It’s all about the pork pies

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Know your pies - Mrs King's the best of my very local pies. Although possibly not the very best

 

I have no idea what’s been going on out there, but all of a sudden I’ve had a whole heap of people ending up at the site looking for the answer to one question: what is the difference between a mini Melton Mowbray pork pie and a mini pork pie?

I did rather cheekily tweet that the answer was rather obvious and already in the question, but must remember that not everyone is so close to the differences. We live as part of Melton Borough Council and therefore the pork pie figures large in our life around here. I am not saying it’s the only reason we live here but…well, put it this way, when you’ve got Stilton and pork pies, what more could you want?

In case you didn’t already know, a Melton Mowbray pork pie has Protected Geographical Indication status, meaning it has to come from a specific area , and has distinct characteristics. Its sides are bow shaped, as it is baked free standing rather than in a tin of some description, and it uses fresh pork, not cured, giving the meat a more grey appearance, not pink. The meat must be pure chopped pork, as opposed to minced, and you’ll get a good amount of jelly and seasoning.

If you want to know about the history of the Melton Mowbray pork pie (and it is interesting in terms of clever cooks turning a problem into a profitable business) then I recommend a read of Rupert Matthews’ Leicestershire Food & Drink. The book covers the pie’s history from humble beginnings through to protected status, and also covers that other great protected product of the area, Stilton.

Never mind all that, what about eating them? Well, there are 10 manufacturers who belong to the Melton Mowbray Pork Pie Association. Here’s my thoughts, coloured completely by the big pork pie lover in the house, who has worked through them all!

1. Dickinson & Morris – if you came to Melton Mowbray, then Dickinson & Morris is the most visible pork pie manufacturer in the town. You can possibly even see a demonstration of how the pies were made. You don’t even need to come to Melton as most of the big supermarkets carry them. A number of family members proclaim them pretty good, especially the hand raised one. But you will have to go to the shop for that one. They do good hampers of local produce which I have sent to my awkward to buy for relatives a couple of times, and they have been well received.

2. Mrs King’s – I don’t know how many more accolades Mrs King’s needs. One of Rick Stein’s Food Heroes, and also features in Simon Majumdar’s Eat My Globe, this is also MGG’s favourite and features on the lunchtime menu at our local, and several others in the area. Generally we buy this ready to be cooked at home, where you also add in the jelly as well. Or not, depending on your preference. This is an old family company, and there are a number of stockists around the country, but they don’t have a website. Give them a ring on the phone. Or if you are in Nottingham then stop in the excellent cheese shop in Flying Horse Walk, they definitely stock them.

3. Brockleby’s – I’ve featured these before, but the pies from Brockleby’s are the only certified organic Melton Mowbray pork pie. The pork is from rare breed pigs, either at the farm or from neighbouring ones. These are worth the trip out to the farm shop, or you’ll find Ian and his team at many of the farmer’s markets in the area. Or, if you’re posh, then Daylesford Organics carry them too!

4. Pork Farms – you know what, I don’t buy their pork pies, or any other of their products. I am amazed they are in the organisation. My view, and that of these tasters, is don’t waste your money.

5. Northfield Farm – another stalwart of local food festivals, normally cooking up very tasty sausages and burgers, but also make a very good Melton Mowbray pork pie. Northfield are really big on rare breeds, and the pork comes from their pigs. Pies are hand raised and baked without support, in the traditional manner. You can order online, and I highly recommend their burgers as well.

6. F Bailey & Son – a small, traditional butcher, this is stocked by our local butcher, and is a good standby pie for our household. This is a slight variation, as this is baked in a mould, so not entirely traditional.

7. Nelsons of Stamford – if you fancy somewhere a bit different on the pie run, then head to Stamford and get one from Nelsons. Stamford is lovely, and Nelsons not only make a pork pie but some great tasting Lincolnshire sausage as well. The pies have been feted with over 50 medals, and there has been a butchers carrying the Nelson name in Stamford since 1826. Whilst you’re in Stamford, you might want to stop by the Adnams shop, great beer and wine selection, bound to be something good to go with your pie!

8. Patricks – we have failed, I am sorry. For some reason this one has passed us by.  They’ve been in business over 20 years, so I guess they know what they are doing.

9. Chappell’s Fine Foods – look for these labelled as Forryans Melton Mowbray Pork Pies. Again, nearly 40 years of experience, following the traditional methods, this gets rated as per the company name: fine.

10. Walkers Charnwood Bakery – producing a lot of the supermarket own brand Melton Mowbray pork pies, you can also buy this under their own name of Walkers, but mainly just here in the East Midlands. But when we have so much choice, it’s a rare moment when we do.

So, this is perhaps part one, and should tell you what the difference is, and what I would recommend eating, but it has to be said there are some fabulous pork pies being made without the Melton Mowbray name, with different techniques, and enjoying a bit of a revival. I’ll come to those later in the week.

Happy pie eating though in the meantime!

 

Photo of a fabulous Mrs King’s pork pie by Dan Taylor on Flickr.

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Eat, Drink, Shop Locally Like Never Before

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I know, eating local is nothing new, it was all the rage last year. And, lets face it, 2008 and 2009 were incredibly tough years for everyone and just when we thought there was light at the end of the tunnel the snow came. We all wanted to hibernate. Nice and warm, but bad for business.

 

Melton Mowbray, ruler of rural food

 

So now the snow and ice are leaving us, this is my plea for you to get out there and support your local food and drink businesses: everyone from the producers to the retailers, the farmer’s markets to the restaurants. Many will have had the best part of nearly 3 bad weeks, which is not the best start for the new year. Never mind food trends, they need you right now. Here’s my shameless plug for the local businesses that will be getting my cash over the next few weeks:

1. Red Lion Inn- these guys don’t really need the plug (they were on the Hairy Biker’s and Olive Magazine called the team in charge the dream team) but they deserve all the praise, and the rewards. Early doors dinner is just £16.50 for 3 courses, and this week included a spectacular smoked haddock risotto with poached egg, pan fried sea bream with chorizo and mash and braised blade of beef.

2. Caffe & Deli Italia– probably the best proper cappuccino going in Melton Mowbray, not to mention a great deli. This is a great independent business, a family business. Skip the chains, head here.

3. The Melton Cheeseboard– we’re blessed around here with great cheese makers, and also with a great cheese shop in Melton Mowbray. If you love cheese, you’ll love it in here. If you’re avoiding cheese, you will need to avoid here! With Stilton from Long Clawson and Quenby and Sparkenhoe Red Leicester, you can be busy supporting several local producers at once.

4. Brockleby’s Farm Shop – perfect for devotees of Melton Mowbray pork pies, Ian Jalland and the team produce the only organic pork pie produced in the borough of Melton, and mighty fine it is too. The farm shop also carries meat from their rare breeds, and a full range of everything that you’re going to need for some great dining at home.

5. The Malt House Deli– if I’m working at home during the week, then I tend to sneak out for breakfast at The Malt House. You can get a full English, but I tend to go for a sausage butty, made with good Lincolnshire sausages. A small but good selection of victuals, and a really good selection of breads, including a very good spelt one.

6. Crossroads Farm Shop- this is my nearest farm shop, and does fantastic pork. Have a look at the pigs in the farmyard, and then pop inside to see what they’ve got. We had a brilliant joint of pork from them to make porchetta at New Year, and Best Foodie Friend had an amazing gammon joint. Cracking bacon too!

7. Colston Bassett Dairy- talk about cutting food miles! During the week and on Saturday morning you can buy your Stilton direct from Colston Bassett Dairy, from the shop on site. Just don’t come at lunchtime, it’ll be closed. If that’s the case, then pop just down the road to Colston Bassett Store, as they carry it too. You might even be able to get into the coffee shop for lunch. Failing that, you could always head over to The Martin’s Arms. Not cheap, but will be one heck of a good lunch.

These are my local food haunts and whilst I’d love everyone to visit them, first and foremost get out and find the equivalents in your area. It’s not just a gift to you and your family, but to them and their families, their employees, their suppliers, their families….and so the circle goes on. Money spent locally continues to do good locally. This is not about being parochial, but thinking about how you spend your money. And maybe think about spending just a little less this week and sending it to the Haiti appeal.

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Looking for Bank Holiday food entertainment

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A nice cup of tea and a sit down. And cake.

 

Call it a hunch, but I reckon there’ll be traffic queues and toilet queues at the grand houses of the UK today. This must be peak viewing day for National Trust properties and other national treasures such as Chatsworth, which these days is less of a trial for children, thanks to kid’s trails and playgrounds, and for food lovers, as most places have caught on pretty quick.

We made a quick dash to Belton House yesterday, our nearest National Trust property. If only because it has an amazing adventure playground for a 7 year old to blow off some steam in. I’d not been before so was keen to see where the food level was pitched at. And I was pleasantly surprised! Local produce was well featured, from Lincolnshire sausages through to local veg. There were gluten free cakes from Crimbles, which is a nice touch for not excluding anyone from tea time treats.

And there were cakes. Glorious, homemade looking cakes. Of course there was Victoria Sponge and Lemon Drizzle cake, but was thrilled to see Chocolate Beetroot (MGG pronounced it delicious) and Parsnip and Caraway amongst others. Decent tea, Belvoir cordials and no sign of instant coffee anywhere. Perfect.

Of course, the grande dame of this sort of thing has to be Chatsworth though. Their farm shop is a thing of foodie beauty, and the coffee shop has the most idyllic view. And I’m not just talking about the cakes. I am thankful not to be there today, as I am sure it is hectically busy, but enjoyed an afternoon there a couple of Friday’s ago. Tea was delightful (and scarily, no more expensive for three drinks and three fabulous cakes than 2 mediocre coffees, a glass of water and 2 cakes at Starbucks) and the staff suitably charming. And the picture perfect scenery just added to the whole occasion.

 

The results of a farm shop dash at Chatsworth

 

The farmshop itself is upmarket, not exactly cheap, but very clearly focused on food values. Great selection that you could do your weekly shop from, or just choose some carefully edited highlights to add to the every day stuff you have. In my little haul there’s some great local salami,  slices of proper baked ham, a Lincolnshire plum loaf, Stout Porter from Tollgate Brewery, something from Peak Ales (we drank that already, so can’t check) and some Stichelton. The black pudding and oatcakes come from my earlier visit that day to the market in Hanley, which was responsible for this dish.

So, I would say planning a visit to a national treasure shouldn’t now mean compromising on your foodie values, even if you don’t take your own delightful picnic. Let me know if you think there’s a foodie treat hidden away at a national treasure near you, I’d love to notch up a few more. Although I’m going back to Chatsworth next week for the Country Fair, from 4th to 6th September. As you can imagine, it has a big food contingent. I’m pleased to see at least two very local suppliers in attendance: Belvoir Fruit Farms for great cordials and Brocklebys for the only organic Melton Mowbray pork pie around.

Advance tickets are still available, and there really will be something for all the family, whether they love their food or not. Just remember to pack a picnic for when you’re sitting in the traffic jam at the end of the day!

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