As you may know by now, we’re away for Easter and no, my housesitters don’t extend their duties to blog sitting! One of my favourite pre-holiday preparations is choosing my holiday reading. I always try to have at least one book based in the country or culture I’m visiting, as it adds something in my view if you’re reading it in situ. And, of course, I like it to have a fairly strong food content. So here are a few of my favourites, or hopefully soon to be favourites!
1. Everything But the Squeal – this is my choice for this trip, although it’s a bit of a cheat as we’ll be in Majorca and it’s based in Northern Spain. In fact, I should have had this when I toured that part of Spain, and it did involve a lot of pig derived eating. A very under-rated part of Spain, but this book promises to bring it to life, from both a cultural and a food perspective.
2. Eat My Globe: One Man’s Search for the Best Food in the World – if, by any remote chance, your destination doesn’t have a suitable book written about it, then I would add Simon Majumdar’s book to your suitcase. By the end, you may come to the same conclusion, that Simon has eaten stuff so you never have to. Honestly, I don’t need to eat dog. But do share his admiration for Mrs King’s pork pies. A great read, highly recommend it.
3. Hokkaido Highway Blues – I’ve been really lucky to have several trips to Tokyo with my day job, and this has come with me each time. Whilst it’s based in places I haven’t got to, the culture it describes is familiar, and alien in the way that Japan gets you. Although this is a bit of a road book, then, being Japan, eating also figures high up on the agenda. Not to mention drinking!
5. Adventures on the High Teas: In Search of Middle England – if you’re having a staycation, then Stuart Maconie’s book is a great one to have along for the ride. There are so many laugh out loud moments, and I hadn’t really appreciated from listening to him on the radio that he was a bit of a foodie. Everywhere he visits is measured by its tea rooms and local delicacies. If you’re staying in the North, then buy Pies and Prejudice. Or just go mad and buy both.
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.
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:
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
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.
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!