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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