Saturday, 30 November 2013

A Different Taste with Sainsbury's?

Sainsbury's Taste the Difference Apple Pie Review

Most supermarkets have a premium range of products but are they really worth paying more for? Looking for a pudding for a family meal I came across a Sainsbury Taste the Difference Apple Pie. This pie looked delightful with a lovely golden colour and wonderfully shaped pastry. However I had to think twice because at £4 this was almost twice as much as similar products. Cheapness is one of the seven Cs for a reason, the Pierateers are a frugal bunch. We aren’t just looking for the best pies, but the pies that we think are worth buying. So this pie had to do a lot to make up for the relatively high price.


The first feather in the cap of this pie was the fact that it was actually quite big. Six people were comfortably served from this pie. This was a dual review from Pierateers SJL and ARL so came under even closer scrutiny than normal. Firstly the pastry…. this one was good for the dairy industry because it was lovely and buttery. Crunchy but not dry (despite being slightly over done on the edge), many try and achieve such a combination but few succeed. Next the content…. rough chunks of bramley apple delight. Other pies make up for a lack of apple taste by piling in the sugar but this pie left a sweet taste of a different kind. The sweet taste of knowing you have made the right pie purchase. You can get pies at half the price, but they’re not half as good. I often think these premium products are not worth buying but on this occasion I really can taste the difference.



ARL – 5.96
SJL – 5.75

Taste the Difference Apple Pie (Sainsburys)
5.86/7

SJL/ARL
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Friday, 29 November 2013

When in Milan?! Apple Pie Review

If you aren’t already aware, I’d already searched the streets of Rome for a pie in the days prior to being in Milan. After all, I’m sure we’ve all heard of the phrase "When in Rome... do as the Romans do." But of course this phrase doesn't literally limit you to doing Romanesque things while visiting Rome. It's a wider phrase referencing that you should try to accommodate the culture you're in.

However what about if you’re in Milan, not Rome? Sure, we know the Romans liked their pies, but do the people of Milan? Well there was only one way to find out – a pie hunt in Milan!

And having taken a whole day to find a pie when in Rome, it was only about 20 minutes after getting off the Metro in Porta Genova, one of the party suburbs of Milan, that we spotted “Il Forno dei Navigli” bakery - and in particular an apple pie called a “Charlotte” in their window. Of course I went and bought one...


Pies in Milan
Pie Window Shopping in Milan
The pie was sold by weight and cost just over €3 (from €20 per kg) for what was not a massive, individual pie, but certainly larger than a typical Mr Kipling pie in the UK. It came covered in sugar, rather controversially hiding whether or not it was a tart or fully encased pie! However fear not pie fans - the pastry product was fully encased in pastry and was therefore happily snapped up!

I've already mentioned the pie was not that cheap at just over €3, however the capacity was very strong, full of bite-sized apple chunks. Also, regarding the content, there was a slight hint of lemon throughout the pie, which certainly made it unique compared to other apple pies I've eaten but I think ultimately there is a reason why lemon is not traditionally added!


Milan Apple Pie
I had some AC-E pie when I went Inter Milan...
The colour of the pastry was slightly on the pale side, once you removed the sugar coating, but crumbled nicely upon biting and held the pie contents together well. The pie wasn't chewy and was very consistent with apple filling throughout. However I'm unsure why this pie was presented with so much sugar on top, hiding the lid, as this rather spoilt the condition.

Overall, I'm delighted to see a fully encased pie being sold in Milan but it didn't blow me away. While the Milanese pie scores slightly higher than the Roma pie due to being a fully encased pie with proper fruit filling rather than just jam, taste and cost-wise I'd rather have a Crostatine from Rome again as it felt more unique to Italy.

Il Forno dei Navigli “Charlotte” (Apple Pie)
Score: 4.43/7
[Colour 5, Capacity 6, Consistency 4, Condition 4, Chewiness 5, Cheapness 3, Content 4, Total: 4.43/7]
RAS


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

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Thursday, 28 November 2013

Happy Thanksgiving 2013!

Happy Thanksgiving!

Call me old fashioned but I still believe we should be thankful for our food – and particularly the pies. Sure, a lot of us in the Western world simply have to pop down to the local supermarket or pie store to be able to pick up a wide selection of pies, as demonstrated by our long pie rankings list of 250 pies at time of publishing! But we can still all be thankful for each and every one of them (even if they don’t turn out to rate as highly as we had hoped on the 7 Cs pie rating system every time!)

Here’s Paul’s view on things about 2,000 years ago:

“So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.”

And it’s not far from those thoughts several thousand years ago that Americans and many others around the world celebrate Thanksgiving Day, to give thanks for the food they have. Sure, like many festivals these days, the idea of “Thanksgiving” has been somewhat pie-jacked by the media and food suppliers as a chance to sell off more of their turkeys and pies, but we at Pierate HQ can see right through that and still want to retain the original “Thanks” in Thanksgiving.

"Turkey" Pie from the American Pie Council Facebook page

So perhaps you would love to enjoy a pie or two this Thanksgiving and don’t know where to start? Well there is much to learn from the American Pie Council and we’ve also found a great article by Kitchen Daily on the “20 Best Pies for Thanksgiving Dinner” for you to enjoy (I’m sure there are lots of awesome articles like this around!)

And perhaps you will be ins-pie-red to share your pie by watching a little video by @KirstyTV and @worldneedspie on the “The joy of pie” – where Kirsty and Beth bake and shares some pie with American citizens for free and share the pie love this Thanksgiving time.


Whether it’s Apple Pie, Pecan Pie or Pumpkin Pie in the United States, or even a Turkey Pie like we have in the UK, go on... bake or just eat a pie and share it this Thanksgiving time!

Of course the @Pierateers twitter has been awash with Thanksgiving pie promotions and delicious looking pie photos (well, any excuse for a pie really!) and there are far too many pie companies to mention here, which would not really be fair due to the vast quantity and because we have not rated them all (yet!)

HOWEVER WE WANT TO THANK EVERY SINGLE PIE PRODUCER OUT THERE FOR THE PIES THEY HAVE MADE THIS YEAR AND WISH THEM ALL A VERY HAPPY THANKSGIVING! ENJOY THE PIE!!!

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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Wednesday, 27 November 2013

When is a pie not a pie? Open letter to Nicholson's Pubs

Unfortunately I was incorrectly served a steak and kidney pudding, rather than a steak and kidney pie, tonight during my visit to Nicholson's Pubs Bacchus Bar in Birmingham.

To avoid my mistake and because their menu (in print and online) is currently wrong, please note the following in my open letter to the pub chain. I have included some of the feedback I received on twitter below (still awaiting my phone call) and aim to review the pudding and another pie I ate in a Nicholson's Pub in the coming weeks.

Open letter to Nicholson's Pubs

I have raised this with you manager on shift at the time but wanted to put in writing that, while this is not a massive criticism of the quality of your food, I was genuinely disappointed to find that what I ordered on your menu and what I got provided did not match in a rather fundamental way.

I run the web's leading pie reviewing website (www.pierate.co.uk) which is the number one hit when you Google "pie review" and was looking forward to rating the pie at your Bacchus Bar in Birmingham. However after getting over the initial disappointment of you having sold out of lamb and chicken pies by the time I ordered at 6pm, I certainly did not expect to be served a steak and kidney PUDDING when in fact I had ordered a steak and kidney PIE off your menu.


While the pudding tasted quite nice (I will give it a full critique when I review it on the blog in the next week or so), I'm afraid you've scored a rather big own goal here by having "pie" printed on your menu when "pudding" should be there. I realise 99.99% of your customers would probably not care which they had, but for me I was certainly looking for a pie. After all, I run www.pierate.co.uk and not "puddingrate" or any such thing. We have a readership of about 5,000 readers a month at present and they want to read our PIE reviews, not pudding reviews.

I'm afraid I will have to disappoint our readership with this news when I write up my evenings account on the blog. I am sure you will understand that while we want to promote pie selling establishments where we can, a pudding is not a pie and we report the honest truth.

It appears this is an error in your printed menu (and the online menu to: http://www.nicholsonspubs.co.uk/bacchusbarbirmingham/food/) which I hope will be corrected shortly to avoid others making the same mistake I did. Happy for people to eat puddings if they prefer, but they should obviously NOT be labelled as a pie (and in my opinion, should not be under a header of "perfect pies" when they clearly are not pies).

I hope this has been useful, will lead to a correction in the menu and am happy to speak to you further if you wish to. I will aim to post my review of my visit to Bacchus this weekend on www.pierate.co.uk

Pudding v Pie


Nicholsons Pudding Pie
Ordered a PIE, served a PUDDING, had to pay for a PUDDING

Feedback from Nicholson's Pubs on Twitter:

We helpfully pointed out that the Nicholson's Pubs menu is in fact wrong and needs correcting (so that further customers aren't mislead):
Nicholson's Pubs don't plan to correct their menu error until sometime in 2014:
Nicholson's Pubs agree they mis-sold food to me by giving me a pudding and not the pie I ordered:
Nicholson's Pubs need up to 7 days to read my online feedback form and call me:
RAS

We have actually eaten a lot of genuine pies (not puddings) which can be seen in our Pierate Pie Rankings or you can click here for our steak and kidney PIE Reviews.

Where do you stand on the pie v pudding debate?
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Tuesday, 26 November 2013

World Scotch Pie Champion 2013

JB Christie - World Champion Scotch Pie Review

When my great-Grandfather moved from Scotland to London he was so poor that he had to go to school without any shoes on. It seems quite likely that at some point in his life he would have eaten a Scotch pie. In those days Scotch pies were made with cheap mutton. It was minced so that the fatty meat was easier to eat and spiced to make it more palatable. I like to think that both my family and Scotch pies have come a long way. As I made the trip back to Scotland I felt slightly extravagant in the fact that I actually took two pairs of shoes for my trip of less than a week. While they are still generally cheap, the best Scotch Pies are now highly regarded with bakers fighting it out each year for the title of 'World Champion' at the Scotch Pie Awards. The World Champion in 2013 was JB Christie of Airdrie. This award has done much for their reputation and the owner, Andrew Chisholm, recently appeared in an episode of Pies & Puds, showing Paul Hollywood how they make their World Champion Scotch Pies.


After attending the Scotch Pie Awards I decided to make a pie pilgrimage to Airdrie in order to sample these pies which come so highly regarded. It was a gloomy day when I arrived in Airdrie but once I found JB Christie the atmosphere inside was anything but gloomy. This small bakery was packed with both people and products. There was a bright array of cakes, bread, pastries and of course a selection of pies. There were other tempting products but I had my eyes firmly on the World Champion Scotch Pie.

I couldn't wait so I ate the pie as soon as I was out the door. It had a classic Scotch pie appearance with a golden brown colour. From the first bite I could tell this was the best Scotch pie I had ever tasted. What set it apart for me was the perfect variation in texture. The contrast between the crunch of the pastry and softness of the filling was superb. This was certainly more spicy than most Scotch pies I have had but the balance of flavour was just right. The flavour of the beef still held its own and ensured a satisfying meaty taste. The filling was soft but still retained some bite unlike others which can be too mushy.


Having had such a great pie I then felt I had to pay my complements to the chef. I walked the short distance to the nearby JB Christie office and Andrew Chisholm was kind enough to come out and talk to me. When he offered to show me around the pie production facility I felt a surge of excitement. I have been reviewing pies for some years now but this was a first for me.

Despite doing things on a relatively small scale Christie still manage to produce 120 dozen pies a day. It is quite a labour intensive process and all the pies are finished by hand. In the past they used a depositor to fill the pastry shells but Andrew told me they actually stopped using that as a change in meat could clog the machine. Andrew said he sees the benefits of doing it by hand.


The pastry is shaped by a machine called a waddle. Andrew assures me these are reliable bits of kit. The specification for them hasn't changed in about 70 years. The business that made them produced something too good. The machines didn't need replacing so the company went out of business. The waddle turns a pastry lump into that characteristic pastry shell we expect a Scotch pie to have. Fresh off the machine the pastry shell is soft, Andrew says there is no way that the shell could be filled with the moist filling straight away. This is where I learnt a secret about the Scotch pie which I hadn't expected. They place the pastry shells on racks and allow them to dry (or 'cure') for up to three days. This gives the pastry much more hardness. It develops the crunch of the pastry but, importantly, also allows the shells to be filled with quite a wet meat. JB Christie have racks and racks of pie shells which Andrew shows me are of varying degrees of hardness. This is where other manufacturers perhaps miss out if they don't have the same amount of space to store the shells for long enough. Andrew said this is where Paul Hollywood went wrong with the version he tried to make. Due to the soft pastry he had to use a ridged filling consistency, more like a pork pie.


Andrew then takes me to see the finished pie, cutting the pie to demonstrate that it still has softness to it but the outside of pastry maintains a crunch even when reheated.


Despite the fact that traditionally Scotch Pies were made with mutton Andrew believes in the beef versions that are by far the most common now. He said that to use mutton they would find it hard to get the seasoning right. He says he hasn't changed the seasoning for their Scotch pie since he took over the business. I was surprised to learn he only took over 18 months ago, not long before their Scotch pie awards success.

While I was still there I took the opportunity to ask Andrew a few more questions. Firstly I had to know what his favourite pie was. "That would be a Scotch Pie. We don't do macaroni, we don't do chicken, we find the majority of people like a Scotch pie and we concentrate on that."

I then asked how he rated his chances for the 2014 Scotch Pie Awards. "The pies we put in I was quite happy with. It is actually very, very hard work to keep things where you were. Supplier change their spec, a different harvest... the raw material is natural, the meat changes." I didn't appreciate before speaking to Andrew that to maintain a top product you have to keep running just to stand still. You can't take for granted that your product will continue to be good even if you try and keep everything the same.


So what sort of score would I give to the JB Christie World Champion Scotch Pie? Well when the price is just 55p for the small and 77p for the large version (plus a wee bit more to have it hot) I think this is one of the best value pies I have ever eaten. As Andrew said to me this is not a gourmet pie, it is a working man's product. However, it does taste as good as many gourmet pie I have eaten so I am forced to give it a very high score. This is what pies are all about; good, honest and simple. It goes straight to the top of our best Scotch Pies list.

Many thanks to Andrew Chisholm for giving me so much time in his working day. This really was an eye opening experience and has allowed us to finally understand what a Scotch pie actually is.


Beef Scotch Pie (JB Christie [ML6 6BU])
6.50/7

SJL


We've already reviewed a range of Scotch Pies. See where this pie ended up in the Pierate Pie Rankings or find other pies of a similar flavour.

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Monday, 25 November 2013

When In Rome...

I expect many of you have heard the expression "When in Rome" but perhaps not all of you know the full phrase: "When in Rome... do as the Romans do." Of course this phrase doesn't literally limit you to doing Romanesque things while visiting Rome. It's a wider phrase referencing that you should try to accommodate the culture you're in. So in Britain, it would call on you to do as the British do and eat meat pie!

However what about if you ARE in Rome? In fact, what did the Romans actually do?! Well, quite a few things actually, thanks for asking! The Romans are widely regarded as devising road systems (for linking conquered towns), postal services, wayside inns, sewers and loos, amongst other things.


Pierate Ship on Aquaduct
Pierate Ship sailing into Rome via the Aquaduct

But the most important thing is that the Romans loved pie! (Let's face it - who doesn't?!) This is not only referenced on Wikipedia's pie article but also in the - dare I say it - more reliable source "De re coquinaria" which was written in the Third Century and is a collection of three hundred recipes attributed to the famous Apicius, which includes meat pies alongside elaborate dishes such as flamingo (now there's a pie filling I wouldn't mind trying!)

So with five days in Rome, I took the literal interpretation of "When in Rome" and went on a pie hunt! Here documents my travels:

Giorno Uno (Day 1)


Colosseum in Rome
Colosseum in Rome
Arriving in Rome city centre early evening, we dumped our bags and headed out to a local restaurant. Unfortunately there was no pie on their menu, but a good selection of pasta, pizza and meat dishes as standard. A walk around the city centre that evening took in, amongst other things, the Colosseum and Trevi fountain. (Not typical landmarks in every city centre...)

Giorno Due (Day 2)


Popemobile
After a nice, pastry filled breakfast (sadly missing a pie though) we had an early start to day two, as we wanted to ensure maximum time in the Vatican Museums because we thought it closed at 1pm. Turns out it didn't close that early... but that's fine, because it gave me extra time to hunt the various cafes on site for pie. Sadly it seems that pie was not pope-ular, as I couldn't find one anywhere. However I did have time to see what a Popemobile might look like if the pope was a pie fan.

After another meal - this time a late lunch - which had no pie but some very good lasagne and veal, we headed up to the Vatican itself, had a look round, sat in a mass service and then took some cheesy photos outside (as you do). 
Vatican
Vatican

On the way back into Rome that night we happened to pass a patisserie shop called Zucchero e Farina, which I thought rude not to check out. Turns out it was a master stroke, as there before me lay the pastry beauties I was here to try. Now before we get totally carried away here, I hasten to add that these were only lattice topped pies. But let's face it, beggars can't be choosers and I certainly wasn't going to wait! These lattice topped pies were called Crostatine and were €1,70 each. The pie would be saved to eat the following day but were eventually rated as 4/7.

That evening was rounded off with a trip into a pizza shop we passed in the pouring rain back to the hotel. (Pie hunting isn't all glitz and glamour in the sunshine, you know!)

Giorno Tre (Day 3)

With the sun back out and a Palatine Hill to conquer, we set off for a day out amongst the ruins of the Roman Forum. For those who don't know, this would have been a place of hustle and bustle which no doubt many a Roman pie seller would have frequented in the porticos (roofed walkways held up by columns) of the area. Sadly there were none out selling pies during my visit.


Temple in the Roman Forum
Temple in the Roman Forum
Fortunately though I had a pie in the bag (quite literally!) so I enjoyed wandering around the ruins of the Palatine Hill with pie in hand. You can read the pie review here.

After a very late pizza lunch, we decided it was too late to enter the Colosseum but would instead do that the day after. The late afternoon and early evening was instead spent in the oldest museum in the world - the Capitoline Museum. Dinner followed in the Trastevere region, where I had lamb chops and some of the best roast potatoes I've ever eaten! Sadly no meat pie though!

Giorno Quattro (Day 4)

We thought we might as well go to the Colosseum (well... when in Rome and all that!) so that kicked off day 4. While we had seen it in the dark on the first evening, it was far more spectacular when inside! Sure, it would have been nicer if a quarter of it hadn't been hidden behind scaffolding, however it was still a marvellous sight to behold!

Alongside the standard gladiatorial battles people are probably aware took place in there, it was interesting to find out the Colosseum was sometimes flooded with water and epic sea battles would take place with ships built especially for the show! Perhaps the following will help you visualise that a bit more:


Pierate Ship in the Colosseum
Example of an e-pie-c sea battle in the Colosseum
Of course, you don't need me to tell you that the Pierate Ship won this particular battle!

Also, interestingly we found out citizens of Rome would sometimes take in cooking stoves and food to eat while they watched! Wonder if many pies were consumed amongst the 60-70,000 strong crowd?!

More pizza for lunch followed before a trip to the Pantheon, Trevi fountain (in daylight) and Spanish Steps. Once again I had a lovely meat dish but sadly no pastry encasement to improve the meal!

Giorno Cinque (Day 5)

After an early breakfast to make the most of our morning, we took a short metro trip down to the Museo della Civilta Romana, which is a very interesting museum out of the city centre featuring many scale models of various buildings and items related to Rome and the Romans. Well worth a visit, especially to see the huge 1:250 scale model of the city of Rome, built in the 1930s based on maps made at the time of Constantine around 313 AD.

Getting back to Roma Termini to catch our train to Milan, we stopped for lunch in the station. Sadly the McDonalds in the train station did not sell apple pies - a staple for many a McDonalds store across the world (though not always actually a pie!)

And with us departing to Milan on the train, there ends our 'When in Rome' pie hunt! Success! - though not the highest scoring pie. I would certainly have another one though, if I ever wanted to 'do what the Romans do' again. Next stop Milan!

Italian Pies were also found in Milan and Bergamo. These reviews will follow in the coming couple of weeks.

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Sunday, 24 November 2013

Reci-pie Review: Spinach Sun Pie

Spinach Pie Recipe

I’m not officially a Pierateer but I do hop aboard as Ship’s Cook from time to time, so I’m setting sail on a quest to get people making their own pies at home. I’ve made it my mission to bake (and eat) pies, testing out recipes so you don’t have to.

I won't be giving points to the pies I make, but I will be talking about the Seven C's so you can decide which recipes are the ones for you.

My very first pie recipe is one that I made for a recent gathering which included some of the Pierateers and a few extra crew members who had been drafted in.

The recipe:

I found this pie on the Italian Chips blog. Ana, the author, links to the original recipe which is in Italian, so if you’re a bit of a linguaphile you can use that and if not, here’s the one I used:


You can probably see why I couldn’t resist trying this one! And don’t worry, it still meets the criteria for being a pie as the middle section is fully encased in pastry top, sides and base.

I’ve never made pastry with wine before, and the closest comparison I can think of is that it’s a lot like pizza dough but without the need for proving. If you’re used to shortcrust pastry (or any other type made with a base of butter and flour) this will taste different, but it goes very well with the filling and the doughy consistency is necessary for the slightly more difficult step – shaping the pie.

I was a bit concerned that my pie was going to end up looking like a squashed octopus, but I’m glad to say that it didn’t! Both the pastry and the filling are very durable, so the cutting and folding was pretty simple. By leaning the ‘rays’ against each other the whole thing was made extra stable ready to go in the oven. Definitely follow the instructions and build the pie on the baking tray – the finished article is quite big and it would be difficult to transfer it after it’s made!   


The Seven Cs:

Colour:
The pastry in this recipe can take a while to turn a dark golden colour, but that’s easily fixed by leaving it in the oven for a bit longer. I was a concerned about burning the exposed filling on the edges but that didn’t turn out to be a problem, it just meant that the edges were lovely and crispy.

Consistency:
There’s no gravy in this pie as that would cause some serious structural problems. However, I thought the filling had a nice smooth consistency thanks to the ricotta and egg, and as spinach is fairly watery anyway it isn’t too dry or stodgy.

Capacity:
What can I say? In this recipe you mould the pastry around the filling, so this this scores very highly for capacity (especially if you eat the middle section). 

Chewiness:
There’s no meat in this pie so you don’t have to worry about chewiness. The filling is lovely – soft, smooth and with a little bit of texture from the spinach. Yum.

Cheapness:
For people who do a lot of baking and already have salt, flour, oil, eggs and probably wine in their kitchen, this is a very cheap recipe as I only spent £3.20 on the filling. It also gives you a way to use up stale bread as breadcrumbs. Even if you do have to buy all the ingredients you could feed six – eight people a decent portion of this pie with some mash and vegetables, so overall it’s very good value for money.

Content:
Spinach and ricotta might not be the most original choice for a vegetarian option, but it’s a classic for a reason - it looks good and tastes good. I think it would also work with other soft cheeses such as goats’ cheese or mascarpone, so there are lots of options if you want to experiment.

Condition: Not the most traditional of pies, but this is the one to make if you want to impress people. The shape is unusual and very pretty, and having some filling on show is a nice touch. It’s also easy to transport – mine went on a two hour car journey (wrapped in tinfoil on a baking tray) and arrived with no damage.

The Ship's Cook
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Saturday, 23 November 2013

When In Rome... Pie Review

When In Rome Pie Hunt result from Zucchero e Farina

Please Note: This pie review forms part of the wider "When In Rome..." pie hunt.

The local term for them was Crostatine, which were pastry base and sides, filled with jam (in my case, strawberry) and then a pastry lattice on top. The depth wasn't huge, it has to be said, but you could tell the base and the sides apart (unlike you could with a slice). What rescued it from just being a tart (another rival to pie in the culinary world and quite popular in Rome) was the pastry lattice lid, keeping at least some of the content under wraps.

The pastry was quite crumbly and I certainly felt I left far too much pie pastry on the floor rather than in my mouth! Not ideal but at least the pastry I did eat was good! While a little dry, it held together well, securely holding the filling and allowing easy transportation. The lattice lid ensured my filling did not encase the paper bag it came in, which was good as I had big plans for taking the photo below:

VatiCAN you see the famous landmark in the background?!

So the score then:

The consistency was okay, with the thick, drier pastry and the soft, moist strawberry jam holding together nicely as I bit into the pie. The content tasted fine but with it just consisting of strawberry jam it certainly didn't give me a taste sensation. I'd have preferred they did something a bit more exciting with it than just strawberry jam!

At €1,70 this wasn't particularly cheap either for an individual pie but the shop was selling in central Rome. The condition of the pie was quite good and sold in a nice paper case, but as previously stated I couldn't fully assess the capacity as sadly wasn't fully encased. The pie certainly wasn't filled very deeply with jam though, so the score is minimal. The pie (and certainly the jam filling) wasn't chewy and the colour was good.

Zucchero e Farina Strawberry (Fragola) Crostatine
Score: 4/7
[Colour 6, Capacity 2, Consistency 4, Condition 4, Chewiness 6, Cheapness 3, Content 3, Total: 4/7]
RAS


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

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Friday, 22 November 2013

Are Seriously Tasty Pies seriously tasty pies?

Seriously Tasty Pies Roast Chicken Pie Review

When it comes to supermarket pie selections, ASDA seems to have really upped its game. Here is another offering from ASDA, this time in the form of a Seriously Tasty Pies Roast Chicken pie. At just £1.00, this is a total bargain! Or is it?

seriously tasty pies

Taking this "big fill" "heat and eat" pie out of the oven, it's taken on a nice golden colour, and the puff pastry is glistening quite nicely. The pastry does look a little light and thin though, but the condition of the pie is good.


In this cross-sectional view, you can see the thin-ness of the pastry - I'd prefer it to be a bit thicker. The pie isn't completely filled to capacity - I wouldn't call it "big fill" - but the air:filling ratio is still satisfactory. The chicken is not at all chewy, but it's the consistency and taste of the gravy that is the main selling point of this pie for me. It is smooth, tasty and the perfect thickness. The content is certainly tasty and the roast chicken flavour very unique and not something I'd tried before.


Overall, this pie was very cheap, and very tasty. However, the pastry was a bit thin, and although the gravy was nice, it didn't have that authentic "home-made" feel. The chunks of chicken were also quite small. I would definitely buy this pie again though, because the cheapness more than made up for this pie's faults.

Seriously Tasty Pies Roast Chicken Pie
Score: 5.92/7
TJP

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

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Thursday, 21 November 2013

Pie eating is in my Heritage

Heritage Minced Beef and Onion Pie Review

We're really entering bargain pie territory now. I picked up two of these Heritage beef and onion pies from a local Nisa store for £1.80 for the pair. I understand that Heritage is essentially the Nisa own-brand. Does the 90p per pie really translate in a bargain, though?

pie

I must note that I ate this pie cold, straight out the packet. I'm not sure if you're meant to be able to do that, but either way I'm declaring it now that I didn't follow any of the cooking instructions on the packet. If you're not meant to eat it cold at all then I apologise for this, but I'm not convinced it would have affected the final score anyway.

pie

Condition-wise, as you can see, there is quite a concavity to the lid of this pie. The lid has sunk quite deeply into the middle of the pie, not giving me huge hopes for the structural integrity of the remainder of the pie. The pastry is dry, flimsy and feels of rather poor quality. The colour of the pie is quite pale - perhaps this would darken on cooking though. The filling is very basic - a slightly chewy mush of beef and onion. It tastes fine but nothing special. I'm trying to imagine really enjoying this pie in any shape or form. It would certainly be out of place on a plate covered in gravy with chips. 

Overall, this is a rather bland affair in my opinion. I'd say it was a "basic" pie, but I'd hope no-one considers this to be the basic standard of a pie. The basic standard of a pie should be higher than this very cheap and uninspiring example.

Heritage (Nisa) Minced Beef and Onion Pie
Score: 2.29/7
TJP

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continue reading "Pie eating is in my Heritage"

Wednesday, 20 November 2013

Packet in! Mislabelling confuses pie lovers

Yeah yeah yeah, we get it. Pies are great and everyone wants to sell them. But simply adding "pie" to the product name isn't going to win any favours with pie lovers - it has to be a pie inside the packet too. Have a look at this specimen from Iceland - a "pizza pie":


pizza pie

pizza pie

Now I'm not sure how Iceland have got their foodstuffs mixed up quite so badly, but I'm sure you'll agree with me that this "pizza pie" is 99.5% pizza and 0.5% pie. In fact, I'm pretty certain I share more DNA with this product than a pie does.

I can maybe see where Iceland were coming from with this one - there is a filling totally encased in something. But that something is just pretty much pizza dough! Don't fall into the trap here. This might as well just be two pizzas mashed together on top of one another.

Iceland aren't the only store to have got their pies into a pickle. We caught Sainsbury's in the act with this product a couple of years ago, smuggling a non-pie into a pie packaging. It's less whoopie, more whoopsie!

Of course, if you did want to take a look at what we think is a real pizza pie, have a look at this monster of a "piezza" which scientist SJL concocted back in March for British Pie Week! Forget GM crops, the real Frankenfoods are here on Pierate.

TJP
continue reading "Packet in! Mislabelling confuses pie lovers"

Chock full of chocolate! A fiery Simple Simon's pie for dessert

Simon's Simon Devilishly Delicious Chocolate and Black Cherry Pie Review


The Simple Simon's pie box arrived with four new pies to review. The first was eaten by Pierateers RAS and TJP for pudding, and was a Sinful Simon's Devilishly Delicious Chocolate and Black Cherry pie.


chocolate pie
Simple Simon's Chocolate and Black Cherry Pie

It was nice to have a chocolate-filled pie for once. The chocolate was a very nice consistency, and complemented the cherry well. However, the richness of the pie and the inclusion of chilli peppers led to quite a sting in the throat, meaning I had to reach for the water quite a bit.

The pastry was good with a nice thickness, although a little chewy in parts. However, the pastry was certainly very tasty and worked well the the chocolate. The chocolate was runnier than I was expecting, but the pastry could mop this up.
chocolate pie

At a little over £4, this pie is a little on the pricey side. In summary, a novel chocolate pie but just a bit too spicy in terms of content. We would certainly try another chocolate pie like this again.

Colour - 6/7 Content - 4.5/7 Capacity - 5/7 Condition - 5/7 Cheapness - 3/7 Consistency - 5/7 Chewiness - 6/7

Simon's Simon Devilishly Delicious Chocolate and Black Cherry Pie
Score: 4.93/7
RAS and TJP


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Tuesday, 19 November 2013

Paul's Christmas Pie is deep and crisp and even

Paul's Pies Christmas Pie Review


Ding dong merrily on pie! The Pierateers had the great pleasure of once again visiting the Notting Hill London Farmers Market, the site of the purchase of the #1 top rated pie on Pierate. This time, however, the Pierateers were in a festive spirit and keen to try out Paul's new Christmas pie.

pie
Paul's Pies' Christmas Pie in its red box
Paul's Pies' Christmas pie takes inspiration from the best parts of Christmas (the food), and mixes this with a secret family recipe to create a wonderful Christmas treat wrapped up in pastry. Well, not completely wrapped in pastry, as this pie signifies a controversial departure from the usual totally-and-wholly-wrapped-in-pastry-pie that we so love at Pierate. The pie is topped not with pastry but with cranberry.

First things first, this is a cold eating pie. Secondly, this is a sharing pie - which makes sense, as Christmas brings us together in the spirit of sharing. Thirdly, this pie will retail at £4.99 - more expensive than a normal Paul's Pie of this size, so is the extra expense worth it? Let's find out, and crack open the Paul's Pies Christmas Pie.

pauls pie
Attractive pie. Remember not to cook it

The Turkey Pie from Paul's Pies - and Paul himself - feature in our '12 Pies of Christmas' video!

 

Here is the pie with its cranberry topping. Yep, there's no pastry beneath there folks. That will surely affect the judges scores. Regardless of this, the pie is very attractive and has arrived in great condition. Remember, there's no cooking involved here! This is an instant-eat pie!

pauls pie
Those layers would impress a geologist

Review from Pierateer RAS

  • Great idea having a cold Christmas Pie (similar in nature to a pork pie but not at all fatty like some lower quality pork pies are) - though wasn't originally expecting it to be a pie you would eat cold.
  • The pie held together well.
  • The pastry was a good thickness - not overly thick and nice bite to it
  • Certainly a sharing pie
  • Would make a delightful addition to a Christmas buffet platter or similar

The layers worked, though not quite to the ratios I'd prefer. Too much cranberry for my pallet and a little too much stuffing and not enough turkey for me. It was surprising to see pork as the main ingredient at 23%, compared to 18% turkey. The pie certainly reflects a nice Turkey Roast but I think if I had more pork than turkey eating my Christmas Roast, I'd feel robbed of turkey then, so I have to apply the same standard to a Turkey pie.

Of course we at Pierate have high standards when it comes to pastry encasement, so while the layering with cranberries on top as the "lid" look nice, they unfortunately do not replicate a true fully encased pie. This is a shame and it must be pointed out that the other meat Paul's Pies don't suffer from this lack of full pastry encasement.

Ultimately a unique and very good non top-crust Christmas Pie and certainly one that would light up anyone's Christmas!

[Colour 6/7 Consistency 6/7 Cheapness 5/7 Chewiness 6.75/7 Condition 6.5/7 Content 5/7 Capacity 6/7]
Score: 5.89/7

Review from Pierateer TJP

This Christmas pie is extremely attractive, with a clever cranberry "lid" and charming pastry crimping. Cutting open the pie, it is clear how dense it is and why it is a sharing pie (although I did eat the whole pie myself, a Pierateer rarely shares!). I see that Pierateer RAS has commented that there was too much cranberry (please be aware that when we do joint reviews, we write our reviews and scores independently with no conferring), but I felt that actually there wasn't quite enough! Because the pie was so packed with meat, it became a little dry to eat, and the cranberry really helped to moisten things up. The layering within the pie is absolutely fantastic and a joy to behold. The turkey was perhaps a bit crumbly, but the pie was formed well and the layering stayed intact. Of course, at £4.99, this is pretty pricey for what's not a big pie. However, the pie was absolutely packed to capacity with copious amounts of filling, and I was certainly very full after eating the whole thing! This is a sharing pie, and with it being so deep and crisp and even, it would be a delight to have in the centre of any dinner table this Christmas.

Score: 5.90/7

Paul's Pies Christmas (Turkey) Pie
Score: 5.9/7
RAS and TJP
continue reading "Paul's Christmas Pie is deep and crisp and even"

Monday, 18 November 2013

Paul adds Honoury Pierateer to list of awards

So just under four years since the Pierate Ship set sale, on the 19th October 2013 yet another impressive milestone was reached. The web's leading pie review blog celebrated 50,000 pageviews!

Having reached 25,000 pageviews only back on 30th March 2013, it has been a meteoric rise since the addition of the @pierateers twitter account. People are loving these pie reviews!

But there's a question we Pierateers get asked more than most (more so than what is our definition of a pie - which can be viewed in our pie dictionary). That question is this: "Who is your number one?" It is, of course, an answer that can quite easily be found by visiting our pie rankings page. But from 30th January 2013 until at least 18th November 2013, the answer is Paul's Pies!

Now it doesn't take a degree in rocket science to work out who runs the show at Paul's Pies. The clue is in the name! But Paul Sykes will hopefully stick in many more minds now, as today he is inducted into the Pierateer Hall of Pie Fame as only our third Honourary Pierateer! Well done Paul and his entire team!

Paul receiving his latest award!

Paul's commitment to pies is first class - wanting to produce a homemade pie that will tantalise the tastebuds. Check this out from Paul's own website:

Have you tried one of Paul's amazing, award winning pies?

When was the last time you bought a pie, took it home, put it in the oven with great anticipation of what's to come only to stick your fork in, the pie deflates and you find it was only half full? I haven't even started on the rubbishy pastry or the gravy, yet.

That, in a nutshell, is pretty much why I started making my own pies.

From http://www.paulspoultry.co.uk/pies.html

They only started in 2011 and are already winning prestigious food awards. More importantly though, to date they have been the most successful pie makers at meeting the strict Seven Cs criteria, as the number one pie on www.pierate.co.uk since 30th January 2013. On top of this he is a genuinely great bloke, has really embrased the Pierateers and we for one are delighted that he plans to put his Honourary Pierateer certificate up in the kitchen to ins-pie-re his team of pie makers! We hope to visit next year and see the certificate in its pride of place!


However, nothing can top being ranked Number One on the Pierateers pie ratings blog. These intrepid pie explorers love pies so much they took it upon themselves to rate them all on their blog.

Artisan or own-brand, they have made their way through an impressive selection of pies and it is a serious honour to be at the top of the list. They, after all, are people who genuinely love pies and know a good pie from an average one.

From http://paulspies.co.uk/news.html


With some really exciting developments in the pie-peline, it seems Paul's Pies are here to stay! And it will take a truely top pie to dislodge him from the top of our pie rankings!

RAS

Note: We want to say a big thank you to Paul for agreeing to feature in our '12 Pies of Christmas' video. It was great fun meeting Paul again and we look forward to seeing him again soon. Click here to view all the Paul's Pies we have reviewed.
continue reading "Paul adds Honoury Pierateer to list of awards"

Sunday, 17 November 2013

Sweeney and Todd Christmas Pie

Sweeney and Todd Christmas (Turkey) Pie Review


There are some places that you visit where you just know you'll be back again soon. And Sweeney and Todd pie shop in Reading is certainly in that category! Sure, I was there specifically to try the Christmas Pie this time but with around sixty different pies on the menu that they rotate round - yes, I did just type SIXTY DIFFERENT PIES!!! - this is simply an incredible handmade pie superstore - and restaurant to!

So at £7 to eat in (or just £3.50 to eat out), I chose their Christmas Turkey Pie - and ordered two for the sake of the '12 pies of Christmas' music video. (It must be noted we were planning on having a few between 3 Pierateers but it ended up being just me eating 2 to myself!)


Sweeney and Todd Christmas Pie
Sweeney and Todd Christmas Pie

But did it bring me yuletide joy?! Well, let's start by telling you what was in the Christmas Pie (or maybe it would be easier to note down the few things it didn't have!!!) The traditional turkey was combined with no less than bacon, sausage, stuffing, cranberry, carrots, swede and gravy. Quite epic, I think you'll agree! The content was all very fresh and the meat was delicious - all from the family's butcher down the road. The whole place had a family feel to it in fact - with the owner Craig taking a bit of time out of the kitchen to speak to me, his wife looking after the twitter feed @sweeneyandtodds and his mum working there and serving me the pies!

The Turkey Pie from Sweeney and Todd features in our '12 Pies of Christmas' video!
 

Having started to dig in, the content was very good quality and filling. The capacity was very strong and the range of content was very impressive (only the roast potatoes were missing, which I noted you could have ordered in addition to the pie). However the slight drawback to this was that you weren't guaranteed turkey with every bite, as the other ingredients took up a lot of pie room!

However this was clearly a pie that aimed to provide a whole Christmas dinner flavour - not just turkey - so you can hardly hold that against them! It was sold as a "Christmas" - not "Turkey" - pie after all. And the quality of sausage and bacon meant I hardly felt hard done by even if there wasn't turkey in every single mouthful! Also the cranberry was not overpowering, as it has been in some Christmas pies I've eaten.


Sweeney and Todd Christmas Pie
Sweeney and Todd Christmas Pie

The pastry was quite light and not too thick. The lid puffed up ever so lightly on top. The sides and base were quite pale and not that crisp, so there was room for a bit of improvement there. Yet there need not be a massive change to cooking time, as they still tasted nice! You could also have picked this pie up and eaten it with your hands - a true sign of pie pastry quality!

At £7 per pie to eat in the restaurant that's a pretty fair price, though at £3.50 to eat out, that's an absolute steal! No wonder people apparently travel from miles around to mass order 50-100 Sweeney & Todd pies for them and their friends! I certainly would!

All in all, a quite wonderful Christmas Pie! The content was filling and varied and the capacity top notch. With just a little more turkey and a slightly longer cooking time for the sides and base pastry, these pies would be phenominal. As it is, they would certainly put sparkle into anyone's Christmas! Thanks so much!

p.s. I challenge anyone to eat 2 of their Christmas Pies in one sitting! I wasn't even close, they were that packed with content! But I enjoyed trying!!!

Sweeney and Todd Christmas (Turkey) Pie
Score: 6.21/7
Colour 6/7, Consistency 6.25/7, Cheapness 6.25/7, Chewiness 6.25/7, Condition 6/7, Content 6/7, Capacity 6.75/7
RAS


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Saturday, 16 November 2013

Have Marks and Spencer got the Pie Factor?! Take Two

Marks and Spencer Handcrafted in Yorkshire All Butter Pastry Steak and Old Peculier Ale Pie Review


The Pierateers arrrrgh always searching from the crow’s nest for a pie bargain to be had, so when I was informed of a 3 for 2 pie offer in Marks and Spencer the Pierate Ship plotted a course down to our local store. While the 3 for 2 offer extended further than just pies, we have our eyes firmly on the pies at Pierate HQ!

Of course you will all recall that the first of these pies formed the first ever episode of ‘Pie Factor’ a few weeks ago. Through to the next round with a very reasonable 5.4/7 was the Gastro Pub Beef And Ale Pie. However the Gastro Pub Aberdeen Angus Steak Yorkshire Pudding Pie sadly was not actually a pie – and was rather embarrassingly escorted from the studio by security.

Well the steaks have been raised for episode two – quite literally. But don’t worry – the only thing peculier about this pie is its content. For this pie contains Old Peculier Ale as its compliment for the pieces of steak in nice, rich ale gravy. Or at least that’s what you’d think from the box...

Let's welcome down Pie Factor contestant number 3...

What's your name and where are you from?
I'm the Steak and Old Peculier Ale Pie from Marks and Spencer.


 



Steak and Old Peculier Ale Pie
Steak and Old Peculier Ale Pie


And what do you do?
I’m one of the 3 for 2 individual sized Yorkshire Pies that you can buy, handcrafted in Yorkshire and ready for you to enjoy for your tea.

You mean dinner?
No, definitely for your tea. I’m from Yorkshire, you see. So we call tea... well... tea.

But what if you want a cup of tea? Do you not get confused?
You mean a cup of cha?

No, I don’t want you to cha cha cha! This isn’t Strictly you know! It’s the Pie Factor. Right, anyway, what will you be filling your performance with tonight?
Well the steaks are high this week, or perhaps I should say big. Big, meaty pies of steak to be precise. However before you can get to these big steaky chunks you’ve got to get through the onion layer.


Steak and Old Peculier Ale Pie
Steak and Old Peculier Ale Pie - You can only really see onion

The onion layer? Oh...
That's right... we’ve packed quite a lot into this little fully encased in pastry pie – including plenty of onion!

Right... okay. Well I’m glad to hear you’re fully encased in pastry, but...well... I have to say I’m a bit disappointed by the onion layer. I mean, as soon as I started to dissect your performance it was just oozing with onion. Had to wait to get to the steak. If you’re going to give me lots of onion, I want it in moderation. Steak first, onion if necessary.
Point taken. There was rather a lot of onion to be fair. Not sure why.

It was a shame really. I’d expect it from one of the – how do I put this – less affluent contenders. But Marks and Spencer... you don’t normally associate them with “padding out the pies”!
I know, I know. But the steak – that was good right? And the pastry?

The steak was very good and tender – I can’t deny that! And the Old Peculier Ale can’t be ignored. It certainly tasted different to other steak and ale pies I’ve had before, which was nice to see. I’d say the flavour of the gravy was good, though a little too peppery in flavour for my taste buds. The pastry though was very nice – particularly the pastry lid. Not too thick and held together well.
It’s fortunate we fully encased the performance in pastry then this time!

It sure is! While the excess onion was a downer and the pie was a little small for an individual dinner (or tea) portion, I would say it was the best Marks and Spencer’s Pie of the ‘Pie Factor’ so well done!



In summary then, three of the contestants have performed and we have two more to come before we can crown our Marks and Spencer ‘Pie Factor’ winner! Tune in next time for our final instalment of the “Pie Factor!”

Marks and Spencer Handcrafted in Yorkshire All Butter Pastry Steak and Old Peculier Ale Pie
Score: 5.5/7
[Colour 6/7; Consistency 5.5/7; Cheapness 4/7; Chewiness 6/7; Condition 6/7; Content 5/7; Capacity 6/7; Total: 5.5/7]
RAS


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

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continue reading "Have Marks and Spencer got the Pie Factor?! Take Two"