You might have noticed, I do write about pork pies a reasonable amount, but living this close to Melton Mowbray it shouldn’t really be that surprising. And most of the household is quite partial to a pork pie or two, but I can’t say it would necessarily be something I’d have thought of buying for a Valentine’s Day gift. But as a few people have been looking, then here’s some thoughts for you:
* Whilst heresy round here, my favourite pork pie is not a Melton Mowbray one. Bray’s Cottage Pork Pies have won Gold at the Great Taste Awards, and me over to eating pork pies, so some achievement! For a serious pork pie lover then a three pound pie might do the trick or a lot of smaller ones, take your pick! The addition of onion marmalade makes these a bit different, and the chilli version peps up any lunch box. You can even order a tiered version for your wedding, or a very big party!
* For something a bit fancy, and a bit different, then try the Poachers Pie from Fortnum & Mason. The pork is topped with a lid of delicious Lincolnshire Poacher cheese, and then little sweet onions. This is a bit like a Ploughmans in pie format. Go large for a very impressive pie!
* The second highest rated pie in this house is Mrs King’s Melton Mowbray. They’ve won so many awards it’s almost boring to mention them, but the taste makes it worthwhile. If you want to extend beyond the Melton Mowbray, then there’s the Pork & Blue Stilton, a Game Pie and even a Pork, Chicken, Apricot and Herb Stuffing one. Plenty to go at!
I thought it was time to give a quick mention to some of the great food companies and farm shops here on the doorstep of FGH Towers, particularly as we, and they, are gearing up for Christmas.
First up would be W E Botterill and Son in Croxton Kerrial. It must be that eerily quiet time of year in Croxton, when the geese are no longer herded through the village, and a silence has fallen. If you’re looking for a free range goose, then this is a great place to shop for one, and am also very fond of their turkey. Their bronze turkey has graced the Christmas table here on several occasions, and very tasty and moist it was too. Also, whilst cost is not the only reason for choice, much more reasonable than a very large producer of good quality birds. Whilst I’m all for paying for quality, there wasn’t as big a gap in taste as the price gap might have led you to believe.
Heading west a bit to Melton and head into Brockleby’s, and I would be stocking up on pies, particularly of the pork variety. Brockleby’s Melton Mowbray pork pie is the only one made with free range meat, and also uses local flour from Whissendine Mill in the hot-water pastry. They’re also doing a wild game pie, perfect for a Boxing Day buffet without effort. And for something a bit different for the Christmas table then check out their own Hebridean lamb, a slow maturer that develops a richer, fuller flavour whilst retaining meat of great tenderness. Perfect turkey antidote!
Cross the border into Nottinghamshire, and I’d be on my way to Gonalston Farm Shop. This is a shop that has undergone huge expansion over the years we’ve been going there, and has a huge selection for you to pick from. Whilst there is a huge choice of meat, their fish counter is also really good, and always worth a stop by. Great smoked fish selection, particularly for salmon, so that’s Christmas morning scrambled eggs, bagels and smoked salmon sorted out. If you’re around on Wednesday 10 November, they’re holding their Festive Food Fayre between 11 and 6.30pm.
Last stop now, and pretty much on the doorstep, for Crossroads Farm Shop at Eastwell. Family run by the Hewsons, this is my stopping point (or actually dispatching Dr T point as time doesn’t allow) for pork and beef. The pork comes from their own reared Middle Whites and Berkshires, which you can go see in the farmyard. We’re having a rib of Lincoln Red for Christmas from them, which will have been well hung for 3 weeks.
It’s also a great stop for a quick coffee and some very delicious cake. I love that they do not just whole cakes to take home but suitable sizes for every household size or appetite. They’re also stockists for Great Food Leicestershire & Rutland magazine. You remember I said I would watch and see how this one got on? Well it’s on edition three, and seems to be doing very nicely. Although now got some dodgy local woman writing about food gifts for Christmas in the latest edition.
So wherever you are, get out and support your local food shops and producers, and remember if you treat them right, they’re for life, not just for Christmas!
Of course I was delighted to get back from holiday to find an election had been called. How riveting the 4 weeks will be. I’m afraid I can’t quite see the attraction of being an MP. Unless there’s good food involved.
Which got me thinking. Which is the best seat to hold from a food perspective?
I mean, my local MP, god love him, is Alan Duncan, contesting the Rutland and Melton seat. Which is not a bad seat, if you love pork pies and Stilton cheese, which I’d consider a pretty good haul. So, if I had to stand as an MP, which other seats are worth looking at from a food perspective? Here’s where I’d be voting for:
* Cornwall North – not suggesting that the MP would get any special treatment, but this does cover Padstow. Which apparently has some quite good seafood restaurants. There’s Philip Warren & Son at Launceston, butchers to the Rare Breeds Survival Trust. Which does seem a slight oxymoron but never mind.
* Gower- not only beautiful surroundings, but some good food producers too. Again, may suit an MP with a sweet tooth, to partake of Gower Cottage Brownies. If they’re ok for members of the Welsh Rugby team then…! If they wanted to get a few bottles in, then I would head for Mumbles Fine Wines. Fantastic range of wines from around the world, not to mention wines from Cwm Deri, whisky from Penderyn and beer and lager from The Hurns Brewery.
* Skipton & Ripton – again, gorgeous parts of the country, and some good food to be had. It would be possible to live very well on the products emerging from Bleikers smokehouse. Trout cured with gin is not an insult about an old soak, but a very good piece of fish to have. Need a pudding? Check out good old fashioned puds from Just Puds. And proving Alan Duncan isn’t the only one with access to pork pies, then you could head over to Appletons Pie Shop.Whether you get to queue jump when you’re MP, I’m not sure.
* Bradford West – may not immediately leap to mind, but if you love curry, where better? Well, maybe one of the Leicester constituencies…but this one covers Mumtaz, which covers a restaurant and food empire, so curry for all occasions. If they don’t just want to have a fridge full of curry, then they could pop over to Keelham Hall Farm Shop and stock up on fruit and veg, meat and poultry…pretty much anything with an emphasis on local sourcing.
I think in reality pretty much every seat would have some food credentials worth representing, which is testament to the growth in artisanal and local food production around the UK. It also makes it worthwhile to ask your candidates where they stand on food issues and fair deals for our farmers.
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.
Those of you who’ve read my blog on more than one occasion will know that I try to not feature the obvious, am not much of a lover of the themed gift, and tend to write about stuff that first and foremost tastes great, rather than looks right for the occasion. I’m not going to divert from that now so, if you’re looking for hearts and flowers, you’re in the wrong place.
Instead I’m going to write a series of these for foodies with different kinds of tastes. Perhaps I should have called this first entry My Bloody Valentine, as I thought I would start with great gifts for those that love their meat.
Of course it’s not a traditional gift (unless it’s in the stalkerish tradition of sending an animl heart in a box to an ex, not recommended) but could be good excuse to indulge in some great meat (no tittering at the back please). Here’s a few suggestions from me:
A little dried sausage, perhaps? A whole saucisson or two could be just the thing . Try a natural countryside rosette of whole smoked saucisson dried in an old fashioned fireplace by Roches Blanches.
Where’s the beef? Well, they won’t be asking that if they take delivery of 18kgs of Longhorn beef from Huntsham Farm. Every cut of beef you could want, from sirloin to silverside and plenty of mince in between. Renowned for their rare breed meat, this is going to be a gift of exceptional taste that will create a whole heap of meals for you to share happily together.
Want to see a look of confusion followed by delight? Try wrapping up an 8kg Serrano ham on the bone. It’ll look like you’re sending a haunch of something, but once they’ve stopped being concerned/laughing then delicious ham is guaranteed, for weeks!
Valentine’s Day is no time to be mean, so be generous and go large. How about a whole traditional rare breed pig, all butchered and ready for great eating? Well Keythorpe Traditional Pork & Lamb can offer you just that. It could be any one of the rare breed pigs that they keep, but all are going to be interesting eating, or curing, depending on your loved one’s level of skill.
For a slight tounge in cheek gift, how about salami from The Real Boar Co? Hopefully they won’t take offence and will get slicing these great British salamis. The Bit of Each gives you three tasty salamis and a chorizo, or you can buy the individual salamis. Great looking cutting boards and knives too.
If they’re into roasts, then how about a meat serving board? I like the one that Jamie Oliver has, for having both style and substance. Looks good, spikes will hold the joint securely and the grooves will capture the juices ready for gravy making. Or just pouring directly back onto the meat!
If they would like to take things into their own hands, then there are some really good butchery courses around for the amateur. The School of Artisan Food has an introductory two day course, as well as Lamb & Mutton or Pig in a day, and River Cottage are, of course, past masters in this.
So, choose to indulge their favourite food choice, rather than falling prey to the norms of Valentine’s Day gifting. It will give them something to talk about, as well as something very tasty to get their teeth into.