Time to get busy on the pie front


Celebrate British Pie week by getting making your own at home

This is one of our favourite weeks, British Pie Week. The British Pie awards were judged yesterday just up the road from us in Melton Mowbray, and there’ll be a chicken and mushroom pie featuring soon on the menu here.

Are you all set for pie making? These would be my essentials.

Silicone mat for pastry rolling out

Professional silicone pastry mat

Ok, until I had one of these I never thought this was an essential. Now I have one, I wouldn’t give it up. It makes it easy in terms of not sticking, but also for rolling out to the right size. It doesn’t take up much space, can also be used for things like chocolate and tuiles, so I think it makes a good addition to any kitchen.

An adjustable rolling pin


Adjustable rolling pin from Joseph Joseph

So, once you’ve made getting the right size of pastry sorted, then there’s also the thickness. I’ve often still worked with a pound coin at the side to check, but this clever rolling pin definitely takes a lot of the guesswork out of it. I love that Joseph Joseph continue to think about how to make things just that little bit easier.

A conversation-stopper of a pie funnel


Rooster pie funnel for pie perfection


There’s nothing like the sight of a fabulous, steaming pie heading to the table, and especially when there’s an interesting pie funnel in the middle of it. I’d like a set of these animal ones for different kinds of pie, so rooster for our immediate plans, but there are cows and lambs as well, not to mention apples and other fruit.

A great set of tins


Simple Simon Pie Moulds

Who says that it has to be all about one big pie? Although that is never a bad thing, I really love this set of tins from Simple Simon for making a set of small raised pies. It’s a clever adaptable bit of kit in terms of size, and definitely useful for if everyone likes a different filling, or for making pies for a fabulous buffet spread.

A beautiful pie dish


Fluted stoneware deep pie dish


I’ve always been in two minds about ceramic dishes. You certainly need to work a bit harder to avoid a soggy bottom, but when you’ve got that cracked then there are so many beautiful dishes around. I really like this fluted stoneware one from Nom Living. A beautiful dish for a wonderful pie.

Five things to make at home pie making a little easier, or a little more stylish. Although if I don’t get round to making a pie, then maybe it’s time for another order from Bray’s Cottage. Still our favourite pork pie maker bar none.


We’d eat all the pies!


Pie school


It’s British Pie Week, and they are certainly popular in our house, with chicken pie always having ranked as one of MGG’s favourite dinners. If we had to choose, then these would definitely be our favourite pies:

Bray’s Cottage – given our proximity to Melton Mowbray, then it’s always felt slightly wrong to love a non Melton Mowbray pork pie more than a local one, but we do. Let’s face it, we love them so much, MGG even did a 40 minute work experience on the stall with Sarah on our last visit to Norfolk. I bemoan the fact that there are no local stockists, and more that I am not organised enough to order them by post. In spite of many imitators, the onion marmalade one is still my favourite.

Hartland Pies – our second favourite pork pies, and definitely more local and easier to get hold of. The pork and stilton sums up two great local flavours, and also fond of the slightly more exotic for Melton pulled pork version too. Available in London and further afield from here too.

Pieminister – having long standing connections to Bristol, then we adopted these pies fairly early on, and am happy to find them all over the place now. To combine the two localities, then it would have to be a Moo and Blue pie for us, which is steak and Long Clawson Stilton. Although we’d prefer Colston Basset Stilton in this house.

Great North Pie Co. – I’m from the north, and pie does seem a very northern thing. And I love the Great North Pie Co for really taking the pies to the next level. Big winners at the British Pie Awards last year, and I’ve no doubt will be this year too if they continue to turn out things like Ox Cheek, Stout, Pearl Barley and Redcurrant. If you’re in the North West, find one of the markets they’re at and stock up!

I’m with MGG in that this is great comfort food, perfect for cold days, and therefore this week feels like the perfect time to indulge. Although we’re off to Australia soon, and apparently they like a pie or two, so we may have to test the southern hemisphere versions too.

Photo by Donna Sutton on Flickr. Sounds like my kind of school!


The Friday Five – It’s All About the Pies


Next week is apparently British Pie Week, and it’s definitely something we are brilliant at here in the UK. Certainly it’s a very popular dish in this household, with chicken pie being up there in MGG’s top 3 dinners. I am not suggesting that you need 5 books just about pies, but one might not go amiss on your shelves, to move you beyond the usual suspects. Here’s 5 that might do that:




Pie by Angela Boggiano – does what it says on the tin! This covers everything from the basics to the real homemade favourites through to sweet pies and suitable extras. I really like the photography in this, and the recipes are pretty tasty sounding too.


Perfect Pies


The Hairy Bikers’ Perfect Pies – this is on the bookshelf here, and I really should cook from this. Before they got onto dieting then Dave and Si were big on pies, and this has some different things like plate pies (which reminds me of my grandma), potato topped pies and even party pies. I’m betting there’s a retro gala pie in there somewhere!


Pie Society


Pie Society by Tom Bridge – the subtitle on this is traditional savoury pies, pasties and puddings from around the British Isles. I guess that means no matter where you spent your childhood you might find a local pie that brings back some memories. This also covers the history of pies, just in case you needed to know.


The Lost Art of Pie Making


The Lost Art of Pie Making Made Easy – this is a bit of a cheat, as this is an American book and focuses on their pie traditions, but we all need a little variety. There are fruit pies, custard pies, nut pies and even Pennsylvania Dutch pies. I’d find this fascinating, and could definitely make room for this.


Pie Pops


Pie Pops – I’m not sure how I feel about this as the whole cake pops thing has passed me by and I’ve never made one. Of course a pie pop surely has a grand tradition started by Mr Kipling. And then there’s always the mini pork pie. If you want a move on from cake pops, then this may be just the thing.

Given that the weather is still very wintry, then making a pie or two has to be a great thing to do, and to eat. I can see a few being consumed here next week. What would you choose? I’m thinking of going a bit retro and making corned beef pie.


The Friday Five – On pies, baking and Britishness


It could be because we’ve gone beyond the Last Night of the Proms, which is always a signal of autumn for me, or that publishers are preparing for Christmas, but there is a raft of new books out that are calling out for attention. And there is a bit of a theme, all around real comfort food. Here’s five that I’m thinking of making room for:


Jamie's Great Britain - the one Jamie Oliver cookbook that's on my shelves, I think this is a great gift for a food lover


Jamie’s Great Britain – well, he’s been around a lot of the globe, so I think it was inevitable that Jamie Oliver ended up back in the UK at some point. The cynic in me would say this is capturing a trend for Britishness that we’ll see grow as we head into the Olympics, but it looks like this will encompass all the great flavours that Britain is famous for. I’m sure this will be a huge success, and keep the focus on the ever improving British food scene.

The Hairy Bikers’ Perfect Pies – love the Hairy Bikers, love pies, which has to make this a perfect book for me. As you’d might expect this covers sweet and savoury, small and large, traditional and new. Something for everyone.

Pieminister: A Pie for All Seasons – told you I love pies, and I love Pieminister, been buying their pies pretty much from when they started. All the favourites are there, and try something different like a St Valentine’s pie. I guess you don’t need both of the pie books, but would be hard pressed to choose between them!

Tea with Bea: Recipes from Bea’s of Bloomsbury – more stuff I love. Proper tea time, plenty of baking, cake. This book certainly covers all of those, and then some. I wouldn’t know where to start but quite sure I would find plenty of willing volunteers to try whatever I was testing out. Teatime could become very popular!

Ginger Pig Meat Book – I love the description of this as a meat manual for the inquisitive domestic cook, which I guess means you can get beyond your usual meat cooking routine from this. Covering different meats, and by month, as well as all the accompaniments, this gives you endless variations and possibilities. I don’t know what aromatic melting pork is, other than delicious, but it makes me want to really make it!

So five choices that really reflect great food, the sort of stuff I love to cook, that are perfect as we head into winter. I would say these are not the sort of books to read in bed though, you’ll be starving by page 6!


Bring on the pies!


Celebrating British Pie Week - love our pies

Tomorrow sees the start of British Pie Week, which has to be one of my favourite weeks of the year. I know it’s sponsored by Jus Rol, but I have to admit to quite often resorting to a pack of their pastry. Whilst it’s really geared to the pub trade, I think it provides a great excuse to get out and indulge in great pies of the UK. Here’s a few thoughts:

*I’ve written loads about pork pies, and there are only three choices for me: Mrs King’s, Brockelbys and Brays Cottage.

* For tasty pies for dinner, then try Simple Simon’s Pies from Scotland. Starting out with the best local Aberdeen Angus, they now offer flavours such as chorizo sausage with black eyed beans and goats cheese or a Breakfast Pie. These are puff pastry pies, which I do love, even with all the flaky messiness!

* No need anymore to miss out if you’re the sensitive type, as The Gluten Free Kitchen can offer you up a couple of decent pie options. There are pork pies for picnics, or minced beef and onions for dinner time. These are gluten and wheat free, but not taste free!

* MGGs favourite pie is chicken (unless it’s a pork pie day) and I think she’d be quite impressed with the free range chicken pie from Lodge Farm Kitchen. Smooth and creamy sauce wraps up chunks of free range chicken topped off with crisp puff pastry. Seems to be a good sustainable business model as well, with on site wormeries, compost bins, and reusable packaging.

* If you’re going to go down the homemade route, then you’ll be wanting a good pie dish. I love the good old-fashioned enamel ones that Lakeland have, they remind me of my grandma’s.

* Need some inspiration on what pie to cook? Then my recommendation would be Pie by Angela Boggiano. From sweet pies to special occasion pies, there is a pie for every occasion in here.

Go on, treat yourself to a pie this week! Perfect for if the weather is going to turn colder, nothing better!


Trust Boots: Christmas is looking tasty


So, it’s mid September, which means Christmas is appearing in shops all over, on the High Street and online. I’ve written about a few early contenders, so seems only fair to feature what’s going on in Boots.

In case you don’t know, for my day job I work for Boots, but I work on beauty, not food. But you know what? I feel really proud of the new stuff going out this year, and I’ll be adding a few of these to my basket this year. Here’s a few of the early highlights.

* Renowned for quirky and interesting clothes, there’s a great range from Joules in store, that sums up cosy British winter eating. The Perfect Porridge set has two really pretty and sturdy looking bowls and spoons, as well as a packet of oats to get you started (although I’d probably add some Rude Health porridge to the gift as well). The egg and toast set would see you serving up dippy eggs with style, and the Hamper is perfect for those who will be looking forward to an outdoor life again, whatever the weather.

* I’m really rather partial to Gu puddings, especially the small ones that give you just enough of a sweet hit without over-indulging. So, I’m rather keen on the Gu gift range, which goes from £6 to £20. I mean crackers filled with Gu truffles have to be more fun and tasty than a fortune telling fish. I’ve had one or two cake stands this year, but imagine I could find room for the sweet stand, if only for chocolate goodies that go with it.

* Something I’m definitely going to be getting on 3 for 2 as great standby small gifts or stocking fillers are the Sweetshop Take Out Boxes. These look so cute in their Chinese take out style cartons, and with good traditional sweets like licquorice allsorts and chocolate eclairs there’s something that everyone will enjoy. These are £4 a go, or there are some attractive bags at £3.

* Interesting to see a Nando’s range instore. Not sure if this is exclusive to Boots, but I can see there will be chilli lovers who will be happy to get some of these gift sets, if only for the sauces.

* I’m going to have to go in store and buy this pie dish, as I have been lusting after the one sat on a colleague’s desk for months! I think it’s a really good looking pie dish, and it comes with a flour shaker and pastry brush. Great gift for £18, and spot on for the comfort food we’re all going to be craving this winter. There’s also been a really nice cake stand on her desk too, but I’ve already got two this year, so three would be greedy. But you may need one!

So, some really good choices that I can imagine finding on my shopping list, and in my wrapping up pile. All of these are in the famous mix and match 3 for 2, so great value as well. This year I am sure the vast majority of us will be shopping frugally, so every saving we can make is going to be valuable. Keep a look out for the gift guide, which will be some time in October, as all sorts of other things coming. Some of which I’ve worked on 😉 But that would be telling!


The Friday Five – Baking Time!


Artisan Bread in 5 minutes a day

I have to say that I have fallen well short of baking time during National Baking Week so far this week! Writing about it has been about as far as I have got! That, and reading about stuff I could be baking, so it only seems right that this week’s Friday Five should all be about baking. So here are 5 that I would want to have to take baking up to the next level.

1. Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day: The Discovery That Revolutionises Home Baking – I’ve already written about baking bread at home this week and I would add this book to your bookshelf if you’re thinking of expanding your breadmaking. This apparently is a very simple way to create fabulous tasting bread every day, for no more effort than it takes to bake a potato. Apparently!

2. Cake Chic by Peggy Porschen – this really is cake decorating at the next level. To be honest, I am not sure I have the patience for this level of decoration, but it doesn’t mean I don’t want to look at glorious creations! This is a great book for dedicated cupcake queens or eager cake decorators, or just aspiration for those of us who have not yet got past buttercream and hundreds and thousands!

3. The Lost Art of Pie Making Made Easy – I would choose this to help me make one of MGG’s favourite foods: chicken pie. And, lets face it, is there any better comfort food than a piping hot pie served straight from the oven? I would think there is something quite comforting and relaxing about making a pie, so this would be therapy and food all at the same time!

4. How to Be a Domestic Goddess: Baking and the Art of Comfort Cooking – still one of my favourite baking books of all time, and I think it should be on every bookshelf of every kitchen. I think I have baked the lemon and cherry loaf about 30 times, not to mention how many batches of the birthday biscuits I’ve knocked up.

5. Hello, Cupcake!: Irresistible Playful Creations Anyone Can Make – this has the cutest looking cover, and I would love to be able to turn out cupcakes like these. And it does say anyone can make them, so it might be worth giving them a go, and buying this for everyone from amateur to hugely experienced baker.


My foodie holiday reading


One of the best parts of a holiday is choosing your holiday reading, and I am happy to have got through 3 books over the fortnight that have a definite foodie flavour to them (somehow, I can’t really say A Year in the Merde counts, although it was a good trashy read). In case you or your loved one need some inspiration, these were my three:


Cod - the fish that changed the world - great gift for a food lover looking for a good book


1. Cod A Biography of the Fish That Changed the World by Mark Kurlansky

This was on the bookshelf in our gite, and I swapped A Year in the Merde for it, and am really pleased I did. An unlikely subject, but really fascinating. I may not be dashing into the kitchen to try some of the recipes though. Salted cod tounges anyone? I know it’s not a new book, having won the Best Food Book at the Glenfiddich 1999 Food & Drink Awards, but it is worth a read

2. Pies and Prejudice by Stuart Maconie

I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry at this book, being a good Northern girl myself. Plenty of food references, from Uncle Joe’s Mint Balls through to the best black pudding on Bury market. Easy read, but worth every minute of reading it.

3. Eat My Globe by Simon Majumdar

Simon exists so I don’t have to try things like dog and rat. I feel like a very poor foodie in relation to the things he’s tried, but quite happy not to! This is a world tour like no other, and worth reading wherever you are in the world.

Should keep you going for a little while at least!