Monthly Archives: June 2012

Hollands Pies

A good few weeks ago I received an e-mail out of the blue from the marketing people at Hollands Pies asking if I would like to try some of their goods.

Now, at first I was sceptical.  This was the first time that yours truly had been asked to sample a product and immediately I wondered what the catch was. Cynicism abounded.  However, after consulting the Twitterati, it became apparent that the e-mail was doing the rounds so I gladly accepted their offer.

Having grown up in Manchester, lived all my life in the Northwest and not being averse to a chippy tea I was reasonably familiar with their wares.  Add to this that occasional working in Accrington meant that I have driven past their factory on a number of occasions means that the brand was already somewhat ingrained.

In all honesty then I began to wonder what they were up to.  Why should Hollands send out lots of free samples to people who, in all likelihood, would be familiar with their products?  Was there something groundbreaking going on that they had slipped under the radar?  And with equal honesty I’m no more sure now that I know the answer.

Anyway – I digress.  Weeks later I had neither heard anything nor taken delivery of any pies so I presumed that my original cynicism had been well founded and that there were to be none.  Out of the blue again – an e-mail “Your pies will be delivered tomorrow afternoon”.  Excellent.

Part of the reason for the delay in writing this post (sorry Hollands) is that the blog was beginning to look a bit pie-centric, as if it was all I ate.  Perhaps the reason for the offer in the first place!!  However, even I wasn’t about to sit down and try to consume the 7 different varieties in one sitting.  As I recall, the following day would have been a Friday.  Chippy day at work. Perfect. In to the office I went with my little bag of pies and announced that lunch was “On me”, well on Holands but you know what I mean.

So armed with chips from the chippy we got started on what, I’m sure thousands of others were or might be doing later that same day.  And while there were nods of satisfaction and hints of appreciation I guess that’s kind of the point.  Hollands have been making pies for over 160 years.  They are clearly doing something right. And while the pies were certainly tasty (the peppered steak being my favourite) and filling I’m not sure I would buy them from the supermarket. From the chippy yes.  But when it comes to cooking at home I prefer to do so from scratch – that’s just me.

I really did appreciate the chance to sample the pies from Hollands, however, given some comments on other blogs perhaps they should introduce their goods to our brothers and sisters down south……..

I’ll pie off now


Varieties in the bag: Peppered Steak, Cheese & Onion, Sausage Roll, Meat, Meat & Potato, Steak & Kidney Pudding and Chicken & Mushroom



Ordinarily, and as you may be aware, I start my posts with a quote.  Whether it be historical or more contemporary I can generally find one that sums up the topic really quite well.  However it would appear that not a lot has been said about Brighton.  At least, not a lot that I would be happy to post.  So with no rudder to guide me off I go…..

Fishcakes at Giggling Squid

I’d never been to Brighton before so when The Hungry Chum informed me that we had to visit for work reasons I jumped at the chance.  But (and yes this was among my first thoughts) where should we eat?  Thankfully Twitter came to the rescue, as it often does, and a little note to @BreakfastBySea a couple of days before I visited sorted it all out.  Thank you again for the list.

Mussels at Giggling Squid

The first port of call (hello sailor) was The Giggling Squid, which had been described as a Sussex chain.  Now, I have nothing against restaurant chains at all but the word does conjure up a certain impression.  Not a negative one, more like – you know what you’re going to get.  However we were firstly pleasantly surprised to learn that it was Thai food and secondly that it didn’t really fit the impression that we’d both formed.  A quirky, old building with small rooms over three floors with the unmistakeable wafts of lemongrass, ginger, and chilli that accompany Thai food. THC tucked into a starter of Thai steamed mussels followed by honey roast duck with rice.  I opted for the fishcakes, followed by lamb shank massaman curry.  The food was delicious. The lamb fell off the bone, the sauce was just spicy enough but did not distract from the masses of flavour underneath.  Choice one on the list had been a sucess.

Breakfast at Recipease

Next, and not actually on the list of recommendations, we stumbled upon Jamie Oliver’s new venture – Recipease – while looking for somewhere to have breakfast. A sort of casual diner, come cook school, come shop to sell his wares.  I resisted the temptation to go for the full English, instead deciding on the creamy mushrooms on toast with tomatoes whilst THC went for smoked salmon, tortilla and a poached egg.  The food was prepared right in front of us in the island kitchen area.  Once again we were not let down.  Certainly the prettiest breakfast I’ve had in a while, filling and tasty to boot!!

Crispy Pork with Orange & Endive Salad

Back to the list.  Next stop was The Coal Shed to try their 2 course lunch menu (£12). Lovely little modern restaurant tucked away on Boyce’s Street, handily just by a cracking little pub, The Fiddler’s Elbow. A little predictably for me I overlooked the fantastic sounding fish dishes and opted for the crispy pork with orange and endive salad, to be followed by the minute steak with dripping cooked chips and bitter leaves.  THC went for the same. We had been joined by a couple of other colleagues who both opted for the celeriac and truffle oil soup. For me this was the knockout of the trip.  The saltiness of the pork, the sweetness of the orange and the bitterness of the endive all combined to make an absolutely cracking starter, followed up by lovely rare minute steak and chips like my mum used to make.  Our companions both commented on how nice the soup was and if they hadn’t had to rush off would have loved to have stayed to sample more. 

Main course at The Coal Shed

Lincoln Platter

And then to the final eatery.  Relaxing in The Cricketers after the final day of work we decided that on this night we would keep it simple and since they had made contact via Twitter we decided to head to Coast to Coast  at The Marina.  If you’ve ever been to the States this place will feel very familiar, big booths, efficient service and some good old favourites on the menu.  We opted for a Lincoln platter which was a combo of some of those favourites. Onion rings, two different varieties of chicken wings, loaded potato skins, garlic bread, some nachos, chicken tenders – you know the score.  We were nicely surprised by the eye-watering level of spice of some of the wings and the loaded potato skins were better than most.  Was it fine dining? – no.  Was it trying to be? – no.  Was it something nice and simple to finish the trip off? Absolutely. So Brighton, you have fed us well.  You know – we didn’t even have time to sample some of the top looking food that we saw getting dished out in the pubs.  It looks like there is only one thing for it – a return trip.

 As for the lack of quotes about Brighton – may be, just maybe, they are trying to keep this food loveliness all to themselves.

 Be back soon


Ribble Valley Inns

“He goes not out of his way that goes to a good inn”  Old Proverb

And these are right up there. Four refurbished Inns spanning the Ribble Valley, from Skipton in the East to Kirkby Lonsdale in the West. They are:

They are all character filled pubs owned and run by the Northcote Group, co-founded by Michelin Star Chef Nigel Haworth and leading wine expert Craig Bancroft.

I first discovered the Ribble Valley Inns after a pal of mine drove me up to The Three Fishes.  After meandering through the wonderful Lancashire countryside we turned up in Mitton.  A tiny little village but with two pubs and a large hotel, clearly somewhat of a draw. We had just missed the lunch service and so tucked in to the afternoon bites menu. After a portion of Morecambe Bay Shrimp with Blade Mace butter and toast and a selection of Three Lancashire Cheeses with bread and Fireside Chutney, we were convinced that we’d be back for a rather more substantial sample.  After leaving the Three Fishes we drove through the country roads to take a look at the next site for a Ribble Valley Inn – that of the Clog & Billycock. Not much to see at the time surrounded by scaffolding, but clearly another fine old pub to be given a new lease of life.

In the meantime, after a camping trip in the lakes and deciding that we should return to civilisation as quickly as possible, I persuaded a group of friends to stop off at Kirkby Lonsdale and visit The Highwayman. As with The Three Fishes we found a beautifully refurbished old inn that incorporated all the elements of the traditional with the best of the contemporary.  Although it is now sometime ago I can remember having the Rabbit Risotto and thoroughly enjoying it.

Next was a return to The Three Fishes with The Hungry Mrs. Now I should say that on this particular visit we had been out the evening before and may or may not have consumed a substantial amount of alcohol.  This being the case we both opted for the kind of food that sorts this kind of terrible affliction right out.  Burgers.  Or as the menu at the time said “Chargrilled Minced Rump” although I believe this has now changed to include the word burger – perhaps as a result of watching two poor hungover wretches desperately searching for salvation!!

The burger itself was delicious, served medium rare with proper dripping-cooked chips (not fries), a pickled cucumber and mustard mayo. Needless to say it fixed us right up.

Pork at The Clog & Billycock

And so on to the next…..

We recently had the pleasure of being invited out for dinner on a Friday evening.  And beggar me if the destination wasn’t The Clog & Billycock.  A starter of a Game Terrine followed by a pork dish (the description of which escapes me, but I did take a picture…) which was delicious with creamy mash and lovely salty gravy.  Now I happen to like salty food but I did wonder if the pork dish might not have been too salty for some. For dessert, well if you’ve read previous posts you’ll know my appetite for pancakes, so I decided to stick with these.  Sugar and Lemon – keep it simple.

A great spread – The Bull at Broughton

Finally I managed to take the trip over to the  furthest of the collection.  Just on the outskirts of Skipton sits The Bull at Broughton.  As I expected an old-fashioned pub from the outside with lots of lovely oak as you step through the door. The Hungry Mrs, TKA and I were all very warmly greeted and shown to our table.  In fact I’d have to say that the staff here at The Bull were probably the friendliest and most welcoming of the four.  Now this being the first time that TKA had accompanied us it was great to see that the littluns are both welcomed and looked after just as well as the adults.  He opted for the burger and chips and was not let down – I think I would’ve liked to have seen some peas or beans on the plate but what he had he ate up.  Us bigguns opted for a Cheese & Onion Pie for The Mrs, the Slow Cooked Dry Aged Cap of Angus Beef for yours truly and some Cauliflower Cheese and Onion Rings to share.  Once again the food was all delicious, the beef was slightly more cooked than I would have ideally liked but the sauce and accompanying tomatoes were fantastic.

So that is the set done.  My overall impression is s really good one.  A couple of tiny gripes about the cooking but all in all I have been very impressed.  Now some will say that this is all just “pub grub” “nothing special” but for me that is the point.  These Inns are all very friendly places where the food consists of traditional meals that you might expect to see on a pub menu anywhere but with great contemporary touches. Much like the buildings themselves. And as more and more pubs close it is fantastic to see proper old-fashioned examples re-invented and kept alive.

The final couple of things to say about these Inns is firstly and as I have mentioned, you might expect to see the items on the menu anywhere – and this is true in general terms – but the food served here is local, seasonal and some of the best produced in the Northwest and this for me makes it a winner.  And secondly, these are pubs, that serve proper food. In my opinion, not restaurants that happen to be in an old pub building. I would be happy sitting in any of the four with a decent pint without feeling  that I am obliged to eat. Although I wouldn’t need much convincing!!



And the winner is……

A great big congratulations to @Renaissance_4W – a copy of Jamie’s Great Britain is yours.

And a big thanks to anyone who visited or commented

Now back to wrting about food.  Next post coming soon – RVI………….