Sunday 30 March 2014

Have Some Beef and Red Wine and All Will Be Fine

It was great to meet somebody as passionate about pies as we are here at Pierate. And not just pies - but proper pies. None of that mashed potato or pastry-topped casserole rubbish. Proper, hearty pies.

I'd popped down to Clapham to meet Chris Brumby, recently crowned king of the sausage roll, for a chat about all that is pastry. In January, Chris triumphed at the Red Lion Barnes Great Sausage Roll Off 2014, but it's good to see that Chris' heart seems more set on pies than sausage rolls. We don't want a pastry connoisseur defecting to the dark side.

So what's the end result of all this passion and pie pressing?

It's this: a beef and red wine pie. 

It has rosemary-lined shortcrust pastry on the base, and is topped off with a puff pastry lid sprinkled with cracked black pepper. And what's more, this attractive little gem is pretty weighty too.

The first thing to note at this stage though is the boil-out on the lid, leading to a small patch of burn that affects the pie's appearance. This would lose marks at the British Pie Awards, and we also mark this down under the category of Condition. This boil-out might just be a one-off, but I have to rate the pie in front of me. Also, if you look on the left-hand side of the picture at the interface of the side and lid, you'll note that the two sections of pastry have broken away from each other. It's not a major issue, but it is an issue that affects the pie's appearance and structural integrity, especially when cut open. I put this down to the pastry being a little thin.

But let's not fuss over minor negatives, for there are many major positives with this pie. The first major positive becomes apparent with a cross-sectional view of the pie:

Yes, it is stuffed to the rafters with filling. Chris tells me how much he dislikes an airgap in a pie, and it's pleasing to see that he has practiced what he preaches by producing a pie with a minimal amount of air between the filling and the lid. And just look at those chunks of meat. This is such a world away from steak pie crimes such as this:

Click for review
So we've seen how great the pie looks on the outside, and on the inside, but how does it taste? Yep, pretty great too. The filling is quite rich, and you can certainly taste red wine. This perhaps isn't a pie for anyone not a fan of red wine, but I think it's rather delicious. I don't think I've ever described a pie as "full bodied" before, but now might be an appropriate use of the term. There is a good mix of vegetables within the pie, and you can see the individual ingredients including the carrot and the onion. The beef is a delicious and obviously of high quality - it melts in the mouth and is not at all chewy. The filling is nice and moist, with no need for additional gravy. You could happily eat this pie as an independent item, with no need for external vegetables or gravy. In that sense, the thinness of the pastry works quite well, since it almost dissolves away as you eat the pie, meaning you don't need any gravy to moisten it and soften it. The content is also lovely and herby, and you can taste the rosemary that lines the shortcrust base.

All in all, I'd certainly recommend this pie. The main query I have with this pie is the thickness of the pastry, which seems thinner than I am used to. This has its upsides and its downsides, but ultimately I think this will be an issue of personal preference. The thinness of the pastry means the pie has less structural integrity, but then again it does actually make the pie easier to eat. The filling is moist, delicious and doesn't hold back. I look forward to seeing how Chris moves forward with these pies in the future.

Content: 6.5/7
Capacity: 6.5/7
Chewiness: 6.5/7
Colour: 6/7
Condition: 4.5/7
Cost: 5.5/7
Consistency: 6.5/7

Chris' Beef and Red Wine pie review
Overall Score: 6.00/7 - Highly Recommended

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