Monday 31 May 2010

Tesco Apple Pies – do they need a little more help?

The old slogan goes - “every little helps”. But when you eat a sweet pie from Tesco, have they helped enough? Is it crammed with filling? Is it the right sweetness? Or do they need a little more help in making their pies simply the best?

Well, tucking into my Tesco apple pie gives me a chance to compare this store own brand to the professionals choice of the exceedingly good apple pies made by Mr Kipling. On first glance, it looks fine if slightly over-sugary on the top. It's a good effort in the design, with a cheeky apple on top, even if it is an own brand.

Once a bite has been taken, it certainly has a good capacity and amount of filling and you certainly wouldn’t say no to eating another one, but unfortunately the first thought is definitely “overly-sweet”. It does detract a bit from the nice apple taste, with the filling and sugary coating on the pastry giving it an overly sweet edge. You would hope that a little less sugar would definitely help the pie out and make it even better.

Score: 4.5/7

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Wednesday 26 May 2010

Do pies taste as good from Hollands?/Good things come to those who wait!

Its the age old problem. Your pie will take 45 minutes in the oven but you want it NOW if not sooner. This is why a quick 'zap' in the microwave is often the preferred choice of pie lovers everywhere. But it is generally considered that pies cooked by this method don't taste as mouth wateringly delicious, but is it true? Time for a pierate official verdict which will use similar rock solid scientific taste-o-meter techniques that were employee in the Welsh pie taste. The taste bud doesn't lie.

But there's no need here to go with an already reviewed pie. Hold onto your hats because we're about to attempt a science experiment with a review of two new pies! People with a weak heart are advised to stop reading now because the excitement might just be too much for you.

Introducing Holland's Pies, beloved pie makers in the North West of England since 1851. Nowadays they are part of a large food group and their pies can often be found cheap in the supermarkets, although this may be limited to the Northern reaches. The two pies purchased were for instance on a two for £1.50 offer in Morecambe Morrisons. This scores highly for cheapness but lowers my expectations of the standard of product, maybe unfairly because it could always be a bargain.

I chose a Potato and Meat Pie as the microwave option and a Just Steak Pie as the oven cooked pie of choice. Why, you ask, did I not chose two pies the same to make it a fair test? Well cos I didn't want to eat two pies the same and this is my test and I make up the rules.

On the left we have the P&M and the right-hand pie is the steak. You can see from this picture how the pastry from the steak pie had crumbled. Hollands advertise their pastry as of excellent quality and for the steak pie I agree with this. The crumblyness (that mythical 9th C) is in this particular pie a good thing. It also has an excellent taste whereas often pastry can have a good texture but lack any real taste at all. It is certainly different to the competition. However this is where the microwave option fails the P&M pie as it's pastry had a pretty horrible texture and was overly chewy. Fillingwise they were pretty similar despite differing cooking methods. So that it is then in summary, if you want pastry perfection then remember good things come to those who wait.

Now a quick rundown of the pie content and the scores on the doors. They both had nice gravy and a good capacity. However the actual meat and potato was a bit mushy with not a great consistency. The steak was a bit too chewy and a bit cheap in my opinon. These pies to me seem like a mass market contender rather than anything resembling a premium product. But overall they are really cheap and outstanding value when on offer. Recently this seems to be happening regularly so maybe stock up when the chance comes.

Potato and Meat Pie (microwave) - 4.1/7

Just Steak Pie (oven) - 4.7/7
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Monday 24 May 2010

The age old question: Do pies taste as good in Wales?

So I was across the border this past weekend with a group of mates in Pembrokshire, south Wales. Good fun was had by the lads and the weather was a scorcher! Couldn't resist a cheeky pie on the beach either, but of course the real question to be asked was: Do pies taste as good in Wales?!!

Well, to conduct a fair and representative survey, I not only tried a Steak and Kidney Pukka Pie but also a Mr Kiplings Apple Pie, just to ensure that the control in the experiment (in this case, the pies) were varied but still household names. The only difference was that I was comparing the pies bought in Tenby (Wales) with the pies bought in Birmingham and Buckinghamshire (England). And I can confirm that the Pukka Pie bought in Wales was infact every bit as good as the English counterparts - crisp and crunchy on the top, with a good gravy filling and plenty of meat. The Apple pie was once again a nice blend of fruit and sweet pastry, ticking all the boxes.

So rest assured - and don't let anything else be said - that pies taste just the same in Wales! Now to go visit Scotland...
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Sunday 23 May 2010

Is it what's on the outside that counts?

Here is one to ponder. What if you made a pie with non standard ingredients, is it still a pie? For example, my fellow pierateers and I have often wondered about making a 'Piezza' which would basically be a pie where the top is actually a pizza. We would be clearly ditching the traditional pastry but it still has an encased filling, should be tasty and would fulfil the ratio of filling to case which sets apart a pie from other pastry based products such as a pasty. Also in urban pie I have definitely seen a 'cottage pie' which had mash potato instead of a classic pastry lid.

My initial instinct is no, these seem to be closely related to pie and although special I feel they would be missing that 'Factor X' where the definition of Factor X is that it is impossible to define. It is mysterious and vague in a kind of real and tangible way. These are certainly closely related beasts but distinct rather like a horse and a zebra. While horses might not be an uncommon sight to many of us, we still go to the zoo to see zebra. Unless you live in Africa and in which case please tell me what zebra pie tastes like.

Anyway, have a look at this.
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Friday 14 May 2010

Can I be bol-led over by the uni pie experience?

So I was happening to be in the main Aston University cafe – CafeTierra to you and me – and stumbled across “Beef and Onion pie” on the menu, reasonably priced at £3.20 as offering chips and veg as part of the meal. The outer crust looked so golden and appealing that I thought “hey, why not?!” and gave it a go, even though I’m certainly no Onion-lover (and therefore, sad to say, that does tend to put me off this flavour pie).

But what I ate turned out to be one of the most unusual and quite flavoursome pies I’ve come across, and believe me, I’ve come across a fair few in my time! Let me explain:

When you imagine a beef and onion pie, you often think of either chunks of tender beef or, if a cheaper alternative, minced beef, in a rich beef gravy and with varying levels of onion but not a lot else in your pie. But that’s where you’d be wrong with the Aston Experience! For what you found having dug under the golden crisp coating was actually what can be best described as a minced beef tomato bolognaise inside a pie! What a shock!

This certainly made the beef and onion pie pretty unique, in my view, and potentially had the highest vegetable content of any meat-based pie I’d ever eaten! (Not that I’d ever eat a vegetarian pie...for (a) fear of them actually being a slice and (b) the clear lack of meaty-licious content!)

The tomato based sauce, with carrots and onion and a few other pieces of vegetable unknown to the untrained vegetable eater, certainly weren’t what the doctor ordered, but this pierateer was certainly highly impressed by the taste and how well it all went with the lovely golden pastry (by the way, did I mention the top of the pie was golden?) In fact, so much so that I will be trying to frequent this eating establishment again to see if there are any other pies on offer soon! And defo worth a try if you’re a D-I-Y pie maker – make a spagbol and then whack it in fine, crispy pastry and have it as a pie!

Score (for randomness and great taste): 5.5/7
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Wednesday 12 May 2010


Imagine yourself in this scenario: you're on a London bus that passes through Shepherds Bush, feeling a bit hungry. At a stop nowhere near where you planned to get off, you look out the window and spot a Jumbuck's pie shop right next to the bus stop, just nestled behind some trees:

Jumbucks pie

Of course, any pierateer would immediately jump off the bus to sample the potential delights contained inside. I believe it to be the only Jumbuck's Aussie Pie Co shop in the UK, although Jumbuck's pies are available in outlets such as pubs and universities through the UK.

Jumbucks pie

Jumbucks pie

As you can see, the packaging of this innovative takeaway pie is quite banterful, promising "great taste, no waste". Sounds good so far! Why would anyone want to waste a pie? I decide to trial the takeaway nature of the pie by waiting for another bus and then eating it while on the go - a key feature of the Jumbuck's appeal.

Jumbucks pie

And there it is: a "bushranger deluxe", promising minced beef, mashed potato, bacon and cheese. Costwise, Jumbuck's aren't cheap but then again, for a hot takeaway pie that carries a certain novelty, £2.20 isn't bad.

Jumbucks pie

And this is what Jumbuck's pies were made for: cruising down Shepherds Bush Road on the top deck. A real pie on the go - no cutlery needed, just hands! Though until I've quite mastered how to eat one without spillage, I think I'll keep a napkin wrapped round it.

Jumbucks pie

The content of the pie is not dissimilar to a cottage (or shepherds?) pie encased in pastry. It does really work for me, though. I'm a real fan of pie and mashed potato, so this is really a convenient way of eating a pie with mashed potato on the move. It's genius, why have I not had this before? The capacity of the pie, however, is reduced somewhat by the mashed potato taking up the majority of the room. I would have prefered less mashed potato to make way for more minced beef. A nice surprise as I hit the bacon. It's all fantastic, I am really enjoying this pie.

I personally felt that this pie was too small. Or perhaps I was just too hungry to not be satisfied in terms of hunger? But in terms of taste, this Jumbuck's bushranger deluxe is a winner in epic proportions.
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Tuesday 11 May 2010

Pies - loved around the world!

It may sound like an obvious statement to make, but pies really are loved all over the world! Take for example the complete opposite side of the globe, where a couple of New Zealanders want to show their love and appreciation for bubblegum pie (and what a great shout for a pie flavour that is!) What better way to do it than by mentioning it in a music gig they were playing for several thousand followers of the band 'Flight of the Conchords'! If only they had also sang "Leggy Blonde" which also has the great lyrics: "I love pie!"
The love of pies was truely shared last night, as the songs flowed and plenty of banter was had! If only the muffin anecdote had been about pies too...

Taken from "Albi the racist dragon" by Flight of the Conchords:

So they sat in the cave (the cave!)
And ate bubblegum pie
The racist....
Well, not anymore!
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Thursday 6 May 2010

Best pie in the house?!

Taking a stroll down Broad Street, Birmingham, with a mate on a recent spring evening, the delights of the Brasshouse pub were too good to avoid. Looking for somewhere nice but affordable to have a meal, ideally one involving a good pie and some curly fries, the Brasshouse pub looked to have covered all the bases. The menu offered a traditional steak and ale pie, along with a fish pie and the one that grabbed my attention – the chicken, bacon and mushroom pie (which was claimed to be a vegetarian pie by my friend – due to the mushroom – but we’ll let her off that!)*

The thoughts of a lovely, creamy sauce in the pie complementing the chicken, bacon and mushroom, immediately filled my thoughts, so you can imagine to my surprise seeing a load of beef gravy on top of the pie, which clearly wouldn’t go with the inner contents. Sadly the pub hadn’t thought to provide a supplementary gravy boat, to add the beef gravy at your own leisure. So not only did the pie taste odd, with the mix of creamy and beefy sauces, but it also made the curly fries slightly soggy! Disgraceful – I know! Fortunately for the pub’s reputation, I will let this go slightly in my review as the pie taste is the main thing. Once you got past the beef gravy layer, the actual pie itself was very good. Only slightly too pastry-ey and a good content. Would probably eat there again, but just ask to refrain from the beef gravy on top (or ask to have it separately). And the best thing about the meal was that my friend kindly offered to pay for the pie, as a belated birthday present, so it was by far the cheapest pie I’ve ever eaten! (although it wasn’t a badly priced meal even if I had paid!)

Score: 4.3/7

*Admittedly this part of the review is slightly untrue – she (who will remain anonymous for fear of getting a punch next time we meet up) actually wondered why the chicken salad was vegetarian, before realising the chicken part, and this lead to me teasing about whether she thought my pie was also vegetarian due to the mushroom. But saying all that wouldn’t have been half as funny! :P
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Wednesday 5 May 2010

Saino’s – their values apparently make them different...but do their pies?

Sainsbury’s Blackcurrant And Apple Pie Review

So on going round to a friend’s house recently - who clearly know me very well! - they cracked out a Sainsbury’s Blackcurrant And Apple pie for pudding, served with a cheeky bit of vanilla ice cream. The pie was split into the 3 of us, which was just about right for a decent sized portion. The pastry was lovely and crisp, giving a good chew which complemented the content. While there was perhaps a slightly low filling of apple and blackcurrant, it was certainly still a good mix and would have ticked off at least one of your 5-a-day (which is good going for a pie!)

Sainsburys pie

Being an own-brand, it is significantly cheaper than some of the alternatives, while still being of a good quality due to the Saino’s values which cover many a webpage and shopping aisle. One certainly hopes these values have helped make the pie as good as can be, and I would agree it is well worth a purchase. While the pie’s condition after heating was rather crumbly, this certainly didn’t detract from the great taste and satisfaction of eating a pie with friends. The only drawback is that we didn’t have one each, but had to share!

Sainsbury’s Blackcurrant And Apple Pie [Family Sized]
Score: 4.8/7

See where this pie ended up in the Pierate Pie Rankings or find other pies of a similar flavour.

Make sure you 
and let us know your thoughts!
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Sunday 2 May 2010

Chilterns Festival of Food 2010

Being the professionals we are a couple of pierate delegates were dispatched to the recent Chilterns Festival of Food to see what pies were available among the culinary treats. Considering the variety of food available pies were well represented and a couple of them soon caught the eyes of our ravenous reviewers. Each pie was a large 'family' size and cost a bit under a fiver so not the cheapest4.

The Complete Pig - Aberdeen Angus and Ale Pie

This one really looked fantastic, a lovely golden colour6 pastry with a nice handmade condition6 to it. Both the steak and ale are produced on the farm in Oxfordshire giving it a low food miles count but we all know the proof of the pie is in the eating. Unfortunately this is where it fell down. The height of the pie was low in relation to it's width meaning it missed out on the ideal pastry to filling ratio and had a disappointing capacity4. This wasn't helped by the overly eggy taste of the pastry which was slightly chewy4. Delving into the content2 the actual ingredients were of high quality and it was good to see some vegetables, often the forgotten food group in pies. However the consistency1 wasn't ideal primarily due to a lack of gravy. This resulted in it being a bit of a chore to eat and having a fairly bland taste.

To this reviewer it seems that a lack of pie expertise is holding back The Complete Pig in their pie making. Being a small company based on one farm I get the feeling these pies are a bit of an experiment or side venture. In fact if you look at the website there is a picture of a guy holding a bottle of ale who looks remarkably like the the man we purchased the pie from. I wouldn't be surprised if he makes the pies himself as well. I've no doubt that these pies will improve with experience and I'd love to try one again at a later date. Have a look out for them at a farmers' market near you and keep us updated.


Lime Tree Pantry - Raspberry and Apple

Looking at the Lime Tree's website it seems that while they make other products pies are their number one priority. There are some videos on there to really make your mouth water. This family business from Nottinghamshire seem to have hit the big time, producing 15,000 pies a week. You can even buy the pies online or the ideal world shopping channel!

Just from the photo, its clear the pie is bursting with content7. They couldn't cram much more into their pies. However the capacity5 could be a little bigger. Lime Tree only use short crust pastry but they are clearly experts with it. It is sweet, light and soft; ideal with this pie. The consistency7 was near perfect, the filling was moist and had a sour tang but only enough to make it flavoursome. There was hardly any chewiness7 so the pie almost melted in the mouth. Presentation wise it was in good condition7 although there was a lack that quintessential golden pie pastry colour5. Overall this pie was fantastic, I can't wait to try some more!


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Every little pie helps

Today's review is of a "Tesco Beef and Onion Pie". It is important to review these supermarket own-brand items, because you may be pleasantly surprised by their quality and relatively low prices. This review is of the normal Tesco pie, as opposed to the Tesco Value Beef and Onion pie which may have to be saved for another day.

I'm sure you'll agree, this pie looks fantastic with a golden brown colour. The pastry looks wonderfully crispy and not too stodgy.

A close-up of the content. Looks great! Filled with tender beef and generous amounts of gravy. The filling:pastry ratio is excellent. I go in for a taste - the filling is succulent and melts on the tongue. I particularly like the pastry too, it does not taste fatty and stodgy but rather light and crunchy. Tesco really have done themselves proud with this beef and onion pie. Just look how great it looks on a plate with some chips! (Please note, this plate does not belong to me and so am not responsible for the spottiness of it!). Would purchase again, if only there weren't so many more pies to try.

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