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Hunting for the elusive vegetarian pie in Wairarapa

Ashok Patel said South End Dairy sells over 150 pies a day. PHOTOS/FEDERICO MAGRIN

A vegetarian pie was hard to find on student journalist FEDERICO MAGRIN’s brief visit to Wairarapa. But he met some interesting pie makers along the way.

South End Dairy owners Ashok and Ushiga Patel have no idea what the 150 meat pies they make each day taste like – because they are vegetarian.

But their pies must be good because they have been selling out every day since 2006.

On taking over the Greytown store, Ashok had tried making vegetarian pies – but their customers weren’t so keen.

“We were just selling one or two per day. That’s not worth it,” Ashok said.

“We used to make a paneer and butter gravy pie and mixed vegetable pie, but they were not selling as fast.”

The Patels relocated to Greytown from India in 2000.

They are aware that in big cities in India people might have dietary requirements – but rural New Zealand is different.

“In the countryside, people are working hard – and most of them want to eat meat,” he said.

Data by the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations showed India was the country consuming the least meat per capita in the world.

In 2017, India’s daily meat consumption per person per year was 10kg, whereas in New Zealand it was 276kg.

The Patels, who don’t eat meat or drink alcohol because of their religious beliefs, make their pies just following “an old and successful recipe” used by the store’s previous owner.

“For 16 years we have followed the old recipe. This business has been here long before us,” Ashok said. They sell all the Kiwi classics – bacon and egg, steak and cheese, chicken and vegetables.

He said their biggest selling pies would be mince and cheese, spaghetti, and butter chicken.

“The butter chicken ones I make myself – that’s my own recipe.”

A tale of two siblings – and two pies

Monique Kloeg and the Ten O’clock Thai curry vegetarian pie.

Michael and Monique Kloeg are both award winning bakers, but there is one issue that separates them: vegetarian pies.

Ten O’clock Cookie Bakery Café [10CC], with Monique as general manager, prides itself on its vegetarian pie options – but brother Michael has given up trying to sell them at his own establishment, Clareville Bakery.

10CC has had a Thai curry vegetarian pie on its menu for the past five years – which she said is “delicious”.

“Even though I am not vegetarian anymore, the vegetarian pie is probably the only one I actually eat here,” Monique, who confesses she “isn’t a big meat eater”, said.

“I think it is important to have a lot of vegetables in your diet. Food does not have to be bland anymore – vegetables can be delicious.

“There are plenty of really good vegetarian pies out there – though maybe not so much in Wairarapa.”

Monique said she would one day like to win the Gold Award in the vegetarian section of the Bakels New Zealand Supreme Pie Awards.

In the meantime, 10CC will continue to cater for vegetarian pie lovers.

“People come in here knowing that we cater to their dietary requirements. Veggie pies are not a big share of the market, but we like to have options.”

Monique acknowledged that producing vegetarian pies could be a challenge for smaller bakeries.

“For places that produce small amounts of pies, having to make a separate [vegetarian] filling is probably too much to achieve.

“People just want to make what attracts the most revenue.”

This is the reason Michael decided to stop selling vegetarian pies at Clareville Bakery.

He was producing a carrot and kumara pie, which got favourable reviews from customers – but “the vegetarian market [was] too small to keep it”.

“We do bring it back as a special from time to time,” he said.

Michael said the paddock-based pies are “by far the biggest sellers” at his bakery – including his famous lamb cutlet pie, which took home the top prize at the 2014 Supreme Pie Awards.

“We are a rural community and farming is a massive part of our economy,” he said.

“But I do think, without a doubt, the vegetarian market will grow in the future.”

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