Wednesday 30 March 2011

Good things come to those who wait

Sainsbury's Classic Steak and Guinness Puff Pastry Pie Review

There’s nothing better after a long day at the office than being invited over for dinner at a friend’s house. No, wait, I lie. The only thing that’s better is being invited over for dinner at a friend’s house and being served Pie!* And after having to WAIT all week for the pie (having had a tip off earlier in the week that it would be pie we were having for dinner), good things certainly came to those who wait(ed).

So with baited breath, I waited for the Senei (that’s the affectionate term for the couple I was having dinner with) to bring out the pie which I had by this point found out would be laced with Guinness. For this was no standard “steak and ale” jobby – but was instead filled with the real stuff. Accept no imitations – this was Sainsbury’s Steak and Guinness pie. With genuine Guinness. But the real question was “would it taste like Guinness?”

The answer was a resounding “not really”. While this certainly didn’t let the side down – for the pie was very nice in fact – the Guinness certainly didn’t leap out at me. What did leap out at me though were the lovely tender chunks of steak and a nice rich gravy. While the pie was quite thin and compact, the content was strong. Certainly no air gaps in this pie! The top pastry lid was particularly nice and I would certainly recommend it to the pie loving community. Good work Sainos! What’s even better, of course, is that the pie was shared with great company (even if the slide show of America holiday photos did let the side down a little – computers eh?!)

p.s. please do excuse Mark's girly pink table cloth!

Sainsbury's Classic Steak and Guinness Puff Pastry Pie
Score: 4.9/7

*Okay, so admittedly there are plenty of things better than eating pie in the world, but for the sake of this blog, I’m going to stick with what I put. Makes it sound better that way!

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

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Put a Lid on it.

This is not just a pie... this is an M and S pie.... which roughly translates to "not a pie at all". So excited was I to purchase and subsequently eat this pie, I did not glance at the words on the front of the box "Flaky puff pastry topcrust pie..." I just saw PIE. In the oven it went, but upon looking at the cooking instructions, I was appalled to see "remove pastry lid and stir before serving." Just what sort of pie was this?

Fooled was I by the golden, crispy pastry on the top, and the melt-in-the-mouth steak chunks in oodles of thick, luscious gravy, just writing this review is making me salivate. This 'pie' had quite a good capacity (but that may only be because of the lack of pastry sides!) In terms of cost, one expects at M&S to pay that little bit extra for the finest quality, and this pierater wasn't disappointed by the quality of this pie. The content was only disappointing in its lack of pastry!

4/7 (would have received 6/7 if for not the lack of pastry sides)

continue reading "Put a Lid on it."

Friday 25 March 2011

A Quorny pie review.

Bad and pie are two words that just don't sound right together. It seems like a bit of an oxymoron, a contradiction in terms because pie is generally... well, good. Our regular readers will have noticed that there aren't a lot of pies scoring less than 50% of the available 7 points. The reason is it's as easy as pie to make a good pie. While pastry is hard to master it is difficult to make it taste awful, I know, I've given it my best shot. Gravy is great, everyone loves it, how can you make a simple mixture of fat, salt and water taste bad? Getting good meat in the filling is where a pie might often fall down but many pies do in fact have poor quality meat and don't fall into the dreaded 'bad pie' category.

I've gone for some pies without a meatylicious filling such as lentil pie and even the absence of meat hasn't made the pie taste bad. So when I saw a box of 4 Quorn deep filled mince and onion pies I thought I would take one for the team and give it a go. It is our duty to try as many pies as we can. Plus, I actually like Quorn mince.

Upon opening the box I realised that the pies were rather microscopic. They were about half the size of a 'regular' pie, see this one here next to an ordinary size lollypop. They were also an unusually white colour. I put two in the oven to make up for the size which was a terrible mistake. Taking them out after the standard 30 minutes the appearance did not seem to have improved. There was no lovely golden colour as shown by the box, with the top still looking quite pale and the bottom a bit grey and soggy. They completely fell apart when I tried to cut them, the box is such a lie!

But what about the eating? The pastry was gooey and crispy in completely the wrong proportions, in my view. The top was very flaky and seemed more like filo pastry that puff pastry. It tasted of nothing. I also found the bottom to be slimy and gross. The capacity was absolutely tiny but somehow they still weren't able to fill it with content. Deep filled????? Don't make me sick on my own scorn. The worst part was the gravy, to me it tasted like someone had washed up a gravy jug and recycled the water from the washing up bowl as the content for these pies. Perhaps surprisingly, the Quorn itself was the best part of the pie, fairly meaty considering it has no meat in it.

After a while this completely put me off my food, the rest of my dinner is still in the fridge. The main problem is there were four in the box, how do I get rid of them???

continue reading "A Quorny pie review."

Monday 21 March 2011

Make no Mistake, I Ate the Great Ultimate Steak Pie

ASDA Bistro Ultimate Steak Pie Review

Note: The score for this pie has been updated because another version of the same pie performed very badly. See the new review 'I Made a Mistake, I Ate the Great Ultimate Steak Pie'. The average score is now 4.23/7.

After seeing this badboy "Ultimate Steak Pie" advertised on the television, I felt it was my duty to take a detour on my way home. It was by no means my local supermarket, but I just had to visit ASDA to get my hands on what could potentially be the biggest overstatement of the year. How could a pie be the "ultimate" pie? Could it really be that good that all other manufacturers would raise their hands and say "No, you've got us there, we can't better that so were packing up and pawning all our assets"? I simply had to find out.

Taking this pie out of the box, it has a special feel already. If feels solid, weighty, dense. If the eating doesn't go so well I could use this as a paperweight or doorstop. I love the appearance, and how it's sprinkled with black pepper. This is high quality at its most obvious.

Pie in oven. Such a beautiful sight for any Pierateer, especially when it's an Ultimate Steak Pie!

Cracking open the pie, the quality chunks of steak are immediately apparent. There's a great steak:gravy ratio, and the content is a decent proportion of the intra-pastry cavity. It is a taste sensation - everything about this pie is fantastically excellent. The pastry is perfectly crunchy, and the meat melts in the mouth like it should do. Good job ASDA!!

ASDA Bistro Ultimate Steak Pie
Score: 6.49/7

Note: This pie has now been ranked as 4.23/7 due to a second rating of this pie that was extremely disappointing - see the video to see how bad this second rating of this pie was. I Made a Mistake, I Ate the Great Ultimate Steak Pie

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!
continue reading "Make no Mistake, I Ate the Great Ultimate Steak Pie"

Friday 18 March 2011

The 4 minute pie? Surely it's not possible!

If you've ever bought a Pukka Pie, you'll know it's essential not to compromise - and always oven cook your pie rather than microwave it! So imagine my surprise when I spot these frozen Pukka Pies that are specially made for the microwave. Also shocking is the crumbly shortcrust pastry - a shock departure from the puff pastry that adorns the standard Pukka Pie.

After 4 minutes in the microwave (700W), the pie is sitting nicely with some alphabet potato shapes. But my first doubts about the microwaveable pie arise - you would usually have a pie with chips which takes a good 14 minutes in the oven anyway! So unless you're having the pie on its own, you're not really saving any time. However, the potential rapid access to a pie makes the microwaveability a winner!

A look at the content. There are obvious chunks of chicken and the pie is filled to capacity. Excellent! Or "pukka", as Jamie Oliver might say!

I really enjoyed this pie. The meat was not chewy, and the pastry was tasty. As expected with a pie that is microwaved (especially from frozen), the pastry was a little soggy and lost out on the crunchy flakiness that you would achieve with an oven pie. But you have to balance the convenience with taste, and I would say that on balance the convenience did not act too considerably to the detriment of taste. Great work Pukka Pies! Now invent some new flavours :P

Score: 5.5/7

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Tuesday 15 March 2011

Homemade Pies FTW

Here at pierate, we not only want to inform you of the best pies you can buy in shops, we also want to share with you ideas to create your own master pie-ces, (like the Lentil Pie featured earlier). So today we have two pie recipes to share with our fellow pie lovers!

Pie On A Budget.
We've all been there. You have people coming around for dinner and it's not pay day until tomorrow. You know they're not expecting a slap up meal, but beans on toast is not an option either. You need to impress them. But lo! Feeding four on a budget really is as easy as pie.

Armed with a £4 Tesco club card voucher I headed into the supermarket and came out with: 59p 'just add water' pastry mix, 2 for £1 condensed soup tins (one chicken, one chicken with white wine), a 36p tin of sweetcorn, a bag of frozen chips (99p) and a £1 bag of frozen veg. "Wait!" I hear you cry! "Where is the meat?" Well, when I got home I defrosted a bag of roast chicken leftovers, the 'red' meat that goes well in things like casseroles. Well it also goes brilliantly in pie! I also chucked in a few finely chopped mushrooms that I had in the fridge and needed using up.

I made the pie and served in with the chips and veg. It went down a storm and I was commended on my chef skills and was begged for the recipe. So here it is pie fans! A fantastic pie on a fantastic budget!

Is It a Pie?

A huge question here at pierate is whether mash potato on top of a base counts as a pie (e.g. the traditional Shepard's Pie). The general opinion of pieraters is that these are not in fact pies. But this image of meat and gravy baked in the oven with mash on top (rather than pastry) is strong in the public's view of pies. Furthermore, here at pierate, we encourage experimentation. So here is a classic twist on the traditional Shepard's 'Pie'.

Here we have the chicken and bacon 'pie'. Diced chicken and bacon, fried with herbs, garlic and pepper then chucked in a pie dish with a cheese sauce and a tin of sweetcorn, then mash potato placed on top and baked until the mash is tinged brown. Now, not one to blow my own trumpet, this 'pie' was scrummy. But while it was baked in a pie dish and had a lid, it doesn't really count as a pie. Now if the whole thing were to be encased in pastry (including the mash)... That must be my next project.

continue reading "Homemade Pies FTW"

Sunday 13 March 2011


Hope you enjoyed Great British Pie Week!

Some of you may recall a post debating whether these Rhubarb and Custard pies were pies or lies, and the overallconclusion was that they were pies because of the lattice structure. However, it has since come to the attention of the Pierateers that they are neither pies or slices, and are actually "lattices", owing to their striking similarity to a pack of "lattices" discovered in a local supermarket.
continue reading "Lattices"

The Pie's the Limit

So as British Pie Week draws to a close I want to take time to reflect on what has been a wonderful festival of pastry and filling. What have I learnt from the week? Mainly that I can eat pie in quantities that surprise even me. It was like the rest of the year was the starter and British Pie Week the main course. Have a look at the photos of this top-crust vegetable pie that I made. Unfortunately I was so hungry I forgot to take a photo until I had eaten most of it, but you get the idea, vaguely. There were loads of different vegetables and I used a Covent Garden leek and potato soup as the base for the sauce which seemed to work well. I would say it was about family sized but I ate nearly the whole pie myself. Some of our regular readers might be surprised that I made a top crust pie. Previously I have come across as a fanatical pie purest who sounds like he is on the verge of advocating some sort of pie ethnic cleansing. I feel that maybe I am mellowing in my old age, I still wouldn't say this was a 'proper pie' (it didn't have meat, gravy or a pastry base) but it was tasty. Mainly though it was because I only had enough pastry for a lid so it was laziness more than anything.

Have a look at this other delightful looking specimen, it is a Raven's Den Chicken and Ham Pie. They are produced at Manor Farm in Buckinghamshire and sold at many farmers' markets around London. At about £5 they aren't the cheapest but they are pretty big, about twice the size of a standard individual pie. The meat is certainly of a consistently high quality and the capacity was packed with the content. The pastry colour looked as good as it tasted. The main downside to this pie was dryness. Take note Raven's Den, a good pie needs plenty of gravy! However this didn't stop me eating the first half with mash and veg and then going back and polishing off the second half. Overall I'd give it about 4.1/7.

So there you go, a fantastic week and a great reason to encourage more people to eat what can be part of a very balanced diet and healthy lifestyle. I leave you with some words taken from the Pie Week website. "A pie is not just a combination of tasty food and the best pastry, it is one of civilisation’s most cracking inventions created through a combination of genius and passion." 'Nuff said.

continue reading "The Pie's the Limit"

Wednesday 9 March 2011

It's the first day of Lent-il Pies

It may be the first day of Lent today but that certainly doesn't mean that I'm going to give up pies! Not least because, as we have already mentioned, it is British Pie Week when pies a plenty are eaten. I thought I really should put in the effort to make a pie of my own for this very special week.

We are an open minded lot here on the Pierate Ship. True, we make people walk the plank if they 'accidentally' eat a slice instead of a pie but when it comes to pies themselves we try anything. I needed a more vegetarian friendly option so I could share British Pie Week with my housemates and hence the idea of a Lentil Pie came to me. The filling was similar to a meat pie but instead of mince I used lentils. For a pie big enough for four people I used;

250g red lentils, 1 onion, 2 cloves of garlic, 1 carrot, a load of stock and salt/pepper/herbs

Unfortunately British Pie Week has become very commercialised in recent years. In fact it has been entirely commercial since forever. It is the creation of General Mills (one of the largest food companies in the world) to advertise their Jus-Rol pastry range. Hence, as a snub to them, I decided I would have a bash at making some pastry of my own. Just because I love pies does not mean that I am good at making pastry, this is for some reason a common misconception. I am terrible, the pastry was too dry so I put more water in and then it was too wet. Then I realised I had only made enough for the base so cheated with some shop bought puff pastry for the lid, this saved the pie I think! (It wasn't Jus-Rol so it's okay)

Here is a picture of the pie in its precooked condtion, note the use of a traditional blackbird shaped pie funnel. This really helps the pie to not deflate while cooking. Of course, to get a nice golden colour it is important to brush the pie in milk or preferably egg. However I normally find I don't want to waste a whole egg doing this. Today I was lucky enough to have broken an egg on my shopping trip so used the residue from the egg box to create the nice colours you can see in the cooked version. (pretty classy huh?)
Upon serving the pie my pastry base promptly disintegrated leaving a gloopy mess. Despite this I thought it was a decent meal alongside some mashed swede and peas (I know, I didn't use potato, but that's an article for another time).The filling had a good taste, although was a little too runny. I won't give it a score due to a lack of impartiality but I can certainly recommend the use of Lentils as an alternative to meat in a pie.

Have a great British Pie Week!

continue reading "It's the first day of Lent-il Pies"

British Pie Week: "Gotta pick a pukka or two..."

Yes guys, you read that right! 7th-13th March is British Pie Week! So let's hope you're all stuffing your faces with every pie you come into contact with! Check out this great website for all things pie!

The only thing it lacks is a few random pierateers to go round the country and blog on the pies they've eaten... oh, wait! That's us! :)

So the BIG question you may be asking is "if it's British Pie Week, then why aren't there loads of pie reviews going up this week!?!! Well, simples! It's cos we're too busy going out and eating pies for Britain! But don't fear, reviews will be coming up soon!

Enjoy your pies especially much this week! :)
continue reading "British Pie Week: "Gotta pick a pukka or two...""

Saturday 5 March 2011

Does the Half Moon Cafe deliver astronomical pies?

A quick lunch stop at the Half Moon Cafe, West London, and a selection of three pies are on the menu: chicken and mushroom; steak and kidney; and beef and onion. This beef and onion pie was tasty but unfortunately a little soggy, and the pastry had to be ripped as you cut it with the knife - sort of felt a little microwaved. While they were not astronomical, it was great to see pies on the menu.
continue reading "Does the Half Moon Cafe deliver astronomical pies?"

Thursday 3 March 2011

Frozen pie receives warm reception

Today I was thrilled to receive 70% of my daily saturated fat allowance in the form of a McDougalls Upper Crust 'Gastro Style' Steak and Peppered Sauce pie. This pie comes in a pack of 2, and was found in the frozen food section. At £2.42 for 2, this gives a price of £1.21 per pie - which I'm sure you'll agree is a decent price although not dramatically cheaper than its unfrozen counterparts (and cheaper frozen pies do exist). But don't forget: here at Pierate it's more than just cheapness that counts.

The colour is a gorgeous golden brown and really exemplifies the perfect pastry tone. The general condition is also excellent. The crustiness of the pastry is commendable and worth a special mention.

Here is a photograph to demonstrate the capacity and content of this pie. It's pleasing to see that the pie is filled nearly to the brim, although I had to dig around for something that wasn't just gravy. Perhaps the steak is a little sparse...

The pie sits nicely with a pack of lazy frozen veg. The consistency of the meat is very good, with a low chewiness score of 3.91 p/IE. I can taste the pepper in the sauce, which I like. It could just be the slightly unusual pepper taste, but there's something in there which tastes slightly chemically to me. I think you can tell it's not a fresh homemade pie.

I have to admit, I didn't expect much from this frozen pie offering. Perhaps it was my low expectations that lead me to have a pleasant 'Gastro Style' experience with this pie. Perhaps it was just a decent pie. But, even if it was a decent pie, that's all it was. Not a head turner. Not one I'll be raving about. A decent, standard pie. Sometimes, though, that can be the appeal of a pie. And there's nothing wrong with that.

Score: 5/7
continue reading "Frozen pie receives warm reception"