Sunday, 30 November 2008

Henry Walker & Son

The final pies to be sampled this month were Leicestershire pork pies from Henry Walker & Son ­ "the pride of Leicestershire since 1824" but new to us. To get us chomping at the bit, our walk Master took us down to Pulham Market and the heavy clay soil of south Norfolk. Finally, after a Spanish walker gave up his struggle to put on his waterproof trousers, we set off, first south from the car park at the village hall, then westwards to cross the A140. Continuing westwards to Tivetshall St. Margaret, across ploughed fields where our boots picked up a vast amount of clay, made it feel we were walking with lead boots. After scraping the detritus from our boots, we made it to the isolated church of St. Margaret for lunch. Failing to find a scratch dial, we pressed on to Tivetshall St. Mary, to visit the Old Ram. The lure was such that we did not detour to examine the ruined church of St. Mary. Cleaning our boots best we could, on route to the pub, Charles spotted a gentleman cleaning his car with a broom attached to a hose and requested he give his boots the once over. He duly obliged, but Charles had to finish off. Arriving in good order at the pub, we were served with a decent pint, or hot chocolate for some. Crossing the A140 we returned to Pulham Market, meeting "Dill" ­ the friendly Border Collie / Brown Labrador cross from the Crown. Today we sampled King Prawns with a Marie Rose sauce, before sampling our pies. Since we had ten munchers and only three pies, samples were small. The lattice pies released no aroma when cut and revealed a pale pink filling with a slight amount jelly. It's the munching that matters, the pastry was good and crisp, the filling pleasant with a good meaty texture. The flavour was OK rather than special, the addition of a little mustard bought out the flavour a little more and they scored a respectable 7.15 out of 10. Opinions varied widely so a high standard deviation of 1.22588 accompanies the normalised score of 7 for Henry Walker & Son. Shortcakes completed proceedings before we headed home in the dark.

Sunday, 23 November 2008

Pork Farms medium pies

Poor weather hampered pie procurement and partaking. This week we were to sample Pork Farms medium pork pies, last sampled 24th June 2007, when they scored 6.3. After several delays due to snow and bad roads, six dedicate pie munchers set off from the car park of St. Mary & St. Margaret's church, traversing westwards across countryside and suburb, passing the Old Hall (late 1600's) in Old Catton, we eventually stopped for lunch in the warm church of St. Margaret in Old Catton. On to Catton Park, where Charles enjoyed the open space to practice his Nordic walking. Onwards to the Royal Oak for an indifferent pint of Wherry, spoilt by being served through a tight sparkler. We headed back to the cars in the failing light and found that we had narrowly escaped having our vehicles locked in! We returned to chez Pie Master & Josie to sample the pies, after Waitrose smoked salmon and smoked mackerel pâté with mini oatcakes. The pies uninspiring external appearance, revealed a good pink filling and well jellied, when cut, and a good aroma. The filling was unfortunately bland and the pastry had a lardy finish, so only scoring 5.666 with a standard deviation of 1.08012. We finished of with a second round of tea and short breads. So, Pork Farms scoring a normalised 5.5 this time.

Sunday, 16 November 2008

J. & D. Papworth Farms

In order to try and halt the decline in pie standards, since the 8.5's of late September / early October, pies were sourced from the Sheringham Shop of J. & D. Papworth Farms (Butchers & Graziers) who were voted Norfolk's best butcher in 2002 & 2004! But before we could start munching on these promising pies, we had to hoss around Holt: We eventually found parking at the Holt Country Park visitors centre and set off east, towards Little Thornage via the ford on the Glaven. Then north on to Letheringsett and the church of St. Andrew, taking (in) the piscenae, of which there were three, but no scratch dials. We passed Letheringsett Hall with its five Doric columns, on our left, then passing Letheringsett brewery mill on our right, as we headed back towards Holt. Pausing at the springs at Spout hills, once the source of Holt’s water supply, for lunch. We emerged from the hills passing one of the taps for the poor, on route to the Victorian Methodist church, but it was locked, so we were unable to admire its low false ceiling covered in polystyrene tiles! We headed into town via a convoluted route, passing the remains of the other surviving tap for the poor, at the entrance to Weston Square. We mourned the loss of the 1855, 56ft high, red brick, 15,000 gallon water tower in Shirehall Plain, demolished in 1957 two years after it went out of service. We drowned our sorrows with a freezing pint at the Feathers Hotel, before we concluded the walk, exploring another St. Andrew's church. Heading east we saw the Walk Master’s former residence (yet to get its blue plaque) then south, across the bypass, and back through the country park for tea and pies. The good-looking hand raised pies revealed a reasonable amount of jelly when cut. A pleasant aroma preceded the tasting of the nicely seasoned meat filling contained within a very pleasant, non-lardy piecrust. These pies, surprisingly, only scored 7.664286 with a fairly high standard deviation of 0.80178. This may have been due to the absence of one of our core seasoned pie tasters and novice taster joining our ranks. So, that’s a normalised 7.5 for J. & D. Papworth Farms. No Canapés this week, but the shortbread made a welcome return to round off proceedings.

Sunday, 9 November 2008

Mini Melton Mowbray pies

Another new pie to taste this week: Mini Melton Mowbray Pork Pies from Tesco’s Finest range. But first we headed south from Lingwood across fields to St. Mary's Church Hassingham, this was closed and had no scratch dial. Aluminium cans in the hedgerow were abundant so we started collecting these as Charles filled his bags with various mushrooms. Heading west to Buckenham passing the magnificent 1827 old rectory, we came to St. Nicholas church. This church had two scratch dials by the main entrance and judging by their location this had been rebuilt – one dial facing east!
The two scratch dials at St. Nicholas church - the one on the right faces east!
The church was open and this provided a convenient location for lunch. The church boasted some great tombs on the floor, an ornate piscina and wonderfully piscina and wonderfully decorated ceiling. On the octagonal font, I spotted a carving of a former Pie Master with his chopping board and knife. After lunch, we ventured north over Strumpshaw Hill and to St. Peter’s church (closed and no scratch dials) so we made a beeline to the Shoulder of Mutton where we sampled a selection of their beers. Finally, back to Lingwood passing Uncle Stuart's microbrewery on the way, we returned to the playing field car park with a collection of 32 Aluminium cans for Don. Tesco’s Finest Mini Melton Mowbray pork pies did not find favour with the munchers; a dry pastry with a filling of little flavour other than pepper scored 5.57143, with a standard deviation of 0.60749. So a normalised sore of 5.5 for the Mini Melton Mowbray pies.

Sunday, 2 November 2008

Marks & Spencer Melton Mowbray pies

The month started with us tasting, for the first time, Marks & Spencer Melton Mowbray medium pork pies. This is thanks to Jorge; who wrote to me asking why our score for M&S pies were so low, when the Independent's review had scored them so highly? I investigated, and found that we were not comparing like with like – the Independent were reviewing Melton Mowbray pies and we had been munching on cured pork pies. This was rectified this week after walking up an appetite following the Boldero’s walk, recently published in the EDP. From Gunthorpe Green, we headed east to Briningham passing Bellevue tower, a former mill that was once used as a water tower. As we approached this, Don spotted Baconsthorpe water tower in the distance. The church of St. Maurice was our lunch stop, we had previously photographed it’s scratch dial with a porch door hinge attached! We headed back in a westerly direction, the pace quickening when a group of walkers with two dogs got in Josie’s sights! We visited St. Mary’s church at Gunthorpe, prior to returning to the Green. The nairn’s mini oatcakes with Waitrose supreme houmous and their supreme red pepper & feta dip made a return appearance. To appreciate the pies fully, the tea service was restored, the award winning pies were then sampled: An OK appearance with a reasonable amount of jelly failed to set the taste buds alight. Peppery seasoning helped, the texture nothing special, the pastry leaving a lardy after taste did not impress. These pies were judged to have a score of 6.4375, with a rather high standard deviation of 0.9797. So a normalised sore of 6.5 for Marks & Spencer Melton Mowbray medium pork pies. The walk, without a pub, was completed in good time enabling all the munchers to get home for the delayed start of the Grand Prix and see Lewis Hamilton snatch the World championship in the last few seconds. I bet he had a celebratory pork pie!