Horsey horsey

Horsey horsey

So finally, after eating twice the number of pies I had originally planned I bring my mission to a close.

It started on a Friday in January with a trip to Hampsons in Knutsford and me waving a knife about in my car passenger seat to chop up a meat and potato and ended with me sat in a Pie & Ale House in Manchester eating a Horse Pie almost two years to the day.

With 400 pies consumed with the odd pasty / slice / bake/ roll/ clanger / oggie thrown in for good measure it has indeed been a pie eating marathon. I have been whittling down my selection to 314, the significance of which will not be lost on some of you and am currently writing my little wrists off which have grown stronger by the day due to the necessary honing of technique in holding a pie in a perfect posture to avoid excess spillage.

With a revamped scoring system, categories of awards and hundreds of photos to sift through there is still a good few months’ worth of work to do. I must admit having had two books published many moons ago when I was young, free and single I could not in any way have under-estimated the amount of work required to deliver this whilst having a family and more than a full time job but I am still confident (with the help of a few friends) that I can turn this book into a reality by the end of summer.

So to the horse pie and whereas it’s not inconceivable that I’ve eaten horse before having spent extensive time in France in my youth, I’ve never knowingly eaten it. Possibly the strangest thing I recall is once stopping for a pizza after a day’s sunbathing on the Venice Lido whilst on honeymoon and perusing the menu and inquisitively asking what the “Cavallo” topping was on their equivalent of a mighty meaty. The man from Del Wigan, he says no. Or neigh if you prefer.

The Pie & Ale House in Manchester’s Northern Quarter has a more than adequate menu and prior to entering I was torn between the “play it safe” Three Cheese and caramelised onion or the slightly more exotic Mouflon cherry and port pie. If I was being totally conventional, I’d probably be plumping for the Steak and Yippee Ale Pie but I am scared off by the mention of Portobello mushrooms within it’s confines on the menu. I can cope with mushrooms in a pie but not those huge big flappy ones. And before you start – the acid test has to be whether it would stand up as a sole ingredient. Would you buy a mushroom pie? I can’t think of anything more hideous.

So to the specials.

“We’ve got horse and zebra”

Horse. Zebra. Horse. Zebra. Horse. Zebra. HORSE. ZEBRA.

Tough one this. I think I would rather have something off the standard menu if I’m honest but I owe a duty to my readers and my own sense of devilment to try one of the above.

Zebra is even more rare than horse but I suspect it essentially tastes the same, if a little stripey-er. And in some senses it doesn’t possess the shock factor of horsemeat, and is more of a novelty.

So I opt for the horse pie, on the basis that it’s shocking enough. And a pint of their own Yippee Pie Ale obv. to go with it.

The pie was of considerable diameter when it arrived and no mean depth either, swimming in rich fruity gravy, with a massive dollop of mash on top and a little pastry horse as it’s piece de resistance.

It was at this point the battle of the senses kicked in. Half the fight when eating horsemeat is that you know it’s horsemeat and consequently it can make it a little bit difficult to enjoy, especially when you’re a food luddite like me.

At one point I feel decidedly nauseous, my body weakening by the minute due to the constant full on fistfight going on between my tastebuds and my thought process. The mix of the meat and the gravy is sickly sweet but also opulent and sumptuous – I know this is a quality feed but somewhere inside my brain there is a little man with a mallet banging away saying “YOU’RE EATING A HORSE HERE YOU DISGUSTING LITTLE MAN”

Don’t get me wrong, the plate was more or less clean at the end but I was a little too eager to get a fork full of mash and dip it in the gravy giving the horse meat the swerve in the initial stages. Essentially it tastes like beef but a bit tougher and sweeter and the pie also contained nuggets of black pudding, and even sweeter carrots all wrapped in a red wine gravy. The carrots and onion could be perceived as bulking agent and marked down in other circumstances but in this case provided welcome respite to the ongoing slugfest of the senses going on in my brain.

The crust and pastry was superbly formed and adorned with poppy seeds and in terms of size this was large enough for the biggest of appetites. Overall this was a great pie and the experience was probably only diminished for me by my own inhibitions, which I certainly won’t be penalising the Pie & Ale House for.

The bill was £13.45 including the pint and entertainment came in the form of a load of students on the next table loudly discussing the merits of various dating (i.e. sex) websites.

The choice of ales and whiskeys alone makes the Pie & Ale House worth a visit and as it is close to my place of work I may well return whilst keeping an eye on the menu, maybe even treat the missus.

Not that she’d have been impressed today, sat there watching me polishing off one of Shergar’s mates mind you.

Life of Pies is a book about pies, to be published in the Summer of 2014. The book will be available for pre-order from February 2014.

Link to Bakerie Pie & Ale House:
Pie & Ale House, The Hive, Northern Quarter, Manchester M1 1FN