Louise Bolotin from the Lone Gourmet blog gets to grips with the latest pie range from Holland’s.
A pie and a pint are a match made in heaven – comfort food and traditional thirst-quencher. What’s not to like? So when an invitation from Holland’s Pies turned up, inviting me to taste their new range, how could I resist?
Holland’s consultant chef Tom Bridge was on hand to talk us through the pies, while the beers, each matched to a pie, were provided by JW Lees. First up for tasting was the new chicken and ham hock pie – the filling had a good creamy texture and the meat was pleasingly chunky, but alas I couldn’t taste the ham hock. This cut of pig usually has a very pronounced flavour from its prolonged simmering then roasting but it was undetectable here. Nevertheless, overall it was a tasty pie that went down well with the glass of bitter. We also got to try the beef and vegetable pasty, a Holland’s staple, which smelled good and had plenty of vegetables, but not much meat although I may just have had an unlucky scoop of filling.
Of the meat pies the clear winner was the peppered steak pie – fabulously meaty and peppery, with a good after-tingle on the palate. I’m often wary of beef in pies as it’s usually from the cheapest cuts and lumps of gristle tend to turn up every bite. Not here though. Just steak and umami all the way, washed down with Lees’ gold award-winning The Governor.
The thing about pies is that they are filling and even arriving hungry and cold after a long day at work, I was starting to feel rather full. But there was still one more to try – the cheese pie. Chef Tom explained it was made with real cheddar, not factory cheese. Cutting into it there was a good strong smell of cheese and a subtle undernote of onion, and it had a good runny melted texture, although I felt the flavours were slightly overwhelmed by the pastry. This came with a small schooner of ruby port that spoiled the experience – the port was sickly sweet and coated my palate, destroying the lingering taste of cheese and making me feel a little nauseous.
I was pleased that Tom took the time to talk about the pie shells as well as the fillings. Holland’s use a secret hot water pastry recipe dating back to wartime. This kind of shortcrust pastry stays crispy, which is important for pie – you don’t want a soggy base or a collapsing shell that spills piping hot filling over you. No chance of that here – Holland’s know their stuff. Tom also emphasised the need to reheat in an oven as microwaving will soften the pastry. There’s a reason why bought pies come in a foil tray…
I was stunned to learn they make a million pies a week at their Lancashire factory. In the absence of homemade pie, which can be time-consuming and fiddly to make (especially if you struggle to get pastry right), for a mass-produced product this is about as good as gets. I doubt I’d buy the new chicken and ham hock but the peppered steak definitely gets the thumbs up from me.