Last week I was invited to a pie tasting session in London with a group of other bloggers to taste a selection of Higgidy pies. We got to meet Camilla Stephens who set up Higgidy 10 years ago when she had an idea to reinvent ready made pies as a desirable product and to shake off the low quality blokey image. The brand has geared itself towards being appealing to women with the quirky packaging and to improving the status of the humble pie. Sainsbury's were interested in her pies and signed her up as a small producer all the way back in 2006. The company has grown a lot since then and Camilla has just launched her first book full of mouth watering pie recipes. It was recently ranked number 12 in Amazon's charts which is very impressive considering it's her first recipe book and she doesn't have celebrity chef status.
After listening to Camilla talk about the brand it's clear that she is very passionate about her pies and food in general. She left school as soon as she could and embarked on a course at the prestigious Leith's school where her love of food was nurtured. After working in catering and recipe writing for magazines for several years she still had a burning desire to run her own business. The result of all of this hard work is Higgidy who believe in using real people to make their pies and quiches, not machines. All of the filling, topping and glazing is done by hand to give the pies that home made feel.
So now on to the important part, the pie tasting! We tasted a selection of pies that Higgidy are hoping to launch in the shops in time for Christmas. They're putting their proposals in to the supermarkets so I'm not sure how much sway us tasters will have on the decisions but I can tell you that these are the potential pies that could be in your trolley this winter. Apologies for the photos, I only had my phone with me.
First up we tasted the Lancashire turkey, bacon and stuffing pie (bottom left). The stuffing had apricots in it to give a little sweetness though I think cranberries would have worked well too. It was a very good pie and tasted just like Christmas in a pastry case and reminded me of my own savoury Christmassy crumble that I made last year.
Next we tried the venison and cranberry pie (top middle). This proved to be very popular with all of us bloggers. It was rich without being overpowering and absolutely packed full of delicious meaty venison chunks with the odd pop of cranberry sweetness. This was my favourite pie as it was so luxurious, venison is one of those ingredients that I can rarely afford to buy so it was a real treat to try the pie and I would love it if this one made it onto the shelves.
Finally we tried a veggie pie, this was a sweet potato and feta pie topped with pumpkin seeds (bottom middle). The sweet potatoes were roasted with cumin and chilli before being mixed with spinach and feta to create a deliciously cheesy pie with a bit of a kick. I quite liked the fact that there were big chunks of sweet potato in the pie as they provided an extra layer of texture. This pie is currently available to buy in Waitrose, Booths and Ocado.
Before leaving we were given a goodie bag with a selection of pies currently in the shops. So far I've tried the beef, stilton and ale pie which is part of their winter warmers range and it was fabulous. I'd quite happily eat another one this evening. I've put the rest of the pies in the freezer to enjoy when I have hectic thesis writing days and am too tired to cook from scratch. I was also given a copy of the Higgidy book which is packed with over 100 recipes and some beautiful photos of pies.
Camilla said the aim of the book was to produce something with a friendly, have a go feel to it and to showcase the versatility of pastry. Whilst the book provides recipes for different types of pastry some of the recipes also call for shop bought pastry, as she knows that sometimes you really want a pie but are too tired to make the pastry from scratch. When asked what her favourite recipe in the book was, she told us that it was the rosti topped chicken and pancetta pie, it takes a bit of effort but Camilla assured us that it's definitely worth it. She also recommended the no nonsense steak pie as an easy recipe to put together to feed the family. One of the recipes in the book that caught my eye was the 3 tier wedding pie which is filled with duck, pork and apricots and would be a fantastic talking point, the recipe is also easily scaled down if you only want 1 pie. There are also a selection of sweet tarts and pastries including a very tasty looking jumbleberry tart and some delicate lemon posset pies. Finally at the end of the book there is a section devoted to side dishes which includes a delicious rich onion gravy that I tasted with my pies last week. As winter starts to draw in I think I'm going to be using this book a lot as we both enjoy a good hearty warming pie.
So which would be your choice for a Christmas pie, the venison or the turkey?
Thanks to Higgidy for inviting me to the pie tasting event and for my goodie bag. As always all opinions are my own.