pie club

...mince pie mayhem

 

Pie Club 2007...The Pie Offs

Hello and welcome to the pinnacle of the mincemeat calendar strap yourself down and hold on for the Pie-offs 2007.

To explain for the uninitiated, we have whittled the festive offerings down to four pies after the group stages, and they must now battle head to head in a knockout tournament.

Pies drawn first are bitten first in each tasting round.

The draw was made by independent bystanders on 17th December, and the fixtures are as follows:

Morrisons The Best v Somerfield best ever

and

Waitrose All butter v Marks & Spencer Classic

The winner of Semi-final one will be awarded first bite in the final.

With the formalities over, let's crank up the seasonal action.

 

The Pie Club Grand Final 2007

Somerfield best ever (SBE) v Marks & Spencer Classic (MSC)

Wednesday, 19th December 2007, just after Noon.

Twenty five reviews and two semi-finals later we have arrived at the very crux of Christmas. One prize, two very different pies, and three wise men convene in search of afternoon delight. Over the next thirty minutes a maximum of 300 points could be scored in four categories.
I won't grind you down with statistics though, as I'm sure you are eager to feast on the blood and thunder of another intense finale

And we're off!

As the plastic inner trays are exposed to post lunch sunlight it becomes clear that the SBE gang have been set upon by a vicious thumper, and we are lucky to find three survivors with lids intact.

MSC have suffered no such fate and boast a full team of healthy crusts, and indeed take the early plaudits for their master baker mien.

First Bite:

Upon first contact, that cheeky twinkle in SBE's eye is evident for all to see. His cherry brandy overture is breathing fresh life into this staid establishment, the little scamp. However, MSC hasn't won this competition for the last two years without knowing a thing or two about resilience, and his generous cinnamon wallop counters with vim.

Second Bite:

SBE finds another gear and impresses with a warming fruit character, whereas MSC continues its mixed spice campaign, blinkered to the new challenges to its crown. One judge has even questioned the 'wow' factor of MSC. Can this be the first chink in his armour since December 2004?

Final Bites:

Nuts may swing this tie for SBE, as his almond tinge adds to an already sweet, cherry charge. The writing could be on the wall for MSC, as one judge suggests his reign may be over given he's "just too one dimensional", without a tipple or a nut chunk to bring off the bench. At this point, the judging team (Mr Wilson, Mr Hildebrand and PC) commence a short medley of knowing glances and colourful debate, as we find that the decision is a split one.

Result

It was a real pleasure to be in the company of two genuine Yuletide superstars SBE and MSC. Separating these gods of mince would have been impossible alone, but thankfully, as a three man panel, there cannot be a draw, which means it is with great excitement that I announce the winner of Pie Club 2007 is Somerfield best ever.

It was so nearly a hat-trick for MSC, but in the end the youthful enthusiasm overcame the experienced past master, and to be fair, to get as far as this in the competition shows that there's plenty of life left in the old spicy dog yet.

All at Pie Club commend Somerfield for their unique attitude to this festive staple, and hope that this may encourage a 2008 rich in original confectionery thinking.

 

I'd personally like to thank Mr Wilson* for developing and running this web wonderland, along with his countless quality second opinions (seven), and also Mr Callow's diligence and earnest counterpoints were invaluable to the Club (providing another eight). In fact, everyone who has been quoted or has read and enjoyed the site should accept my endless gratitude. Shine on.

As always though, I reserve my greatest admiration for my wife, as she not only allows me to indulge in such an extreme, and arterially challenging event but also makes useful contributions to it. And this kind of thing almost certainly invalidates my life insurance.

So thank you and goodbye from Pie Club 2007, I hope your Christmas is crammed full of love, joy and vine fruits.

All the very best

PC

 

 

 

Semi-final Two

Waitrose All butter (WAB) v Marks & Spencer Classic (MSC)

In what could be counted as an unlucky draw, the top two pies after the group stage were paired together, with the reigning champion drawn as second bite. One of these beguiling behemoths of the mince scene must fall, while the winner may be considered favourite going in to the Grand Final. How could there be any more pressure?

No problems exiting box or foil for these seasoned fruit smugglers. Standing lid to lid, the WAB has the better reach, while the MSC holds a height advantage. Both weighed in around the 65 gram mark.

First Bite:

A smooth opening from WAB. The usually tough pastry presented no trouble on the tooth follow through, and a velvety mastication was achieved. The chew was a race against time to beat a melt in the mouth finish. Hopefully, the flavours will have more time to develop as the contest wears on.

MSC has also found his stride right from the off. Cinnamon and nutmeg play attractive one-twos all over the tongue, and another silky chew results. Fabulous stuff - I could eat these two all night.

Second Bite:

I've managed a larger take of inners on this bite, but the professionalism of WAB's fruit provides another easy gobble. I'd like to see more from the cranberries, but the brandy is definitely up for this tie.

More of the same from MSC. My senses are mulled by his generous Christmas spice rack, as the sweet crust watches on purposefully and intercedes when necessary.

The sheer quality of these inseparable titans puts me in mind of recent finals, each going to second pie replays. How can I pop the bubble of hope for one so near perfection?

Final Bites:

Thick and boozy joys abound from WAB, neat and tidy festive flavours pour from MSC. The consistent tone of both contenders is amazing. Neither slip up, neither offer up anything but sheer Yuletide class, and I'm faced with a huge dilemma.

Result

As much as I consider myself a natural enemy of the over descriptive and knowingly suggestive Magic & Sparkle organisation, I can't help but love that Classic pie.

I was going to have a sleepless night worrying over my perceived allegiance to this two-time winner, but 'Do They Know It's Christmas' on the stereo has put it all in perspective. Some people have genuine worries, like not getting into the spirit of things through a lack of rare English winter conditions in December. There won't be snow in Africa this Christmas time.

At great risk of causing outrage, I put M&S Classic into the final to take on Somerfield best ever, but I stand by my selection, head held high.

To prevent me from a total nervo-gastric breakdown over the agony that is deciding the Pie Club 2007 Grand Final, I will be employing a three pieman panel to avoid another virtual dead heat.

Hopefully, we'll have a winner for you in time for late night shopping this Thursday (an opportune buying moment).

 

Semi-final One

Morrisons The Best (MTB) v Somerfield best ever(SBE)

Once out of their box, these bulky gladiators can barely be told apart. Only the motifs atop identify the Spartacus, from the non-Spartacus.

First Bite:

An inauspicious start for MTB, as he stumbles out of his foil with a sickening break in the overhung lidwork. The crunch is at a significant level, and brandy rushes through the sugary crust to make its presence felt. The chew is no more than steady, and the aftertaste weak.

Much smoother stripping from SBE, as he jumps out of his thin metal sheath. A more coherent bite is afforded also. Those sweet cherry brandy tones show a real cheek from this upstart, and I fall for the charm, if not for the absent fruit tang.

Second Bite:

MTB has responded with a butter emphasis. The pastry is trying to force play and has gone too far, leaving little else to savour. If the filling can find another gear in the final bites, it may be in business, but for now, the blend is uninspired.

It's hard to believe such brothers in foil can look so alike, yet have such diverse characteristics. SBE has continued his full steam cherry attack. There's nothing to choose between the textures and structures, but my decision may be between the sassy tart and kind spirited binman.

Final Bites:

MTB throws in the Port and a couple of nuts (walnut & almond) to create a decent impression, and I'm definitely warming to his hearty nature.

SBE comes back touting his fruit punch all the stronger, and I can't help admiring his pluck.

Result

The first team through to this year's final is Somerfield best ever for their sense of fun and adventure. I've found it genuinely uplifting to succumb to their tongue in cheek spin on Christmas treats, but can they sustain that merriment to take the title?

 

The Group Stages:

It is with a mixture of relief and sorrow (think ,waking up in your own bed after a marathon drink, in your early twenties) that I introduce the last pie to be tested in the 2007 group stage. Today, we come face to face with last years gallant runner up.
In an epic six pie encounter, this denizen of the deep fill held its own against a thoroughbred Magic & Sparkle Classic. Will they manage to go one better this time out?
Or have they now missed their chance for greatness, very much like Newcastle United after their failing in the 1995-96 Premier League season?
Tesco Deep Filled Mince Pie Once the bridesmaid, ever the bride?
Tesco Deep Filled Mince Pie Once the bridesmaid, ever the bride?
Pie Name Date of Test Price No. in Pack
Tesco Deep Filled Mince Pies 9th Oct 2007 £1.09 6
Container Style
All six pies feature on a commanding crumbshot that dominates the cosy red box. One of the upper pies has made a friendly offering of his innards - his broken frame nestling near the luxurious golden plate edge. Red plastic inner tray (bagged).
Appearance Marks out of 25
Flattish and broad lid. Sugared in an even-handed, but not overly generous manner. A bulky star motif adorns the browned edge top. There is an air of Teutonic efficiency, almost as if this pie has pride in its work. 20
Pastry Marks out of 25
The softness is noteworthy but not problematic. A sweet cushioned bite that threatens to cloy, before providing a welcome smooth finish. After the recent skirmishes Ive had with combative crusts, my bruised gums cant thank Tesco enough. 18
Filling Marks out of 25
A glimpse under the crust delivers a surprising secret air chamber. For a deep filled suggestion, Tesco need to follow through with their fruit slop. Lighter in hue than pictured, and less liquid. Large and whole vine fruits deliver a well pitched mincemeat when fused with successful spice. The warming winter moods within the filling have made up for the quantity. 19
Pie Factor (the whole experience) Marks out of 25
Its difficult to spot a weakness in this solid contender. I can forgive the slight sub-lid cavern, given the near perfect combination of fruits and spices. Whatever their secret formula, the chew technicians have conjured a box of delights. If one constituent had to win man of the match, I would award it to the orange oil, although Im sure hed dedicate it to the whole team. 20
Second Opinion - Jon Callow, Bolton, England Marks out of 25
Fairly well-crafted for a red boxer, with a motif that suggests Converse have an iron in the seasonal baked goods fire. The soft, sweet pastry melts rather than crumbles, while the citrus kick of the innards makes up for the absence of booze. A good mix of festive fruits provides an adequate chew, and the overall experience is more akin to the giddy Christmas mornings of childhood rather than the hangover heavy yawnathons of later life. A sterling effort from the blue and white stripes. 19
Total Marks 96
Any Other Business Thats the easy work completed, now comes the much more difficult task of separating the crème from the crème de la crème.
The final four, who will contest the Pie-offs in the 2007 Pie Club Competition are Waitrose All butter, M&S Classic, Somerfield best ever and Morrisons The Best.
Best of luck to all this years successful pies. See you for the semi-finals.
Date Added 17th Dec 2007

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With only one late night Thursday left to shop before Christmas, I hope you have been diligent in your consumerism.
The penultimate pie is upon us, as only Tesco Deep Fill are left on the bench, patiently waiting their turn. Which all means that I have eaten the equivalent of fifteen tubs of margarine thickly spread across a runway of hydrogenated vegetable oils, sprinkled with 1.5 tons of rotten fruit.
At least, thats what I think my Proctologist said.
Let the wind blow high Let the wind blow low
Let the wind blow high Let the wind blow low
Pie Name Date of Test Price No. in Pack
Walkers Luxury Mincemeat Tarts with SIngle Malt Whisky 11th Dec 2007 £3.79 6
Container Style
Sophisticated 1980s bachelor pad black, this box has a very forward approach to the courtship ritual employed to woo the shopper faced with many varieties of pie. Only pies and whisky adorn this frontage, and the six man team have formed the same attack pattern as with the red box crumbshot. A healthy measure of the Speyside giant acts as the General, marshalling the operation.
Brown plastic inner tray (bagged).
Appearance Marks out of 25
More sugared than its Methodist counterpart, but the broad shoulders remain the same. No girly motif atop this smooth biscuity lid, only those three familiar airholes designed to keep the monster within alive. 22
Pastry Marks out of 25
Im pleased to report that the acetic tones that spoiled Walkers in the past havent taken over in this instance. The buttery shortbread bite just about wins the day, but its touch and go for a minute.
A crunch of Scottish pride can be forgiven, from these proud producers.
17
Filling Marks out of 25
When topless, grave concerns are raised. Im worried that the alcohol has evaporated leaving a nightmare vision akin to the abhorrent Sainsburys Taste the Difference clag-fest. However, slight slickness can be perceived on closer inspection, and to my relief, the chew is facilitated via juicy fruits and saliva-generating stem ginger specks.
Walkers vinegar shame has been banished by this single malt marvel. Fans of whisky and Dry will be in their element, and the burst of zest creates a Christmas cocktail fit for an open-minded Laird.
19
Pie Factor (the whole experience) Marks out of 25
Taking a full chomp into this brute means powering through the tough and tenacious lid, and unfortunately, that distracts the palate from the 12 year old star turn. The similarities to J Sainsburys shame are too close for comfort, but it goes to show that the smallest tweak on the recipe card can change the outcome entirely.
Id be lying if I said I wasnt nervous about that lengthy chew, though.
19
Second Opinion - Simon Wilson, Bakewell, England Marks out of 25
Such was the whiff of booze emanating from this stocky contender I decided it prudent to consume my pie several hours before getting behind the wheel of a car. Not sure how many pies would put you over the limit but best not to take chances during the festive period, dear reader. Back to the pie, and the outer casing offers up a decent level of biscuity resistance, without resorting to cloy ,its a nice balance. Filling wise, the shot of Glenfiddich threatens to overshadow proceedings, in a similar fashion to the other falling down pies this year. The lack of moisture content is also a worry ,were nearly at paste territory here. At 3.79 for the set, there are just too many negatives for me. 17
Total Marks 94
Any Other Business In answer to Mrs B from Essex, I bought both versions of Walkers pies from a branch of the Edinburgh Woollen Mill (Scottish textile cells embedded in our naive high streets) , but Ive noticed other retailers stocking the boozy pies, such as British Home Stores (for a tidy 4, mind).
Date Added 14th Dec 2007

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With the shame of its failure to provide a team in last years pie-offs still hanging over it, will Waitrose All butter get a chance to set the record straight?
With only two more pies to follow in the league stage, a star performance now should secure a semi-final berth. But, can Middle England handle the pressure?
All butter, but 75% hat Waitrose all butter mince pies
All butter, but 75% hat Waitrose all butter mince pies
Pie Name Date of Test Price No. in Pack
Waitrose All butter mince pies 12th Dec 2007 £1.99 6
Container Style
Waitrose must have had some success with their box designs last year, as both red box and All butter versions have stuck with the same design.
This sleek black box is, to my mind, the only entrant to sport a left-hand-side viewing window. The bravery continues with a crumbshot relegated to just the side panels. One broken pie floats endlessly through space displaying a dazzling array of colours and possibly an ivory plectrum or similar, from some alien big game hunting rock combo.
Brown plastic bagged inner tray (same as Walkers and Sainsburys TTD).
Appearance Marks out of 25
Along the lines of other holy and motifless tops, this stocky chap shares the same broad shouldered lid and narrow bottom. Two holes are deemed enough, as opposed to other producers three, and they seem less swollen than other flat tops. Some unconvincing seam work between case and crust will cost points. 19
Pastry Marks out of 25
Fumes from the brandy filling have infused the exterior walls with an agreeable nip of the hard stuff, which makes for an unusually full flavour. The architects that constructed Waitroses luxury entrant have built this case to last. If Walkers pies are made in Scotland from girders, these Home Counties gentlemen must have distant ancestors from over the border, as their tensile strength is phenomenal. A peril to other snackbox dwellers ,this pie will play rough. 20
Filling Marks out of 25
Another of the drier looking mincemeats, and particularly well filled. Identifiable slithers of nut and cranberry pepper the usual vine based suspects. The chew is not a drenching crush, but certainly not a dusty grind. Once the industrious currants and sultanas are worn down, the candied peel and sweetened cranberries rush in to produce a tarty goodbye. Full credit. 22
Pie Factor (the whole experience) Marks out of 25
If you can overcome the stiff resistance and break this pie down to its joyous essence, you will be well rewarded for your efforts. Brandy finds some success at last this Yuletide, as other providers have woefully misused the glad drop in their weaker attempts. A well blended, if full blown, pastry marvel and worthy of a good sit down. 20
Second Opinion - John Higginson, Hollinsclough, England Marks out of 25
Pastry could have been sweeter (and it was a bit claggy), although it was nicely filled. 20
Total Marks 101
Any Other Business With a total of 101 points, Waitrose are certain to be in the knockout stages, IF their distribution network can deliver the goods, so to speak.
For those that keep an eye on both the league table and pie chat pages, youll have spotted that Pie Vets dream is shattered, and there will be no Connoisseur charge this year.
Commiserations to all connected with the PV household.
Date Added 13th Dec 2007

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If, like me, youre reaching fever pitch as we career towards impending televisual extravaganzas, then take time to unwind and have a Lemsip. With only a handful of contestants left, this is no time to get that bug thats going around, you know, where you feel all muggy and floaty.
After all the trans-fats Ive consumed, my wife now swears that when she comes too close she can hear my embattled aorta screaming Stay on target.
Londis Mince Pie (London District Stores)
Londis Mince Pie (London District Stores)
Pie Name Date of Test Price No. in Pack
Londis Mince Pies 9th Dec 2007 £1.19 6
Container Style
The frontage could pass for the cover of a Farepak catalogue, with its good honest baubles and walnuts.
A mob of five pies appear to have stolen some fruit and nut gems and are on the lookout for the law, as one unlucky hoodlum attempts to create an escape hatch in itself. At least, thats my take on the fascinating crumbshot.
White plastic inner tray (bagged), making the little chaps within appear more washed out than would be advisable to generate hunger pangs.
Appearance Marks out of 25
A small button lid with high and spiky perimeter edges. This pie has been allowed to brown more than most, but the fake wrinkles in lieu of a motif atop removes any natural feel. Modest in stature. 14
Pastry Marks out of 25
Theres no love lost between inner and outer, as I am able to strip the filling of its pastry surround without the slightest resistance. After full lid removal and consumption I am left with no discernible aftertaste, and virtually happy memories of the bland time I spent with this pedestrian pastry. 17
Filling Marks out of 25
Plenty to tick off for the mince spotters amongst us. Dark currants, chunks of nut, dabs of cherry, congealed vegetable suet and an ever-present brunette binding agent. It all makes for a longer-lasting chew enabling the enthusiastic nuts (walnut and almond) to pop up and impress, while the bulky vine fruits fend off my overworked teeth. There is a festive tang, but it fades from the very first moment, almost pre-chew. 19
Pie Factor (the whole experience) Marks out of 25
Having bought these from a petrol station shop, I hope that I could be forgiven for my pre-test trepidation, but it seems unfounded. These pies are small and benign enough to count as decent session fodder, particularly as once the feuding constituents come together, a well-balanced mouthful results. 18
Second Opinion - Simon Wilson, Bakewell, England Marks out of 25
Tantalised by the prospect of a few nibbed walnuts in the Londis offering, I dive into the box to be greeted by a very meagre sight. Prospects are not enhanced by the curious upturned lid along one edge of my test pie, something akin to a Cane Toads upper mandible. First bite into the browned casing offers no biscuity resistance ,we are straight to cloy here. The inners only offer a marginal improvement on festive spirits ,its a nice enough mush of mishmash. Couldnt taste the walnuts. 16
Total Marks 84
Any Other Business Nibbed almonds and nibbed walnuts may win the award for most excitingly titled ingredient.
Date Added 12th Dec 2007

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Rather like Canoe Man here in the UK, todays pies are back from the dead. M&S Connoisseur threw me a dummy by playing their special edition Mulled Wine Mince Pies earlier in the competition (with only moderate success), but now they are back to try again with the genuine Connoisseur recipe variety. Pie Vet Ediths prophecy may yet come to fruition (see Pie Chat).
Yerrmybezzmate Back from oblivion
Yerrmybezzmate Back from oblivion
Pie Name Date of Test Price No. in Pack
M&S Connoisseur Mince Pies 10th Dec 2007 £2.99 6
Container Style
How dare you! How dare I mistake the original golden frame that is the tried and tested Connoisseur box, for the visor themed Mulled Wine wannabe! Unchanged through the ages, the vast central viewing window gives us a feel for the health of all six pies. Useful for checking for defects before offering the box to pie supremacists.
The crumbshot offers the same aspect and cream headwear as its new cousin, but the difference is there for all to see ,a multitude of festive ingredients shine through the earthy binding, unlike the monotone wine wallah.
Brown plastic bagless inner tray.
Appearance Marks out of 25
The bulbous pudding bowl case cuts a Dickensian dash. We are favoured with M&Ss signature anti-clockwise edge teeth, and the familiar star motif atop. Sugaring is thick and omnipresent.
No half measures offered here.
23
Pastry Marks out of 25
There is nothing special with the Connoisseurs pastry ,this criticism has dogged M&S for many years. I could forgive the mild sweetness and sub-crunch levels, but to cram the pie with so many heavyweight ingredients and then expect a casing so thin to hold it, is utter madness. No-one wants to chase their crumbling confection from hand to hand, even less so if you are at risk of losing 50 pence worth of festive nourishment. 17
Filling Marks out of 25
As deep a fill as demonstrated in 2007, and commendably, also retaining great viscosity.
Not sure whether I can say Ive bitten or swigged this pie. From moment one until the gobble completion, Im whisked off to a mismanaged Christmas Do, with an abused free bar privilege. Expensive spirits flow and the fruits slope off to commiserate with the nuts. Definitely one for the fire-water enthusiast.
18
Pie Factor (the whole experience) Marks out of 25
The vine fruit, nuts and tang mainstays are drowned in a sea of brandy and cognac. Without a lasting sweetness from the delicate pastry, the post-chew is as bitter as a rebuffed co-worker left to finish everyone elses lukewarm drinks as they all conga past on the way to fully committed physical relationships.
If the aim of a mince pie is to allow you to smuggle booze past Customs without paying duty, then full marks M&S, but I feel we should hope for more Christmas spirit, and less Methylated Spirit.
18
Second Opinion - Jon Callow, Bolton, England Marks out of 25
A sizeable offering with a homemade feel from the expansive M & S roster. Like Gemma Atkinson, the pastry is thick without being overbearing. The biscuity lid calls for due care and attention lest you transform pie into tart, but the buttery notes should be enough to ensure you savour rather than wolf in any case. The inner sanctum is awash with fruity goodness as almond and apricot jostle for position alongside the usual suspects, and M & S havent been shy with the promised Courvoisier, either ,this isnt a pie youd want on your breath at an important job interview. If there was a grumble, itd be the gap between fruit and lid, though it wouldnt take too much more of the boozerama filling to make even Chris Rea think twice about driving home for Christmas. 20
Total Marks 96
Any Other Business If you were the young couple I advised on pie selection last weekend in Chesterfield, I hope you plumped for the recommended Classic pies rather than follow my lead when I confusingly strode off with a gold box under my arm.
Date Added 11th Dec 2007

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What an up and down season J Sainsbury is having. His deep-fill pies took great acclaim, then his Ecclefechan tarts were received like cold crème anglais on our Pie Chat forum. What will become of his flagship sixer? Will I taste the difference?
Death Valley themed pie Apologies from Sainsburys
Death Valley themed pie Apologies from Sainsburys
Pie Name Date of Test Price No. in Pack
Sainsbury's Taste the difference Brandy rich mince pies 7th Dec 2007 £1.59 6
Container Style
The huge purple box provides a generous viewing window, encroached upon by Sainsburys signature gift tag prank. Said tag holds the titchy crumbshot showing one of six jostling pies ripped open to expose an escaping beetroot gizzard. Are they attempting to take Morrisons crown for the most horrifying image this year? Brown plastic inner tray (bagged).
Appearance Marks out of 25
One of the most broad-shouldered entrants this year. An effective tribute to home baking is achieved through good oven tones, stretchmarks and a lack of glitz atop. The hole triumvirate allows any remaining fumes to escape, or a treble glimpse at unexpressed fillings to come. 22
Pastry Marks out of 25
Its difficult to approach without succumbing to the whiff of spirits, akin to Grandmas drinks cabinet. Rather than the Advocaat and Cointreau, its the wooden aspect most influential in the crumble.
A hard, unforgiving lid battles my front sets enamel for superiority, but I will never surrender, and the gritty last knockings are vanquished.
15
Filling Marks out of 25
Once the lid is despatched, the sight instantly appals. What might have been a once hearty and glistening paste has been reduced down to a dried out tadpole pond. I can imagine an ape evading Charlton Heston smashing his fist on the table and crying You Maniacs! You dried it up! Ah, damn you! God damn you all to hell!. That pie is consigned to the landfills of 2008, and I reload.
Decent orange and appley influences make some headway though the gloom, but the consistency is what Id expect from a chalk and cheese blend. Much of the booze has evaporated and all I can do now is ruminate on a jaw breaking vine mulch.
10
Pie Factor (the whole experience) Marks out of 25
In the last two years, this pie has finished as runner up and a beaten semi-finalist. Each year, its standard has slipped, but now they have performed reverse pie alchemy, turning silver place into a wooden spoon (nearly). 12
Second Opinion - Jon Callow, Bolton, England Marks out of 25
The prodigious pastry overhang tempts you into a nibble you quickly regret. Buttery like Utterly Butterly is buttery (ie nothing like butter), the biscuity crunch in no way makes up for the blandly unpleasant aftertaste showcased here. The stodgy paste within has few recognisable constituent parts, while the production line employee responsible for this box appears to have thrown the promised brandy and port down his neck while no-one was looking. The overall effect is reminiscent of the fig roll, whose inventors were posthumously tried for crimes against humanity in the early eighties. Taste the Difference? Ill say. A horror show. 9
Total Marks 68
Any Other Business If you have a complaint with any aspect of Sainsburys performance this winter, you may be offered a box of these as a form of compensation. Top tip: when faced with this solution to your complaint, ask for the money instead, or their red-box pies which are much more festive.
Date Added 10th Dec 2007

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Well, I hope those that tuned in to hear me mumble my way through a live radio interview, dont feel too wrathful. I am, after all, merely a mincemeat academic, unproven in the televisual and audio media.
It seemed to me that the presenter had been bullied into a piece on mince pies by his team, despite his general apathy toward the joyous Christmas confection. Still, you can only try, cant you.
Unbowed, we carry on our earnest task, and its back again to the lowly halls of Somerfield for their standard deep fill contribution.
Sickening image1.jpeg Somerfield deep filled mince pies
Sickening image1.jpeg Somerfield deep filled mince pies
Pie Name Date of Test Price No. in Pack
Somerfield Deep Filled Mince Pies 3rd Dec 2007 £1.1 6
Container Style
Last years purple packet has been updated with a new! recipe flash. Bit of a cheek, then, to use the same crumbshot you might think. Mr Kipling at least had the decency to digitally tinker with the photo when claiming improvements to their pies. The snaking line of pies end with a surprised-frog-featured gaping pie.
Red plastic bagless inner tray.
Appearance Marks out of 25
Professional in their demeanour, these sturdy deep fills have a well rendered holly motif atop the smooth crust. Sugaring is fine and distributed comprehensively. A real salesman of a pie. 21
Pastry Marks out of 25
One of the stiffest lids Ive encountered on my travels in pie. Id fear for the potential gobbler attacking these after a reheating. The pastry case has a little more give. Sweet biscuit thoughts are the welcome outcome. 18
Filling Marks out of 25
Careful mince enthusiasts! The lumpy swells hide the odd bit of stalky gristle. Until Id run aground on the grit, I was very much enjoying the festive tang and challenging fruit munch. However, the aftertaste is shrouded in a lingering sweetener cloud. 15
Pie Factor (the whole experience) Marks out of 25
If you come across this Somerfield standard, Id recommend you cross your fingers and brace your top set. Those lucky enough to avoid a crunching experience will find much to enliven the festive senses, and taken with the pastry, the inner leaves less of a saccharine stain. 17
Second Opinion - Les Rowland, Darley Dale, England Marks out of 25
Well sugared and visually enticing but the outward size belies the noticeable lack of filling, so a bit of an anti-climax. Nice contents but not as much as expected - "padded bra syndrome" I think the box should be re-labelled more honestly as "Deep semi-filled mincepies" (sounds a bit more positive than "Deep half-empty"!) - currently (no pun intended!) the lack of contents could be construed as a violation of the Trade Descriptions Act. 15
Total Marks 86
Any Other Business Intriguingly, topped with a motif pastry lid has been added to the product description. If the word crumbshot features next year, Ill definitely expect some kind of referencing to this Club.
Date Added 6th Dec 2007

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You may or may not be surprised to learn that I have agreed to speak on BBC Three Counties Breakfast Show on Thursday morning, in my capacity as a pie trouble shooter. Ill let you know how (and if) it goes on the next review.
Anyway, today we are off to Somerfield, or Sainsburys without the glamour, as it should remind us on their till receipts.
Somerfield best everMince Pies Familiar kitsch stylings
Somerfield best everMince Pies Familiar kitsch stylings
Pie Name Date of Test Price No. in Pack
Somerfield Best Ever...Mince Pies 4th Dec 2007 £1.75 6
Container Style
Another box untouched by the ravages of time, as it is exactly the same as its class of 2006. The brightly coloured mincemeat crumbshot is, thankfully, not a true representation of the actual contents, lest our small intestine light up like a tasteless market square during late night shopping.
Black plastic inner tray (bagless).
Appearance Marks out of 25
Tall and irregular, this pale entrant has a unique motif atop. One large star and a trio of smaller malformed twinklers sit uneasily on an undulating, par-sugared lid. Somehow, the inconsistency lends a homely feel, even if the overly ambitious star theme does not. 18
Pastry Marks out of 25
An immediate apple crumble hit dissipates to let the dreaded cloy take over. The smart digestive crunch is let down badly as the mouth implodes, although I am warming to the sweet aftertaste. 18
Filling Marks out of 25
Fairly well filled and impressive in its tight fruit melee. Glinting paste has caught my eye, but will the fruits seal the deal? An elaborate mouthful boasts full nut usage in the form of walnut chunks, a solid knowledge of mixology via Port & Brandy, and tremendous architectural understanding, as I find very little binding agent amongst the sizeable whole fruit bunches. Some may balk at the tinge of cherry bubblegum in the follow-through, but if you are in the mood for a sweet tipple, what the heck! 21
Pie Factor (the whole experience) Marks out of 25
Anyone who reluctantly admits to enjoying the odd alcopop, or sweet sherry will find their secret itches scratched by this cherry brandy hustler. Im happy that Somerfield have found a different way in to an unlikely Christmas grotto. 20
Second Opinion - Simon Wilson, Bakewell, England Marks out of 25
The words Best Ever strike fear into me, echo as they do Mr Kiplings reckless boast that only resulted in the rubber recall scandal. I need worry not. This pie is up there with the best ,from the rustic pastry casing with its irregular sized stars atop and uneven liddage, to the brandy infused innards ,this will surely be a contender come the final reckoning. Move over M&S. 23
Total Marks 100
Any Other Business Impressive, nay, very impressive performance from this unfancied pie team. Taking a share of the lead at this stage may mean certain entry into the knockout rounds. Lets hope Somerfield can find real consistency to provide a new challenge to the established pies.
Date Added 5th Dec 2007

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Traditionally, the standard pie from each producer is labelled deep filled and comes in a red box. In 2006 Sainsburys experimented with a purple number. Was it a success? You decide.
Sainsburys Deep Mince Pie All wrapped up for Christmas
Sainsburys Deep Mince Pie All wrapped up for Christmas
Pie Name Date of Test Price No. in Pack
Sainsbury's Deep Mince Pies 14th Oct 2007 £1.09 6
Container Style
A bright red box featuring a teasing gift tag effect, which will provide hours of entertainment to those who have married folk with troubled depth perception. Forget Only Fools and Horses, the coffee and mince pie course at 10 Downing Street may be this Christmas one to watch. The thorough redness is barely affected by whirling abstract silhouettes, which add a smidgen of joy. My good manners prevent me from commenting on the vulgar cream squirt crumbshot. Black plastic inner tray (bagless).
Appearance Marks out of 25
A smaller handful than most. The handsome bulge to the lid is adorned with an attempted symmetrical holly/berry motif. Granulated sugar is everywhere ,cascading down from the tip of the crust to the spiky foothills of the brown edge area. With a further drift of sugar left in the box, check for scouting wasps before opening. 18
Pastry Marks out of 25
Creamy biscuit notes, and firm. The mass of sugar hasnt sweetened it to death. The aftertaste lingers without a trace of clogging. Impressive stuff. 19
Filling Marks out of 25
The quantity was not responsible for lid bulge. Once again, deep filled has come to mean filled more than a value range but absolutely no more than necessary. I got a whiff of spice as I nibbled the crust, so Im eager to jump in. A mid brown sauce coats the varied vine delights, and has a say in the chew, unusually. My tongue is smothered in well spiced paste as the longer lasting fruit grind begins, and is only just gone by the end. Most yuletide requirements are present and balanced correctly. 21
Pie Factor (the whole experience) Marks out of 25
Sainsburys mincemeat division have certainly remedied the overly dark, treacly issues from 2006, and have provided an extremely worthwhile pie. Whether or not it has the extra gear required to progress in this competition is the big question. As a session pie, however, it may take some beating. 21
Second Opinion - Jon Callow, Bolton, England Marks out of 25
This pie is alright, you know. It certainly deserves a better motif than the blurry holly effort its been lumbered with. Buttery sweetness is evident, and the shortcrust crumble stops just short of forcing a do with the Hoover. The innards are as plentiful as you would hope for from a deep-filled claimant, and theyre pleasant enough, too, though hardly groundbreaking. Raisins, sultanas and apple provide a tangy bite, and there is sufficient moisture about despite the absence of booze from proceedings. A fair effort, all told, ticking all the boxes without ever threatening to think outside them. 16
Total Marks 95
Any Other Business A quick look at the league table shows that this modest red box entrant finds itself in third, with less than ten pies left to scrutinise. Will it hang on to make the end of season Pie-Offs?
Date Added 4th Dec 2007

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Many peoples tip for glory are todays spotlight pie ,M&S Connoisseur.
From their heyday in 2001, these multi-faceted queens have lost out due to frail pastry and an overpowering essence of turps.
Can they finally rediscover their will to win in 2007?
Glass of pie for the ladies M&S CRMWMPs
Glass of pie for the ladies M&S CRMWMPs
Pie Name Date of Test Price No. in Pack
M&S Connoiseur Recipe Mulled Wine Mince PIes 1st Dec 2007 £3.09 6
Container Style
Gold enough to make Tony Hadley always believe, this opulent box sports one of the most closely focussed crumbshots ever. A single cream-hatted snob neatly reveals its dark heart, on an ill-gotten gold-leaf plate.
A long visor style viewing window exhibits the ready mincemen in their palace. Black plastic inner tray (bagged).
Appearance Marks out of 25
At the risk of being shouted down, I consider this pie to be slightly smaller than in previous years, although still a palatable prospect.
The 1970s inspired seven star motif sparks Jackson Five harmonies in my troubled mind. Very well browned overhanging edges scream for me to approach.
21
Pastry Marks out of 25
Totally unexpected sensations arrived on first nibble. Id set my incisors to crunch, and was sorely disappointed with the apathy shown by a yielding sponge lid. Cured of its brittle past, the new elasticity has gone too far the other way. Decent butter tones elevate my spirit slightly. 17
Filling Marks out of 25
A well filled case holds the biggest pool of slop seen this year. The odd sultana and veg suet fleck break the smooth pond surface. Im worried that Ill have a mouthful of alcoholic jam on diving in.
Mulled wine, Port and Brandy outnumber the brace of vine fruits experienced in the smooth, rich paste. If you are a recovering alcoholic with all your own teeth, Id say dont bother with this tipsy sludge.
16
Pie Factor (the whole experience) Marks out of 25
It was perfectly correct to title these Mulled Wine Mince Pies, as the mincemeat has taken a back seat while the liquor takes the hot seat. Better than recent efforts, but a middle ground must be found for the unprofessional pastry, and a few more fruits wouldnt go amiss. Ill get my rosy nose from a pint pot, not a pie slop. 17
Second Opinion - Mrs Cooper, Derbyshire Marks out of 25
A cakey pastry ,no crumbs, just implosion ,ideal for minimising impact on carpet during festive soirée with neighbours. A christmas scented candle jamminess replaces traditional mincemeat. Superb ,one for the ladies. Do they do it in a mini? 21
Total Marks 92
Any Other Business The high cost listed (3.09) could be due to the box being purchased from Trowell motorway service station on the M1. I understand that sometimes we may pay a little more duty on our goods when picked up from an awkward and disquieting purgatory.
Date Added 3rd Dec 2007

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Please pardon the hiatus as November drew to a close. A poignant time of year all round.
Today, Waitrose present their red box entrant, The Shortcrust Mince Pie. Deep fill versions are for also-rans, obviously.
Before I get on with it, please note that the staff at Waitrose have impressed me on every visit. Last time I was there, someone collecting baskets spotted my needy glances and accessed the safe to sell me gift tokens. Im almost certain that they could get proper jobs, selling insurance or culling pigeons, for example.
Disease pictured atop (left) Waitrose Shortcrust Mince Pies
Disease pictured atop (left) Waitrose Shortcrust Mince Pies
Pie Name Date of Test Price No. in Pack
Waitrose Shortcrust Mince Pies 26th Nov 2007 £1.09 6
Container Style
Unchanged from their 2006 campaign. Pillarbox red box with an unfussy font and corner motif. The crumbshot portrays a scene from a pie health and safety video in which a foursome lose a member to a terrible fall in the gym. Id guess crumbs and tears would be the title of the image. Oddly, the crumbshot on the box sides is a different occurrence ,perhaps from the same tragic video. Red plastic inner (bagless).
Appearance Marks out of 25
Having cleared away a vast dune of sugar, previously resident beneath the tray, I can at last make out the handsome anti-clockwise lid with a modest star motif twinkling atop. A thin layer of fine crystal sugar coats most surfaces. Sickeningly, some of the pies appear to be decaying in patches on the surface of the lid in a pastry version of Necrotizing fasciitis. I choose a healthier looking specimen to nibble cautiously. 18
Pastry Marks out of 25
Thankfully, Im not provided with a mouthful of flesh-eating bacteria, and instead enjoy the results of some careful shortcrust assembly. A fair play bite to the lid is matched by the softer sides with their authentic kitchen feel. No mysterious preservative aftertaste here, just good honest pastry. 22
Filling Marks out of 25
The thick dark matter has prolonged chew written all over it, and it doesnt disappoint with a real work out for my plucky molars. Even given this elongated chew-time, the hit of seasonal tang and spice fails to materialise. An arrested raisin push, with an apricot flourish is all that comes close to raising my spirits. Once more, the aftertaste is genuine, so its hard to be very bitter about the diminished capacity of this standard fayre. 17
Pie Factor (the whole experience) Marks out of 25
Assuming the pie you come across is free from the lid blight prevalent in my box, Id recommend this pie for session use. The flavours are natural and meagre enough to allow constant use of this competitor without feeling over powered by goodwill and festive fruits. 18
Second Opinion - Chris Hawley, Bakewell, England Marks out of 25
Nice and creamy. 20
Total Marks 95
Any Other Business Chris doesnt know that her immediate comments have been posted on the internet for all to see. A full and frank apology will be on offer to Chris if I have overstepped the mark. I'm very grateful for the contribution.
Date Added 30th Nov 2007

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Well done if youve stayed with us this far - you are over halfway through the group stage of Pie Club 2007. Plenty of contenders have come and gone in a blaze of pastry, but dont despair, theres a hearty amount of crumbshots yet to be scrutinised and we havent touched Waitrose or Sainsburys yet.
Onwards then, to our second entrant from West Yorkshires finest, Morrisons Deep Filled Mince Pies.
Morrisons Deep Filled Mince Pies No filling on display here
Morrisons Deep Filled Mince Pies No filling on display here
Pie Name Date of Test Price No. in Pack
Morrisons Deep Filled Mince Pies 25th Nov 2007 £0.99 6
Container Style
A basic understanding of festive boxwork has led to this unspectacular effort. Im sure it was a pleasant hour and a half for the designers, as they used the first font they could find and the weakest graphics to prepare an empty cupboard of a frontage.
Not sure I can call the serving suggestion a crumbshot as each pie is alarmingly intact.
Red plastic bagless inner tray.
Appearance Marks out of 25
Neat and tall, with a wave-effect lid. Im not a lover of interpretive art atop ,I like to see something explicit, but their holly/berry demands a little thought. The sparse sugaring (crystallised) collects at the darker edges. An interesting prospect. 18
Pastry Marks out of 25
A puff of dust is launched into the air on the first bite. The arid cloy is immediate and devastating. I can only hope that the filling is along the lines of Castrol GTX, otherwise my uninsured mouth may grind to a halt. This is the closet Ive ever been to having an affinity with the Saharans. 12
Filling Marks out of 25
Respite arrives in a flood of Yuletide favourites. All the vine fruits are present and correct, as is the zesty apple paste. Unfortunately, each constituent is running at half power. There is no surge of energy, and Im left wondering if the Bradford outfit really want me to have a happy Christmas, or whether theyve got other worries on their mind. 17
Pie Factor (the whole experience) Marks out of 25
Very much laying the foundations of Christmas this one, in the way that chewing the powdery pastry into the sloppy filling engenders thoughts of mixing concrete. If someone could turn up the volume of each ingredient, it would feel less like listening to Carols through ear-muffs. Anyway, if you like your tidings glad, but not too glad, this is the deep fill for you. 15
Second Opinion - Jon Callow, Bolton, England Marks out of 25
Aimed at their less-discerning Proletariat market, Morrisons Deep Filled is doomed to live forever in the shadow of its high-rolling store colleague, The Best. And no wonder. The outer casing is bland at best, with only an undercurrent of margarine keeping the tastebuds on their toes, while the interior design shares the same solid constituents but lacks the spirit of its Bourgeois ale-can cousin. Despite these shortcomings, the pie is actually greater than the sum of its parts, with the dull exterior serving to counterpoint the sweetness of the fruity goo within, and while this fella is unlikely to trouble the judge in the latter stages of the competition, Santa will almost certainly have worse offerings foisted upon him this Christmas Eve. 16
Total Marks 78
Any Other Business Have they dropped the 'More Reasons' campaign? I was enjoying that.
Date Added 27th Nov 2007

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What could be more fitting, after the devastation of non-qualification, than to sample our first Scottish entrant. McClarens vision of a utopian Britain where all men are equal finally came true, despite all the obstacles he had to overcome, from helpful Israelis to dubious penalty awards.
We can now eat these pies with the same sour taste in our mouths as those north of the border. Im eager to find out if Walkers can transfer their top level shortbread skills to the pastry/mincemeat arena.
Scottish Tart Walkers Luxury Mincemeat Tarts
Scottish Tart Walkers Luxury Mincemeat Tarts
Pie Name Date of Test Price No. in Pack
Walkers Luxury Mincemeat Tarts 22nd Nov 2007 £2.49 6
Container Style
In this order, the three most Scottish things on display are: the tartan backdrop, the image of the Jacobite plus ladyfriend in the corner, and the lack of concern for vegetarians. Maybe they are a bit brighter up there and dont need to point out that pastry and fruit is OK for the meat-shy. Or, perhaps theres a squirt of rabbit lung in each. As a carnivore, lets hope for the latter.
The six Scots in the crumbshot appear to be forming into a military attack pattern, ready to ambush something near my duodenum. Another example of a cleanly cleaved pie in the foreground.
Brown plastic bagged inner tray.
Appearance Marks out of 25
They have an eye for appetising tones in the Highlands. Smooth, lightly sugared lids offer no motif, but three airholes remind us we are dealing with living, breathing beasts rather than cold hard shortbread. 22
Pastry Marks out of 25
A mild vinegar waft accompanies this wild Clansman. Its a brute of a bite.
The sizeable overhang snaps off with biscuity vigour - Walkers arent straying far from their shortbread path.
Im puzzling at a distinct aftertaste of currants and chip shop vinegar. Theyd given me a clue with their opening bouquet, but why would they do such a thing?
16
Filling Marks out of 25
A spiky splodge of loosely bound vine fruit hides the occasional peel cube. You will struggle to extract tang, as the currants dominate once more, although not quite as badly as the Kipling debacle. The dryness of the mix generates Christmas pudding thoughts. 18
Pie Factor (the whole experience) Marks out of 25
Mother Natures secret weapon, vinegar, would not be my first thought when crafting luxury mincemeat produce. Maybe all pies will taste like fish and chips by 2012. Until then Ill have to warn you off this peculiar Caledonian conversation piece. 16
Second Opinion - Simon Wilson, Bakewell, England Marks out of 25
So what is a Mincemeat Tart? Clearly the word Pie is deemed beneath the marketers behind Walkers luxury offering. This is intriguing. The price tag of 2.49 also promises much. The appearance of the Tart is very reminiscent of the JS Taste the Difference Pie and on first bite that firm biscuit crunch is again very much in evidence ,even more so in fact. Lose the inners and she would be an acceptable shortbread. To experiment in such a way would be a shame as it is in this area that the Walkers Tart/Pie really excels. Her dark, tangy moistness endures throughout, which is always a winner, unlike the dry paste of TTD. At the end of the day, this lady is no tart but a Mince Pie and a fine one at that. 21
Total Marks 93
Any Other Business For the record, Mr Wilson has admitted that he consumed a large quantity of coleslaw just prior to his sample pie.
Even so, Im pleased we have such a difference of opinion as it sparks a healthy debate. Ive always said that, a bad argument about mince pies is still better than a good discussion on any other topic.
Date Added 26th Nov 2007

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Rich can describe many things. Overpaid division four footballers, the tapestry in Britains melting pot cities, Lady Muccas constant accusations and the remaining Carpenter can all be described as rich, but no longer Asdas standard mince pies. The Asda Rich Mince Pies of 2006 have undergone a facelift (or facedrop) and have re-emerged as todays testee ,Asda Classic Mince Pies.
Time of death: Christmas 2007 Asda Classic (not Rich) Mince Pies
Time of death: Christmas 2007 Asda Classic (not Rich) Mince Pies
Pie Name Date of Test Price No. in Pack
Asda Classic Mince Pies 15th Nov 2007 £0.78 6
Container Style
A tiddler of a red box effort. Someone has thrown last years box at their underling and said like last year, but better, and in true fashion the worried subordinate has copied last year precisely. You can only tell its a different line up by the change in star motif from fat to slim. OK, I exaggerate, the backdrop is similar, but not exactly the same.
Given that we can see five pies, one damaged, should we assume the sixth pie has gone into hiding having brutalised the poor crumbshot victim?
Red plastic bagless inner tray.
Appearance Marks out of 25
Well browned, mini-spiked edging surrounds a cute lid sporting a thinly pronged star. Last years bulky star has been consigned to the annals. Sugaring is heavy on one half only. Overall, Id have to call it small, although it does conform to competitive mince pie eating standards. 17
Pastry Marks out of 25
Bland would be a compliment for this crude and lifeless aberration. Flavours range from cardboard all the way up to stale bread. The elasticity of the pie bottom is a concern. Im able to bend and fold without cracking the surface 12
Filling Marks out of 25
A roughly shredded fruit paste is frozen in its torment. Think a Sultana Han Solo in Carbonite surrounded by rubber pastry. Apart from the sugary slop, little can be detected. That unholy visitor, liquorice, creeps in to steal any remaining Christmas presence. 10
Pie Factor (the whole experience) Marks out of 25
There is no life in this pie inside or out. The red box pie from each team should be a tangy session pie to give a small measure of fun, but no extreme themes. This has shamed anyone who works for a living. Ive a good mind to complain but it seems pointless judging by their customer services blurb - When calling or writing please quote the code FOB!. 12
Second Opinion - Jon Callow, Bolton, England Marks out of 25
With his lack of stature, sunken lid and amateurish star motif, the Asda Classic isnt exactly a looker, and hes hardly going to pull this Christmas dousing himself head to toe in all that vegetable oil, either. Shame, as once he comes out of his shell hes actually quite sweet. Hidden depths really can be discovered in the most unappealing of places. That said, if its a night on the lash youre after, forget it - hes teetotal, and he wont even drive you home. Pies cant drive, ysee. 14
Total Marks 65
Any Other Business Competitive mince pie eating standards: 2.5 in diameter and commercially available. Barry Donovan used Asda pies to achieve his world record three pies eaten in 1 minute 23 seconds, in 2006.
Date Added 23rd Nov 2007

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I cant ever enjoy a pie that isnt more than 1 for 6. Its feedback like this, from my wife, that the good people at Aldi head office need to hear. Of course, Aldi have their own brand for delicacies such as these ,Holly Lane. As I conjure with notions of prickle lined dirt tracks, lets see what they have to offer.
Have you seen an Aldi pie around here? No. We are Holly Lane, Herr Kolonel.
Have you seen an Aldi pie around here? No. We are Holly Lane, Herr Kolonel.
Pie Name Date of Test Price No. in Pack
Holly Lane Deep Filled Mince Pies 20th Nov 2007 £0.69 6
Container Style
A jaunty red box complete with the undercover Aldi logo shouts celebrate and tempting cakes to distract the eye from a guileless crumbshot. Six pies on a plain plastic plate. Possibly, the neatest cleaving of a crust on record. The inners appear unwilling or unable to achieve egress. Red plastic bagless inner tray.
Appearance Marks out of 25
What a nice surprise, as I find the pastry much less sallow than depicted. More than average amounts of crystallised sugar bring shimmer to a three pronged holly/berry motif. A very passable size for a red box pie. 20
Pastry Marks out of 25
Many of the bigger names should go to school on this texture. Not dangerously stiff, nor frustratingly bendy. The absence of strong flavours may be to allow the centrepiece filling to shine. There is an unnatural aftertaste to contend with, which is not uncommon in 2007s competition. 18
Filling Marks out of 25
Such dark swirling matter will beckon none but the most intrepid Yuletide explorer to dip a toe. Once bitten, however, the clingy fruits loosen up like a lost tribe faced with a glad-handing television presenter. The mainstay is apple sludge, but the supporting fruit chew is not unpleasant. 18
Pie Factor (the whole experience) Marks out of 25
Everything stop! This is a perfectly acceptable session pie. Perhaps a little liquid would be required to clear three in a row, but Ive no serious worries about recommending this to those with less than 70 pence to spend on their festive snacks. 18
Second Opinion - Jon Callow, Bolton Marks out of 25
Cobbled together like a hurried Year 9 Ceramics project, this pie isnt about to win any awards for its structural engineering, and if Aldis deep filled claim were in any way accurate, the subsidence encountered here could easily have been avoided. The pastry is dull, with just enough residual sweetness to stop you drifting off and forgetting what it was you were doing, while the grey sludge within tastes better than it looks without ever threatening to scale the kind of heights that incur giddiness. Not horrible, but certainly well out of its depth. 13
Total Marks 87
Any Other Business That said, Mr Callow, Holly Lane have come such a long way from their early performances at the start of this millennium. Some of their previous efforts would make a wasp wince.
It wouldnt surprise me to find out that Aldi now get their pies from the same place as Co-op or Tesco, as opposed to their erstwhile experiments with mad scientist style producers.
Date Added 21st Nov 2007

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It has been brought to my attention that websites with similar names have been causing confusion. The Presque Isle Retriever Club using pirclub.org have been getting fed up with non-dog owners gaping at their proud beasts. The Canadians running peiclub.com are another dog fancying bunch, receiving unprecedented interest in their four-legged friends. But, in the interests of all that is decent, I would implore those with wandering fingers to knuckle down and concentrate on their keyboard to avoid more broadminded results.
Its not you, its me. Asda Extra Special Rich Mince Pies
Its not you, its me. Asda Extra Special Rich Mince Pies
Pie Name Date of Test Price No. in Pack
Asda Extra Special Rich Fruit Mince Pies 13th Nov 2007 £1.48 6
Container Style
Apologies everyone, these pies seem to be wrapped up in a bridal lingerie catalogue. My mistake ,its the Asda ivory and lace branding for their Extra Special range. All six pies are featured, and it appears to me that the crumbshot pie was torn by the same hand as 2006.
That hand, though, has removed the glass of sherry that previously graced the background, perhaps because of the recent liver damage hysteria binge. Black plastic inner tray (bagged).
Appearance Marks out of 25
Quite pale and inflated ,a Scotsmans beer belly, if you will. The stretched and simplistic snowflake motif has collected any sugar that has managed to cling on. Worryingly, the base pastry is becoming transparent under the outward momentum of the inners. 15
Pastry Marks out of 25
Better than it looks. Some of the boozy aromas have infused into the crisp crust. It is difficult to commend the flavour too much, however, as the synthetic nature grinds me down with each nibble. 16
Filling Marks out of 25
A dynamic mix of brown fruit, bright nut chips and plenty of peel pieces. The cherries are well hidden though. Currants and brandy present an edgy, almost sinister, character. This mincemeat lets you know that Christmas can be a sorrowful time for some. Thats not to say that some wouldnt enjoy wallowing in this contender, while high on self pity. 20
Pie Factor (the whole experience) Marks out of 25
When the alcohol is tempered by massed pastry, the disquieting effect is virtually extinguished. I even get a tinge of cherry in the second pie. So, while the pastry isnt great, and the filling a touch scary, they come together to create an acceptable partnership. Think of it as the Sonny & Cher of this years event. 19
Second Opinion - Mrs Cooper, Derbyshire Marks out of 25
The moist but delicately lean pastry is bordering stodge. The mince is heavily perfumed with the heady aromas of booze ,is it brandy or paint stripper? With poor expectations from the outset, this pie somehow seems to get better and better with every bite. Whats more, the pleasure sensations linger long after the visible pie has gone courtesy of the twenty minute suck required to clear the teeth of festive treat residue. Quite an intriguing and contrary pie. 19
Total Marks 89
Any Other Business The soft focus dream sequence branding is quite alluring, but it makes for an odd Yuletide image.
Date Added 20th Nov 2007

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Anyone who shares my appreciation of Morrisons unique approach to crumbshots will be stunned to see this years devoid The Best box front. Throughout recent Club history this entrant has done more than most to bring terror to the unwitting pie sampler. Weve had everything from an American Psycho homage to last years study of mincemeats own nightmares.
You might imagine the anticipation that had built up then, as I waited for their release to the busy shelves of the Yorkshire giant
Stay perfectly still A side order of fright
Stay perfectly still A side order of fright
Pie Name Date of Test Price No. in Pack
Morrison's The Best Mince Pies 18th Nov 2007 £1.49 6
Container Style
At first glimpse, the lack of a crumbshot atop this familiar silver-black branded contestant leads to utter despair. A square, off-centre viewing window (usually the preserve of Sainsburys and Waitrose) cannot replace the annual awe inspiring event Morrisons special effects team conjure up.
But wait! All is not lost, as upon the carton sides lie images of unnerving coldness. The six pies are caught in a spiky ice fortress, and seem seriously perturbed at the non-removal of their dismembered colleague. His blood red entrails a constant reminder of their unspeakable destiny.
Black plastic inner tray (bagless).
Appearance Marks out of 25
A gut busting 1.5 inches high, nearly, this is a pie not to be taken lightly. The trend for large snowflake motifs in 2007 is in evidence atop. Plenty of crystallised sugar replaces 2006s powdery drift. Well-ovened cog teeth edges drive us on to nibble. 21
Pastry Marks out of 25
Much shorter than I was expecting, meaning breakage must be paid for, in dropped points. Whilst the shortness brings brittleness, it forgot to provide genuine bakery tones. Flour and butter have taken a back seat to the coolness of sweetening agents. 17
Filling Marks out of 25
Nice to see what that moisture is not at a premium. The distressing red hues from the crumbshot are not in evidence. In the short time I have spent penning these visual musings, the liquidity has allowed some pyroclastic flow of mincemeat out of the pastry holes. Characters that are sometimes marginalised have been developed well here ,the fruit, nuts and booze all vie for leadership without ever winning the overall control. The aftertaste borders on Amaretto. 21
Pie Factor (the whole experience) Marks out of 25
The big mouthful is a whos who of ingredients, but the pastry still intercedes to prevent full satisfaction. Love the movement of the tangy paste, and having a bit of everything in each mouthful, but the points wont get into the twenties with the artificial pastry clunk. 19
Second Opinion - Jon Callow, Bolton Marks out of 25
This sturdy gladiator enters the arena impressively clad in a lightly-sugared shortbread crust, with eclectic innards that strike an acceptable balance between bite and slurp. The advertised walnuts werent particularly evident in this sample, though there were definite almond undertones, and the two-pronged boozy do was more than adequate for a run-of-the-mill Thursday afternoon. A well put together individual who would be unfortunate not to get in on the post-season action. 19
Total Marks 97
Any Other Business If my calculations are correct, this is the first Christmas that Morrisons have had their sickening yellow and green logo on display. I wonder how many shoppers will go elsewhere to avoid the vomit influenced branding.
Date Added 19th Nov 2007

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Todays contender has a fine pedigree in this competition. M&S Classic is trying to complete the treble after adding last years Owen Lars Memorial to the Porkins Memorial of 2005. Another tight best before for the unwitting pie buyer to beware of. However, I think the larger font and box-side placing show willing. Unlike the Luxury pie, M&S must want consumers to eat these in date.
The reigning champion M&S Classic Mince Pies
The reigning champion M&S Classic Mince Pies
Pie Name Date of Test Price No. in Pack
M&S Classic Mince Pies 4th Nov 2007 £1.59 6
Container Style
No flashy tricks for M&Ss benchmark pie. One tone of red provides the backdrop to the charming crumbshot ,a trio watch on, as the fractured protagonist deposits his flowing soul onto the foreground. Red plastic inner tray (bagless).
Appearance Marks out of 25
Buoyed by the success of recent years, the formula appears to remain the same. Crystallised sugar sits atop the motifless cog-rimmed lid. This is a tall, if not very broad pie, with just enough overhang to excite. 19
Pastry Marks out of 25
Thick round the sides and full of firm biscuit crunch up top. Im struggling to make out the trademark spices amid the butter. That might be bad news for the pastry pioneers at Magic & Sparkle. A solid enough case offers good protection. 19
Filling Marks out of 25
Filled almost as deeply as possible, the sultanas have been frozen mid-leap from the thick yuletide gunk. Smatterings of vegetable suet add an authentic lardy look, and large peel chunks give some variety. On the first mouthful, Im immediately reminded of how effective this pie is. Listen to the church bells as Fruit and Apple Tang are showered with spices on the walk to their limousine, bound for a honeymoon in my lower intestine. A marriage made in heaven. 22
Pie Factor (the whole experience) Marks out of 25
I cannot imagine a situation where this pie would feel out of place. It doesnt try to impress by offering alcohol, or even any great variety of ingredients (no cherries, for instance) but what it does do is perfectly balance the acidic fruit hits with the fireside Christmas spices (cinnamon and cloves). 22
Second Opinion - Mrs Cooper, Derbyshire Marks out of 25
A traditional looking pie with an exquisite blend of festive fruit and nuts on the inside, there is no doubt that this pie takes its vocation of assisting the Christmas spirit seriously. It is a shame that my example has such a large air gap between lid and filling - I am left with the conundrum of how to get the best bite and taste all its charms simultaneously without unnecessarily disfiguring the presentation of the remaining pie as I go. 18
Total Marks 100
Any Other Business The pastry hasnt yet hit the heights of 2006, but this is a eye-catching marker placed down from Magic & Sparkle.
Date Added 16th Nov 2007

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We make our second foray into the world of Tesco today. Always the bridesmaid, never the bride - can this under-performing giant finally spit out something worthy of top spot? If that isnt too graphic an image.
Tesco Finest Mince Pie A Familiar Frontage
Tesco Finest Mince Pie A Familiar Frontage
Pie Name Date of Test Price No. in Pack
Tesco Finest Mince Pies 11th Oct 2007 £1.99 6
Container Style
To my eye, the cover has changed in only two minor ways since Christmas 2006 ,Ill reveal all at the foot of the review. The crumb shot has remained inelegant and slightly misleading, as the pies are paler and less monkish than the well browned, tonsure toting, year-old gang suggest. Black plastic inner tray (bagged).
Appearance Marks out of 25
Bulky but smooth pie. Pretend crimped edges and between three and five airholes adorn each lid. Given the tiny holes and smooth swollen appearance, youd be forgiven for thinking that a cosmetic surgeon had squeezed an unseasonal nip of botox into the fray. 16
Pastry Marks out of 25
The significant overhang nibbles well without crumbling concerns, and the sweetened crust provides a modicum of crunch. Last years spices are absent, but the mild flavour cleans the palate. 20
Filling Marks out of 25
A thick and rich stew is dotted with mixed nut fragments. Once bitten, a greater scheme of colours is apparent, with camel and cherry on display. Brandy heat does not bully the senses, or indeed enchant in large measure. Very well balanced, if not lively, fruit tang. 22
Pie Factor (the whole experience) Marks out of 25
I worry that the pastry is too thick, meaning that the delicate mincemeat is hidden by waves of butter casing. This is definitely one for the pastro-files amongst you, as the joy of boozy innards will pass by unnoticed. 18
Second Opinion - Mrs Cooper, Derbyshire Marks out of 25
The pastry is reminiscent of shortbread and the filling is all sweetness with no tang. This pie is suitable for the family get together but would struggle to meet the stringent demands of the average Christmas works do. 16
Total Marks 92
Any Other Business Those changes:
The word Christmas has leap-frogged back to link up with Finest, and the daily amount percentage graphic has found colour. That wasnt worth the wait, was it.
Date Added 15th Nov 2007

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In a bold move, Mr Kipling has offered a guarantee with this years pies - Best Ever Taste or Money Back Guarantee to be exact.
It seems, therefore, that I am wasting my time testing other pies, as the Kipster claims to have produced everyones favourite. Never one to be modest about his confections, Mr K has, at great risk, put his tackle on the line. Will I admire his ballsy stunt, or turn away aghast? The flashers gamble
Mr Kipling comin atcha Exceedingly good refunds
Mr Kipling comin atcha Exceedingly good refunds
Pie Name Date of Test Price No. in Pack
Mr Kipling Mince Pies 10th Oct 2007 £1.35 6
Container Style
Pedestrian red, green and gold tones abound on this windowless container. The more eagle-eyed will spot that the crumb shot contains the same escaping chunk-rich ooze as last year, but somehow the pastry lid has altered. Consequently, the image is still one of an unfortunate reveller, heaving his spiked stout and trimmings onto a busy pavement. The digital tom-foolery simply serves to raise more questions than it answers.
Appearance Marks out of 25
Smooth topped and pale. The misshapen Christmas tree motif echoes more of road-kill outlines. Crystallised sugar is visible, in certain lights. 15
Pastry Marks out of 25
A tendency toward the powdery. More cloying than would be best. Neutral flavours ,which is not necessarily a problem. Structurally sound. 17
Filling Marks out of 25
Enough of a dollop to fill the pastry case. The immediate sight is likely to remind the consumer of dark times. Apple and sultana vie for air in a suffocating sea of currants. Flavours other than currant are fleeting and meagre. Could the chefs have had a page turning accident and ended up on Eccles Cakes without noticing? 15
Pie Factor (the whole experience) Marks out of 25
The bite is indistinguishable from the Eccles Cake, but for a longer lasting chew. Apologies in advance to The League of Eccles Cake who may take that as a slight to their calling. Your Eccleses are a great product, but not a festive treat. 15
Second Opinion - Simon Wilson, Bakewell Marks out of 25
Already reeling from blatant regurgitation of last years crumbshot, the pie itself shows a similar lack of originality. If only the real thing displayed the same level of treacly goo and fruit variety as promised on the box. Mr Kipling makes exceedingly good Graphic Designers. 15
Total Marks 77
Any Other Business I assume that the bright spark in Kiplings marketing department who came up with the guarantee of quality idea never meets anyone from production over lunch to discuss matters. This is an average attempt at pie making and I urge anyone who finds themselves equally as unfulfilled, to follow my lead and claim your money back. See my letter to Mr Kipling. To their credit, my refund was despatched without argument.
Date Added 13th Nov 2007

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Holmfield is a brand available in Costcutter minimarts in my patch of Derbyshire. Im hoping they travel further, otherwise this review seems more pointless than usual. I notice that the bakery is in Buxton, yet they still feel it necessary to warn me that the factory handles nuts. Waste of good ink, that.
Holmfield Mince Pie Plastic Fantastic?
Holmfield Mince Pie Plastic Fantastic?
Pie Name Date of Test Price No. in Pack
Holmfield Mince Pies 6th Nov 2007 £1.19 6
Container Style
Bravery is the watchword here, as Holmfield have scoffed at the mere notion of cardboard, going instead with a plastic tray and a plastic bag cover. Their bravery also manifests itself in being the only entrant I can recall to print not only a fine example of the gratuitous crumbshot (one sultana nearly takes your eye out), but also a separate image of some of the key ingredients. The ginger, brown sugar, cherries and raisins on the front are joined by a mass of sultanas on the base. Full credit.
Appearance Marks out of 25
A break from the tall stout affairs provided by most larger producers, this is a flat and wide entrant reminiscent of the first ever winner ,Greenhalghs Luxury (a Bolton stalwart). Plenty of sparkly sugar replaces any motif on this barren lid. 20
Pastry Marks out of 25
Im surprised these are vegetarian friendly, as a happy lard tinge influences the aftertaste. Crunch levels are higher than average, flirting with unacceptability. 17
Filling Marks out of 25
The shallowness of the case affords little more than a one sultana deep spread on the broad bottom. A powerful tartness is achieved through heavy apple use, but the vine fruits get their chance in the end. The simplicity of this paste is quite a boon. You are transported from bored to festive very quickly. 20
Pie Factor (the whole experience) Marks out of 25
Still not sure about the crisp pastry bite to this competitor. That surprise overshadows the cheer afforded by the straight-talking, if meagre, innards. Shame. 18
Second Opinion - Mrs Cooper, Derbyshire Marks out of 25
This pie conjures memories of school cookery. I am not looking forward to it.
Curious crunchiness in the pastry would be a delight if my mind didn't automatically think of fingernails. Tarty innards - wouldn't want any more leaving an after taste.
Overall, much better than expected, but that isn't saying much.
12
Total Marks 87
Any Other Business Nostalgia evoked by the familiar Greenhalghs outline may have earned softer treatment than perhaps I should have meted out, but we are all human.
Date Added 12th Nov 2007

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Today marks the return of the disgraced 2006 villain, M&S Luxury. Famous for its blink and youll miss it best before dates, this contender typically allows the purchaser only 5 to 7 days to organise consumption. I shudder to think how many of these pies must go uneaten or worse still, nibbled at reluctantly by grandsons and daughters, horror filling their lungs but unable to scream lest their mothers offer an evil eye.
Boo. M&S Luxury Mince Pie Hiss. Spot the Sell By Date.
Boo. M&S Luxury Mince Pie Hiss. Spot the Sell By Date.
Pie Name Date of Test Price No. in Pack
M & S Luxury Mince Pies 30th Oct 2007 £1.99 6
Container Style
A reflective, silver themed box offers up two plates for the full size crumbshot. The closest crock has one mortally wounded pie sporting a comical foam beret, which is giving the three wiseguys on the following plate a rare old giggle. All the action diverts attention from that infamous best before date, hidden in the bottom corner and 1mm tall ,the smallest font of any best before. Blue plastic bagless inner tray.
Appearance Marks out of 25
This seasons first cog influence grinds into view. Sharp, rippled sides support a healthy overhang, and those coggy edges feature on an undulating star-crossed crust. The biscuits tones in evidence are possibly the most natural this year. Generous sugaring (crystallised). 20
Pastry Marks out of 25
Dunked biscuit consistency which teeters toward soggy, but manages to avoid ultimate cloy. Mysterious changes in pastry thickness around the sides. A well built frame, breaks only under significant pressure. Mild and mellow in flavour. 19
Filling Marks out of 25
Sultanas find themselves in charge of a virtually slopless presentation. Each heavyweight ultra-raisin takes a turn in the bite spotlight, with the result being a lengthy vine chew nodding only slightly to the currant led backing players of cherries and booze. Although, the aftertaste is more inclusive, allowing the treacle and vague peel a chance to shine. 16
Pie Factor (the whole experience) Marks out of 25
Given its gear wheel concept, Id suggest a touch more oil be applied on its inner workings. Yes, there is some traditional cheer, and yes, there is some warmth through brandy, but without something holding it all together we end up with a broken marriage in a pastry case. 17
Second Opinion - Mrs Cooper, Derbyshire Marks out of 25
Glamour and sophistication from this pie, even when eaten at seven oclock in the morning at Chesterfield train station. Tangy fruit encased in classic pastry and generously sprinkled with granulated sugar. 20
Total Marks 92
Any Other Business Could you sleep well knowing that thousands of pensioners would be pulling your stale wares from their pantries at a time when glad tidings should be the order of the day? Makes you weep, doesnt it.
Date Added 9th Nov 2007

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After braving the local Co-op, I bring you their All Butter Mince Pie. There arent many shops in which you risk being severely delayed by customer recollections of Zeppelin attacks, but I lost a precious five minutes of my life to the R101. Still, lest we forget.
Co-op All Butter Mince Pie Three is a magic number?
Co-op All Butter Mince Pie Three is a magic number?
Pie Name Date of Test Price No. in Pack
Co-op All Butter Mince Pies 17th Oct 2007 £1.45 6
Container Style
A wide and flat box in this years Co-op Christmas colour (purple). As is popular throughout the luxury lines this season, a viewing window is provided. This affords us a peek at the clear plastic bagged inner tray, as well as a trio of unabashed lids. Whilst not to my taste, Co-ops homage to the famous pile-up shot features as their serving suggestion. Razzle-dazzle!
Appearance Marks out of 25
Narrow bottomed and flat topped. Im disappointed to see the rudimentary join between top and side so brazenly amateur. The totemic three-pronged holly berry motif is inexpertly smattered with fine crystallised sugar. Mostly pale in colour. 17
Pastry Marks out of 25
Stale biscuit consistency shames an acceptable butter rendering. Sensible elasticity allows full manipulation without disintegration. 18
Filling Marks out of 25
Distinct fruits contend with the flecks of almond and apple to present an intriguing and almost ornamental look. A genuine feast for the eyes. Loose combinations permit a playful crunch and chew, while the influence of brandy warms sufficiently in the background. A tiny gritty bit, unluckily, was within the pie I tested. 19
Pie Factor (the whole experience) Marks out of 25
Somehow the pastry and filling conspire to achieve less than they should, very much like a Rooney and Owen forward line. Crust clogs the early mouthful, making way at the point when raisins provide the last knockings of an overly long chew. That little bit of grit has been put in very carefully, it seems, as I had precisely the same amount in each pie I tasted. 17
Second Opinion - Sarah Cooper, Derbyshire Marks out of 25
This pie tries hard to recreate the charming imperfections of a homemade pie and he has succeeded in terms of appearance. However, the illusion is shattered when I taste him owing to the factory manufactured flavour and texture. What a disappointment. 15
Total Marks 86
Any Other Business To my mind Co-op is the only provider to consistently print braille on their box. Id love to know if it just says mince pies, or if further description is included. Is it possible to swear in braille?
Date Added 8th Nov 2007

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Here come Tesco Organics again squeezing the fun out of the festivities. Ever quick to remind us that not everything we eat is grown on a picturesque farm by altruistic tenth-generation land owners, with no concern for fiscal reward. Their moral high ground is short-lived judging by the look in the eyes of the Tesco staff who seem mistreated at every turn, like overworked elves in fear of Santas sherry-fired beatings. A Dickensian Christmas may not be beyond us yet.
Tesco Organic A Green Christmas
Tesco Organic A Green Christmas
Pie Name Date of Test Price No. in Pack
Tesco Organic 1st Nov 2007 £1.49 6
Container Style
An unimaginative, multi-green affair. Holly intrudes, diverting the eye from a six pie crumbshot. The split pie is neat, surgical even, which may account for the kidney dish serving suggestion. Black plastic bagless inner tray.
Appearance Marks out of 25
Significant snowflake motif atop a well ovened lid. Sugar is crystallised and sufficient. There is a stoutness, if small overall. 17
Pastry Marks out of 25
No sign of powderiness. Firm and fair, if a little lacking in any colourful flavour. Structurally above the norm. 18
Filling Marks out of 25
A tight and thick unit. Plentiful vine fruit components held close in a bronze binding. Chews well, offering up a surprisingly gleeful tang. Last year, Tesco forgot the flavour in their organic pies, but this zest heralds a new era of consideration for the eco pie eater. 19
Pie Factor (the whole experience) Marks out of 25
Taken together, the pastry slightly drowns the cheer of the inner, with only a late shaft of apple breaking through to enliven the final mashings. It seems we mustnt shed a tear for the right-on gang this Christmas time. 18
Second Opinion - Simon Wilson, Bakewell Marks out of 25
Impressive packaging from Tesco in the sector of Pie that normally underwhelms. A generous splash of greenery adorns the box, with a cluster of well nourished pies jostling for poll position. Initial impressions on first bite are of a solid crisp biscuity crunch ,perhaps on the dry side of moist for total satisfaction. And wait this excessive pastry drought is surely the cause of the most heinous of pie crimes . the detached lid syndrome. Away it came with absolutely no warning, exposing the shocked fruits ahead of time. Some minus points there then, and the innards do little to rescue matters with no real contrast or spice to intrigue. All in all, an average result after a promising start. 16
Total Marks 88
Any Other Business Unbeknownst to many, Adolf Hitler was organic. But not The Statue of Liberty. Make of that what you will.
Date Added 7th Nov 2007

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Hello and welcome to this years Pie Club Competition. Hopefully everyone is ready for our wild ride through the trays, crusts and motifs of Christmas 2007. Over the next few weeks we will be testing as many entrants as possible to determine which mincemeat treat you should provide for your family (or social unit) to make their festive period that bit more special. Good luck to each contender. Away we go
The honour of starting 2007 off goes to Lyons. Apart from having the pressure of being first up to deal with, these pies come with a By Appointment to H.M. Queen Elizabeth II pedigree, and that can be a lot to live up to.
The Lyons Pie It's Not A Royal Knockout
The Lyons Pie It's Not A Royal Knockout
Pie Name Date of Test Price No. in Pack
Lyons Mince Pies 15th Oct 2007 £0.75 6
Container Style
A petite, royal blue box, with precisely 50% of the frontage dedicated to the crumbshot. The regal theme is continued by the crown adorning the visible pair of pies. The exposed thick fruits on display have no contrived connection to our ruling family. Bright red bagless inner tray (thin plastic).
Appearance Marks out of 25
A squat, pudding bowl sided entry. Well browned edges give way to a paler, ripple effect lid. A small amount of sugar has been introduced, and sits atop. Some marks should be given for the spikiness of the crown surround. 16
Pastry Marks out of 25
I have no concerns regarding the slight biscuity flavour, but fragility reigns on the edges of this kingdom. My mild tempered grip proves too much and the ramparts crumble. 15
Filling Marks out of 25
Very strong tang is evident throughout the mid and post chew. However, there is an unevenness between each member of the loose fruit team. Some crunches startle by stiffness, while others yield unexpectedly to endanger the more frantic gobblers gums. Shame, because the spices and tart tones had something going for a while. 17
Pie Factor (the whole experience) Marks out of 25
Once the first chunk is bitten away, it becomes a race to finish this pie before it escapes from your grasp. The shattering and shifting serves to annoy, much like trying to kiss a frog, made of sand, during an earthquake. Not one to eat over the in-laws new shag-pile. 16
Second Opinion - Simon Wilson, Bakewell Marks out of 25
First impressions count. Its no different with mince pies. Removal of the outer foil casing reveals a very scantily clad pie...with the innards threatening to spill out amidships, thus creating a not very sexy see through look. Things don't improve on first bite. A high cloy factor is evident with the pastry, which is a shame as this tends to mask an otherwise pleasant interior tang. No roar for Lyons this year. 15
Total Marks 79
Any Other Business The branding informs us that Lyons have been baking cakes for 100 years, so they should know more about the festive periods pressures than most. After all, we cant vacuum the carpet and serve sherry at the same time, can we?
Date Added 5th Nov 2007

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* The pleasure was all mine Sir. Infact, the web development used for this site was instrumental in creating Bone Marrow Transplant 4 Lisa, a personal site highlighting my wife's battle against Leukaemia and sad passing in April 2008.

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