Monday, 6 October 2008

In Praise of Pies

Autumn... season of mists, mellow fruitfulness, and pies. I'm sure that's what John Keats wanted to write, but perhaps it didn't quite scan? Anyhow, we've had the mists, our abundance of apples and blackberries is testament to the fruitfulness of the season, and now we've had the pies.

My first pie of Autumn was sampled in Oxford last week. As my friend and I browsed through the Covered Market, mid-morning, we were assailed by the incredible smell emanating from this shop - Pieminister. It was only 10.30 am, perhaps a little premature for lunch..? Reluctantly we walked on by, but returned a couple of hours later, now with a fierce hunger from some serious shopping and a speedy half in the Turf Tavern to whet our appetites still further.

Do check out the Pieminister website for detailed descriptions of their wares - and see if you can resist the online shopping feature... I have just spent a happy few minutes filling the box with virtual pies, and it's only my ever-weakening willpower that's stopped me clicking on the 'confirm order' button.

My dining companion went for the 'Chicken of Aragon' pie and proclaimed it to be the best pie she'd ever eaten. I had the 'Matador Pie' - beef, chorizo, butterbeans, olives and sherry. Quite an unusual flavour combination, but the gamble paid off. It was right up there, jostling for first place with, um, I don't know. Maybe it was the best pie I've ever eaten too? The fillings were delicious, but the pastry, often to hard to perfect, was perfection itself; crisp and crumbly. And I love a business with a sense of humour - check out 'Pie Minister's Question Time' on their website!


Here's the Matador pie. We resisted the option to add mash and mushy peas, these pies were big. (Ignore the spatula, it's just a private joke between me and 50 of my closest friends...)

I am very fortunate to have married someone who loves food and loves cooking. However, during our 4 years of marriage we've learnt the hard way that the kitchen - any kitchen - is only big enough for one chef. On Saturday we were both in a bad mood after a morning of shopping - me because I'd much rather go to Tescos on my own, and him because he wanted a roast dinner and I'm not a mind reader... So, I left him alone in the kitchen to make the pie that he had grudgingly agreed to have for supper. Unable to find beef kidney for the planned S&K pie, we had settled on beef and mushroom as a filling. Despite the fact that I should know to keep well clear, I couldn't resist suggesting the addition of blue cheese. It was a good call. That's just about the only credit I can take for this though - it was a fabulous pie, emerging triumphantly from the oven, and banishing all hints of our previous bad moods.

The filling had been slow-cooked for 2 hours before the pie was assembled, and the steak was meltingly tender. The blue cheese was a strong flavour, but not overpowering, just giving the sauce a slight salty sharpness.

I could criticize Rob for ignoring my suggestion that he use the larger pie dish, but as he remembered, unprompted, to put it on a baking tray in the oven I'll let that one slide. I quite like the look of the overflowing sauce actually.



So, as you can see there's another portion of perfect pie waiting to be called into service as a warming Autumnal supper this week. When there's food like this to look forward to, I find myself actually enjoying the fact that the days are getting colder.

It has occured to me that this might be a good time to mention another famous pie-producer in this part of the world... M. Newitt and Sons is a butcher's shop in nearby Thame, Oxfordshire. Michael Newitt is my uncle, and his sons James and Tom are my cousins. This is one famiy business that it's no hardship to support! Their wares are also sold in Budgens supermarkets, my local one being about a mile from home. Perhaps my love of pies is inherited?

5 comments:

Jon Simon said...

Hello,

I have just read you blog and am really pleased you enjoyed our pies so much. We all try really hard to make the pies as best we can. So to read such nice things that people write unpromted, makes it all feel worthwhile. If you're ever in Bristol, pop into PMHQ and I will buy you lunch.

Keep on munching....

Jon
Founder - pieminister

Norm said...

Jon, I might just take you up on that offer. Your pies are incredible!

culinarytravelsofakitchengoddess said...

Norm that looks wonderful.

Anna said...

Fantastic post Norm!
I want to go to Pieminister now!!

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