Given that the first stage was to simply come up with an idea without actually having to make it we got some quite bizarre entries including a carrot and oyster pie (a little unusual!) and a striped black and white pie, inspired by the name Badger, presumably. You won’t be entirely surprised to learn that we reckoned that would be a little too challenging for most of the pubs’ kitchens.
That wasn’t true of the sausage and mash pie with onion gravy a simply brilliant idea I was gutted I couldn’t persuade more than one of my fellow judges to vote for. (The discussions got quite heated at times)
Even after the eight pies were shortlisted it was sometimes hard to see how the development chefs were going to manage to come up with a real live version. A sweet pie made with beer? Well they did a great job on Sarah Maclean’s Blandford Flyer ginger pecan pie and Laura Hadland’s Golden Glory spiced pumpkin pie though neither sadly made the top three places. (I must say I loved the pumpkin pie which really showed off the peachy flavours of the Golden Glory).
The contestants looked anguished about the fate of their pies. Would Mitch Adams’ slow-cooked venison and beetroot pie fare better than Neal Biddle’s pheasant, fig, beetroot and shallot pie, both made with Poacher’s Choice? Would the veggie pies - wild mushroom, squash and lentil and Stilton and roast pear show off their respective beers (Poacher’s Choice and First Call respectively) as well as the meat pies?
In the corner Bernie McTaggert was biting his nails, waiting to see what the assembled company’s verdict was on his chicken balti pie with an onion bhaji topping (another favourite of mine - great with the Hopping Hare!). In the end though it was pipped to the post by the gorgeously rich, pheasant, fig and Poacher’s Choice pie with third place going to a a dark horse there hadn’t been much buzz about - Ben Hutchins’ Tanglefoot stewed pork cheek with braised fennel garlic and star anise. If Bernie, an IT engineer, was disappointed he put a brave face on it.
Certainly it was a field day for Poacher’s Choice, a ruby ale which obviously appealed to a lot of the entrants. I might even have to cook up the winning recipe myself though after last Thursday I think I might just be taking it easy on the pie front for a while . . .