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Best of three: Eyes on the pies

We lift the lid on a trio to stay in with on the cheap. And all beginning with P

Published on January 27th 2010.

Best of three: Eyes on the pies
WE love our unnecessary alliteration on dull afternoons while sitting in the cosy confines of the Confidential cupboard in Colquitt Street, above Nice and Naughty – there, that's too many already.

But what news to bring you on the food front? we wondered.

In the papers, everywhere, are pies. Steak and kidney, steak and ale, meat and potato, mince and onion, butter and potato – BUTTER and potato?

Yes, people are staying in with a warming pie, as the redundo trickles out and the winter bites. Sales of the savoury are at their highest for 36 years as we attempt to enjoy pub grub in our own kitchens, in front of the telly, and get the dartboard out for a bit of bully afterwards.

This pie market has grown by 16 per cent to £229 million since the start of 2008, as a resurgence in British food and the creation of better-quality supermarket pies – allegedly – has helped restore their place on the table.

Here's our RANDOM best of three budget pies, all widely available, and no apology for not including a Holland's.

We'll do gourmet versions another time - after a long, long detox with a gastric band.


Potted history: Pukkas began life in Leicestershire in the 1970s, available in glass heated units on the tops of bars in pubs all over the east Midlands. Little were they to know that Jamie Oliver would nick their name and make it his own.

What you get: Hmmm. Only 20% meat but strangely had a very tasty filling. Could it be the sprinkling of MSG? Then again, the minced kidney, rather than chunks, gives a characteristic flavour, while ensuring the offal-shy don't get an unpalatable shock. Thick, oozy gravy, and a light puff pastry lid sits on a body as solid as an Anglo Saxon fort, making this pie a lethal missile in the wrong hands. Perhaps the puck of hockey inspired the name.

Is it terribly bad for you? It's the “healthiest” of this bunch.

How it went down: Confidential fed it to some kids who kids raved over it, saying it was rich and packed with flavour, if not rammed to the ceiling in filling. At the budget end of the pie chain, this is doing very well.

Verdict: Crust almighty. 6.7/10


Potted history: “From humble beginnings we have grown from a small pie manufacturer in Merthyr Tydfil, South Wales to one of Britain’s best-loved brand of pies, pasties and sausage rolls. We make over 30 million delicious pastries every week.”

What you get: Judging by the nutritional info, above, an angioplast, if you pursue these pies as a leisurely hobby, but this effort was not alone in the high “fat-steaks” stakes and a posh Extra Special Asda pie weighed in similar

This dish looked very similar to a Pukka and once broken into revealed a thick, glutinous filling that came just under halfway up the thick walls. There was some meat in there, somewhere, but little in the way of flavour from that or the gravy. The pastry wasn't bad, but very thick. This a budget pie in every sense.

Is it terribly bad for you? No one said pie eating was a healthy sport, but the rugby players pictured all over the packaging suggest a very special constitution may be required to join this particular “Super League”.

How it went down: It looked the part, but was no match for the Pukka on taste. Like anything, if you are going to indulge in something that's bad and wrong, make sure it's really, really worth it.

Verdict: Humble pie. 4.7/10


Potted history: Pooles has history all right. And while the 2010 pie resurgence is ironic for St Helens rival Pimbletts, who went under a while ago, the Wigan-based bakery has managed to survive with a name going back 160 years in the pie capital of the world. Poole's pies were once legendary. These days the firm is owned by Dave Whelan of the sports shop and Wigan Athletic fame. The pies can be bought frozen in 42 Asdas hereabouts, Morrisons nationwide and some Tescos.

What you get: Exactly the same as it looks on the box. A delicate, thin shortcrust pastry was a clear winner, encasing a jam packed filling that spills forth plenty of finely seasoned promise. No artificial flavours and yet it still manages to pack plenty of savoury punch.

Is it terribly bad for you? It's not great, but as one pie company told Confidential: “If you need to look at the nutritional info, you aren't a proper pie eater.”

How it went down: Our tester, not a fan of mince and onion pies, was sold. This was the one pie that lacked heavy stodge, whose filling was by far the most generous and it was half the price of the others. An honest pie. On the basis of that, it wins.

Verdict: Good piebrations 7.4/10

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