Thursday 29 December 2011

Who needs a birthday cake anyway?!

While there may be a stewards enquiry if a Pierateer were to review a fellow Pierateer's homemade birthday pie, it is safe to say that SJL's homemade mini "Turkey and trimmings" pies were lovely and a great addition to the birthday winter picnic experience. Happy Birthday!

(For the record, I did also have some birthday cake, but only after at least 3 pies!)
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Sunday 25 December 2011

I’m dreaming of an Urban Pie this Christmas...

Christmas (Chicken) Pie Review from Urban Pie

Well you certainly know when it’s heading towards Christmas in Birmingham when the German Market rolls into town (one of the largest in Europe, I’m told) and, more importantly, the Legends at Urban Pie roll out their Christmas Pie selection! Good times!

The principle is simple. I’d like to enjoy all the Christmas trimmings of meat, potato, stuffing veg and more – but encased in pastry so that I can potentially eat my Christmas dinner on the go! Is that too much to ask for? After all, the sweet mince pie dominates the Christmas pudding market (bar Christmas puddings themselves), so why can’t a Christmas dinner pie cater for the main meal?! Great point - well made. Well done me!

So...what does the Christmas pie taste like?! Well, as you can see from the picture the stuffing lid adds a crisp layer to the top of the pie, jam-packed with meat and veg inside. While we would ideally have liked the lid of the pie to be made of pastry too, the problem with a Christmas roast dinner is that it is way too much to fit in one pie! This is the only real downside, along with the surprise inclusion of chicken – rather than the more normal Christmas favouring of Turkey – that makes up the meat content of the pie. However this aside, the pie tastes fantastic! It’s what you’d expect from the pie experts. How they pack in such meaty goodness is beyond me! The flavours work well with the pastry and the price is very reasonable. And you can now even go upmarket and have your pie on a plate – how fancy is that?!

So while others may be delving into their standard Roast Turkey Christmas dinner, why not consider a Christmas Dinner pie next year! Guaranteed to please! (And for the vegetarians out there, there is also a seasonal veggie pie alternative. And I've not even mentioned the Mince Pies! These Urban Pie-ers have got Christmas covered!)

Urban Pie Christmas Chicken Pie
Score: 6/7


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

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Saturday 24 December 2011

Reindeer Pie: Rudolf with your nose so bright, won’t you be in my pie tonight?!

Reindeer Pie from Ye Olde Traditional Pye 'n' Puddin Stall

I realise the timing of this post – on Christmas Eve of all days – is slightly on the controversial side. Here’s just hoping that there are clear skies tonight, so that Rudolph’s red nose isn’t required for directing Santa’s sleigh... and that Father Christmas forgives me enough to still provide me with at least a few presents...

For a few days ago, I found to my surprise (and couldn’t resist purchasing) a Reindeer Pie from a farmers market in Birmingham! Now, as you can see from the photo this is definitely a pie of the “pork pie” variety i.e. it has been made using cured meat rather than tender meaty chunks and gravy. While this was not ideally what the Pierateer would have preferred, the lure of the Reindeer pie was too strong and he was right to give it a go, as while the meat was not as tender and moist as he would have liked, the pastry was very nice and crisp and the meat certainly had a twist to it. Definately tasted more deer like but quite rich. Not your average steak and ale!

Reindeer Pie
Reindeer Pie

The capacity was good, however you couldn’t help feel it was slightly padded out with fat, rather than 100% meaty goodness. This meant that while the meat wasn’t chewy, it wasn’t as flavoursome as the reviewer had hoped. However, the pie was in good condition, especially as one would presume the reindeer had flown in to the UK especially to be in this pie! While the price was a bit off putting for its size, the intrigue more than made up for that! While I would have preferred a moister pie centre and proper chunks of meat, it was certainly worth a go. Probably won’t head over to Lapland for another one anytime soon though!

Ye Olde Traditional Pye 'n' Puddin Stall Reindeer Pie
Score: 4.2/7

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

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Saturday 12 November 2011

3.14 pie

For all the pie loving geeks out there. (Apologies for the anatomically incorrect pie.)
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Sunday 30 October 2011

How much pie could a pie chucker chuck....

....if a pie chucker could chuck pies?

Check out this game on the Porters Restaurant website. It is quite simply an amazing opportunity to throw pies at France. Not to be missed! I managed 1328 miles.

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Friday 28 October 2011

You call that a pie? This is a pie. Jumbucks Pie review

Jumbucks - The Kiwi Pie Review

Yet again the Pierateers have gone 'down under', but by no means have lowered their standards, by visiting the Aussie pie makers, Jumbuck's, in Shepherds Bush. Jumbuck's are always worth another visit because they have so many unusual pie flavours to try and with new ones arriving regularly even the Pierateers struggle to keep up. This time I went for a pie called, somewhat controversially for an Aussie pie shop, 'The Kiwi' which was mince and cheese. To me this is emblematic of how the power of pies can really influence people. Here we have two countries, more often caught in rivalry, uniting in spirit to bring a bit of joy encased in pastry to West London. Jumbuck's make their pies in what they call 'Jaffle Irons', which means the pie is encased in a metal mould while being cooked and hence the pastry can't expand so much and is more gooey. This is rather like the pie maker previously reviewed. An upshot of this seems to be that they can get more filling into the pie without risk of it exploding, hence a great capacity. This seems like a good thing although my main bone with it is that the filling taking up this capacity is mostly liquid. Admittedly the gravy was delicious and thick but I felt like I was pretty much drinking this pie rather than eating it. Seriously I bet you could suck it up through a straw and just leave a hollow pastry case. In fact that sounds like a challenge for the Pierateers! Given that the pastry is also gooey, mastication is barely necessary for this pie giving my teeth a well needed break and making it high scoring on the Chewiness-o-meter.

At £2.50 this was slightly pricey for what is essentially a quite small pie. However, for me if I had more of this pie I think the cheesy flavour would have become too much although I enjoyed it in the quantities I had. This pie seemed to have some benefits over the 'Bushranger Deluxe' previously reviewed in that the content wasn't taken up by excessive quantities of mash potato. Jumbuck's have a knack of producing their consistently fab pastry and the condition seems to be great at any time of day. They are open until 1am on Friday and Saturday which gives them a massive plus in my book. As they are open at 7:30am during the week the deliciously unique 'Bacon and Egg' breakfast pie is also well worth a look.

The Kiwi - Meat & Cheese (Jumbucks)

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Sunday 16 October 2011

Killing two birds(eye pies) with one stone

Birdseye Pie Review

So when it came to the crunch and there were two Birdseye pies to choose from in the freezer compartment of the local convenience store, there was only one choice for this pierateer – I was going to have to choose them both and give them a thorough taste test! So with a chicken pie in one hand and a steak and kidney pie in the other, I set back to my friend’s house to heat them up and give them a go. They weren’t the largest pies in Britain, so it was well worth eating them both, although this did ramp up the price a bit and place question marks over the cheapness of the pie.

So onto the eating... As you can see from the picture, they aren’t easy to tell apart from the outside! However the Chicken pie had a lighter, chicken gravy with nice big chunks of chicken and the Steak and kidney pie – rather surprisingly – had a darker, beef gravy with chunks of steak and kidney. (Yes, you do have to have a degree in Rocket Science to do these pie reviews.) The short crust pastry on the pies became a lovely golden colour but was a little dry, so it was good to have a nice gravy filling in both. There was a little bit of carrot filler in the chicken pie but the steak and kidney pie was just meat and gravy. Still, the fillings in both were very nice and the major selling point of the pies. While they are obviously mass produced pies, this does mean they are readily available in many local convenience stores and most bigger stores as well, and the main criticism was the smallness of the pie itself, which is why I’d recommend it is always best to kill two birds(eye pies) with one stone (or at least eat two pies rather than just the one!)

Score: 4.95/7
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Wednesday 12 October 2011

Not sure about Crawshaw? Have a butchers at this then...

After pie loving friends “The Senei” had very kindly brought a John Crawshaw Butcher’s pie all the way back from Sheffield, it didn’t take me long to stick the pie in the oven and have a butchers at it. One of your standard steak pies, the pastry turned a lovely golden colour upon heating up and I was looking forward to a highly recommended pie. And the fact it was straight from the handmade producer, rather than having been caught up in a mass-produced supermarket chain production, only added to the sense of anticipation as I delved in. Would it be worth the mileage to go back and have a butchers at another flavour? Would the pie be a cut above the rest?

Well firstly, there is no doubting the meatylicious content of this pie – it is full to the brim with very nice meaty chunks. Top quality meat comes as no surprise straight from a butcher. The main downside of this pie is that the pastry was a bit dry and there was not really any gravy – certainly no liquid gravy oozing from the pie as you ate it. This may in part be due to heating a pie straight from the butchers stand, but it is a significant downside to the pie as a whole. While I had the facilities to make some additional gravy to go with the pie as I was at home while eating, this is not an ideal situation to find yourself in. It certainly reduces the ‘grab and go’ appeal of this pie. It was however good to know that I wasn’t lining a large supermarket chain’s pocket with the pie purchase (even if, technically speaking, that’s because I didn’t buy the pie in the first place...but good to know the Senei were ‘going local’ in their purchase). For the butcher’s meaty goodness, it gets a good score.

Score = 5.1/7 (RAS)
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Sunday 9 October 2011

These are not pies.

Don't be fooled. What's the definition of a pie? Not this:

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Friday 7 October 2011

I scream, you scream, pie-ce cream?

Cadwalader's Ice Cream Cafe Steak Pie Review

Now before you get over excited by the title I am sorry to say that I haven't made an ice cream pie... although now I think of it that would be an excellent idea for a future pierateer adventure.... This review is actually about a pie I purchased from Cadwalader's Ice Cream Cafe in Criccieth, North Wales. Even without the pies on sale this is a lovely place, perched half way up the hill towards the castle in this picturesque coastal town. They sell the best ice creams which have been made in this location since 1927 to a secret recipe, famously made with 6lbs of "shan't tell you".

But enough with this twaddle about calories that aren't encased in pastry, I hear you cry! Don't take up our time talking about where you went on holiday. What is this, a documented suicidal canter towards pie related heart disease disguised as a pie blog or another tedious travel guide telling us about how everything is so fantastic everywhere that your not? Next we will be telling you the only way to get to Ulaanbaator is by pogo stick and the fermented yak's milk you have when you get there tastes so much better if you stick the straw up your nose.

Anyway, I have digressed far too much, so I will compensate by cutting right to the chase. This is a fantastic pie, especially for the price which came in at something like £1.50. The pastry was solid which made it especially portable. Handy to handle if you want to take it down to the nearby beach. This didn't detract from the taste, which was as golden delicious as it looked. The meat was tender and the gravy had a viscosity nigh on perfection. Cadwalader's pride themselves in making their own products and using local ingredients wherever possible and it shows. Fantastic, I just need them to open up a cafe nearer to home now.

Cadwalader's Ice Cream Cafe Steak Pie
Score: 6.11/7

Pierate is a pie review website charting a course to find the ultimate pie. For all the pies we have reviewed have a look at our Pie Rankings or find pies of a particular flavour under Pies: Categorised.

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Tuesday 30 August 2011

Pie-oneering pie reviews

Tesco Finest Chicken, Leek and Bacon Pie Review

We have here a first for Pierate - a video review of Tesco Finest Chicken, Leek and Bacon Pies which can be found in the frozen aisle of your local Tesco.

Apologies that our reviewers were confused over both the cost of the pie and the actual flavour, it had been a long day of pie reviewing.

Tesco Finest Chicken, Leek and Bacon Pie Review
Score: 5.56/7


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

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Sunday 17 July 2011

Eel-ly good pie

L. Manze - London Pie & Mash Shop Review

Eel and Pie Houses have been providing traditional London pies since the 19th century and although less of the historic shops can be found today the Pierateers certainly weren't about to let this noble tradition pass them by. The L. Manze shop on Walthamstow High Street came highly regarded as one of the oldest having been established in 1928. The Manze family are a famous name within the Eel and Pie world having 3 different members of the family still with shops bearing their names today.

See our article on traditional Pie & Mash Shops to understand more about the history of these quaint old establishments

It is so unexpected to see such a lovely old fashioned eatery stuck inbetween the pound shops of Walthamstow. Upon entering it is like stepping back in time. There is a lovely marble and tile interior with narrow wooden booths. It is good to see a healthy stack of empty pie dishes on the counter and also a sign saying they had sold out of eels that day, clearly business is good. Although saddened that I couldn't grab myself some jellied eel that is a story for another day as of course I had my eyes on the pies.
I grab myself a mince pie and settle down in a booth. I'm not sure I have ever sat in such an uncomfortable seat, they were so very narrow it seems hard to imagine they were designed for real people. Fortunately for Manze's 'comfortable' is not one of the 7 Cs and this will not affect their rating.

But the real question is, do these pies provide anything special? While the offer of jellied eel is special, are their pies any different from the local chippy? The answer is most emphatically yes. The pies are served with mash potato and a thick parsley sauce which they call 'liquor' and is allegedly made using eel stock. I loved the liquor and appreciated the uniqueness of the marine flavouring. The pastry itself had a crunchiness around the edges and a crispness in the middle which turned gooey and flaky in the centre. They must use pastry and cooking techniques that I haven't come across before because it really was different. However this worked in it's favour because it isn't often that a Pierateer finds something unique and I loved it. The meat seemed to be consistently good quality with plenty of gravy. Overall I think every pie lover should take the opportunity to try one of these pies if they visit London. If not you can also order online from M. Manze, a separate shop originating from the same Manze family who sell similar pies.

On the way out of this historic establishment I noticed they had put saw dust on the floor. This doesn't happen in my local McDonald's or any other eatery I frequent so I questioned the motivation behind it. They said it was done as tradition and it soaked up spills. This really summed up the experience for me, unashamedly traditional. Please find a pie and mash shop near you and keep this original 'fast food' alive.

Traditional Minced Beef (L. Manze)

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Friday 15 July 2011

What's the matter[dor]? Pieminister Review Matador Pie

Pieminister Pie Review - Matador

pieminister matador pie review

I find myself yet again reviewing a Pieminister delight. They have a fascinating range of interesting pies - each one is so different that you just have to review them all. Today's review is on the Matador pie - which contains the distinctive combination of beef and chorizo amongst other ingredients. After baking in the oven for the appropriate amount of time, the classic pieminister pastry is crunchy and browned. Opening the pie up, you can really appreciate the pie's density and premium content. This isn't a light pie for a summer's day - this is a manly solid pie for the British weather. On eating, I note the delicious exotic taste of the chorizo and savour the moment as the smooth gravy oozes inbetween the soft melting fibres of the steak.

pieminister matador pie reviewpieminister matador pie review

This pie is original and taste excellent. A little on the expensive side, but you get what you pay for.

Pieminister Matador Pie - Steak, Chorizo, Olives, Butter Beans and Sherry Pie
Score: 6.03/7

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Pie excitement on the Apprentice

You may well have watched the latest episode of The Apprentice. Here at Pierate we were thrilled to see that two of the contestants, Tom and Helen, decided to set up at British-themed (Christopher Columbus??) pie shop as part of the Fast Food Challenge. Naturally, they won...

Available on BBC iPlayer for UK viewers.
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Wednesday 6 July 2011

A bonza pie on my Walkabout Birmingham

Walkabout Pie Review

So I was casually walking about Birmingham with a friend, looking for a good place to stop and have a pie (and ideally watch the football on TV too), when we stumbled upon an Aussie eatery which is taking the UK High Street by storm. The warm, Aussie welcome you get entering Walkabout Pubs is great to see, and noticing kangaroo burgers and springbok on the menu adds a spice of originality to the establishment... but the real question we need to ask is: Do they serve up a bonza pie? (that’s an excellent, attractive, pleasing pie to us British folk)

As you can see from the photos, this food screams out “pie!” as it is clearly a pastry base with a separate pastry lid stuck on top. No denying that! Onto the taste, and the pie pastry was golden and crispy, the steak (as sadly they didn’t have a kangaroo pie) was very nice too. The gravy seemed to have an Aussie twang to it and the mushy peas side order was quite unique, but all in all this was a very nice pie that I would happily have again. Shows that you can still get top quality pies, even from the other side of the world!*

Score: 4.6/7

*Okay, so admittedly this pie is unlikely to have been flown over having been made on Aussie shores, but the recipe was probably created by Sheila or someone (you know, Sheila – Sheila from Australia...)
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Friday 10 June 2011

British Pie Awards 2011

In a surprise result the Supreme Champion award at the British Pie Awards has been won by..... Morecambe FC!

That's right! They entered the Football Pie category and not content with winning that they also stole away with the Supreme Champion Award for their Chicken, Ham and Leek.

The complete list of winners was:

Class 1: Melton Mowbray Pork Pie - Mrs Kings Pies in Nottingham
Class 2: Pork Pie - Walkers Charnwood Bakery in Leicester
Class 3: Steak and Kidney Pie - Turners Catering Pies in Bognor Regis
Class 4: Savoury Pie - Hot - Leonardo's Delicatessen Ltd in Ruthin, Denbighshire
Class 5: Savoury Pie - Cold - Chunk of Devon in Ottery St Mary
Class 6: Fish Pie - The Great North Pie Company in Stockport
Class 7: Vegetarian Pie - The Great North Pie Company in Stockport
Class 8: Cornish Pasty - Crantock Bakery in Newquay
Class 9: Other Pasty - Proper Cornish Ltd in Bodmin, Cornwall
Class 10 British Apple Pie - Bouvie Lodge Quality Foods in Nether Broughton
Class 11: Other Dessert Pie - Kensey Foods in Launceston, Cornwall
Class 12: Football Pie - Morecambe Football Club in Lancashire

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Monday 23 May 2011

Another homemade pie?! This feta be good...

Here at the Pierate Ship we've recently gone a bit bonkers on making our own pies. I suppose it would be quite hypocritical of us to be reviewing pies all the time when we don't actually know how to make them ourselves. So, inspired by Sainsbury's' filo pastry pie that was recently reviewed on Pierate, I set to work making my own Spinach and Feta Filo Pastry Pie, using a Jamie Oliver recipe. After a rather expensive shopping trip (about 6 times the cost of buying a ready-made pie, but the pie is quite large and not full of weird additives), I gathered all my ingredients.

The eggs, feta cheese, spinach and other ingredients are mixed together in a separate pan. The filo pastry is laid out in layers, and then laid over the top of a frying pan. The cheesy spinach mixture is then poured over the top of the pastry so it sits neatly in the pan, and the pastry that flops over the edge is folded on top to make the top crust of the pie. This then sits in the oven in the frying pan. Be sure not to absent-mindedly pick the frying pan up by the handle after you've taken it out of the oven - I soon discovered that this causes quite a lot of pain and the need to keep your hand under cool water for much of the remaining afternoon.

The finished product. Note that the filo pastry encases the whole of the pie - making this not just a top crust pie! I'm quite pleased with it, and I think it actually tastes pretty good if I can say so myself. My guest who I cooked it for seemed to be fairly impressed with my effort, especially when I could show off my raw and blistered hand. Highly recommended.

(No score due to obvious conflict of interest)
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Thursday 19 May 2011

Rice rice baby.

Here at Pierate we're not know to stick to the conventional. We try anything, egg and bacon pie, lentil pie, polabe pie and popcorn pie to name but a few of the myriad of largely digestible products enclosed in the familiar golden pastry. So when we decided to host a gathering at our flat in the name of Eurovision I decided to push the boat out and go for a new creation, Risotto Pie. Yes, a pie with rice in, unusual but it seemed appropriate as a blend of European cultures.

Here is what you'll need to make a fairly large vegetable and rice pie.

250g spinach, 1 red pepper, 3 courgettes, 1 onion, 100g risotto rice, 100g Parmesan cheese, 3 beaten eggs, salt and pepper

Its really easy to make, just cook the spinach in a tiny bit of water until it's wilted, then cut it up. Then chop and mix all the other ingredients together, and encase it in pastry in the familiar fashion. Its especially easy if you get shop bought pasty but make sure it is fairly thin. I recommend the traditional shortcrust base and sides with a puff pastry lid. Cook for about 40 minutes

Et voilĂ ! The rice loves it's new found pastry home, melting into a creamy filling. I cannot really speculate as to how good everyone else found the pie but I would hope it didn't receive nul points. The only reason I felt sick was the lack of talent on display and the inexplicable choice of winner, Azerbaijan? Their song was certainly more cheesy than this pie!

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Wednesday 18 May 2011

Wake up and smell the bacon

Jumbucks Pie Review - Bacon and Egg

We don't want to be counting our eggs before they've hatched but we think we've found a real friend with Jumbucks here. We gave Jumbucks a favourable review once before (a few days off exactly a year ago) and so were hungry to give them a retrial and see if they're still as good.

Since it's morning, I felt it was appropriate to try their Bacon and Egg pie. It certainly seems like a suitably wacky combination for an innovative pie shop like Jumbucks - let's hope it gives me the kickstart I need to the day.

Again, in the spirit of Jumbucks, I take my pie on a walk around Shepherds Bush, and actually partially down the escalator in the tube station. This truly is a pie on the go.

But what about the pie itself? Well, the description doesn't lie - it is bacon and egg all right. I wasn't too convinced it was going to be a great combination in a pie when I bought it - and on tasting it, I'm still a bit unsure. It looks a little congealed and weird, in my opinion. Eggy pie ain't really my cup of tea, I don't think - but it's not unpleasant and the fact that I can have a pie for breakfast does have to be celebrated.

This is a tricky one to score. It's so abnormal that it's hard to compare to other pies. I think, based on good density of novelty content throughout the whole portable-pastry cavity versus its weird pale egginess, I will give it a:

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Tuesday 17 May 2011

Pound for a pound (and quite a few extra pence, actually)

When you get told the weight of your pie when you read the menu, you can just tell they’re going for a big one. And boy, this was a big one! A big, solid square of pastry, filled with some very nice steak pieces and certainly ticking the “does it fill my stomach?” box with pastry to spare. In that sense, Sack of Potatoes Pub near Aston University campus did very well. For while this pie was good and you certainly got what you asked for in ordering a meaty 1lb pie, it certainly didn’t leave any room for thinking “hmm, so I wonder if there’s a sweet pie on the menu for desert?” (Perhaps that’s not a bad thing?!)

Still, let’s get onto reviewing the actual pie, not just the massive great size of it! One immediate drawback as you can see from the photo is that this pie was doused with gravy for you, rather than giving you the option to carefully spread the gravy out where necessary by provision of a gravy boat. The pie did therefore come out a big soggy in patches, although the thick pastry certainly needed a bit of extra gravy at times to help it go down (it was a bit stodgy, but maybe you have to expect that for a 1lb pie?!) The wideness of the pie and lack of depth did mean the meaty chunks were crammed in a bit, but ensured a good capacity of pie. The gravy was good, if a bit excessive, and the meat was of a good quality and quantity (as you’d expect from a pie that weighs 1lb!) The pie was reasonably expensive, but as you were getting a big pie, it had to be trialled.

Overall, it was a good big pie. There’s no need to give anyone the Sack after eating this pie, however you may want to hold back slightly on the Potatoes if you are going to finish off your whole 1lb pie.

Score: 4.2/7
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Sunday 15 May 2011

What would the proverbial pie taste like?

So I was doing a bit of paremiology earlier (that’s the study of proverbs to you and me), having just eaten a Steak and Ale Pie at The Proverbial in Harborne. No, really, I had. I hadn’t proverbially eaten a proverbial pie...I actually did eat it. Honestly, let’s not cry over spilt milk – I did eat the pie. How could I not of, for I can’t comment on a pie I haven’t eaten. Just like people who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones (who lives in glass houses, I do not know...but I digress), a pierateer must seek and eat new pies to rate, not make reviews up!

Anyways...having ordered my British Steak and Batemans Ale Shortcrust Pie, with British steak and mushrooms and served with the classic curly fries and peas, the first thing to notice after cutting into the beautifully crafted rectangular pie case was that there was not, in fact, any mushroom in it! Alas, while feeling a bit cheated out of the content, the important thing was that the steak was very nice indeed and the ale-y gravy complimented the pie very well. While the crust was quite thick and solid, perhaps slightly too stodgy for top marks, the pie did come served in tip-top condition and the gravy boat on the side for adding your own extra gravy was a welcome addition. The pastry was golden, the content was delicious (bar the lack of mushroom) and not at all chewy, and the capacity was pretty spot on too. While not the cheapest meal on the menu, it certainly stood out as a decent pie.

Some people say that ignorance is bliss, but I wouldn’t want you to be ignorant about the pie on offer at this Smith & Jones pub in Birmingham. So while you can lead a horse to water but can’t make him drink it, you can certainly take a pie lover to The Proverbial and encourage him to eat pie. A warmly recommended meal with the lads - I enjoyed it.

Score: 4.5/7

(A special thank you to Wikipedia for providing such a random collection of proverbs to try and get into this blog post!)
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Tuesday 3 May 2011

I ate a pie, a very big pie, from the Coun-try (Market in Sheffield)

With such a strong recommendation from a friend, I eagerly anticipated the arrival of Mr Senei and the Sheffield Country Market Pie he had picked up for me the previous weekend. It did look very nice from the outside and I quickly put it in my oven to heat it up for my evening meal. I hadn’t previously had a steak and mushroom pie before, so I was anticipating the flavour (which I had only previously encountered in a casserole). What would the Sheffield Country Market pastry add? Would I need to start regularly ordering my pies from Sheffield? Could it live up to the expectations?

Well, the short answer to that is unfortunately “no”. But why, I hear you cry? Well, as sad as it is to say, I unfortunately was left hanging on the pastry front when I came to crack the pie out of its silver foil casing. For what I did not expect, and unfortunately found, was that the silver foil was in fact the base and side of the pie, and not pastry! Having managed to take the lid off the pie, which was quite firmly stuck to the foil on the top (hence the poor, broken condition of the lid in the photo), I was shocked to find no base or side pastry and thus had to scrape the contents of the pie from the foil casing. This was not only time consuming but also meant some of the content was left stuck on the foil, rather than in my stomach. Not ideal! So after that absolute shocker, how did the pie taste?

Well, rest assured pie fans, the Sheffield Country Market did claw back some pride by producing a very fine tasting top-crust pie. The steak was very succulent, the gravy (while slightly lacking in quantity) was very nice and the mushrooms added a distinctive taste even if it was perhaps slightly too mushroomy for my personal preference. The lid, although it did fall apart during removal from the foil tray, was both crisp and tasty. It therefore was quite a top quality pie content, once the lack of proper pastry casing had been factored in.

Upon discussing my disappointment with regards to the pastry situation, I was assured by the purchaser that another pie bought from the Sheffield Country Market at the same time did in fact have a full pie casing (lid, sides and base), which makes me wonder if I was accidentally given a “dud”. However, I can only review what I am given. As such, I can only recommend this pie as a very good top-crust pie and not wholeheartedly commend this as a great pie.

Score: 4.9/7
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Monday 2 May 2011

What-a Waterside Restaurant in Hunstanton

At the end of a long roadtrip, which has ended in the lovely seaside town of Hunstanton in Norfolk, you’re certainly up for a refreshing drink by the sea front and ideally a good pie too. Which is exactly what this roadtripper was looking for, having spent the majority of the last 10 hours sat in the car navigating (quite successfully I must add) the car to its final destination. And so it came as a great reward to find The Waterside Bar and Restaurant literally just a stone’s throw away from the beach and with a great view of the sun setting out to sea on the horizon.

So with such a great setting and a successful roadtrip in the bag, would we sea a great pie rustled up? Would we net a great catch? Or would the pie be sandalous in its quality?

The first thing to notice was that this pie was served in a ceramic dish, which immediately confirmed my worst fears that this was unfortunately a pastry base & pastry side-less pie. There was only pastry on the top of the pie and it wasn’t exactly firmly attached onto the pie dish (in fact, it could be picked up and removed without any effort, indicating that this could have been cooked separately to the meat and added as an afterthought. It was however placed on the top of the meat dish, so it looked reasonably like a pie by the time I was about to eat it. So having confirmed it was a top-crust only pie, on with the reviewing.

The actual lid itself was certainly a different taste to what I would normally come to expect from a savoury pie. It was a lot doughier than most other pies I have eaten, and while it took a little getting used to, by the end of the meal it had all been consumed and was enjoyable. However the meat was absolutely delicious, with literally no gristle and it was very filling. The steak pieces were very succulent and were complimented immensely by the gravy provided. Interestingly this pie did not really have any gravy within the pie dish upon arrival, but being provided with the gravy jug you were able to add as much or as little gravy as you wished. I for one thought this was a great idea and would certainly recommend other eating establishments consider providing this gravy service to their pies too. The chips and peas were also very nice, meaning I was left with the impression that despite the lack of side and bottom pastry, this was actually one of the nicest pies I had eaten in terms of a pure taste test. I would certainly recommend roadtripping to The Waterside Bar and Restaurant to anyone in (or even nowhere near) the Norfolk area.

Score: 5.1/7

Note: Having just logged onto the website for The Waterside Bar and Restaurant I just have to applaude the fact that on the homepage it mentions just one food item from it's menu: "Have you tried our steak pie?" Yes! Yes I have actually, and I've put a review up on my blog and it was a very nice pie! This place just gets better and better!
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Saturday 30 April 2011

Land of Hoop and Glory?

Having stopped off at South End, High Street, Bassingbourn (Cambridgeshire) on a cheeky pit stop to Norwich, our pie needs were met by The Hoops Pub in Bassingbourn. Union flag bunting lined the thatched roof on the way into the pub, towards their friendly staff who kindly clarified what a “Polabe Pie” was. For this Royal Wedding Bank Holiday weekend there was not only the union of Prince William and Kate, but in our pie we had the union of Pork, Lamb and Beef chunks [hence the Po(rk)La(mb)Be(ef) name]. The main disappointment was the lack of side and base pastry (for this was in effect a meat stew served in a little dish with a pastry lid on top). And a side disappointment for one of our reviewers was the lack of poultry/chicken in the pie, which had to be clarified as not actually being on the contents and therefore was never going to be in his pie! So how would the top crust only pie fair with our reviewers? Would it be unbullevable? Could ewe rate it highly? Or were the pub telling porkies when they label this as a pie?

So on with the feedback: Reviewer 1 was quite disappointed at the lack of a pure pie, with the lack of side and base pastry leaving a gap. But the unique flavour of pork, lamb and beef made up for this in some respects. He’d never had a pie with such a meatilicious content, though the quantity did not make up for the slight lack of quality in the meat, with the gristle leaving him chewing the fat over whether this was a good pie or not. (4.1 / 7)

Reviewer 2 though that the meal was very nice, having a nice range of meat (even if it was a bit gristly in places) and a very nice pastry lid. However the lack of a side and base left him wishing for more pastry, to compliment the very nice gravy, meat and chips. While not officially being a proper pie, he’d give it 4.3/7

In addition to this, our third reviewer had a Steak and Ale pie from the same establishment, commenting that he really wanted to enjoy this pie and it did look impressive as it was laid down in front of him, but he soon realised that it was another top-crust pie and similar to ones he has eaten before. Putting this aside for a minute, the majority of the content was gravy but the morsels of steak were very nice. He’d have liked there to more than just meat and gravy in his pie. He’d give it a score of 4.35/7.
All in all, it was glorious to stop off and eat some pie but the lack of pastry left us Hoop-ing for more.

Score for Polabe Pie: 4.2/7
Score for Steak and Ale Pie: 4.35/7
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Friday 22 April 2011

Do too many Cooks spoil the pie?

It’s the age old saying...if you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen. No, wait. Too many cooks spoil the broth. Yeah, that’s the one. Though seeing as I’m not an eater of broth, I thought I’d see whether the saying applied to pies too. And what better way to test this out than to visit Cooks of Pwllheli in North Wales. Cooks takeaway are a local firm, looking to corner the niche market of luxury pie production in takeaway form, located in the far north-west corner of Wales. The standard of their fish, chips and – most importantly – pies immediately caught my eye. So the question was, would Cooks spoil the pie? Or would I have got a real catch?

So the first thing to notice with this pie is that the pastry on this pie is flaky and delightful almost to the extreme! There is almost too much flaky goodness as you cut through the pie, making you wonder if they actually remembered to put the content of the pie in there at all! But rest assured, when I dug down through the pastry lid to the content, what I found were lovely, tender pieces of Steak and a not too much Kidney to compliment the pastry and rest of the pie perfectly. As a side point, the chips there are very nice too, and you can clearly see the chunks of steak and gravy oozing out of this pie (always a good sign). I would certainly commend the cook at Cooks for their fine effort in producing a great, if slightly pricey, takeaway pie. I certainly wouldn’t be able to have too many Cooks pies, that’s for sure! And a great way to end the New Word Alive conference too!

Score: 5.2/7
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Are you Haven a laugh?!

I’m gonna cut to the chase here. I don’t like writing pie reviews for pies which have not ticked all the boxes on satisfying the pallet. And while I understand that I perhaps have a slightly higher expectation of pies than the typical punter, I was quite disappointed with the Meat and Potato pie served up at a Haven Holiday site I visited in Pwllheli recently. The staff are very nice, the general standard of food is good for a busy mass-produced restaurant, but sadly there does not appear to have been enough time and effort put into the pies on the menu.

Firstly, I’m always hesitant when the menu says “meat pie”, as I’m unsure what kind of pie producer would be so uncertain of its contents that they could not specify the meat or meats present in said pie. However I am assured “meat” is a typical Northern labelling of pies, and I was in North Wales, so I went for it anyway. And while the content of the pie was edible, if not appealing on the eyes (see photo), the pastry really let the side down in quite a major way. The pastry was far too solid, making it difficult to cut and it was far too dry. Fortunately I had taken additional gravy, but as you can see there is no lovely runny gravy oozing out of the pie either. The meat was not obviously recognisable either.

While the pie was eaten in good company with my friends from the 3-5s kids work team, sadly the restaurant were Haven a laugh when they served up this pie. (Might need a dustpan and brush to clear up the remainder of this pie, hey Han?!)

Score: 3/7
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Tuesday 12 April 2011

And I'm "filo"ing good

Sainsbury's Taste The Difference Pie ReviewSainsbury's Taste The Difference Pie Review

Sainsbury's have really given us something to write home about recently, with their Pieminister commemoration pie and now their extraordinary Taste the Difference Roasted Butternut Squash and Feta Cheese with Filo Pastry Pie. It certainly looks the part with its filo pastry "crown", (full marks there) but is it actually any good?

Sainsbury's Taste The Difference Pie ReviewContinuing with the vegetable theme of the pie (and in view of the very sunny nature of the day), I opt for a large side salad with croutons rather than the standard chips. I have to admit, sometimes I eat pies just for the sake for reviewing them - and I'm not actually looking forward to eating it - but this is not the case with this pie. I am actually really looking forward to eating it, if it does taste as good as it looks! Let's see if I can taste the difference...

Being careful not to disturb the delicate filo pastry crown when I cut through it with the knife, I open up the pie to find a delightful combination of feta cheese, butternut squash and red onion. Since this is a vegetarian pie it is not possible to comment on chewiness of the meat, but the content is very pleasing to the eye and to the palate. It is perfect for the sunny weather, and I don't actually miss the meat as much as I thought I would. I love the filo pastry addition - something which I think is very underused. In future I'd like to see more creativity with the pastry in more pies (as long as it does not deviate from the rules of what makes a pie a pie). Great work. I am a big fan of this pie.

Sainsbury's Taste The Difference Roasted Butternut Squash and Feta Cheese with Filo Pastry Pie
Score: 6.03/7

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

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Saturday 9 April 2011

The perfect marriage of beef and brandy?

Pieminister Pie Review - Kate and Wills Beef and Brandy

If you've been so much as awake for the past few months you'll have heard of the Royal Wedding between Prince William and Kate Middleton. While we of course extend our congratulations to the happy couple, I've also become increasingly amused by some of the wonderfully wacky "commemorative" wedding souvenirs. And the wackiest I've come across so far is one that is the closest to my heart: a commemorative beef and brandy pie from Pieminister. Will it be any good?

Described as "British beef, wine, bacon, pearl onions, mushrooms and a dash of brandy in lovely pastry", this sounds like a premium quality pie. And at a princely sum of £3-4, I am expecting this to taste like a quality pie too!

After a bit of time in the oven, I crack open the crispy pastry to reveal the glistening brown contents. The quality is obvious as I take a bite of the beef - its melt-in-the-mouth tenderness is a real testament to the great reputation of the Pieminister brand. This pie is royally fit for a King. The pastry is indeed lovely, and the delicate notes of the wine and succulence of the beef is married perfectly with the kick of the brandy. Whatever your views on mushrooms (I am a disliker), you have to agree that they add further body to what is already a rich and original gastronomic experience.

I hope Buckingham Palace are to serve these on the wedding day - they should soon be adorned with the Royal seal of approval.

Pieminister Kate and Wills Beef and Brandy Pie - British beef, wine, bacon, pearl onions, mushrooms and a dash of brandy in lovely pastry
Score: 6.42/7

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Friday 1 April 2011

British Pie Week hits the National Indoor Arena!

What better way to celebrate British Pie Week than to enjoy not one, but two pies in a week from the National Indoor Arena, Birmingham? The clever staff at the NIA cafe clearly knew how to give a morale booster to all the volunteers who were hitting the Arena that week for what was a quality week of high class Badminton. For the Yonex All England Badminton Championship was in town from 7th-13th March 2011 and in order to keep happy the army of volunteers kindly giving up their week to help support the event, the NIA staff knew what pastry based meatylicious product to whack on the menu. The only disappointment was that the British players did not last long in the tournament, to back up the great British dinner on offer almost every day of the week! (I had to rub my eyes at sheer disbelief seeing pie after pie after pie on the menu all week – although sadly a few of these pies were potato covered “pies” of the cottage and fish variety, which we connoisseurs at would definitely not define as real pies.)

So once the pies were served up, did they taste smashing? Or was I left with only backhanded comments rather than feeling the pie had hit the back of the net? Would I need to drop shot these pies into the nearest bin or was I onto a real winner? Well I consumed a Steak pie on one evening and a Beef and Onion pie on another evening. And the good news is that they were both pretty reasonable pies. While I personally wouldn’t have recommended spending the £7.50 to have this level of pie, chips and veg at the NIA cafe – after all, this wasn’t the number one pie in the world – I was certainly happy enough to enjoy the whole pie in the comfort of having an £7.50 meal voucher to cover my food. The pie was covered in nice pastry and the fillings were good. Portion wise, the pie could have been a bit bigger and the base pastry a bit less soggy, but all in all the pie was very pleasant. If I was in the NIA again sometime, I certainly wouldn’t stop myself making a big racquet in requesting another NIA pie.

Score: 4.5/7
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