Pie with all the trimmings

I mentioned in a previous post how much I had enjoyed pie and mash at Pie Minister. The Pie Minister in the Oxford Covered Market on a Tuesday has a special offer, basically any pie with all the trimming for just £5, the usual price is £7.95 so quite a good saving.

Normally I can’t get in on a Tuesday as, you might well expect, the queues are quite long. I generally don’t have a lot of time for lunch, but also I don’t like queueing! However on a recent Tuesday I was lucky to get in quite quickly. The place was busy though. 

I went with the traditional steak and kidney or as they call it Kate and Sidney. This was served with mash, gravy, a side order of mushy peas and topped with cheese and crispy onions.

Pie with all the trimmings

It certainly looked the part. I did enjoy the pie which was full of a rich delicious filling, big chunks of steak and kidney combined with a nice crunchy pastry shell. The mash was smooth and well seasoned, the mushy peas were also very nice. However I am not sure if the cheese added anything, there was something rather disconcerting about biting into a portion of hot pie with cold cheese, in some ways it was a little unpleasant. If I go again, though I will go with the mushy peas, I will avoid the cheese!

Pie and Mash

Pie and mash

In all this cold weather there is something very comforting about pie and mash. Very much a comfort food, it’s not something I actually eat very often.

A chance discovery in the Oxford Covered Market introduced me to the delights of the Pie Minister. I am sure that it is supposed to be pronounced MIN-IS-TER, for some reason I have in my head it should be pronounced MINS-TER as in York Minster. I just think Pie Minster sounds much better than Pie Minister. It’s a lovely little place in the market and despite the fact it is called a market, this is not a stall, it’s a small restaurant (well probably more like a cafe) in the heart of the market. The Oxford Covered Market is a lovely quirky place in the heart of Oxford with lots of lovely stalls, shops and places to eat. If you ever visit Oxford then do visit the market.

Pie Minster on first appearances, feels more like a wartime soup kitchen, than a restaurant, there is a counter where you place your order. You can take away or eat in. If you want to, you can buy the pies to take away. Within Pie Minister there are communal benches with tables, that have a variety of sauces on them, as well as bottles of tap water and glasses. There are also bar stools by the window with space to eat.

Pie Minister offers a range of pies with a wide variety of fillings. From the traditional steak and kidney or as they call it Kate and Sidney, through to vegetarian pies such the Wild Shroom, with wild mushrooms, asparagus, white wine & cream.

On my first visit I went with the Deerstalker Pie, with British venison and outdoor reared dry cured bacon with red wine and puy lentils. This I had served on a bed of mash with gravy. You can add more trimmings, but I decided to stick with just pie, mash and gravy. It was quite reasonable at £6.00.

This was served on a tin plate, which added to that atmosphere of a wartime soup kitchen. The pie was really really good. Often when you have pie, it is either a small stew with a puff pastry lid (that is often cooked separately), or it’s a huge pie which you cut into find it’s full of space and there is a small amount of filling at the bottom. No the pie at Pie Minister was full of delicious filling full of flavour, the pastry had a good crunch. The mash was smooth and well seasoned and the gravy was not too thick and not too thin. It added to the dish and did not overpower it, it tasted as gravy should and didn’t appear to be made from a gravy packet.

I really did enjoy the pie and would certainly recommend Pie Minister. There are a fair few branches across the south and they also have a market stall that visits those farmers’ markets that are now a regular feature of most high streets.

Hart’s Barn

I was recommended to visit the Tearoom at Hart’s Barn in Gloucestershire so when I was passing it recently around lunchtime, I thought, why not, let’s go in for lunch.

We pride ourselves on offering excellent quality and service within the beautiful and tranquil setting of the Forest. We are the premier venue in the Forest for enjoying traditional afternoon and cream teas.

We also have a lunch specials board which changes several times a week, featuring light snacks such as an asparagus & fresh cheese tart, to more substantial meals like stews & pies served with British seasonal vegetables whenever possible. All food is made fresh daily on the premises, with our menu being built around the availability of food & drink locally. We list our local suppliers in our menu, so you can see where the food & drink you’re enjoying comes from.

The main menu consists of typical tearoom fare, but they do have a board with daily specials and it from that I decided to make my choice.

My first choice wasn’t available as they had run out of baguettes, so went with the steak and ale pie.

As I waited I drank the coffee I ordered, and wasn’t that impressed, even though they had a proper coffee machine, my Americano wasn’t that good. Ah well, it’s a tearoom I should have had a pot of tea, must remember that.

My meal arrived in a reasonable time, the pie was in a pie dish topped with puff pastry, it was complemented with a portion of mashed potato, a jug of gravy and a decent additional portion of vegetables.

The vegetables were nicely cooked, still some crunch, and the potato was also very nice. I liked the puff pastry and though the pie filling was not as hot as I think it should have been, it was very tender and full of flavour.
Overall I was pleased with the meal and enjoyed it. The service was friendly and efficient.

Beef and Ale Stew

This is the dish I made today for putting in the freezer. It can be a stew or the basis for a beef and ale pie.

I took some diced organic beef. This is browned in batches in a very hot pan. It is vital for the stew for flavour and colour that you brown the beef and don’t initially “stew” or “steam” the beef. So keep the temperature of the pan high and brown small batches.

Once the beef is browned I added  diced carrot, parsnip and onion. These were softened in the pan I used for the beef. Once this was slightly softened and coated in the juices from the pan I added back the beef.

I then poured in a bottle of ale, I used Old Speckled Hen and a pint of beef stock.

Add herbs and seasoning to taste.

Simmer and cook for three hours or until the beef is tender.

Christmas in Pastry

The Guardian has posted a Christmas Pie recipe.

In the last of our exclusive baking recipes, Martin Dewey, founder of Square Pie, explains how you can recreate their hearty festive pastry in your own kitchen.