If you’re British, you may be well accustomed to the dish known as a shepherd’s pie. While it’s commonly categorised as quintessential ‘pub grub’ rather than a fine delicacy, the meal – formed of minced meat and vegetables and topped with a crusted mash potato – is a comforting, well-loved favourite.
As a matter of fact, it would seem the dish is a particular favourite among The Rolling Stones and their guitarist Keith Richards, who apparently won’t go on stage until he has one.
In 1989, the English rockers released the well-received Steel Wheels album, and subsequently went on a huge world tour which began on August 12, before finishing over one year later with four sold-out dates at London’s Wembley Stadium.
At the time, the trek served as the band’s first run of shows in eight whole years, making it not only an unmissable affair, but the highest earning tour in history up until that point.
Flushed with cash, the Rolling Stones team pulled out all the stops in making the tour an enjoyable experience for the band, meeting even the most absurd of their requests. Most famously, on this run Richards asked that a replica of a classic English pub would be present at each venue, and that the catering staff would create classic British meals, such as his favourite, shepherd’s pie.
As well as traditional pub grub, the establishment also came with a jukebox and cricket bats; the epitome of Britishness and something that made the band feel right at home whilst out on the road.
On the third night of the tour in Toronto’s CNE Stadium, Richards, after arriving late to eat his pre-show pie, discovered that the dish had already been tucked into by someone else. Furious (and hungry), the guitarist refused to go on stage until someone had cooked him up another pie to eat.
Thankfully, the band’s culinary staff managed to whip up another pie just in time, and the show missed a full postponement, to the relief of frontman Mick Jagger.
Richard’s pie custom soon became a well-established rule. “It’s now famous, my rule on the road,” Richards wrote in his autobiography Life. “Nobody touches the shepherd’s pie till I’ve been in there. Don’t bust my crust, baby.”
In Keith Richards: The Biography (Poseidon Press) by Victor Bockris, his first wife, Anita Pallenberg recalled: “Once a member of the crew ate his shepherd’s pie and Keith threatened to cut him up and put his legs in a shepherd’s pie.
“So he gets his shepherd’s pie, miles of shepherd’s pie everywhere. He’s always got shepherd’s pie and he doesn’t have to worry about it.”
On another occasion, Richard’s pie was eyed up by one Stuart Cable, the former drummer of Welsh rock band Stereophonics, who was unaware of the strange regulation. Taking a couple mouthfuls of the dish, he was soon stopped by a worried Jagger and Ronnie Wood, who demanded that the pie got re-crusted before their pedantic pie-loving guitarist would discover what had happened.
In his 2009 autobiography Demons and Cocktails, Cable recalled: “We were backstage at the Stones’ gig in Paris when I saw it. ‘Kelly, Kelly, [singer Kelly Jones] there’s shepherd’s pie,’ I said, like an excited 10-year-old at Christmas, and I whacked several hefty spoonfuls onto my plate. Suddenly Ronnie Wood walks in and says: ‘Hi, boys. Mick would like to meet you.’
“Our faces froze as the lead singer ambled in. I wasn’t sure if I should stand, curtsy or clap. He was royalty with a capital R. The dressing room went silent. Mick introduced himself. ‘I loved the show, boys. Glad to have you on board.’ Suddenly though, the singer’s face dropped.
“‘Who’s eaten that’?’ said Mick, pointing to the half-eaten plate of pie on the table. I put my hand up like a school kid in class asking to go to the toilet. He then chuckled and made a face: ‘Do you know the rules?’
‘What rules?’ I replied. ‘One’ – he held his finger up – ‘you don’t play on the snooker table unless you’ve been asked.’ ‘And, secondly, you never, ever, take the shepherd’s pie unless Keith’s broken the crust first.’”
After the catering team called out for the pie to be fixed immediately, Cable remembers Jagger saying: ‘Enjoy the show, boys. If there will be a show. I’m not sure if he’ll go on after this.’” Thankfully, the pie returned to its fully crusted glory, and Richards was none the wiser.
If you fancy a taste of Richards’ legendary pie, just a take a quick perusal on google, and you’ll come across many recipes. Enjoy!