Lidl Sol Y Mar Chicken with Pastry filling

By |2022-07-15T12:40:22+01:00July 15th, 2022|Categories: Blog, Chicken pie|Tags: , , , , |

Now then, these aren’t described as a pie as such but then again, they sure look more like a pie than a lot of not-fully encased products that pass through my kitchen, so in they go.

There is a Spanish flavour to these, and I am delighted to see that the ingredients include white wine, chorizo, piri piri and lemon in here. Should be quite the taste sensation.

They come in a pack of four, and only weighing in at 80 grammes each, so best to have at least two I reckon. I pop them in the oven, and wait. Fifteen minutes in, the pastry is colouring nicely, and there’s a bit of paprika dusted boil out emerging, nothing too enticing on the smell front, but the ornately crimped top crust is holding it’s shape nicely

The pastry needs watching though here. After 25 mins in the oven, the top is starting to turn brown but when I pop it out the tray, the underneath isn’t very well cooked (and the recommended cooking time is 15 to 20 minutes) It feels like the heat isn’t going to penetrate the foil tray without burning the roof, so I feel like now is the time to dive in.

I serve these up with chips and veg, what with them only being mince pie sized, and the look, feel and even taste of the pastry is lovely and buttery on top, with a beautiful hand folded crimp. Sadly, it all goes downhill the further we go, with at least 50% of the pastry, the bottom half basically, being raw.

I could take the blame for this, or blame my oven but cooking instructions were followed and even extended and to prolong the cooking any more would have only resulted in a burnt top crust. Anyway, let us have a look inside.

Filling wise, I am impressed to see some sizable chunks of chicken breast in there and there’s a few little flecks of red and orange chorizo and carrot (?) to compliment it. It is otherwise a touch on the dry side, in spite of it’s soggy bottom.

I purchased them as part of Lidl’s Spanish week, I thought that they looked like intriguing little things and indeed they were. But in short, I would not recommend, unless you can torch the pastry through the foil tray, without causing internal dryness to the filling. You really shouldn’t have to though.

I suppose if you do find yourself in Lidl and needing a pie, I can instead heartily recommend their veggie range, Mrs T really likes them. By contrast, she left half of this one, thus resulting it in a firm and decisive “nil points” from our household.

THE FINER DETAILS

Price: £1.99 for a pack of four from Lidl

Oh you know where to find Lidl, I don’t need to give you any more details

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Brockleby’s Wild Beaver Pie

By |2022-06-17T11:30:43+01:00June 17th, 2022|Categories: Blog, Midlands, Steak and Ale|Tags: , , , , , |

Upon returning from the British Pie Awards in Melton Mowbray, we called in at Brockleby’s of Melton Mowbray to pick up some pies. After reviewing The Northerner a while back, I have since been ploughing gainfully through the rest of them.

I really enjoyed their Cocky Leeky Pie (Chicken & Leek) and the details have been sent off for inclusion in the forthcoming GOOD PIE GUIDE BOOK!!

However, today’s pie is the Brockleby’s Wild Beaver pie, and I am unsure whether it is a relief or a disappointment, upon discovering that the Brockleby’s Wild Beaver Pie, is not actually made with beaver meat. It is a steak and ale pie. It consists of large chunks of beef, infused with Grainstore Brewery ale, a layer of sliced mushrooms, carrots and gravy, all encased in a familiar buttery shortcrust pastry.

I am greeted with a dark, dark filling consisting of rich chunks of steak marinated in ale. There are carrots and mushrooms in there, but they are subtle, and with steam bursting out as I cut into it, I have somehow cooked it to perfection, despite my fan oven being a little bit on the blink recently.

Like all of the Brockleby range, it is of a generous size, deep and well filled. The crust is a work of art. The outside is sweet and crumbly in a shortcrust style, the interior is moist as the luscious, dark gravy has soaked in.

All in all, another satisfying pie with great ingredients and I still have one or two more to try I think. You can see their whole range at their website here

 

 

 

 

THE FINER DETAILS
Review date: 16th June 2022
Price: The retail price for online delivery is £6.00 for the Wild Beaver Pie. I got a discount mind you, not sure it was because I bought in bulk or because I’m what classifies as a pie influencer 😉
Address: Melton Road, Asfordby Hill, Melton Mowbray LE14 3QU
Website: https://www.brocklebys.co.uk/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/brocklebys
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/brocklebys_pies/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/BrocklebysPies

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You can buy a copy of my first pie-related book, Life of Pies here for just £4.99 plus P&P

 

 

Project Pies Sausage Rolls

By |2022-04-14T11:17:25+01:00April 14th, 2022|Categories: Blog, Midlands|Tags: , , , |

I’ve gone a little bit off piste today. I consider myself a pie connoisseur, certainly not an expert (always learning). But I’m no sausage roll expert. If push came to shove, I’d be tempted to say a lot of sausage rolls are much of a muchness, I struggle to tell one from the next, save for the quality of the meat or the amount of seasoning. There’s also not a lot you can do with the crust, you just roll it and it is nearly all the same texture.

Nevertheless, I have seen some spectacular efforts over the years and the Project Pies sausage rolls certainly fit into that category, they are huge!

I suppose the key factors I should look for, are the ratio of pastry to meat and then obviously the colour, texture and ultimately taste of it.

I have in the past seen sausage rolls, where there is a freakishly large ratio of meat to pastry and these tend to be the ones that catch the eye, and this one definitely fits into this category.

No matter how thin or thick the pastry is, if there is a huge, circular clump of prime seasoned pork meat popping out of the centre as is the case here, then, in all probability, it is a surefire winner. Can I use the word gourmet? I just did.

The pastry is classic golden brown and flaky, crisp to perfection and the filling is of that extra generous type of diameter I refer to above, bordering on the spectacular.

The filling is chewy, bouncing off my gnashers and moist throughout. It feels to me a bit like a Lincolnshire style sausage meat, with pepper and thyme evident. It’s full flavoured but not too spicy, which is just as well, as I share these out with the kids, who also declare these to be the best sausage rolls they’ve ever had!

Take that as the ultimate accolade Dan the Pie Man!

The finer details

Review date: 14th April 2022

Price: A large sausage roll (and they are large) is £3

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/DanThePieMan/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/project_pies_nottingham/

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You can buy a copy of Life of Pies here for just £4.99 plus P&P

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Packhorse at Longstone Gamekeeper’s Pie

By |2022-04-10T11:17:10+01:00April 10th, 2022|Categories: Blog, Game Pie|Tags: , , , , |

This pie isn’t available all the time but it is still worth a mention and worth a try if you can get hold of it. This pub modestly claims to be one of the best in the Peak District, but from what I’ve seen, it’s not far off the truth. I’m quite happy to research this further, mind you.

Anyway, if the pies don’t grab you, the ales certainly will as this place is basically a Thornbridge tap, situated as it is, just down the road from the famous Bakewell brewery, so perhaps this is more of a good beer review than a good pie review.

I worked my way down the pumps from the Helles style lager, Lukas; the Brother Rabbit pale ale and of course a pint or two of Jaipur, their 5.9% cask IPA.

But the pies, the sweet, sweet pies. They had both a gamekeeper’s pie (£15) and a Homity pie (£14) on when I visited. I plumped for the former, while my good lady had the latter.

Not got great photos of either, it kind of explains why I try and avoid having mash and gravy with my pies. 1. It doesn’t make for a clear view or the pie and 2. It can obfuscate the flavour within the pie.

Yes, I did use the word “obfuscate” in a pie review and yes, you’re right, that DOES appear to be a mash, rather than crust topping. Nevertheless, the pie was splendid and the chips and pickled cabbage weren’t bad either.

The Gamekeeper’s pie contained rabbit, venison and pheasant, along with sweet potato, carrot and onion inside and the Homity pie (which the missus’ loved) was mainly sweet potato, carrot, cheese and other veg, served with a radish salad.

Sadly, no inclusion in the GPG though as the menu is on rotation and pies aren’t always on it ☹

Nevertheless, a fully loaded, log fire with my in-laws giant dog, Wilf, snuggled up to it, really helpful and friendly staff and loads of real ales after a day of walking the Monsal Trail all made for a lovely day and I can recommend this place highly if you’re in the area.

The finer details
Date: 29th December 2021
Price: The price was £15 for the Gamekeeper’s Pie
Address: Main St, Little Longstone, Bakewell DE45 1NN
Website: https://www.packhorselongstone.co.uk/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/packhorselongstone/
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/packhorselongstone/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/packlongstone/
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You can buy a copy of Life of Pies here for just £4.99 plus P&P

 

Clapham’s Meat and Potato Pie

By |2021-11-15T16:53:43+00:00November 15th, 2021|Categories: Blog, Meat and Potato Pie, North West|Tags: , , , , , |

I recently found myself running a relative to Leigh Infirmary for a hospital appointment, one that would require a bit of wait time. Well, what is there to do in Leigh with said wait time?

I suppose a man’s got to eat for a start…..

I have tried out quite a few pie shops in Leigh and the surrounding areas but my knowledge is by no means comprehensive. I’m getting compelled to Dawsons Pies of Atherton cos they are amazing and there’s also Sargents which is close by. I think I have had Sargents in the past in a pub in Standish (a pub that gives away pies on a Saturday night is always a winner in my eyes) and I am more than familiar with Dawson’s Pies, the only question is whether since re-opening, they are of the same high standard.

There’s also Taylor’s marvellous peppery pies, as previously reviewed on here by yours truly, so you could say that the locals of Leigh are spoilt for choice on the pie front.

Clapham’s are an unknown quantity. My new book will feature not 314 pies but 1,000. Whereas I’d never eat that many personally, getting up to half should be the bare minimum, so that is 186 new pies to try over the next 12 months or so in order to make this project real. So, on we go.

Clapham’s is a very traditional bakery, situated just on the periphery of Leigh town centre. It appears that there may have been some kind of incident a day or two before my visit, as the windows appear to have been boarded up, but the shop is open, so I venture in undeterred.

There’s two blokes in front of me, clad in work gear. I’m always curious to earwig on their order, in case of any local culinary tip offs, and on this occasion it appears that “minced beef pie on a barm please” is the preferred option.

A meat and potato pie is priced at ONE ENGLISH POUND, I am also taken aback by the meat pies, which look small and deep and very reminiscent of Dawson’s down the road in Atherton / Tyldesley.

Other pies available include steak pies, minced beef and pasties (meat and potato and also cheese and onion). The shop is a bit sparse but there is steady flow of pies and sandwiches coming from the kitchen.

I opt for the meat and potato and a meat pie. My little duo arrive in a paper bag, which is hot to the touch, and the smell coming off them, once I am back in my car is breathtaking. A beautiful gluten-ny, gluttony, buttery, lardy pastry, injecting right up into my nostrils.

I decamp to the car park of BJ’s Bingo across the road to tuck in, and it really doesn’t take long at all to devour this pair.

The meat and potato is not a huge pie, but what do you want for a quid? The pastry is wonderfully soft with a firm crust lip. The filling is predominantly mashed potato, with a few clumps of mince thrown in. The flavour is sweet and gentle, with none of the fiery pepper seasoning, I have come to expect from round these parts, the main heat comes from the fresh potato filling, which is burning hot yet delicious.

And with that it is one down, one to go….

The finer details
Date: 7th August 2021
Price: £1.00 for a meat and potato pie
Address: 65 Chapel St, Leigh WN7 2PB
Website: https://www.claphamsbakery.com/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/claphamsbakery/
Click here to add a pie review of your own: https://goodpieguide.co.uk/add-pie/
You can buy a copy of Life of Pies here for just £4.99 plus P&P

Walker’s Steak and Ale Pie crisps

By |2021-11-10T10:34:31+00:00November 10th, 2021|Categories: Blog, Good Pie Guide|Tags: , , , , |

Walkers Steak & Ale Pie-nalty flavour crisps

I bought these a while ago and was that underwhelmed that I never bothered to pass on this information. My guess is I bought them in June to coincide with the Champions League final, given the branding

I like crisps almost as much as I like pies, beer and hot curries, so I felt duty bound to give them a whirl.

To be fair, it says on the packet, that it contains flavouring only, not any actual pies. It would be quite the trick to manage that in the first place. However, seeing as the content is in a fully encased package, then it is perhaps more of a pie than some of the barely pastry-clad sights that come across my timeline on a daily basis. DON’T GET ME STARTED AGAIN!!

Upon opening the bag, I get a faint whiff of what Walkers used to call Steak (Beef?) and Onion, with not quite the kick of a chargrilled steak Max product. The crisps are golden coloured but lacking in any visual signs of seasoning.

The crisps are of standard Walkers size (I find them a bit flimsy these days compared to some of the posh, gourmet crisp makers out there but they are still the market leader, so why change a traditional brand?)

I suppose at this point, there are only three tests:

Does it taste of:
a) Steak
b) Ale; and
c) Pie
To which the answer would be yes to a) (sort of) but no to b) and c)

1 out of 3 is 3.33 out of 10. Maybe you should of stuck to making pies, Walkers? You didn’t know they made pies?

That’s a story for another day, or one to read about it in Life of Pies

Having said all that, I’m a sucker for trying a new crisp flavour, so I don’t want to be too harsh. In fact, I’ve just seen they are doing a beef madras flavour. I’ll be having some of that. Only problem is that, if they aren’t very good like this flavour, I’ll get bollocked for sticking the other bags in the kids’ lunchboxes….

Oh and PS, I don’t normally pour a bag of crisps on to a plate before eating them, what on earth of a monster do you think I am??

Brockleby’s Northerner Meat and Potato Pie

By |2021-11-07T17:24:20+00:00November 7th, 2021|Categories: Blog, Good Pie Guide, Meat and Potato Pie|Tags: , , , , , |

After our recent pie judging trip to Melton Mowbray, we decided to see what else the town has to offer in pie form, in addition to the “famous” Dickinson & Morris pork pie.

There are several other independent pie makers in the town, and two of them in particular, are very highly regarded in their own right.
Myself, and my cohort Chris, decided to pay a visit to the noted pie makers, Brockleby’s on our way back from Melton to see what they have to offer.

As if to underline, the importance of pastry around these parts, Brockleby’s actually offer pie making tutorials at their premises, and they also sell a wide range of pies, which you can buy in person or online for shipping across the country.

I think you’d have to take a look at their website to get the full details of flavours and combinations that they produce, but if I was to sum up their range in one word, it would be diverse.

I’ve just had another look since my visit eight weeks ago, and it has changed dramatically again, most noticeably the addition of a Christmas themed reindeer pie (venison) and a range of Greek and Moroccan inspired flavours.

They are also one of the few bakers to really take on the fish pie theme to it’s proper conclusion and actually put fish into a fully encased pie crust, with salmon pie and a “Penguin pie”. Made with haddock and cheese, I should add, not penguin.

I picked up a range of pies on my visit and whacked them in the freezer when I got home. Of the two larger, plate pies I bought, I gave the lady of the house the choice between The Northerner (meat and potato) and Cocky Leeky (chicken and leek) for tea tonight, and she chose the former.

It feels only right that a man of my credentials, brought up in the meat and potato pie capital of the world should roadtest their Northerner minced beef and potato pie at the earliest opportunity, in any case, so here goes.

The Northerner Pie by Brockleby’s

The pie comes in an attractive, decorative box, giving details as to the origin of the ingredients and suggested cooking instructions.

The pie is deep, circular and very heavy in the hands, with a beautiful, golden egg glaze brushing the pastry lid.

It takes a full fifty minutes to cook from frozen but it’s not long before the sweet, lardy pastry flavour starts to permeate out of the oven and around the kitchen.

Upon removal, the pie is scorching hot and it is filled to the brim. From my perspective, it makes the “double flip” required to get it out of the tray and on to a plate, quite challenging. So forgive my cack handedness in the photo, and take my word for it, that this pie is jam packed with filling.

The contents are high quality, tender meaty chunks of mince, soaked in stock, onion and a bit of garlic. Kind of feels like a cottage pie type filling and Emma commented that there didn’t seem to be a lot of potato in there. Of course, her point of comparison is with the Wigan meat and potato pie, which is generally all potato and a bit of meat. The traditional North west meat and potato were actually forced to rebrand a few years back, because they were mainly potato and a bit of mince or mutton.

The ratio in this pie is strictly the other way. This pie is absolutely rammed with meat and dark gravy that has soaked into the filling and turned the potato chunks brown. I should add that my missus is not a big meat eater but I am certainly not going to complain about a high meat content and both the flavour and the texture were a delight.

As this was a proper tea, I added some chips coated with chardonnay vinegar and sea salt and a load of veg, and I was absolutely stuffed at the end of it. In short, half a pie of this size was enough for me, but obviously I could have tackled the full monty.

This was certainly a very decent appetiser for the Brockleby pies to come and I look forward to consuming and reviewing them in due course.

The finer details
Date: 15th September 2021 (purchased), 6th November 2021 (eaten)
Price: The price was £7.00 for a large Northerner pie, which served two
Address: Melton Road, Asfordby Hill, Melton Mowbray LE14 3QU
Website: https://www.brocklebys.co.uk/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/brocklebys
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/brocklebys_pies/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/BrocklebysPies
Click here to add a pie review of your own: https://goodpieguide.co.uk/add-pie/

You can buy a copy of my first book, Life of Pies here for just £4.99 plus P&P

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The Crusty Cob Meat and Potato Pie (RIP)

By |2021-10-28T13:59:46+01:00October 28th, 2021|Categories: Blog, Good Pie Guide, Location, Meat and Potato Pie, North West|Tags: , , , , , |

Sadly, this is one from the archives, from a place that is no more, yet it was one of the favourite pies I had whilst on my previous mission.

They were another Maurice Twomowers recommendation, similar to Slatterys but of the four pies I had that day, this was by far the best.
Sadly, the Crusty Cob ceased trading a few years back. It now appears to be a kebab shop ☹

In any case, I’m still going to share my review of one of the finest pies ever made. To all the young entrepreneurs out there, making visually gastronomic pleasures, with all manner of daft flavours. Well, why not try and make these hand made, odd shaped, leaking with gravy beauties instead. They might not garner the same level of Instagram likes, but bloody hell they tasted amazing and they will fly off the shelves if you can make them half as good.


The Crusty Cob Meat and Potato Pie

On to Ancoats and the irony of Man Utd lads sending me to one of their hidden treasures situated in the shadow of the Etihad isn’t lost. Though technically this is where Manchester United started off, back when they were just a bunch of workshy railwaymen, who’d rather kick a ball about than stoke a steam engine, with no grand designs on Premier League domination.

I drive through part of the “Shameless” estate, finding it relatively genteel, after having gone through much gentrification in recent times and arrive in Beswick Street. The Crusty Cob sits in a secluded row of shops, perched on a hill, which runs down to the stadium.

It’s well kept and I’m queuing up trying to ascertain the menu. Manchester is firmly meat and potato country. There’s meat pies and potato pies and meat and potato pies, all of them look homemade and delicious as I tune in to other people’s orders. The fella in front orders 12 [twelve] meat and potato pies and six cream horns.

Purveyor: The Crusty Cob
Premises: Manchester
Purchase: Meat and potato pie £1.22
Place: 6.5 Queuing system a bit of a mess
Pastry: 9 Home made, impeccably soft, short crust pastry, made to perfection. The crust is the first thing you see and I can’t take my eyes off these beauties, from the second I walk into the shop. A quite simply stunning uneven top crust.
Presentation: 9 A real looker, highly distinct. More importantly, it’s piping hot with more steam coming off it than an irate Popeye.
Package: 9.5 Fantastic dark gravy spilling out and wrapping up a crowded filling of meat and potato chunks
Palate: 9 Dark, mysterious and opulent gravy coating steak and potato which has a remarkable freshness about it
Price: 8 I endorse the fact it’s £1.22. It implies they are resisting the lazy option of whacking the price with all their might in multiples of 5 or 10. Putting the customer’s pocket before their own ballache of handling masses of coppers
Portion: 7.5 Average size but great volume

OVERALL: 58.5/70 Equally as suitable for an Arab sheikh or a humble railway worker. I’m beaming away like a small child in Openshaw Matalan car park, whilst I’m being observed closely by a security guard on a fag break, who is probably wondering what the hell I’ve got to be so pleased about on a drab Saturday morning.

The finer details:
The original review took place on Saturday 28th January 2012. The owners of the Crusty Cob retired in 2018, after 47 years service. As an aside, I got friendly with the owner and his son, a year or two after I published the book. I was working in the Northern Quarter at the time, and faced with a shed full of books to sell, I finally answered my phone to a tabloid press agency, who wanted me to do a feature. There was only one place to go for a (reluctant) photoshoot.

My face ended up in the Daily Star, Daily Mirror and Daily Mail (I know) and, far from the spectacle that getting your name in the paper or on telly used to entail, I sold a mere 30 copies of the book off the back of it. It hardly seemed worth it, but the hospitality from Dave and his son was second to none. They were genuinely proud that their pies were one of the best out of the 300+ I sampled, and even sold the book in the shop for several years. Which of course, gave me any excuse to return again and again and sample their lovely pies.

See previous review https://goodpieguide.co.uk/slatterys-meat-and-potato-pie/
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Murray’s Butchers Steak Pie

By |2021-10-02T18:04:16+01:00October 2nd, 2021|Categories: Blog, Good Pie Guide, Steak Pie|Tags: , , , , , |

My mate, Paul aka Northern Casual found himself in Glasgow again recently. I received the following message:

“I’m going to a butchers/deli nearby, on their website it says they sell homemade steak pies so if they’ve got some in, do you want some to try?”

Is there ever likely to be a negative answer to this question from your correspondent here?

Murray’s Butchers and Deli is in central Glasgow, The Gorbals in fact and produce a range of pies and meats to suit all tastes and appetites.
Now, there’s lots of places out there that claim their produce to be home made. The pedant in me, could point out that even this was made in a SHOP.

However, what happens when a steak pie is ordered, is that they go out the back and MAKE IT!!

What I received back from Glasgow the next day was a slightly flattened oblong tray with a large over hanging short crust pastry. Oh, yes and it was completely uncooked.

What to do here? I decide to go with my time and tested “20 minutes at 180 degrees in the fan oven” with a view to extending it to 40 minutes if I don’t think it is ready.

Twenty minutes later and what I thought was shortcrust is actually puff pastry. It is golden coloured and rising nicely. The pastry is wafting through my kitchen and I decide on another ten minutes (as I can’t see the meat).

On the 30 minute mark, all seems good so I pull it out and start to examine. There is a foil tray underneath, and a sheet of tin foil, so what’s going on here then?

What is going on here is the oddest pie set up I have ever come across! It is essentially a “do it yourself” pie.

I carefully extract the pie from the foil tray and only the puff pastry crust drops out.
I then peel back the layer of tin foil and there lies a portion of prime steak and gravy.

And that is it! Put that one back together!

 

It feels like some kind of elaborate April Fool’s joke. For all the good it is, I may as well stick it on a barm Wigan-style!

I decide to put the crust on the plate face down with the meat on top so the pie is upside down and get a knife and fork. I struggle with the taste of metal on metal, you see, and can’t cope with a fork touching the foil tray.

Whereas there are only two pieces of meat, they are indeed prime cuts of steak. Soft and juicy and easily broken up into four of five chunks and surrounded with a few blobs of rich gravy.

Now, you know what is coming. The pie purists, of which I consider myself one, would not deem this to even be a pie, due to it’s lack of full encasement in pastry and there is no getting away from this.

I still find it quite a novel and enjoyable experience however. So, in the interests of balance, I reached out to my good chum, sweary stand up comedian and Glaswegian, Barca Jim, to ask if this is a common tradition….

He has previously told me that they do make pies in Glasgow where the steak and gravy are just loaded into a big foil tray and then pastry is crimped over the top, it is indeed a traditional steak pie, or as I would call it, a stew with a lid. He did at least give me the liberty of sending me a decent one.

By the way, here’s one Jim sent me earlier:

Now, THAT does look good, fully encased or not…..

The finer details

Date: 8th September 2021

Price: A small steak pie costs £1.95, they also do scotch pies, bridies (pasties) and larger pies but I cannot vouch for the structure of them.

Address: 181 Crown St, Glasgow G5 9XT
Website: https://www.murraysbutcher.co.uk/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/murraysbutcherglasgow
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/murraysbutcher/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/murrays_butcher/

Click here to add a pie review of your own: https://goodpieguide.co.uk/add-pie/
You can buy a copy of Life of Pies here for just £4.99 plus P&P https://www.lifeofpies.co.uk/buy/

Judging at the 2021 British Pie Awards

By |2021-09-17T15:25:53+01:00September 17th, 2021|Categories: Blog, Good Pie Guide|Tags: , , , , , , |

It was once again a pleasure to attend the British Pie Awards in Melton Mowbray this week. The previous awards were held in March 2020, just a matter of days before the country plunged into the first of several lockdowns and the world changed for bakers, and indeed most people, everywhere.

This year’s event was moved from March to September in order to give it a greater chance of going ahead but I can confirm that it was a roaring success, with around 800 pies entered and judged.

It is a fair old drive for me to get to Melton but I arrived at 10am and met up with my Pie at Night cohort, Chris and went for a wander around the town, before heading to St Mary’s Church to sign in.

Yet again, I found myself in possession of a red “class leader” apron, something I have always felt a little bit nervous about. I may have dedicated much of my life to researching, seeking out, and writing about pies from across the country but I am no baker and the imposter syndrome always hits me a little. Like, what do I know about pies anyway?

But pie judging isn’t rocket science, although it is a little bit more advanced than my initial Life of Pies approach of “is it a big pie, is it hot and does it taste good?”.

The key categories bookmark several smaller ones at each end. Up front, there is appearance: if it doesn’t look good, why would anyone even want to eat or buy it?

And of course, at the other end: texture and taste, because of course, the taste test, is the ultimate barometer. Not to say the crust, the pastry, the filling, both capacity and blend/ratio of ingredients physically and visually, all contribute to a good pie as well.

I always like to suggest a range of scores to my partners when judging rather than an absolute figure, to ensure we start with a ballpark and then discuss / disagree exactly what mark it deserves. Another method is to deduct a mark or mark(s) for each fault I can find with it and if there are none, then it stays as is.

In one sense, it is a fun, light hearted event, set in a church covered in bunting, and a marvellous celebration of everything British.

However, do not think for one minute that any judge takes their responsibility lightly, without concern of the impact judging can have, both negatively and positively.

A theme with everything I do, firstly with the Life of Pies, and now the Good Pie Guide, is a general appreciation of ANYONE who puts themselves out there by being a small, independent butcher or baker. These local businesses need all the support they can get against the global dominance of supermarkets and other fast foods outlets.

Not mentioning names but yes, I am looking at you, Greggs!!

No, I’m not dissing Greggs, it has a place in today’s society but they don’t even do pies any more, so they are irrelevant for this dialogue.

The feedback is such that those bakers who perform well at the British Pie Awards get an immediate flurry of media interest, followed by a positive uptick and growth in business. So when I say judging is a serious business, well, very often, people’s livelihoods depend on it.

This year, I was placed in Class 3: The Cold Eating Savoury Pie. Now, a few people have commented that this sounds daft. What else are you going to do with a pie, other than eat it?

However, it essentially means, you eat the pie when it is cold. All the pies are all out on the judging table ready for us, whereas other categories are warmed over a period and brought out to judge when ready. I also gather the 600 gram max weight rule is waived in this category as there are some proper hefty pies on show here.

There were three main types of pie in this category. Firstly, there were game pies, consisting of two or three ridiculously rich tasting, thick and chewy meats. I had pheasant, grouse and venison in one pie. Secondly, there were variants of chicken and ham, Huntsman style pies. And the rest generally consisted of pork with something else. For example, pork and black pudding, pork and chorizo, pork with chilli (or chilli jam), pork and stilton mmmmm.

There were about 50 entries and two judging teams. We had quite a few silvers and a handful of golds. Upon moderating at the end, the other team had the best 2 or 3 pies (gold award) and I think that was fair. I think we possibly had the best tasting pie (a pork and stilton) but the stilton had melted and boiled out of the top, causing the crust to look a bit of a mess in parts.

Not that we were too harsh, but I have learnt over the years about the importance of appearance, as mentioned above. I actually used to like a really messy, sloppy looking pie as it’s lack of uniformity evidences that it is home made, and reminds me of the pies I used to eat growing up in Wigan.

However, the more I have become involved with judging, the more I have learnt terms that I had previously been unfamiliar with, such as boil out, seepage and the now ubiquitous soggy bottom.

Incidentally, to contrast the appearance perspective, by far the best looking pie on our table was a circular, wreath style pie, which looked stunning, but both pastry and filling were almost raw. There was also a pie twice the size of the rest, which I made my one dictatorial decision of the day about “we’re all judging that one” but the flavour wasn’t quite as exciting or powerful as it’s dimensions.

I should also add that there is a very diverse mix of people amongst the judges and on this occasion, I was working with a director from Borough market, an agriculture lecturer from a nearby college and a rural support network leader. All from different parts of the country where they are likely to eat different kinds of pies. There is also a team of dedicated event leaders who make it all happen and run the whole event down to a tee to make sure everyone knows their role.

In terms of timings, the event starts properly just after 11am and I had barely stopped to look at my watch until nearly half two (not that you need a lunch break at such an event!) At that point, a moderation takes place and the best three pies are submitted for selection to become class winner and Supreme Pie winner (the best pie out of all 23 classes)

The actual pie makers are on strict instruction to stay out of the way on judging day itself, but if they are fortunate, they get called back on the Friday to attend an award ceremony, where the winners are revealed.

Following this, it was time for us to visit a couple of farm shops for research purposes (always on duty). Pies were collected from nearby Brocklebys and Nice Pie and then me and Chris retired to the pub for a debrief and a Neck Oil or two in the glorious sunshine. I’m not saying the village we visited was posh, but there was a gate to get into it. Probably to stop farm animals escaping but let’s not spoil the narrative.

By 5pm, it was time to hit the road north, and after getting stuck for an hour and half on the A50 near Uttoxeter, it was nearly 9pm when I walked through the door at home, a full 14 hours since I had left that morning. So it is not all glamour, but regardless of the six hour’s driving, it remains one of my favourite days of the year and long may it thrive and continue.

For full details and results of the British Pie Awards, check out the website here

To buy a copy of my first book about pies, Life of Pies for just £4.99 plus P&P, please click here

 

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