It's April and that can only mean one thing to me... The British Pie Awards!
This year, the British Pie Awards invited me back to not only judge but to also compère their awards lunch the following day.
While looking at the list of judges a few days earlier I discovered that Marcus Bean, lover of all things chocolate and excerise, would be attending and decided via twitter we'd go for a run around the mighty Pie-shire (Leicestershire to be exact) on the morning of the judging. Our plan being that if we were going to be eating pie all day then at least a little morning exercise would just justify what was ahead.
The awards as every year are held in St. Mary's Church with Reverend Kevin Ashby opening up the doors on the two conditions...
- That we, the people respect the church
- He can be a judge and eat pie too
On the morning of the big day, the church was buzzing with excitement with local and national press attending. There were 830 pies from over 130 pie makers to be judged and as always it's great to see the Pierates making themselves busy like kids in a candy shop. Before the judging commences 'Revd Kevin' addresses the congregation with a sermon and a pie prayer.
My chosen category was Class 1 "The Melton Mowbary Pork Pie" to be judged by myself and master baker Richard Watkins (being a 'Bates' I am allowed an wry smile at that title ;). Richard has been making pork pies for years at his family-owned business in Westgate, Gratham and certainly knows his shoulder from belly.
This category calls for all pies to comply with all specifications needed to be an authentic Melton Mowbray Pork Pie by Melton Mowbray Pork Pie Association which is explained as such... "The Melton Mowbray Pork Pie is a distinct product that is recognisably different from other pork pies, both in physical characteristics and in reputation. The sides of a Melton Mowbray Pork Pie are bow-shaped as they are baked free standing, whereas most other pork pies are straight-sided being baked in hoops. The meat used is fresh pork which is naturally grey when cooked, liked roast pork, not pink like other pork pies which used cured pork. The meat must be particulate, as we use chopped pork, not smooth on the palate as most other pork pies are because they used minced meat. The Melton Mowbray Pork Pie is also well jellied and the meat seasoned with salt and pepper."
We have 14 pies to try and our judging criteria included; appearance, pastry thickness, over boil, filling and taste. They are all of the highest quality. The hardest part I found was not washing each mouthful down with a bite of a pickled onion and a glug of ale, so my taste buds had to be at the top of their game. Crispness, crunch and seasoning of pastry, fat content and slight peppery after taste are all things I'm keeping an eye out for. About halfway through Richard and I found one that clearly stood out. We continue to try the rest (all amazing) but we had already chosen our winner. The results for Class 1 were as follows:
Winner: Handcrafter Melton Mowbray Pork Pie by Ye Olde Pork Pie Shoppe
Second: Artisan 440g Melton Mowbray Pork Pie by Walker & Son for M&S
Third: Large Melton Mowbray Pork Pie by Walker & son for Co-op website
After the all the eating AKA judging, a few of the judges and I rolled ourselves to the local for a welcomed pint and a chance to sit down and adjust our belts. Some of the other judges had tried over 40 pies! Take a peek at all the categories and winners of this year's British Pie Awards.
The awards lunch took place the following day and was back in the church and PIE was on the menu for mains and dessert. The awards went very well with Boghall Butchers and Great North Pie Co taking the lions share of the awards but in the end small producer & Supreme champion went to Great North Pie Co. Congrats to all involved! This is was only my second year at this prestigious event but everyone made me feel exceptionally welcome and very much part of the Pie family.
Afterwards the day was topped off by a lift back to London from old friends Piebury Corner, who incidentally won 2nd place in Class 8 Chicken Pie category for the “Theo Walcott” Jerk Chicken Porter Pie. Amongst our chat on the journey home they confined in me an idea to take over a well known Spanish island, start selling pies and rename it Pie-biza.
Now thats what I call the beginning of world PIE domination :)