CHARLIE BIGHAM'S: THE PIES HAVE IT
A few days ago a parcel arrived from the P.R company of Charlie Bigham's. It is not normally the sort of thing we would accept unless it was as part of the goody bags we put together for Dine With Dos Hermanos, but I have to admit to being a fan of the company and, much more importantly, it contained pies.
Just a word to anyone out there in PR world who wants something plugged shamelessly, on Dos Hermanos, mark your package "Handle with Caution, Contains Pies" and there is a very good chance that it will get a sympathetic hearing.
Charlie Bigham started his company in 1996 frustrated by the paucity of decent ready meals. The range is predicated on great ingredients and home style preparation. It is now available pretty readily through their links with Ocado and Waitrose. Our care package contained A couple of stews, some fish cakes, a lasagne and two beef & ale pies. The stews were banished to the freezer for later attention and the packaging of the fish pie had swollen alarmingly like a dead man floating in The Thames, so was consigned to the bin. Which left us with the lasagne and the pies.
The lasagne was a miss. The layer of a meaty ragu was actually rather good, but the pasta gained raised eyebrows from both of us for actually being rather unpleasant. It had gone soft in the recommended cooking time and had taken on a taste which HP summed up as "slightly rank" I am pretty sure that this is not the effect they were looking for in the Charlie Bigham test kitchens, I am assuming something happened during shipping, but HP was right and after a couple of bites, it too was tossed into the bin with the bloated fish cake container.
We turned our attention to the pies. The certainly look the part, contained in weighty ceramic pots and topped with puff pastry. Thankfully, they also tasted the part when they emerged from the oven, golden brown and with the toppings inflated to a nice crisp. The filling of beef contains good chunks of meat (from Donald Russell, I think) and the sauce is deep and rich with a definite hit of Worcestershire. They were delicious in fact and with a handful of chips and some peas, the Beef & Ale pies make a very agreeable supper.
I am not generally a fan of ready meals. For anyone who really loves food, the preparation of a meal is an end in itself not just a process to put food on the table. So, just slamming something from a packet in the oven, however decent, rather misses the point. Having said that, on those days when lack of time and sloth combine to make standing in front of the oven a chore, you could do a lot worse than trying a pie from the Charlie Bigham range.