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Pie Failure

12 Mar

I hate to admit failure but I failed. On two counts. I spent all that time reminiscing about pie heaven in quality pie pubs and had resolved to visit one during British Pie Week only to have circumstances overtake me and give me the bird in their wing mirror. Still, I had to try and did manage to make a simple pie with the least possible ingredients. It was a recipe from an old Fuller’s Fine Ale Club magazine called Porter Pie and let’s just say it was tad underwhelming. While I’m not the best at following recipes, I am trying not to add one of my own little twists to every single thing I make these days as others often have to suffer the consequences of these (don’t hear them complaining when it comes off mind!). And so it went:

Ingredients: diced onions, mushrooms, cubed steak, Worcestershire sauce, flour (or alternative), Fuller’s London Porter, water, parsley, puff pastry.

Now, I’m sure even my mate Bob would know how to knock up this pie based on those ingredients.  I made it and a couple of hours later I had a pie which was, well, ok.  Nothing more, nothing less. It was obvious really. Deflated, I thought of the Porter that went into the pie that I could have drunk, and the extra twists and flavours I could have used and the money that I did spend (admittedly not all that much, but that’s not the point) and was ready to break down.

The only way I saw out of this was to pretend that I was a student again and that my last culinary success had been a microwaved baked potato and a can of cold value beans. It worked. Suddenly, the room transformed. There I was at the Fat Duck experiencing tastes and sensations hitherto unknown to mankind and joy and happiness once more reigned supreme.

Actually, that last bit was bollocks but, fortunately, people elsewhere on the net have had much better luck with their beery pies. I myself will return to fight another day.

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Pie and a Pint

4 Mar

Last winter, on a cold, cold day, I was off work and was enjoying a morning to myself, doing whatever I wanted to do. After, various stops around town, I decided to make my way over to Mayfair in Central London, for lunch. My destination was the Guinea Pub in Bruton Street. The reason, their legendary steak and kidney pie. Apparently, the pub has won the National Steak and Kidney Pie Competition at least four times and although I’m not exactly certain what this competition entails, I’m sure it’s important.

The pub is tucked away down a back street and I went there early because I’d heard that these pies go like hot cakes (sort of)! The pub itself is a Young’s pub. Young’s were once the oldest brewery in London, based in Wandsworth, but in recent years have moved to Bedford and become more of a dodgy pub company, much to my dismay. Much of their pub estate has been given an overpriced Changing Rooms style makeover, removing timeless charm and replacing it with characterless fittings and B&Q standard wallpaper. Fortunately, on my visit the Guinea hadn’t succumbed to this and the bar looked like a comfortable, traditional, interesting-place-to-be pub. I ordered my pie and was told it would be 20 minutes so I ordered quite a lovely pint of ordinary. For those unaware, ordinary is the nickname for the standard bitter of the brewery. Some would say that it is truly ordinary, I would contest this.

Fortunately, the pie came in less than the time the barmaid had said, in an oval pie dish, with one spoon, FANTASTIC. From memory it had a suet and herb based pie lid, and it was amazing. How much of my enjoyment was derived from its reputation and the experience of going to the pub to have it I wasn’t sure. These things can have an effect but I’m not normally so easily swayed and I was reassured by an older gentleman in the toilets. Now although, that last sentence sounds a little salacious, it was all very innocent. I was washing my hands and the gentleman just said “I saw you tucking into one of those pies. Aren’t they gorgeous? I’ve come in from Hertfordshire today to have one, I wangle work meetings down here so I can come and have a pie at lunchtime!” A hefty recommendation!

Unfortunately, I’ve not been back since. I myself am unable to wangle work meetings in Mayfair, or anywhere come to that. It’s a pity because I’d love to. Now, I noticed the other day that next week is British Pie Week, which is reason to celebrate in my book. Pies are lovely and don’t have to be starchy inside. The less starch the more the flavours come out. If you don’t want to, you don’t even have to finish the pastry and the filling is good enough alone. Indeed, in the past, pie pastry was as much a vessel to cook the dish in as part of the dish. Anyway, I’ve decided to eat some pie for British Pie Week and I want to eat it in a pub. Now the Guinea has a nearby neighbour that also excels in its pie making. The Windmill on Mill Street, has a larger range of pies and ales and it has gone as far as having its own Pie Club, which I think is tremendous. Another well-known pie pub is located over in Fitzrovia, the Newman Arms. This is quite a small pub with a pie room upstairs. Unfortunately, I’ve never actually been able to get to eat in the pie room as it’s always been too busy but both the Newman Arms and the Windmill are both on my pie radar for the coming week.

Long live pie!