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Saturday 26 October 2013

Quick Pie Roundup

A selection of boxed pies under special offer turned up at my local Morrisons a couple of weeks back (yes, it's taken me that long to write about them - they were eaten very quickly). The range is called 'Pie in the Sky' and, while the packaging is all bright colours and fun cartoons, it doesn't list a website or even a Facebook page... pretty strange for a new product which is otherwise unique and stylish. In fact, the packaging doesn't even go into any great detail about the makers, Kerry Foods Ltd. Still, that's just a weird choice about advertising rather than anything important about the product, and it just means I can't add a link to them for convenience.

I picked up three different pies from a selection of four or five on the shelves and tried them out over the course of a week, either on their own as a quick snack lunch, or with a selection of veg for dinner.

Cluck & Sizzle
Contained within a box sporting a cute cartoon of a pig and a chicken, this is - no surprises - a chicken and bacon pie. It claims smoked bacon on the packaging, and the meat is in a white wine sauce. The pastry is nice and light, not overly stodgy or dry, but the filling is a bit of a mixed bag. It quickly becomes clear that the white wine sauce is probably the largest component in the pie, and the filling is very liquid. There are a fair few chicken pieces of a reasonable size, but the bacon comes in tiny shavings, none larger than a grain of rice, and it's not exactly plentiful. What little is there tastes good but is pretty much overwhelmed by the white wine sauce, so I honestly couldn't tell whether it tasted like smoked bacon or not. The chicken comes out better - it has good flavour in and of itself (unusual enough for chicken, let alone in a sauce, in a pie) and the sauce complements it well. The sauce has a good, rich flavour to it, but it's far too runny for this kind of pie, especially when there's so little meat in there.

Overall, it's very much a case of 'could do better', particularly where the shameful dearth of bacon is concerned. I'd expected good, hearty chunks of bacon (most likely with large amounts of fat, but beggars can't be choosers) rather than the crumbs floating in a sea of white wine sauce. More meat overall would have been a better complement to the quality of the sauce.

Moo Achoo
Long-term readers of this humble blog will no doubt be aware of my scepticism toward anything claiming to be spicy, and that seems to extend to 'peppered steak'. More often than not, any seasoning would get overwhelmed by the sauce but, thankfully, not so here. The contents of this pie are described as 'tender braised beef with cracked black pepper and onion in a rich sauce', and it hits the mark perfectly. The chunks of beef are nice and large (with no discernible fatty bits in the pie I tried), but pepper is very nearly the dominant flavour (albeit far from sneeze-inducing). The onion is softened to the point where it's almost undetectable, other than in the subtle bite it ads to the flavour of each mouthful. The sauce is definitely rich - not to mention much thicker than the white wine sauce in 'Cluck & Sizzle' - but it's essentially just a garden variety gravy. Also, perhaps because the makers didn't think there was enough pepper in the sauce, there's a sprinkling on the pie crust as well.

This was my favourite of the three pies, largely because the plentiful chunks of beef were so well complemented by the thick oniony, superbly peppery sauce. It's very warming and very filling.

Hot Cow
This pie - billed as 'hot chilli seasoned minced beef with kidney beans in a spicy tomato sauce' - I'm in two minds about. One the one hand, it seemed to be literally filled to the brim, and that is quite rare for packaged pies these days. The filling appears to be proportionally more minced beef than anything else, and it's very well seasoned, so as to be hot without being eyewatering. On the other hand, it's not very successful as 'chilli' because the bean content is extremely low, and the tomato sauce would be pretty bland were it not for the seasoned meat.

It's certainly filling, and as a component of a larger dinner it's excellent. It's just the right level of spiciness to go well with whatever you'd normally serve with a beef pie, but will go equally well with more heavily seasoned accompaniments.

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