Sunday 27 April 2014

Which punderful pie will reign supreme at the British Pie Awards 2014?

We are now just days away from the sixth British Pie Awards and the comPIEtition couldn’t be stronger. There will be 825 entries judged under 19 classes – ranging from small pie producers to the country’s largest pie-makers. But only one can be named Supreme Champion 2014!

british pie awards
L-R: Mark Beeston, Matthew O’Callaghan & Stephen Hallam of Melton Mowbray Pork Pie Association - organisers of the British Pie Awards 2014.

Pierateers from the web’s leading pie review website – – will of course be there judging the pies and doing plenty of tweeting in the lead up to the British Pie Awards 2014 (#bpa14). You also won’t be surPIEsed to find out we’ll have tweet by tweet analysis from the British Pie Awards itself (like in 2013) with Pierateer RAS there as a helper and media on Wednesday 30th April, and we will report on the awards post event and awards lunch, announcing the winning pies!

Of course pie rating is a very serious responsibility – which you will see when reading the hundreds of pie reviews on our pie blog. But you will also notice that we like a bit of pun and games too, which we will also be encouraging at the awards through supplying a suggested pie puns card for judges to crack out during proceedings as they see fit. After all, pies are to be enjoyed and celebrated, providing insPIEration and hopefully PIEfection.

The Pie Awards themselves will have 19 classes that recognise British classics including Beef and Ale Pies, Chicken Pies, Steak and Kidney Pies, Pork Pies and, of course, Melton Mowbray Pork Pies. Pasties, pub pies and football pies will also be honoured, along with dessert pies, vegetarian pies and a savoury pie category. This year's speciality class, A Pie Fit For A Hero, recognises those providing food for Britain's Armed Services in the centenary year of the start of the First World War.

You’ll find that the Pierateers have rated lots of different categories of pies – including those covered by the British Pie Awards – by visiting our Pies: Categorised page.

MMPPA chairman Matthew O'Callaghan said: "Britain is rightly proud of its pies and the British Pie Awards are a celebration of pie producers and bakers, putting their craft in the spotlight. Since the launch of the awards six years ago, the event has grown both in size and in stature. With high-calibre entrants and a wide range of expert judges the awards are recognised as a true mark of quality within the industry and among the public.”

Of course those of you who are regulars on the web’s leading pie reviewing website Pierate already know that Pierateer Tim will be one of those expert pie judges, having rated hundreds of pies that you can see in our pie rankings table.

The panel of 110 judges, which includes food writers, master bakers, chefs and restaurateurs, is led by chairman of the judges Ian Nelson, of Hovis Ltd. He said: "It is a real honour to be heading up the judging panel at the British Pie Awards, an event I have always supported as an opportunity for bakers and pie-makers - and British food - to shine. The task ahead of us is huge with so many entries to be tasted and judged today in 19 different categories but we are all ready for the challenge and excited to be sampling the best pies the nation has to offer."

Joining the judging panel is TV chef and street food afficionado Andy Bates, aka the Pie Man, and he said: “My passion is for great British food and the pie is the perfect way to enjoy quality ingredients and brilliant cooking, whether it’s a traditional recipe or ones with an inspired new twist. I’ve been really looking forward to getting my teeth into picking the best pies from across Britain and am delighted to be in the company of so many top pie producers and knowledgeable judges.”

You won’t be surprised to know we’ve rated a pie made by judge Andy Bates – founder of Eat My Pies – which is the number one hit when you google “Eat My Pies Pie Review” – and we hope to enjoy more in the future.

And having enjoyed and highly rated the Supreme Champion 2013, we are looking forward to seeing who takes the title at the British Pie Awards 2014! May the best pie win!!!

For a flavour of what the British Pie Awards are like, here's a video we made of the event last year, including the epic pie hymn!

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Thursday 24 April 2014

Best Manze?

M. Manze - Traditional Pie and Mash Shop Review

As part of the my challenge to eat pie for every meal in British Pie Week (see all 21 pies in the summary article) I paid a trip to a very special pie shop in London. This was the M. Manze pie and mash shop on Tower Bridge Road, the oldest surviving pie and mash shop in the country. It opened in 1892. This certainly was a traditional London Pie and Mash Shop, serving pies in the traditional way with a parsley 'liquor' alongside the minced beef pies. See our article on Pie & Mash Shops to find out what makes these places so unique.

The visit was at lunch time on Day One of the challenge. Watch the video below from 3:28 to see the review in action and, among other things, an interview with Matthew Rippon who gave his opinion on the importance of preserving such establishments. Matthew also interviewed Pierateers SJL and RAS in M. Manze which can be heard on his blog.

Firstly, apologies for incorrectly stating that the liqour was made with eel stock, M. Manze have informed us that they no longer do this as it ensures that the liquor can also be eaten with their vegetarian pies (although some places do still use eel stock).

But what did I think? This pie slipped down very well despite the fact that I wasn't really hungry, I always think this is a good sign. There was barely a need to Chew with the pie at all. I don't think I enjoyed it in it's optimal Condition because I let the pie get cold with all the filming but still it was very well presented in the traditional manner and a great contrast of Colours. The pie was nice and soft with the classic puff pastry found at these pie and mash shops. The Capacity was small, as is always the case with these oval shaped pies, however, it was packed with meaty Content with a great beef stock, making giving the pie a satisfying meaty flavour. The liquor was great, not at all suffering from dry parsley syndrome as the Goddard's sauce I had recently did. Overall there was perhaps not as much seasoning with this meal as there was with the recent Eel House Pies, I would have liked more. What was a real winner for this pie was the outstanding value. These traditional pies are normally cheaper than more gourmet alternatives but M. Manze was Cheap even for pie and mash at just £3.50. This is despite being walking distance from Borough Market.

The original features and historic importance make the journey to M. Manze worth it alone. Add to that a very good value pie meal and M. Manze is worth a visit for anyone who loves Pies or History and an absolute must if you share my interest in both! The Manze family are very important to the London Pie and Mash scene. M. Manze have three shops, and another branch of the Manze family created L. Manze in Walthamstow which we have also visited. But who is the Best Manze? It is hard to say given that I visited L. Manze so long ago, I have eaten so many good pies since then, I think I will need to visit both again before I can say categorically! In any case this means that there are now two Manze restaurants on our best pies in London list. There is also Manze in Deptford that I am yet to visit. It is all just an excuse to eat more pie...

Many thanks to M. Manze for being such good hosts and letting us set up camp there for so long!

Traditional Minced Beef (M. Manze)


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Tuesday 22 April 2014

Co-operate with Rhubarb

Co-operative - Rhubarb Pie Review The Co-op seem to have been going through a difficult time recently with problems with their banking division and falling profits elsewhere. By contrast Rhubarb has seen a resurgence recently with many touting the health benefits of this unusual vegetable. Perhaps a Co-operative Rhubarb pie review on the leading pie review website might be just the postive publicity that Co-op needs? Especially when this pie comes as the very first pie in the Pierate 'pie for every meal' challenge during British Pie Week.

See the pie being eaten in a 'five-a-day in one meal' combo for Breakfast in the video log for Day One of the challenge.

Despite the whole pie being eaten at once this was not a small pie, it could have comfortably served a few people for desert. It didn't have an excessively large crust like the ASDA Rhubarb pie we reviewed recently (you wait so long for a rhubarb pie review and then two in one month...). It was a decent Colour and Condition and looked much more appealing than the ASDA effort. I quickly realised that it was just too thin to get a really high score, there was a poor Capacity. The filling had a classic baked rhubarb taste with enough sugar to prevent it being too sour. Rhubarb is always a strange flavour, I always find it odd to eat a sweet pie with a vegetable in rather than a fruit. However, it is a homely flavour and works well in a pie. The pastry was good, crumbly and sweet, but not too sweet. Despite the fact that I ate far too much of this pie, I wasn't fed up of it by the end which must have been a good sign that the pie wasn't all that bad. At £1 this is a pie I would buy again although I may share it next time!

Rhubarb (Co-operative)


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Saturday 19 April 2014

Quickety Quick Micro Pie

Hollands Frozen Potato & Meat Pie Review

Anyone remember that McCain Micro Chips advert from the 90s? It was trying to sell substandard chips but it was okay because they were 'Quickety Quick', they only took three minutes to cook in the microwave. I loved watching this again, when did the 90s start looking so retro? The expression on the kid's face when he looks at the crinkle cut chip is classic...

Hmm... why was I talking about microwave chips...? Oh yes, we love food that can be microwaved, even if it doesn't taste quite as good as the normal version. Convenience is king nowadays in our busy lives, even sometimes when it comes to pies! There are many pies which can be heated up in the microwave, but very few specifically for the microwave market. Pukka pies do a microwave 3 1/2 minute chicken pie which we were quite impressed with back in 2011.

Now it seems that Holland's pies are getting in on the act, with ultra-convenient packs of small frozen pies which can cook in the microwave in just 4 minutes. Yes, it is 30 seconds longer than the Pukka option, I will leave it up to you whether this would affect your choice to buy these pies. I have a moderate amount of patience and I found that I didn't mind waiting for 4 minutes.

If you are a follower of Pierate you might have heard that I ate pie for every meal during British Pie Week (a total of 21 pies). Watch the video of a Hollands Potato & Meat pie being eaten for dinner on Day Six of the challenge to see what I thought. I got this four pack of pies and they were very convenient to have in the freezer, as a quick meal or even better as a snack. I would get them again as an emergency pie. They are only 177g so they are quite small but at £3 for the pack of 4 this was good value compared to other pies. They are certainly not gourmet, the pastry does taste different to 'normal' pastry, it seems these have been specifically produced to be frozen and microwaved. The pastry was quite pale, similar in some ways to the Pukka effort. The fact that there was only 9% meat didn't seem to matter, the potato was soaked in meaty gravy which gave it a classic Meat & Potato taste. I would note that one of the pies I had was a little chewy, despite there being little meat. The pie also wasn't filled very well despite being a small pie. These things stop it getting a great score but it didn't taste bad and they could be worth buying for the convenience.

Holland's seem to be good at tapping into the microwave pie market. Their non-frozen pies which we have reviewed before can also be microwaved. In our previous test, we did find however than the non-microwave option was best. The frozen version, although not quite as good, compares favourably to the non-frozen variety. Traditionally a Northern brand, Holland's pies can now be found in the South as well. I got this pack in a Bristol supermarket. We were also very impressed with the Holland's Big Steak pie which is now on sale at Arsenal's Emirates Stadium.

Potato & Meat (Hollands)


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Tuesday 15 April 2014

I Made a Mistake, I Ate the Great Ultimate Steak Pie

As part of my challenge to eat Pie for every meal for the whole of British Pie Week I decided to treat myself to a pie which I suspected should be pretty good, an ASDA Bistro Ultimate Steak Pie. What made me think this pie would be good? Partly because it is a premium pie, costing £2.88 for the one 250g pie. But the main reason is that this pie was reviewed previously by my fellow Pierateer TJP in March 2011. He scored this pie 6.49 in his review 'Make no Mistake, I Ate the Great Ultimate Steak Pie'. He noted the 'quality chunks of steak' and the 'great steak:gravy ratio' and it has held the title of our top supermarket pie for quite some time.

However when I tried this pie for dinner on Day Two of the challenge I found it to be disappointing in nearly every department. There were only a few small chunks of steak in the pie, the filling was mostly gravy. To make matters worse the meat that was in there wasn't even good, there were some quite fatty bits to it. The pastry seemed too hard, if you look at the video, it was difficult to break into the pie. This meant the pastry was a little dry. There was far too much pastry to filling, I felt like I was just eating pastry. The overall taste to the gravy was nice enough but it wasn't enough to moisten the pastry. The pie had a good capacity, with it being quite tall, just like last time. This was cruel in a way because it made the disappointment of the pie being empty even greater! For a premium pie I felt like I was being really ripped off having paid so much for an empty pie.

So where do we stand having tried two such different versions of the same pie? This did seem like it was the same product, with the same shape although slightly different box. But this was three years ago so there could have been changes in the manufacturing process, slight changes of ingredients. But, with any product there is going to be variation. With a mass produced pie, it seems that unfortunately this can mean on occasion that the machines hardly fills some pies while others are well filled. Normally on the Pierate ship we don't tend to adjust a score if there is a small variation between two versions of the same product, but in this case we feel we must, the new score and the old score will be averaged. However, it may be that this is not just a natural variation and the standard of this product has fallen. If we get any feedback that this is the case we will void the original score.

The main thing is that despite a decent average score be warned that you may get this terrible version! We have been particularly disappointed with a lot of ASDA pies recently, the Steak & Ale, also from the Bistro range, was equally full of empty promises. In fact empty pies seems to be an ASDA speciality with their Steak & Stilton also severely lacking and their Blackcurrant pie coming with a huge airgap. If you then mention the deceptively large crust on the Rhubarb pie you might question if ASDA pies are best avoided!

Ultimate Steak (ASDA Bistro)




Pierate is a pie review website searching for 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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Thursday 10 April 2014

Does Bowkett's get my supreme pie vote?

Bowkett’s of Oldbury Butchers Beef Steak Pie Review

When you are away for the weekend with a group of friends, there are surely few better ways to bond together than over a pie or eight. So with a group of 20 of us from my church small group going away to the Shropshire countryside for a weekend together and Pierateer RAS asked to head up cooking the Sunday lunchtime dinner, you won’t be sur-pies-ed to hear that there were pies on the menu! Well… eight to be precise.

Bowkett's of Oldbury Pie Review
Bowkett's of Oldbury Pies

Knowing we were going away and having heard of top pies being sold at a local butchers in Birmingham, the Senei kindly picked up a large supply of pies from Bowkett’s of Oldbury for us all to enjoy. They are well known for being the “Supreme Sausage Champions of Great Britain” (their words) but how would their pies rate?

Bowkett's of Oldbury Beef Steak Pie Review
Bowkett's of Oldbury Beef Steak Pie
We had a selection of the pies between us, but the pie I rated was the Beef Steak Pie. At £3.58 for a family pie for three people, this was a very enjoyable pie that tasted very nice and was great value. The pie was a great golden colour, with a flaky pastry lid and a nice, firm side pastry. A few parts of the base pastry were a little thick in places, which highlighted the handmade nature of the pie but is a slight room for improvement. However I was very happy to see that I could pick up a slice of pie in my fingers – a sign of a proper pie, if you can pick it up and bite without it falling apart!

The capacity of the pie was spot on, absolutely packed with meat and gravy. However the content, while tasting nice and tender, was very fine and soft. It meant you couldn’t really get your teeth into the meat, with no issues over chewiness but not much in the way of bite. Don’t get me wrong – I enjoyed eating this pie and look forward to rating some other flavours, but the lack of meaty chunks and overly fine beef steak did mean it lost a few points for consistency and content. You may also notice from the photo of the whole pie that there was a bit of boil out, which slightly diminished the condition in our quest to look for pie-fection.

Bowkett's of Oldbury Beef Steak Pie Review
Bowkett's of Oldbury Beef Steak Pie Review

However I did thoroughly enjoy the pie and had a great time away with friends. I will certainly be looking to get my hands on more of the pies at Bowkett’s of Oldbury in the future!

Bowkett’s of Oldbury Butchers Beef Steak Pie
Score: 5.86/7
[Colour 6.5, Capacity 6, Consistency 5.5, Condition 5.5, Chewiness 6, Cheapness 6, Content 5.5, Total: 5.86/7]

A few of my friends also rated the pies as follows:

Sharon: “Loved the beef pie, enjoyed it! Lovely!” – 6/7
Pete: “ImPIEsive but content didn’t live up to the name – no mushroom in my ‘chicken and mushroom’…” – 6.3/7
Chabo: “Awesome, delicious, scrumcious, lovely and epic” – 5/7 [A child who clearly has very high standards!]

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

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Tuesday 8 April 2014

Ginsters pie is not the tonic

Ginsters Steak Pie Review

Ginsters may be more famous for their slices and pasties, but this Cornish-based company also produces pies. We’ve reviewed the large Ginsters chicken pie once before in a rather inventive post (the title of which, incidentally, also plays on the same pun as this post, but I’m not changing it), but how does the steak pie rate?


It’s a solid start. I don’t like to see corners cut on pies, unless it’s a square pie, of course.


Goodness, look at that! The pie is puffed up so well that it’s bursting out of the packaging! Either that or they just made the foil tin smaller to give it that effect..


Here’s the pie after 25 minutes in the oven. It’s a nice golden brown on the puff pastry lid. There’s not much to look at with this pie, however. The puff of the pastry on the top is quite impressive, but there’s no added little details.


On cutting the pie open, its problems really start to show. The flimsiness of the pie is apparent as it is crushed simply by me cutting into it. Now it looks a bit more like a sandwich than a pie. The filling doesn’t exactly scream “eat me, I’m delicious” either. While this view does show that there’s minimal airgap, this is actually a false “minimal airgap”, since the air was forced out as I crushed the pie trying to cut it open.


Okay, so I scraped all of the filling out of the pie, which made this rather small, unappetising grey-brown mound. The chunks of “steak” are in fact very small pieces of chewy meat swimming around in a gloopy, unpleasant sauce. The pastry also didn’t taste very nice, although the lid had a great crispiness to it. I was really struggling to find something wholesome or authentic about this pie, but really it did just seem to me to be a gloopy, chewy concoction of indiscernible ingredients encased within a tasteless pastry shell. And not even that cheap - £1.98 from Tesco’s.

Ginsters Steak Pie Review

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Sunday 6 April 2014

Bring Me a Nice Pie and Make it Snappy!

Nice Pie - Crocodile Leek & Potato Pie Review

I had heard great things about Nice Pie from my Pierateer colleagues. We have reviewed many of their exotic pie flavours with most of them achieving ‘Pierate Recommended’ or ‘Pierate Highly Recommended’ status. This is pretty impressive when they are taking such a unusual meat as squirrel, bison, camel, zebra etc and making them into a pie. On the pierate ship we have tried making some exotic meat pies ourselves but the question always is, what flavours do you add to the meat?! We had some success with our Zebra pie, however, our Python pie for British Pie Week was revolting!

So on the first day of British Pie Week I was very pleased to be able to include a Nice Pie, Crocodile, Leek & Potato, as part of my #pie4everymeal challenge. I was a bit apprehensive. Would leek and potato really go with crocodile meat? You associate leeks, potatoes and pie as very British things and Crocodile is about as British as the Great Wall of China.

I had the pie for dinner but there was another aspect that made me a little apprehensive, as part of the challenge I had to eat the whole pie. This was certainly not an individual sized pie coming in at around 1200 calories. Have a look at the video from 8:00 minutes to see what I thought.

Well hopefully you got the idea that I liked it! But I will now reveal how I scored it! This pie was great, not just for an exotic meat pie but even compared to more regular pie flavours. I would most closely compare it to a chicken pie, indeed chicken would have worked in place of the crocodile in the filling. However, the texture of the crocodile made it much more interesting than a normal chicken version and it was not dry at all like chicken can be. It was flaky, almost like fish, it didn't have much flavour that I could detect but took on the flavour of the sauce. The sauce was creamy and delicious. The balance of flavours was perfect and the contrast in texture throughout the pie kept me wanting more. I know that it was truly a pie which should gain ‘Highly Recommended’ status because even after eating so much of it I still thought it tasted amazing. The presentation was also wonderful with firm pastry which meant this pie stayed in one piece despite having been transported quite far in my back pack (and in Pierateer RAS’s suitcase before that). The pastry tasted nice but perhaps it was a little too thick in places, this perhaps was a trade off to get such sturdiness to the pastry. However it wasn’t hard or dry in any way. The Capacity was large, as with many of these Nice Pies. This would have happily served two or three people. There isn't much they could do to make the pie score even higher. Overall, the highest score we have yet given to a Nice Pie and the highest scoring 'exotic meat' pie in our overall pie rankings!

This pie was very similar in size and shape to the Bison and Camel pies we have reviewed recently and at £5.50 they are excellent value for pies of this size, plus they contain 'exotic meat' which is normally more expensive. Nice work guys!

Crocodile, Leek & Potato (Nice Pie)


This pie was eaten as part of the British Pie Week challenge to eat pie for every meal. Find out more about the pie for every meal challenge. Or why not see where this pie ended up in the Pierate Pie Rankings or find other pies of a similar flavour?

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Wednesday 2 April 2014

A rhubarb fool

ASDA Rhubarb Pie Review

Here’s a photo of a rhubarb pie. Looks quite large for £1, right?!

rhubarb pie

And here’s the cross-section:

rhubarb pie

Wait, what’s that?

rhubarb pie

Is that…is that all crust?

rhubarb pie

Wowzer! That sure is some hefty crust right there. To give you some perspective, here’s what it looks like while you’re eating it.

rhubarb pie

Now, I don’t want to suggest for one minute that ASDA have been deceptive here, trying to make their pie look larger than it actually is…but I’m not going to lie, I can’t see any other advantage over having such an over-sized crust other than to “artificially inflate” the size of the pie. It’s not like having the extra crust was a benefit in any way – the pastry was dry and I left most of it.

Removing the outer crust around the edge left a central part of the pie that was actually quite moist and enjoyable, albeit rather sweet, thin and sad. The filling – what there was of it – was quite nice. I like rhubarb, and this had some acceptably-sized chunks within. But the sheer thickness of the pastry meant that this pie had a pretty poor capacity.

Overall, I was left feeling rather deceived by this pie. The addition of the practically inedible outer “wing” rather fooled me into thinking I was purchasing a larger pie than I was.

ASDA Rhubarb Pie Review
Score: 2.8/7

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