Posts from the ‘Any More Pie?’ Category

Pie Can’t Help Myself

Back in July, when all was rosy in the garden of English cricket, I booked the extra day just in case. Well, I reckoned, we’d have run up a hard-fought victory on the 5th Day at the SCG. A run-crammed epic Test Match culminating in one of the all time great England performances, with our vaunted middle-order taking it in turns to larrup and thwack those pesky Aussie bowlers all over the famous old ground in pursuit of a mammoth run chase.
I reckoned I’d need a night to take in the celebrations, a third straight Ashes victory and all this, wrapped up in the most dramatic way possible, would demand, nay insist, upon it. Endless toasts, shared stories, jugs, jeroboams, and jigs of delight.
I reckoned a lie-in of John & Yoko proportions would surely follow the previous night of Hogarth-ian hell-fire excess. Yes, an extra day would be the sensible thing here, definitely.

As it was, we got buried calamitously in three days instead.

Ashes Wednesday was a dashed Wednesday. Even the sun stopped working. My tan, the most ludicrous since the bloke who’s currently doing his best to ruin Cardiff City, would have one or two siennas stripped back by the gathered grey in the Sydney sky. The spring in my step was downgraded to a skulk. It poured with rain too.

Some gain assuagement from drink. Some chocolate. Others God. For me it’s pies.

Traipsing around The Rocks, an upmarket (ok, even-more-upmarket, it’s all a bit la-di-da in these parts) area of the city etched, like the legends of Cook, MacQuarie and Phillip, into Sydney’s legacy, I made for a traditional hotel for a spot of tiffin. Now, hotels here tend to be split into two categories. There’s the big chain hotels that you find festooned over the fashionable parts of any given metropolis and there’s the old style ones that you’ll find the next time Crocodile Dundee is repeated on telly. A lot of them don’t look like they do accommodation. Many more of them look like they really shouldn’t.

What they do do is uphold the Spirit of Donk. Beer, pokies (fruit machines as we know them in the UK), blokes and TVs that show an endless line of betting opportunities for the bored, the blasé and the believers.

This being The Rocks, the hotel in question was, naturally, a cut above the type Mr Dundee and his mates might hang out in. Cold, hungry, underwhelmed, I needed a pie to bring me back to life.

The Beef & Bock Pie did just that. Persistent pastry that clung on like a chugger sensing a sucker, unleashed a wondrous beery steam when finally prised open. Mushrooms surrounded tender chunks of thick beef in a rich, Bock lager steeped gravy. The odd garden vegetable popped in for a cameo too. It was melt in the mouth delicious, and the English mustard, in plentiful supply, added stardust to a very enjoyable meal.

The spirit started to soar again. I finished the accompanying over-flowery Hot Hog Pale Ale with a flourish. So the holiday’s sport had fallen quicker, flatter and harder than a pigeon from a farmer’s gun, it was time to make the best of the holiday’s last day with my roomies. Three top lads who’d been there with me through an eventful four weeks.


To Clovelly Beach. And the bowling green…

England Blown Away By Hurricane Natho

Spotted in Olympic Stand on leaving the ground a lady’s bag bearing the legend ‘Keep Calm And Listen To Radiohead.’ Even their most staunch of fans would admit that some of the band’s more, err, funereal of songs would leave some of England’s fans really close to the edge following another disastrous day watching their team implode. Day Four of the Forth Test at The MCG will be like attending a wake.

Among other things, Melbourne is famed for its unpredictable climate. Yesterday afternoon after a warm, sometimes muggy day, a turbulent typhoon hit The G. In the face of this tempest, England were a shower.
Four & Twenty pie wrappers, beer trays and member’s trilbies whipped around the outfield. Spectators were treated to one of the finest sights in world sport as umpire Aleem Dar lost his hat, exposing his magnificent bouffant hair for all to see. This was the only thing to smile about. England’s batsmen were wretched.

Alastair Cook was let down by his mates once again. On this blog earlier in the year I stated I would never publicly berate Ian Bell again, so I won’t. But he knows what he’s done. Enough said. Part of England’s tail, our famed lower order biffers, looked moronic, losing their wickets in quick succession as part of another collapse to Nathan Lyon, who England made look like Shane Warne. Michael Carberry’s days as a Test cricketer look numbered now and Joe Root, a man expected to shine Down Under has also experienced a torrid tour.

Once England lost Cook after a well-made fifty and to a good ball from Mitchell Johnson, the top order folded in a madcap second session. Not for the first time in the match or, indeed, the series, Johnson was to the fore for Australia. Simply irrepressible. His fast bowling, though still trademark erratic at times, put the frighteners on England again. Then his power arm threw down the stumps to dismiss Root, attempting a quick single that really wasn’t there. Bell’s aimless shot into the air found the waiting hands of the cover fielder.
Him again. Like the tacky green n’ gold replica gear so beloved of the locals here, he was everywhere.

So too was Lyon. His role in winning back the urn for the Aussies shouldn’t be underestimated. Time after time England have given their wickets away to him, seeing him as an easy way out, a relief in contrast to the thorough working over they’ve experienced at the hands of Australia’s quicks.
His five wickets here took him to 100 wickets in 29 tests, a fine achievement for any cricketer. By the looks of his rather pedestrian off-spin bowling, much of these dismissals have come about as a result of the batsman giving their wicket away rather than through massive turn or flight and guile, and England certainly helped this theory yesterday.

Australia need 201 runs. England need 10 wickets. They also need help from above, although a lot more than the tempest yesterday.
In this great city’s crazy climate, where seemingly any weather condition is possible at any time, England’s fans will be praying for snow today.

A Four & Twenty pie wrapper, shortly before it’s probable involvement in yesterday’s cyclone.

Hap-Pie Christmas

Um, sorry folks. Ran out of time to Skype and text and all that, which is rather poor to be honest. So here’s a picture instead.


The obligatory ‘I’m alright mum, I’ve got my best shirt on, had a shave, been to church and I’m just about to eat something’ picture that always reassures those keeping the home fires burning.

Just off to the MCG. I’m hoping England’s performance today matches the substance of the bacon, egg and cheese pie, i.e. dependable.

Come on England!

Pie Know It’s Over

To borrow, again, a quote from a cult film which has recently launched a less-successful sequel, I’m in a glass cage of emotion. Or a concrete and glass bunker of emotion to be exact. The compellingly unlovely part of the Southgate complex across the Yarra River from Flinders Street Station.

Yesterday evening from a restaurant table I marvelled at the rain embellished view of Melbourne’s CBD. A compelling patchwork of slate greys and blues underpinned by the orange lights of the station and the avenues of trees, all finished with a serene, soft pink sunset.

Twelve hours on and the rest of the gang are keen to get a preview of their venue for Christmas lunch with the Barmy Army in the very bowels of the Crown Casino. A behemoth of a dimly lit building lined with pokies, baccarat tables and asphyxiating false hope. I squirm. This is the reason I’ve never been to Vegas and part of me wishes I’d joined my roommates upcountry, down on the farm.
I shudder, reel and with the recce complete, we head for lunch. The rain means we don’t walk far and head instead for the adjoining food hall. Scores of Woolworth’s style breakfast counters jostle for the business of lunching Victorians. Curry counters with e-number sauces, burger bars with banality and mediocre meal deal touting sandwich shops are staffed by identikit people with processed pre-Christmas smiles.

Two days from the Christmas Day that I’m meant to be spending in the sun it’s raining. Hard. One of my boyhood heroes, David Coleman, has sadly died, Swann’s gone and after twenty five years of hard work and peerless involvement in the local church’s Carol Concert, the highlight of my home Christmas, news reaches me from back home that my father has hung up his cassock and won’t be there this year. Are the wheels of my life coming off?

It’s only Monday but there’s only one thing for it. I need a pie.

That glass cage of emotion. I look past the steak pie, even the chicken & mushroom. At least if I am to break with the PieDay Friday tradition, my faithful readers need to know why.

I go for tuna pie.

Yes, you read that correctly. Tuna.

And here’s why. One of my recent theories is that here in Melbourne, after days of several days of fantastic feeds and in one of the foodie capitals of the world, it is impossible to have a bad meal.
So with that safely established in my fragile psyche, how bad can it possibly be?

Halfway through the meal, it’s apparent to my fellow diner that it’s quite bad. Over the chews of my discomfort, Jackie casually asks if the Soon-To-Be-Michelin-Starred-Surely Green Man will be going in for this kind of thing anytime soon?
Greg thinks it only fair that in the wake of the recent opprobrium Tuna Pie is served at the England team’s Christmas Lunch as punishment. Meanwhile, Lucky Paul, a picture of Yorkie smugness, munches silently and contentedly on his steak pie. His smiley mouthfuls speak louder than words.

Where to begin. The brief microwaving prior to serving saps the pastry of the last vestiges of its character. A plasticky, flavourless top layer that adorns a mad professor’s out tray of muddled ingredients. The shredded tuna steak doesn’t begin to pretend it’s anything other than tinned. Did it swim the depths once, fleetingly, or was its unhappy life spent entirely in a laboratory? The onions, tomatoes and red peppers add a further unnecessary sweetness to the already lost cause, while the capers may as well be on hung on the Fed Square tree such is their superfluity.
This pie is not what an England cricket fan needs right now. Like the Ashes, this pie is un-saveable.

My head’s a muddled Monday mess. Then clarity. At last.

Because, this pie has shot down the unbreakable theory that you can’t have a bad meal in Melbourne. So if the impossible really can come true in Victoria’s fine capital, then, maybe, just maybe, there’s every chance England can win on Thursday.

Against all odds and all that.


Beet It

It is as embedded in the modern New Zealander’s make up as being mistaken for an Australian or having to acquiesce politely when a wide eyed tourist brings up just how cool it must be to live where the Lord of the Rings films were made. Beetroot.

In burgers, salads, smoothies, cakes, soups and sandwiches, the crimson prime root is the omnipresent supplementary foodstuff of Kiwi choice. Yes, the Aussies enjoy their fair share of the ol’ beta vulgaris but their neighbours from across the Tasman take their devotion to a new level. I lost count of the times I discovered it brazenly lurking in dishes while I was visiting that magnificent country earlier this year. Each time my enquiring glances were met with the kind of dismissive ‘get on with it’ looks you see on TV that follow being on the wrong end of a bone-shaking Richie McCaw tackle. Resignedly, I’d just pop it in and get on with the next mouthful. By the end of my stay in the land of the long white cloud, my dislike had gone past tolerance to a kind of appreciation of the sainted vegetable.

But never love. Appreciation was as far as I was prepared to take it.

A day off and a cursory sortie into my local Tesco brought about a chance encounter. Seeking something snacky in the deli, a cerise topped offering among the savouries caught my attention. Initially I dismissed it as a gimmicky pre-Christmas promo. Pork pie topped with cranberries? I let it linger.

Then I looked again. Beetroot. A pork pie topped with beetroot. So it’s not just their rugby players we’re after these days then? It transpires, for all those dreadful reality based TV shows we’ve sent over there, we are getting beetroot-laden cuisine in return.


It turns out this is one of those deals where no one wins. Not in this instance anyway. The beetroot was a clear sugary mush atop the pies that didn’t obviously make the Melton Mowbray first draft. The beetroot did nothing for the pie and vice versa. A piccalilli sharpness or a brown sauce tang topping may have been a better complement for the fatty tasting pastry and incongruous tasting pork.

Maybe this Kiwi-inspired food fad needs a better vehicle on which to launch itself on the British palate. In fact I was pleased, in a way, to finish and get on to dessert, the bag of doughnuts I’d subliminally purchased earlier.

Beetroot doughnuts? Now there’s a idea.

Pie Day Saturday

Matt Sampson’s debut wasn’t the only momentous Antipodean first for Elstow Cricket Club yesterday. Thanks to a generous benefactor, Elstow CC now proudly boasts Bedfordshire’s and possibly anywhere south of Wolverhampton’s purpose built pie warmer. It was certainly the weather for pies at The Warren as, despite the welcome spring sunshine, the infamous Bunyan Breeze had a spiteful zing to it.
The visitors from Newport Pagnell joined in the preview opening of The Sammon Pie in the Willie Peck Suite as the pies sold out quicker than a respected Aussie Test umpire taking the rupees in a high profile T20 competition.

Working in conjunction with the greatest Anglo-Kiwi combination since, erm, Andrew Caddick, The New Zealand Gourmet Pie Company (; Elstow are proud to offer pies from the Newcastle based company’s range. Our menu has been adopted to suit local tastes and diners can choose from the following delicacies:

Milne & Cheese (see picture below)
Spin The Chicken & Mushroom
The Crowded House

Elstow CC offers discerning customers a choice of award winning pie along with a good selection of international beers as they take in the splendour of the Bedfordshire sunset. We now also boast an alfresco dining area in which to make the best of the summer evenings too.

Our new facilities will be officially unveiled next weekend as the club makes its debut in the Yorkshire Tea National Village Cup as we take on Preston of Hertfordshire on Sunday 5th May. The match starts at 13:00 and new visitors are encouraged to come down and experience for themselves our exciting new venture.

Happily tucking into a Milne & Cheese, washed down nicely with a Shepherd Neame Masterbrew following a decent afternoon’s cricket. A genuine Pig-In-Shit moment.

Although, the wallpaper, you’ll note, looks suspiciously like the colour of baby poo. Anyone wishing to donate a few pots of paint (preferably of the shade of jacket Richie Benaud would comfortably wear) to help our club, please get in touch at the usual address; via

Pie Hard

Thanks for bearing with the brevity of recent blog posts. It’s been a busy ol’ week and today’s been no exception. A snatched moment between shifts brings this week’s pie review.

The Green Man Pie courtesy of my mate Top Chef Neil is, in itself, well worth a trip to the scenic village of Eversholt in Bedfordshire. A substantial dish filled bubbling to the brim in a deep, rich gravy with succulent, chunks of prime steak allied to the greatest supplement possibly in the history of cooking, mushrooms, makes for a first class filling. Add to this the wispy brown pastry and this is a glorious pie to beat all comers.

Anyway, back to work now. Travelling was never this much effort…

Reach For The Pie

A call from Kiwi Geoff yesterday afternoon. “Hello mate. I’ve just got the club a sponsored pie warmer.”

I nearly dropped the phone.

He’d done it again. When the far-sighted Kiwi Geoff pitched up in the late summer of 2006 little did we know how seismic the great man’s impact would be on Elstow Cricket Club. Not for us a wailing, soothsaying, messianic figure, heavy of Biblical beard, Puritanical robes brandishing scorching scriptures. Instead a mild mannered, bespectacled genial chap in accountancy slacks and sweater, a laid back exterior belying a fiercely driven character and someone who continues to give his all. This, here, is the very vision of the thinking man’s visionary.

That the club are in the great shape we are is mainly down to Geoff. He has done more than anyone else to advance the cause of Elstow CC. The youth structure he put in place continues to pay great dividends, from the tiniest tots starting out on their life’s cricket adventures to the talented teens starting out in first team cricket who will be this generation’s Matt Stevens and Dave Riddle. Through his tireless fundraising we have a terrific nets facility well used by the club and community and an AstroTurf pitch for our junior cricketers. Thanks to Geoff the club have attained ECB Club Mark status, as well as heaps of new equipment and loads of other stuff besides.

But this tops the lot.

A pie warmer, yesterday.

Legacy, certainly in a sporting sense, has been oft discussed in this country since last Autumn. While the politicians and activists continue to use the topic for political gain, less than a year on from the Olympic Summer it is far too early, surely, to properly quantify this. At The Warren, however, we are already benefitting from the legacy of our visionary.

The Elstow Pie Emporium will be open for business soon. The start of our season is just over a week away. Dear reader, I implore you, if you haven’t already made the journey to Bedfordshire to enjoy an afternoon’s cricket with us, please do so. The cricket may not be up to much, but you’re guaranteed your welcome will be as warm as our pies.

System Upgrade (Sort Of…)

The more sharp eyed among you would have noticed a subtle change to the set up on this site recently. Essentially, as I’m going to be spending a wee bit of time in Blighty, I thought we could do with, for ease of use, a couple more categories on here.

Behold! “Beer & Skittles” and “Any More Pie?”

The first category will list any sport or shenanigans I get up to or feel like writing about, while the latter is devoted to the weekly pie reviews. The name is in tribute to probably the funniest thing I’ve ever heard.

Fifteen or so years ago on Danny Baker and Danny Kelly’s radio show, they ran a section inviting listeners to put forward nominations for Britain’s greediest footballer. The late Jeff Astle’s name was put forward for this unwanted sobriquet.
The great man attended a function and, allegedly, was quite short with the hosts, tucking in to the food on offer and not making much in the way of conversation except to venture, brusquely, if there were any second helpings going. Then it all got very silly, very quickly….


Postscript. Three links to downloads should be included in this post. Annoyingly, this hasn’t happened. Go to and go two thirds of the way down the page to the Any More Pie section and take it from there.
You’re welcome.

Home Comforts

Ma Wiss is a very good cook. Her steak and kidney pud is the stuff of legends. People have been known to fight over the last slice of her treacle tart at family gatherings. Her Auntie Mary’s Chicken should be re-named Auntie Sally’s in Ma Wiss’s honour; not since Otis Redding sang Satisfaction have covers been this good.

However, for whatever reason, Ma Wiss has decided to buy rather than bake tonight’s exhibit for the weekly pie review. So rather than put one of her delicious, home made steak and Guinness pies under the microscope, today’s offering comes via Hunter’s Farm shop near Bow Brickhill, Bucks instead.


Quarter-cow like tender lumps of steak and sharp tasting bites of firm kidney sit tightly in orderly fashion below a russet coloured canopy of crisp pastry while a thick gravy resolutely holds everything in place. This is a great pie. Allied with a thin layer of Colman’s on the meat, it tastes even better. With crunchy broccoli, new potatoes, creamed spinach and washed down with a glass of robust Merlot; this Pie Day Friday becomes a feast.

Good on yer Mum. We’ll keep you on another week.