Wednesday 31 July 2013

Count On Morissons For More Pies

Morrisons Pie Counter - Pie Reviews

It is surely the case that Morrisons are the supermarket of choice for the pie lover. It is always a delight to visit the pie counter where the pies are free and unboxed. I would say a normal supermarket is like going to a pie zoo. The pies are cooped up in boxes, people say they are happy but how can you know? More often than not you can't even see the pies themselves. Whereas Morrisons is like a pie safari. The beef and onion is free to terrorises the sausage rolls. The chicken curry proudly displays its golden pastry, glowing under the artificial lights. If you are lucky you might catch a glimpse of the king of the pie counter, the steak and ale, lording it over his fellow pastry products because he knows his line was the best selling last year, is best selling this year and will sell the best again next year. He is just an unstoppable force of nature and awe inspiring to behold.

I have recently moved house and the fact that I am now near a Morrisons is not quite the reason I moved here but it certainly adds a little extra joy to life. It is great to visit every week. Sometimes I don't even buy anything from the pie counter but just enjoy window shopping. The guy at the counter perhaps thinks I'm a bit weird as I stand salivating at the pies. My high expectations were perhaps the reason I was a bit disappointed recently. I chose a fantastic looking Steak, Mushroom & Bacon square pie which was puffed up proudly, promising a pie packed with content. However upon cutting it open, I was disappointed to find this was not the case. About half the pie seemed to be empty. This pie was a bit more expensive than most so I would expect better. However it was a fairly big pie so overall it wasn't such bad value. The filling tasted okay although the meat was a bit chewy. Thankfully the combination of short crust pastry side and puff pastry lid was to a very high standard. The shortcrust in particular held its shape well but at the same time managed to be lovely and gooey. So overall not a bad effort.

I decided to tweet about this pie to Morrisons, indicating that while it wasn't bad it was a bit disappointing. I was surprised that Morrisons took this so seriously, sending me vouchers to get another pie. It is commendable that they are listening to their customers so closely. If only all companies were so good! It was by no means a formal complaint, it just shows how seriously Morrisons take their pies.

So I tried again with a Chicken, Ham and Leek pie and two rather gourmet looking medium Pork Pies. I still had money left over from the £3 vouchers I was sent after buying these three indicating they were great value.

Firstly the Chicken, Ham and Leek pie. I almost fell off my pie reviewing stool when I got home and saw the pie had been labelled as a 'pasty'! It certainly was not a pasty having well defined sides, base and lid. They really need to be more careful with this very important distinction. It was very stressful for a moment when I thought I had bought a pasty by mistake!

Fortunately this was a pie and once I delved in this golden delight it was a return to form for Morrisons. There was a lovely thick sauce oozing out with actual proper chucks of meat. While the capacity of the pie was still big this time it was really packed with content. I felt like I was getting a great value pie experience. Again the pastry was great; Morrisons certainly know how to mix their flour and fat. This was almost the perfect pie, however it just needed a bit more of a full on flavour, a shame as it did everything else so well. However, for the price this was still one of the best value supermarket pies I have had.

The hand crimped pork pies were also rather special. These weren't like traditional pork pies. You can see from the photos that they had an ergonomic shape which meant they were rather satisfying to hold in the palm of the hand. I spent a while just admiring this pie not wanting to ruin its delicate edges. You might think that it seems like it has too much pastry given that pastry for a pork pie is often rather solid. However the pastry for this pork pie was quite soft and light and the extra pastry was a pleasure to eat. The meat was pink, unlike the grey of a melton mowbray pork pie, and it had a taste somewhat reminiscent of a sausage roll except it had a much more satisfying texture because it wasn't at all mushy. It also lacked the jelly of a traditional pork pie which made it seem much less fatty. Overall it was a lighter, flakier version of a pork pie, but because it still retained wonderful solidness it was perfect for a summer picnic.

So, after a slight disappointment Morrisons show their Northern Soul with two fantastic pies. It is great that we can still rely on the only supermarket with a pie counter. However, Morrison are not the only ones to have a pie counter. The Pierateers also have a pie 'counter' which has just ticked over 200 pies reviewed. We can count on more Morrisons pies to get us to 300.

Steak, Mushroom & Bacon (Morrisons Pie Counter)

Chicken, Ham & Leek (Morrisons Pie Counter)

Hand-Crimped Pork Pie (Morrisons Pie Counter)

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Sunday 21 July 2013

Grabbing a Sainsbury's pork pie for the journey home

Sainsbury's Medium Crusty Bake Pork Pie Review
You buy the pork pie...
sainsburys pork pie
 ...and then you unwrap the pork pie...
sainsburys pork pie
...and then you eat the pork pie.

sainsburys pork pie
But what's new?

Well let me draw your attention to the first image again. This is a new Sainsbury's "medium crusty bake pork pie". It's the nature of the pastry that is the main draw here. Note in the final image just how thick and crusty this pastry is, especially round the sides of the pie. Aside from apparently being incredibly calorific (the red wheel of death informs me that there are 561 calories in just half a pie), the meat isn't anything special and the jelly is rather absent. What sells it for me though is the thick crusty pastry.

Sainsbury's Medium Crusty Bake Pork Pie
Score: 4.54/7

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

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and let us know your thoughts!

continue reading "Grabbing a Sainsbury's pork pie for the journey home"

Monday 15 July 2013

Who will eat all the pies?

Who will eat all the pies? That is the question being asked as we prepare for the first ever Pierate Pie Contest in a couple of weeks time! The hall (with kitchen!) is booked and there are rumours in the air of people practising their pie recipes, as plans are being finalised for the Birmingham Pierate Pie Contest. Even the Pierateers themselves are making an entry, though they want to categorically confirm that they are more pie eaters than pie makers! Though to mix things up a bit, they are planning to make a “Beast from the East (side of Africa)” pie – make of that what you will!

And to whet people’s appetite even more, the exciting news is that Gary, who works for Paul’s Pies, will be there to share his fine, high scoring pies and help with the judging of this informal pie contest. We’re looking forward to tucking into some top pie, discussing the fine arts of pie making and reviewing and seeing what the people of Birmingham have to offer the pie world! Oh, and knowing us, we’ll have a bit of pun and games along the way!

Of course, photos and reaction will be making their way on to the @pierateers twitter feed and there will be feedback right here on the number one pie reviewing blog! Keep your pies peeled for that!

Pie Contest Flyers
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Sunday 7 July 2013

200 Pie Reviews – A Higgidy celebration

Pie Reviews from Higgidy

When you’re reaching a big landmark in pie reviewing, you need a pie that says “quality” all over it. And when that said quality pie is given to you for free, well... how can you resist?! For that was the proposition when Higgidy, the pie ***mutters under breath “and other pastry products”*** manufacturer contacted the Pierateers on twitter and offered to send them free pie vouchers to eat and rate their pies. Well, they had certainly come to the right place if they wanted their pies reviewed! And while it has been a little while since the vouchers were sent and the pies were found and eaten, we thought the 200th pie review deserved something a bit special. So here it is: the 200th, 201st and 202nd pies eaten and reviewed on surely the world’s leading pie reviewing blog:

Higgidy Slow Cooked Steak and Red Wine Pie
Higgidy Slow Cooked Steak and Red Wine Pie
Slow Cooked Steak & Red Wine Pie Review from Higgidy

After searching around a number of stores, Pierateer RAS found his Higgidy pie in Co-op Stirchley (Birmingham). The packaging was very attractive, with a number of intriguing features including how the pie was made and the background love story behind the Higgidy brand, and a cheeky see through plastic glimpse of the pie in question. It immediately appealed and I couldn’t wait to get it in the oven. What must be pointed out, which you can’t tell from the photo, is the intricacy of the design of the pie, from the perfect shape to the small pastry pimples on the base of the pie which slightly lift the base from the baking tray to aid in the cooking process. These people clearly love their pies! The box states the pie was “lovingly made in Shoreham, West Sussex” and I can definitely feel the love!

Onto the eating, after I take the golden pastry pie out of the oven, and my first impression when I cut open the pie is the steak slowly oozing out of the pie as I cut into it. The pastry is golden and perfectly held together. The pie is fully encased in pastry, with short crust pastry sides and base and a buttery puff pastry lid. It’s a delightful combination that works so well and this pie really pulled it off brilliantly. The pastry was not heavy at all and the lid perfectly crisp. The steak was tender and delicious, with my main query being a lack of bacon taste and a slight over packing of mushroom for my liking. The chunks of steak were quite big to and could have been slightly better spread throughout the pie. The gravy certainly had a bit of a kick to it, with thyme and other flavourings adding to the gravy flavour. This certainly wasn’t your standard steak and ale but full flavour behaviour!

Higgidy Slow Cooked Steak and Red Wine Pie
Cross section of the Higgidy Steak Pie
While the pie could have been a bit bigger for the price (£3.49 for a 250g pie), it was certainly being sold as and delivered as a pie on the top end of the market. A bit more meat would have boosted it ever so slightly higher in the rankings, as it wasn’t at full capacity when you cut into the pie, but all in all this was a pie I certainly hope to eat again.

While not part of the actual pie eating, it is worth noting that this Pierateer actually found it rather tricky to get his hands on this buried treasure! Rather than sailing the seven seas, it was more a case of searching the seven stores, as one by one I failed to find Higgidy pies on sale in numerous stores in central Birmingham. It does make me wonder why they aren’t more readily available, as they certainly score highly in my eyes and it was frustrating not to get my hands on these pies more easily! Here’s hoping the Higgidy marketing team get their pies out to the masses soon!

Higgidy Slow Cooked Steak & Red Wine Pie
Score: 6.35/7 (RAS)

Sweet potato, feta cheese and pumpkin seed Pie Review from Higgidy

Introducing the sweet potato, feta cheese and pumpkin seed pie from Higgidy. Although difficult to source, this pie will have you asking why you didn't seek out a vegetarian Higgidy pie sooner. With a similar quirkiness to Pieminister, the box looks jolly and the pie looks tasty. And so it should, at a retail price of £3.49 ( although the nice folks at Higgidy were kind enough to spare us the expense, thank you!). It might be pricey, but the pie doesn't let you down. The feta gives a wonderful creaminess and the high quality pastry is lovely and crunchy.

Higgidy Sweet potato, feta cheese and pumpkin seed pie
Higgidy Sweet potato, feta cheese and pumpkin seed pie

Higgidy Sweet potato, feta cheese and pumpkin seed pie

However, you'll note that the pie has no top crust! The Pierate rules on pie crust are quite strict, following the lead of the Melton Mowbray Pork Pie Association and the British Pie Awards. I have to say also that the colour of the inside of the pie is a bit strange, don't you think? However the pie arrived in excellent condition. The creaminess of the pie allows for a very smooth consistency. I am impressed, but not being fully encased in pastry is quite a downer.

Higgidy sweet potato, feta cheese, pumpkin seed pie
Score: 5.76/7 (TJP)

(Note: in 2015 our vegetarian pie reviewer, Pierateer ARL, reviewed this pie giving it a score of 4.2 out of 7. This gives an average score of 4.98)

Chicken Pot Pie with Ham and Leek Pie Review from Higgidy

It took a long time to track one of these pies down but I finally found one in Co-op near Liverpool Street station. I could only find reduced pies because they were all on their sell by date. However the pie was still over £3 and seemed quite expensive for an individual pie. I picked up a chicken pot pie with ham and leek.

However upon opening it the pie had an excellent height, which gave it the capacity one would expect from an up market pie. It looked resplendent once it came out of the oven, certainly one of the best presented pies I have seen in a long time. The shortcrust base and sides gave it a wonderful solidness. There was absolutely no collapsing in the oven from this one. This is, in my opinion, a quintessential example of how to make a proper pie.
Higgidy Chicken pot pie with ham and leek
Higgidy Chicken pot pie with ham and leek
It also provided one of the best cross-sections I have ever seen in a pie. The filling had such viscosity that it stayed within the sliced pie. With a lovely golden colour it was already very high scoring on capacity, colour and condition.
Higgidy Chicken pot pie with ham and leek

First impressions were that this pie had a full on flavour. Higgidy had opted for a cream and cheese based sauce rather than a traditional stock based sauce. It was consequently quite cheesy. There was also quite a kick of mustard in this pie which left it anything but bland. The meat was great quality and the numbers game shows that it was around two thirds chicken, ham and leek. Hugely impressive to have so much filling compared to pastry and sauce. The pastry had a good texture although it was pretty low key when compared to the filling.

The Dijon style mustard, cinnamon, pimento and white wine vinegar left quite a continental taste in the mouth rather than what would be expected from a British pie. Not that this was necessarily a bad thing. It did taste nice, although the flavour verged on over powering. However it wasn't quite what I would be expecting when buying this pie. In fact it wasn't the kind of flavour I would expect from a pie at all. It comes as no surprise to me that Higgidy are primarily quiche makers and their quiches are much more widely available. I can't say that the choice of flavour particularly appealed to me. It was a bit too cheesy and after just a small amount I just didn't really want any more. It wasn't that it tasted bad but a pie should really leave you wanting more. Such a shame when it did other things so well.

I was left with the inevitable question, would I buy this pie again? It is not the kind of pie you would expect to have in a pub with a pint of beer. While it is spectacular in its appearance it is too small to serve at a dinner party to impress guests with this refined specimen. However, it almost feels gratuitous to buy and eat such a gourmet pie by yourself. Perhaps then it is for taking on a picnic? However having to cook it, cool it down and slice it up doesn't seem practical. In fact this is perhaps an occasion that you might buy a Higgidy quiche for.

At the price it comes as no surprise that I could only find this pie in London where people will pay to look like they have refined taste no matter what the cost. Would I pay full price for this pie? I think I might buy it again if only because of its archetypal pie appearance. However next time I might try another flavour to see if I can combine this classic pie look with a classic British pie flavour.

Higgidy Chicken pot pie with ham and leek
Score: 4.87/7 (SJL)

See where these pies 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 "200 Pie Reviews – A Higgidy celebration"