Pie

Pieminister, Birmingham

My history with Pieminister goes back some way.  I used to buy them so frequently from Waitrose that a former colleague of mine, a lady by the name of Penny Stubbs, wrote to them and got me a signed cookbook for my birthday.  I was the original groupie, a V.I.Pie whose purchase was always one Chicken of Aragon for me, and always a Heidi for the former vegetarian former partner (*shakes fist in jubilation/anger*).  The girls in Harborne Waitrose used to poke fun at my inflexibility.  I once ate six of their pies in four days at Isle of Wight festival.  Cut me back in those days and I bled pie.  I like pie.  More particularly, I like Pieminister.

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So this is a difficult one for me, because by all accounts my relationship with Pieminister should have led to it being the greatest opening in Birmingham since my mothers legs parted and I popped out back in ’82.  The reality is that it left me yearning for my own pie, with my own accessories, in my own home.

We cut straight to the chase and dive in with the main event.  My dining companion likes her Moo pie, which is generous in beef filling.  She does not like the mash which is oddly floury and bland, or the beef and port gravy that is bitter and gloopy.

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I try one I have not eaten from the supermarket.  A green Thai chicken curry pie that is oddly muted in flavour.  It needs more punch of seasoning, more kick of chilli, an elbow to the head of vibrancy.  It basically needs a Thai boxing lesson.  I take fries at a supplement with chilli seasoning that are the best thing on the plate.  A jug of chicken gravy should never have been there (it was supposed to come with tzatziki which eventually arrived when I asked), and I wish it hadn’t.  It was acrid and destroyed anything it came in contact with.  Jalapeños are ordered as an addition that I don’t require in hindsight.

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We skip dessert and finish off the cocktails that are good value if you catch them at the 2-4-1 period like we did.  I leave a little jaded.  Like the moment I have dreamt of for the last six years ends with this.  The fact is I still love a Pieminister – they are easily the best pie in any supermarket.  I will just stick to eating them at home with my overly buttery mash and thick caramelised onion gravy.  I have safety there, where I know that the salt pot is easily within reach and I have two firm hands on my potato ricer.  That’s where the good stuff happens.  But for now the dream is over.  Only a shut supermarket and a craving would see me go back.

5/10

Pieminister sent me a voucher to cover a proportion of the bill

And now the plug. I am up for Best Food Blog at the forthcoming MFDH Awards. If you are reading this before the 4th June please give me a vote here http://www.mfdhawards.co.uk/vote-now/

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Mad O’Rourke’s Pie Factory, Tipton

As I write this post a Vietnamese lady is trying to get into my bed. Don’t worry, my girlfriend is aware of this. In fact, she is watching. The lady in question has been trying all afternoon, and who can blame her; my bed on the sleeper train is deemed luxurious by local standards. We are supposed to be sharing the berth with two other ladies, who appear to have told everyone about the English couple armed with playing cards, rum and Ritz crackers. At one point there were nine in here watching us play Rummy, all eating a bark of some kind and gobbing the residue into a bag. Now there are six. I am covered in spittle and would like to eventually get some sleep in a bed on my own. I am trying desperately to take my mind to a happy place.

My mind takes me to Tipton, to Mad O’Rourkes Pie Factory, where I was a few days before we upped and left for the other side of the world. It’s a pub full of cliches; saw dust on the floor, a cardboard cut of Desperate Dan with the face missing for the idiots who cannot resist the photo opportunity. I was one of those idiots. It was impossible not to be. Even now, with the spittle and the glaring stares, I am smiling reminiscing about it.

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Back home, pie is something we take seriously in our household. Charlie, my long suffering partner, makes a mean one. She will cook the protein in the slow cooker until it falls apart at a gentle poke, add it to the blind-baked pastry and give it some more gentle love. Mad O’Rourkes take it further, to the extent that they claim to be “World Famous” for them. Although a little far-fetched, they probably should be. Steak and Stilton sets the tone, the meat cooked long and low until the point that the need for molars becomes redundant. The thick sauce smacks of bovine which more than stands up to the pungent cheese. The puff pastry topping is so good it has to be shop-brought. For once, I don’t care.

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More of the same appears with a chicken and mushroom pie, the cream sauce spiked with garlic and paprika heat. Again the meat is so tender I don’t know how it could be possibly be from the lean breast of the bird like they advertise. The pie, as with all of the others, has a side of battered chips which would get my vote for replacing Prozac on the NHS.

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The next two take the rules of pie and feeds them to the penguins at nearby Dudley Zoo. A chicken tikka pie is topped with a naan. Yes, you read that right. It’s like being back at my local Indian, only with chicken that tastes like chicken and with battered chips. Oh, those battered chips. A faggot pie has funk and the faint tang of offal, like all good faggots should. At the base is mushy peas the colour of Kermit the Frog. Mashed potato and more of that beef gravy fill in the rest. No pastry. It’s complete as it is. There are puddings, which include a chocolate cake and sticky toffee pudding. We enjoy them, because they are good and deserve to be eaten, though we never needed them.

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They do a Desperate Dan pie which comes in at a whopping 4lbs of steak and kidney, topped with puff pastry horns, which caused instant envy when it arrived on a neighbouring table. I could pretend that this is reason to return, but it would be lies: You don’t need to justify anything when its this good. I look at across at the bunks to my left and feel sorry for them, for they will probably never get to taste what is now running through my head. More spittle lands on my arm as one of the ladies is sick into the plastic bag. I’ve made my mind up; its Mad O’Rourkes for me again as soon as we touch down.

10/10

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