After Covid-19 forced a postponement, the British Pie Awards and back and pie makers across the country are battling out to be named the best.

There are 800 entries across 23 categories – including a vegan category which provided 2019’s winner. The vegan category now has the most interest this year.

Other challengers range from the gourmet, such as Moroccan spiced lamb and apricot, to old favourite the pork pie.

The winner of the awards will be announced on Friday.

Organisers said it has been a “tough” few months after the original March date was postponed, but the 150 judges are back excitedly sampling the hundreds of entries.

The awards take place in St Mary’s Church in the home of the pork pie, Melton Mowbray, Leicestershire, for the start of proceedings on Wednesday, which began with the ceremonial blessing of the pies.

Free-from entries are well represented this year, Matthew O’Callaghan, chairman of the Melton Mowbray Pork Pie Association and host of the British Pie Awards, said it is “thanks to the awards you can now get a decent gluten-free pie”.

He said: “In fact they’ve actually slipped some of their pies into other classes, and people don’t notice it’s gluten-free.

Gazette Series: British Pie Awards return after Covid-19 forced postponement (PA)British Pie Awards return after Covid-19 forced postponement (PA)

“What can you say, better than that?

“We’ve had 800 pies entered – a cracking lot of judges, some really interesting pies,” he added.

“The British pie is back on the menu, but it was tough.

“Obviously we didn’t know if it was going to be Covid or not, we’ve spaced the tables out, we’ve taken a number of safety measures so as to limit the impact of Covid.

“But it has been tough.

“Pie-makers have gone under, sadly.

“There are others who are short-staffed, others who are working their socks off because the hospitality sector is open.

“So it has been really tough getting people to put pies in (for entry), getting the judges; the whole thing has been twice as difficult as before, but it’s happening – the pies are back.”

For the issue of what some people think constitutes a pie, for entries the rules are clear he said:

“A pie is a filling completely encased in pastry and baked,” he said.

“So it’s not samosas, which are not baked, it’s not tarts, it’s not fripperty things with lattices and all those sorts of things.

“Interestingly, the House of Commons debated that definition some time ago and I am sure they came to the right conclusion – that’s what a pie is.

“I hate going into a pub and being served a pie and effectively it is a biscuit with nothing on the bottom, in a foil.

“No, that’s not a pie, that’s a casserole with a biscuit on top.

“A pie has to be totally encased in pastry – lid, bottom and sides.”

The focus this year has been about putting on the awards, with no new categories offered.

But next year could see expansion of the competition, which has been running since 2009, including the possibility of a halal class, according to O’Callaghan.

He said: “We are looking now for next year at new classes – there are people saying we want a halal class, for example.

“So there are other opportunities, hopefully, to extend the pie awards – new classes, include more people in what we’re offering.”

Remember to check back for the results on Friday!