In recent years there has been a bit of a spate of ‘home-made’, friendly, fun things to buy – and this is a good thing. Smaller food producers have the need to stand out from their larger, more established competition, and therefore often create interesting products, forcing the other companies to revisit their recipes or products.
Recently I bought such a product: Higgidy British Beef, Stilton and Sussex Ale pie. Sounds great, doesn’t it? It forms, in my mind at least, the thought of gentle cows on green British hills being looked after by a kindly farmer, wearing a flat cap; a hardworking cheese-maker who has honed his trade over a number of generations crafting the finest Stilton ever; and then perhaps all of them gathering together (including the cows) for a drink at the end of the day in a traditional Sussex pub.
Well, I’m not here to shatter that dream, but merely explain how the pie-tasting went. I bought it from a supermarket – I think it was about £2.50, so reasonable for a lunch. Unpacking it, I noticed that all around and even inside the box there were friendly little quips and comments, which is a bit of a modern trend (I have no problem with this, as long as the product is good). It was quite heavy, but it really looked good. Here it is unwrapped:
It certainly looks handmade, and I mean that as a compliment; the look does affect the taste, and I have to say here that the look is of something a human would make, rather than a machine. I put it into the oven, following the instructions exactly. And here’s how it came out:
Okay, obviously it didn’t come out of the oven on a plate with spinach leaves, but that’s how I presented it for the photos. So here’s the main bit: how did it taste?
Well, the first thing I noticed was how incredibly strong the Stilton flavour was. It really dominated from the word go, and I would have to say in a slightly unpleasant way. I do like Stilton, but in this case it was everywhere.
The pastry was excellently cooked. I guess it must be a bit tricky to work out how long to cook it for in their
manufacturing plant homely kitchen so that it doesn’t go too hard when heated up by the end-user, but this was great – crunchy, but not hard.
Similarly the beef was tender, and really quite nice, except for being dominated by the Stilton flavour; again, they got it spot on in terms of cooking just to the right level. Here’s a picture of the insides:
The general feel of the pie in the middle was great – really nice. But the top was really odd. There was a very strange texture going on – it was a grainy crunch, which is really hard to describe. I have racked my brain and I think the closest would be like a slightly cooked potato, which would make sense as the pie is topped by mash, and it may be that the this topping was not as thoroughly cooked as it could have been. It really was quite unpleasant, and again slightly took away from the experience.
Sadly these issues dominated what was in other ways a well-prepared pie. The fact that it didn’t have a pastry top was a really good idea, both in terms of presentation and the fact that the pie was a little bit lighter (though it was suitably filling). In terms of the flavour, there were times when the Stilton blast calmed down and became more of a trickle, which meant that the whole taste was a little more balanced and even.
Overall, though, I was a bit disappointed. I really wanted to like the pie as it sounded so good, but the Stilton dominance and the really weird texture of the topping just didn’t make that possible. So I don’t think I’ll be trying this particular flavour of Higgidy pie again. But I may well try a different one, because Higgidy do know how to put a pie together.
I noticed this on the side of the box, and it got me puzzled. I genuinely wonder how many people, having bought what is essentially instant food, would then go to the trouble of preparing a mash side with three type of root vegetable (something that would clearly take a whole lot longer than it took to heat the pie)? It’s not like this is a family-sized pie which needs a great deal of preparing – this is a pie for one, for someone who is, like me, in need of a filling and tasty meal but doesn’t have the time or inclination to prepare it him (or her) self! My honest reaction was, “what?!” before I filled a bowl with tortilla chips as a much quicker side (unfortunately it was a bit too quick; I ate them all before the pie was cooked through and had to pour another bowl). I’d honestly be interested to find out if anyone would go to the trouble of buying, peeling and cooking these three vegetables to have with their instant meal.