Monday, April 8, 2013

The life of pies

I guess it was only a matter of time before we tried the meat pies. English are known for meat pies, especially as delicious pub food.

As a child I used to love reading English stories about olden times, especially those about the middle and poorer classes, eating meat pies with their hands. They were always so descriptive about the flaky crusts and gooey gravies. Made my mouth water.

I was always especially interested in lamprey pies, which at the time, as a somewhat ignorant child, I assumed was some sort of fowl. I learned, somewhat later, that this was eel. Tasty tasty eel (well, that's still yet to be seen but I'm going to pretend that it was delicious).

There are two arguments that always go on in my head about whether or not food was actually delicious back in the day or not, but authors sure do a good job of making it seem so. Meat pies are an excellent example of this. Observe:

Although ingredients were far scarcer - things like meat, spices, seasonings, and even things as easy as salt, I do believe that the cooking methods were likely truer (i.e. open fires, real wood burning ovens, and lard, if it were available) were used, and it is likely that the cooking implements were not as cleaned, leading to the possible "cast-iron" method of cooking. Therefore, layers and layers of flavoring were never washed away, henceforth, more tasty and flavorful food.

The counterargument of course, is that there was, as pointed out before, scarcer ingredients, especially the aforementioned spices and seasonings and therefore, not as tasty. Finnish food has proven this to me many times over, so...what can I say. Sources of fat were also a lot scarcer, and less fat? Equals less tasty. Evolution has made our tongues believe it to be so.

So the jury is still out on whether or not food back in the day was tastier. Even for the upper class with their sumptuous feasts (and the wonderful descriptions therefore of).

While it is debatable that food in olden times was delicious, we were in either case going to have meat pies to see if they, at the very least, were delicious now. With our modern spices and readily available ingredients and readily available heat sources and implements.

These meat pies were acquired from Harrod's, a rather famous and well-known department store (which according to my parents, is ever-crowded, even during odd-times like middle of the day on Tuesdays).

Anyway, the pies were bought from their fresh food section, where oddly you're not allowed to consume your fresh handmade pies. Many people online have complained about this. But does Harrod's care about your measly complaints? Of course not! Go eat your pies somewhere else, good sir!

And so we did. We ate them at home, several hours later (which is when I got home from work).

And this is what they looked like:


There were four pies du jour (from top left clockwise): blood pudding and pork, steak and kidney, royal game, and duck and orange.

Quite shockingly it was the innards pies that were the tastiest. We were not expecting that, given that royal game sounded so...well...awesome. And duck should always be tasty. But somehow this one didn't tasty very "duck" and rather more orange (it was clear that this one was heavily zested and though there was a clear mandarin orange segment on top, it was more than decorational).

So, to go over the details:

The blood pudding and pork was exactly as it sounds: blood that's been made into a gelatin and mixed with pork. I'd had blood pudding before so this was no shocker (and yes, I'm a fan of blood pudding and blood sausages and things of the like...it's not my favorite thing in the world but I do think it's rather tasty and enjoy it). It was savory but not overbearing and kind of like eating a hotdog in texture.

The steak and kidney was the clear winner of the bunch. Savory, filled with luscious gravy, soft beef chunks like beef stew and the kidney chunks weren't offensively mushy like they sometimes can be. Fabulous and just how I'd imagined them from the stories I'd read. Just remembering this pie makes my mouth water. Definitely something to go check out if you happen to be in Harrod's with the hoards.

The game pie was surprisingly disappointing. Dry, not particularly gamey...just an overall texture failure. Imagine eating shredded pork that doesn't taste like pork. Kind of like that. Not particularly spiced well, sort of like...well, meat that's dry. Not horribly overdry but just not...moist.

And the duck and orange. Very heavily zest-flavored, as I mentioned before, not very much duck flavor, despite the fact that the inside was clearly mostly meat. Beautifully decorated with a little orange segment on top but not much to show for it. Heavily disappointing considering all it could have been. No gravy to be seen.

Overall an interesting lot but not what we were looking for (minus the steak and kidney, which was awesome). Continuing on our pie journey we got some really cheap frozen beef pies from Lidl (a German grocery store) at 2 for a pound and they were fantastic. Just goes to show, it's not about who's making them. What with all the scandal over horsemeat lately though, you never know what you're eating nowadays. I personally have no qualm with horsemeat, but it seems to be a big deal over here.

So if you're looking for a quick bite at Harrod's, I'd recommend the steak and kidney, but otherwise, maybe try something else at the fresh food section.

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