. As much as I enjoy spicy food, I had reservations that the Scotch bonnet may prove too much, however it added just the right amount of heat for me and complemented the pork and pastry amazingly well.
It left me wanting more and wishing that I did not live such a trek from Saddleworth. Thankfully, there are a number of shops, cafes and chip shops around Greater Manchester that stock Tunnel End Pie Co’s products so I may not have to make that journey next time I get a craving.
The bakery also has an online shop offering free delivery to OL1, OL2, OL3, OL4, OL5, OL6 and SK15 postcodes, along with the option to collect from Saddleworth Cookery School. For more information on where to find Tunnel End Pie Co’s pies near you, visit their Facebook page.