Monday, September 25, 2006

The Great Pie Round Up

"'Um ... I know this may seem a somewhat esoteric question, but what's in the meat pies?'
'And what kind of meat?'
'Ah, you want one of the gourmet pies, then?'"

Rincewind and Dibbler (Terry Pratchett, “The Last Continent”)

Well might you ask what’s actually in a pie. A veritable mystery parcel of tasty goodness. Though some of the carnivores shouldn’t look to closely to identify body parts (is that a snout I see?) or get too upset to find that the minimum 25% ‘meat’ content could legally be including soy protein into the count.

But here at We Do Chew Our Food we have it all - gourmet, homemade, frozen, vegan, big and small. Grab a comfy seat and enjoy The Inaugural Great Pie Review.

Four'n'Twenty pie
CWA Cafeteria, Royal Melbourne Show.
Reviewer: Fluffy

Having lined up with the expectation that the CWA would be the place to get the quintessential home made country pie, there was, I'll admit it, crushing disappointment in the fact that the ladies were just there to stock the pie warmer. Still - best not let it affect objectivity.


Classic Four'n'Twenty pie, with (free) sauce.

Surprise twist! I give this pie a commendable 4 out of 5. The crust was buttery and crispy, the sauce was pleasantly sweet and vinegary. Temperature was perfect. The lost point is due to the filling which had an overly uniform 'slurry' texture.

Sargents Party Pies
Available from all good Supermarkets
Price: approx $5 for12 mini pies
Reviewer: debs

As a very infrequent pie eater (or anything with pastry/fat/tastes good for that matter), I wanted to get the most out of my pie experience. I opted for a pack of 12 Sargents Party Pies as my test subject for a fairly reasonable rate of around $5 for the packet.

With great anticipation I put the dozen pies (frozen) on a tray and popped them in the oven for the allocated 10-15 minutes. 25 minutes later and still with half cooked pies, my determination to eat those delectable morsels was wavering, but finally after around double the "suggested" time, they were ready!

The pastry was tasty and crisp, however the little "lids" of the pies didn't come off easily and if you, like me, enjoy the little ritual of peeling them off, putting in the sauce and putting the lids back on before eating, then like me you would have ended up with a rather mangled looking party pie in the end.

The meat/gravy combination was very pleasant with none of those little gristly bits that you often have to spit out of other, lesser quality party pies and overall myself and my pie eating companion were quite satisfied with our tasty and indulgent lunch.

Overall quality: Quite satisfied
Overall taste: Quite delicious
Overall appearance: Before ripping off tops, quite good: after, not so good
Overall rating: 4/5

Warning: Pulling off top and allowing centre to cool a little before consumption is well recommended. Those little buggers sure can scold!

Brumby’s Pepper Steak Pie
Brumby's, Williamstown
Cost:$3.50 bought cold and heated at home :-)
Reviewer: Liz

Pastry: flaky on top, with black pepper bits for decoration/identification. Sides uniformly textured and tasty.
Filling: plenty of fine mince in gravy and surprisingly no nasty or chewy bits. Not too much gravy either. A little heavy on the pepper for my taste but I guess you’d be annoyed if it were light on the pepper!
Pretty good. 4/5. Has to be chunky steak to score a 5 with me.

Herbert Adams Mixed Vegetable Pastie
$5.50 for 4
Reviewer: Susanne

So who knew pie shops were closed on Sundays? I do now. After finding the two pie shops I could think of shut I had to resort to a Herbert Adams Mixed Vegetable Pastie from Safeway ($5.50 for a pack of four). My god, it's not even a pie. Oh well, us vegetarians have to make the best of what's available I guess.

On the box the pie is described as "A delicious medley of the finest garden vegetables encased in our Famous Flaky Pastry." This is a, er, generous description.

The pie smelt yummy, and the pastry had a nice texture, but it was slightly bland, as were the "delicious medley" of vegies. It tasted nicer once I loaded on the "dead horse" to give it a bit of flavour (tomato sauce for those not down with aussie lingo).

Basically, the pie was as good as I would have expected a supermarket-bought product to be, and it filled a need. It was passable as an easy snack, but I don't think I'd buy this particular range again. I give it two stars out of five.

I'm still hanging out for the specialty pie I missed out on today, and a frozen product just doesn't compare...

Ferguson Plarre Steak Pie
From Ferguson Plarre at Victoria Market
$3.50 bought cold and heated at home :-)
Reviewer: Liz

Pastry: excellent. Evenly flaky and light on top, lovely flavour. I really wanted to do that rather unattractive thing I did as a kid, which was to eat the top and the filling and leave the pastry case until last! ...but I resisted as there were others present! Filling: excellent too! Tasty fine mince in gravy and again, no chewy or gristly bits. (Nasty bits ruin the whole experience in my view!)
4/5 As good a mince pie as you’ll find. Sadly, Ferguson’s don’t do a chunky steak pie.

Vegan, tofu topped pie

Natural Tucker: 809 Nicholson Street, North Carlton VIC 3054
Cost: $4.00
Reviewer: Another outspoken female

What makes a pie? A pastry case, a wet chunky filling? So what do we make of a combination of vegetables and rice in a spicy sauce sitting in a sourdough bread case, topped with whipped tofu and poppy seeds? Delicious! This is the pie you have when you are not having a pie, or when you are vegan. The pastry being animal product-free is non-greasy and won’t make you feel queasy, but on the downside – ‘aint got no flake. It is relatively thin and doesn’t dominate the experience, just provides a wholesome vehicle for the other ingredients. The vegetables included: sweet potato, potato, carrots, peas (10)* and a little brown rice in a thick tasty gravy.

Verdict: 4/5 - die hard followers of the meat pie probably won’t go for it but it’s a flavoursome and healthy variation.

* I hate peas, so anything under a dozen I can navigate my way around, without being seriously denied of content. I once counted 30 peas in a vegetable pastie, you can see why i didn't review that one!

Spinach, ricotta and pine-nut pie
Pie-supplier: Babka, 358 Brunswick Street Fitzroy
Pie-price: $4.55 takeaway or $9.75 (with bread, salad and chutney)
Reviewer: Michael from Where's the beef?

I had high hopes for Babka's pies - they figured in Cheap Eats' "Take 3 - Pies" and the vego options were enthused about specifically. The slight wait for tables at midday on a Tuesday was a further reason to expect particularly delicious food. There were two vegetarian pie options on the menu (as well as a pastie). I opted for spinach, ricotta and pine nut (which I'll eventually get around to reviewing), while Cindy had pumpkin, tomato and basil. The pies could be purchased takeaway on their own, but we were keen to sit and paid double to eat in, with bread, salad and chutney as accompaniments. The pastry was sprinkled with sesame seeds and was reasonably crisp, if not quite perfectly golden, while the pie filling was a pretty decent mix of wilted spinach and ricotta with just a smattering of pine nuts. The whole thing was fairly reminiscent of one of the cheap spinach and cheese filo rolls you can get for about two bucks from Baker's Delight, and while I enjoyed it (the chutney was particularly tasty), it didn't quite measure up to my expectations (or the price tag).

Rating: 3/5

Tony’s Steak Pie

Cost $3.00 or less if you do the pie drive thing.
Place: Tony’s Pies
341 Sommerville Road, Kingsville 3012
Reviewer: Husky Nutmeg

When my parents arrived in Australia in the 50’s, the only pies they knew about had fruit in them. Not having much of a grasp of English, Mum bought a few pies, which looked delightful, expecting to bite into a cold cinnamon spiced, apple pie. Needless to say, meat pies didn’t have much of a presence during my childhood.

So my review: I enjoyed my pie - it was meaty enough to taste like a meal and there weren't any ugly or chewy surprises. With my own judgement being arguably warped, I opted to share said pies with Mip and her cousins, aged between 5.5 and 9.8. The kids' verdict – too bland without sauce. There most definitely needs to be the addition of sauce and preferably chips on the side. Having said that, they added this could have been the best pie they ever tasted had their auntie/mother not cooked them in the microwave (What?!! They were hungry!).

Chicken Chasseur / Flemish Beef Pie


Belgian Beer Cafe Eureka
5 Riverside Quay
Southbank - Melbourne
Cost: $12.50 (...but it does come with a quenelle of potato mash, pea stoemp and gravy)
Reviewer: Mellie

The Belgian Beer Cafe is better known for its beer, pots of mussels and pomme frits than for its pies. But in the spirit of the inaugural "We Do Chew Our Food" Pie Review, I thought I would sample one of their lesser know menu items. And I must say, I am somewhat impressed (...the fact that I lined the stomach with a few crisp Hoegaardens did nothing to influence that summation either ;-))

The Elegant Gourmand and I divied up the two pies on offer - a Flemish Beef Pie that was tender and meaty in all the right places, but lacked a certain savoury punchy taste. Then the Chicken Chasseur Pie, which was an absolute winner. A flavoursome wine infused tomato sauce married tender chicken pieces, mushrooms, sliced onions, garlic and thyme into a tasty little parcel. The pastry was flaky and crisp, although the light gravy tended to saturate the pastry, causing sogginess (but it was moreish nonetheless). The filling was generous and of good quality; nice to find real meat in a pie for a change. The sides on the other hand were hit and miss. The hit was the use of real fresh peas in the pea stoemp (mash), the miss was the cold mash potato. But a nicely presented dish, although perhaps a little pricey for a "bar snack".

Chicken Chasseur Pie: 5
Flemish Beef Pie: 3.5
The Beer: Priceless

Ed at Tomatom has blogged his review. No ratings, but you get the feeling he enjoyed every forbidden mouthful of his Baker d Chirico meat pie. Read about the delicious, gory details.

The "just proving the editor doesn't interfere with creative licence" review

Veggie korma pie
Location: Myer Bourke St, ground floor, food court.
Price: $2.something...(think it was half price cos it was almost 5:00pm)
Reviewer: Rachana

Served on a paper plate shoved inside a paper bag. The Pie looks yummy & is warm-ish. 1 shudn't need ketchup wit a gud pie, so i didn't get any. Has sesame seeds, some green herbs & yellow & red powder (spices i assume) sprinkled on top. Oh btw I am ain't a meat pie. It's a veggie korma pie. But honestly, with my asian background its only right for me to be reviewing some hybrid (east-meets-west) sort of pie. So anyways the lady behind the counter recommended this over their beef pies. Oh & Myer only stocks Boscastle pies & they claim to have a passion for food so my expectations are set pretty high.

All my pie experiences (barring Myer fc) have been gawd-aweful. But Boscastle have always managed 2 satisfy in the here goes....

Score: 4


1 Flaky pastry cooked just right. not chewy nor soggy nor hard. jst rite.
+1 Filling includes potatoes, carrots, peas etc in some yellowish sauce - so they did mean veggies
+1 Curry sauce is mild, can taste some turmeric & something else. A bit sweet but tastes alright with the pastry, besides it did say 'korma' so shoudln't be spicy. A touch of pepper wouldn't have gone amiss though.
+1 Didn't miss a sauce on the side, which means the filling must ave been right & there was enough gravy
-1 A bit too hot on the inside - so nearly burnt my tongue in the 1st bite - ok so maybe my impatience isn't a defect in the pie but hey it's my review so i can score on woteva i like.

besides i think 4 on 5 for a humble Pie is a generous score. So yea if ur after a reliable & good pie-experience, Myer food court or anywhere that serves Boscastle should be a safe bet.

I made it myself

Cindy's I-can't-believe-it's-not-meat pies
Pie maker extraordinaire: Cindy from Where's the beef?

Spinach and cheese are great in pastry, and curried lentils aren't half bad either. But they don't quite fit the bill if you're vegetarian and you want protein soaked in gravy and tomato sauce. When I first discovered TVP (textured vegetable protein) at my local supermarket, I set about developing an imitation of your run-of-the mill, corner-shop variety meat pie. I've got a bit lazy in the presentation stakes, stuffing squares of pastry into a muffin tin, but the key ingredients are there. Store-bought puff pastry flakes up pretty well, and it takes some restraint not to overfill these with brown gravy flavour.
Want to give 'em a go? The recipe's here.
It would be immodest of me to rate my own recipe, but my pie-lovin' partner hasn't looked longingly at a "real" meat pie in years.

Honourable mentions
Not quite reviews but honourable mention go to:

Armaniac voted for "My local pub, the Albion, in Nth London, had a beef, ale and stilton pie. Everything else is just a pretender..." which is a pity as he now lives in downtown Northcote (Melbourne), so that makes it one very expensive pie.

Liz Cincotta (of The Age's Top 5 foods fame) narrowed down her top 5, to give her top 2 favourite pie makers to us:
Molly Mae's Cafe, 101 High Street, Broadford, phone 5784 3949
Mt Martha Fine Foods, 34 Lochiel Avenue, Mount Martha, phone 5974 4407

...and for those who get 'sweet' and 'savoury' a little confused

Hot Apple Pie

Purchased from: McDonald's Family Restaurant, Endeavour Hills

Cost: $1.95


Pastry: Crunchy and tasty, not too hot. Very tasty but makes you thirsty (intentional, I'm sure).

Filling: Piping hot chunks of apple (no false advertising here!) and a sauce that makes your mouth water.

Packaging: An easy flip-open cardboard casing enables the consumer to hold the hot item without burning their fingers. The pie easily slides in and out of the covering, allowing for the consumer to place it in their handbag, manbag or similar to cool down for a few minutes if the internal heat of the item in question is not to the consumer's personal preferences.

Rating: Four stars out of five. I cannot find much fault with the pie, but I like to encourage the makers to continually "strive for a five".

But what would we know?

If the mystery meats in the average pie don't put you off, the experts at the Australian Consumer Association have found out more than most of us want to know about the top brands of Aussie meat pies. See how they rate them.

Better late than never

Missed the first round up but feel inspired to write a review of the best pie in your world? Well, ask nicely, mail it in and we'll add yours to the Great Pie Round Up.

Mince pie
Sunny Anh Hot Bread
Watton Street, Werribee
Cost: $2.20
Reviewer: Anna

I tasted many pies in the spirit of this review, but really can only, in good conscience, review one. It was from Sunny Anh Hot Bread on Watton Street in Werribee, for a cost of $2.20 with free sauce. If the lady behind the counter is to be believed it's made by her, from finely ground steak. To be sure, the filling seemed like quite finely minced meat with no gristle to be found, and the gravy was quite thick, holding everything together well, with just a pinch of pepper (how I like it), and was a good eating temperature, ie. warm without burning my tongue. The pastry was
light and flaky, but not so much that just cutting into it resulted in a pastry-flake storm all over the table and my lap.

I score it a 4 out of 5. Anyone out in the Werribee area looking for a light lunch, get your pie here (there are other hot bakes and cafes, but I found this the best for under $5).

Review rangling initiated and put together by Another Outspoken Female. Thanks for the participation and fearless chewing of all who were involved.


Cindy said...

What a great read! (Though a bit of a mismatched one given that I'm currently eating breakfast.) Thanks for your call-out and compilation efforts, AOF.

Susanne said...

Wow, great job everyone! Really good to see all the vegetarian options in there too. :)

BEVIS said...

Hehe ... I amuse myself.

Well done to all, and a hearty congratulations to AOF for all her hard work putting this together.


I feel inspired to have a pie for lunch, now.


Husky Nutmeg said...

Fun to do. Fun to read. Thanks AOF.

debs said...

hehe, a fun read!

Are you able to link my review to my blog profile thinggy? cheers

bevis- go the party pies... They rule! Why have 1 pie, when you can have many?

mellie said...

Excellent compilation job AOF..and well done to all the reviewers! Bevis - I almost choked when I read the word manbag ;-)

Another Outspoken Female said...

*takes a bow*

If anyone has a review they didn't quite get in on time am happy to update. Actually please do - as it looks like I am going to be interviewed on an American radio station about it next week - so fling us some more.

BEVIS said...


Wow! You're really famous! Well done for that.

Debs, you make a good point, thanks. I will keep that in mind for today's lunch! :)

Mellie, are you mocking me for my stylish man-accessories? :)

Another Outspoken Female said...

Bevis: I'm waiting for the irony of the fact they want to talk to a non-meat eating, sports-averse, health-freak about Australian meat pies and football. So just incase they change their mind - I'll give you the details of how to hear it once its been taped.

Though in my defence I have had a meat pie scoffing mispent youth and have been to the football once, and half my degree was in history so I can string it all together :)

debs said...

wow! Thats great AOF
Best of luck for the interview!

Chai said...

I liked the review(s). Laughed audibly several times. And AOF, you'll have to tell all regd interview.

Armagnac Esq. said...

"Maybe your asking who am I.... Well Im not Who you think I am."

...? Spambot moments...

Yeah, anyways, nice pie review! As you've pointed out I, sadly, can't get my fave pies as oft as I'd like.

It's not so bad because with everything from cashew milk mochas to mountain goat on tap the "Cote is pretty well served.

Anna said...

Why why WHY did I have to move at that time?!?! I had the best steak pie from, of all places, Sunny Anh Hot Bread in Watton Street, Werribee, but then didn't get to a computer for long enough to download photos and send the review in... oh well :( Loved reading all the reviews, plenty of things for me to try once I settle in.

BEVIS said...

Hanging out for those taped-radio-interview details, AOF! ...


Another Outspoken Female said...

Bevis: taped and will be on the airwaves, soon...promise to let you know.

mikey said...

here's my review - though it is probably way too late:

the best meat pies in the world were from Papaleia's in Cobram..
unfortunately, i think that place was burnt down or something, 'cause last time i went there it wasn't now, i stick strictly to party pies.. they have a higher pastry to sauce ratio and taste especially delicious when accompanied with UFC one day, when they de-militarize time-travel, I'll go back and steal a bunch of Papaleia's Pies.. which may explain why i couldn't find the place last time..

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