To say that I’m a sucker for a nice pie might infer that I have a periodontal anomaly, rendering me unable to chew the thing properly. Not the case at all, I’m happy to say. No, all dinner manglers, (with the exception of a few wisdom teeth) are functioning properly, and neither I nor they can wait to get into the next tasty morsel.
Seriously now, Dear Reader; peacekeeping missions and diplomatic envoys are all very well, but to achieve peace in our time, a good pie is what the world REALLY needs now.
[and a-one, and a-two……….]
What the world needs now
Are pies, nice pies,
Hearty, juicy filling and a crust to kill for
What the world needs now…….[Oh do get on with it – Mrs Chips]
I know that several million of my readers (oh, alright – both of you) wholeheartedly agree, and are e’en now, reaching into your wallets to provide generous sponsorship for a worldwide search for The Pie To Beat All Pies; or at least to get me to stop caterwauling these appalling parodies. Fear not worried Reader. I can see the furrowed brows of concerned intellectuals; and the plume of dust of rapidly departing Scots.
Fear not indeed, for I have found such a pie. They can be found a mere five kilometres outside of Jansenville in the Eastern Cape and they are tear-jerkingly, mouth-wateringly delicious.
From this humble little establishment on the Graaff Reinett-Janesnville road, you can buy Beef, Chicken or Venison (Kudu) pies in large or small sizes – either frozen (for delayed gratification) or hot out of the oven for that instant pie high.
Throughout your humble blogger’s extensive travels, he has partaken of pies from a plethora of pie purveyors (there is no extra charge for the alliteration). Some have been most agreeably tasty, while others have simply been consigned to the bin. As is often the case, the best homemade goodies come from unlikely or hidden sources, and in this case Thamela Farm Stall is our source for quite simply, the best venison pies I have eaten.
Thamela is owned by German descendants Tilana and Rudi, who are the nicest couple you could meet. Every time we’ve been there (> 7 visits – and counting), the quiet but dependable Tilana and her assistant have been furiously working in the small kitchen. Entering the establishment will bring Tilana, and her ready smile out to the front, wiping her hands on her apron, ready to take your order. Alternatively, Rudi, a giant of a bloke, will offer his inimitably warm welcome.
But it’s not just scrumptious pies that come from their kitchen. An assortment of biltong, dry sausage (Afrikaans – droë wors), jams and other farm produce, as well as sundry arts and crafts are also available.
Depending on the nature of our trip, we might pre-order a herd of pies (what exactly is the collective noun for pies?), then do the 360km round trip to collect – yes, their pies are THAT good. With careful planning, we’ll stop there at midday and sit down to a pie-chips-and-gravy lunch before returning home with said scrumptiousness packed away in the vehicle’s freezer. Back in Port Elizabeth, we try to ration ourselves to make the pies last – it never works.
So what is it that makes their pies so irresistible
Apart from the thin, well baked pastry, the generous filling and excellent ingredients, there is an additional, indefinable ‘something’ that puts Tilana’s pies ahead of her competitors. I suspect it’s her passion for excellence and quality. Excitement mounts when you receive your pie over the counter or when it arrives on your plate. The sight of the golden flaky pastry adds to the seduction; and then there’s that heady combination of savoury aromas that sets the salivary glands flowing. When you finally bite into the pie, a warm tsunami of flavour invades your taste buds; a perfect combination of sweet, salt and….oooo Mummy (sorry, that should read Umami – Mrs Chips) – just makes you want to take the next bite.
Having been around the block a few times, I’ve come up with a list of DOs and DON’Ts for the making of a great pie:-
- DO ensure your pie crust is thin, crunchy and properly cooked
- DON’T serve a pie with only half the filling – that is just mean and you’ll only make profit until your clients realise they’re being short changed.
- DON’T EVER attempt to sell, or give me a pie containing sinew, gristle, fat or bone. That’s an appetite suppressant, right there. I’m sure there are folks out there who derive great pleasure from masticating vigorously on some cartilaginous bit of animal, or sucking on a bone…. I’m just not one of them.
- DO have a good ratio of meat to appropriate vegetables – I think 3 portions of meat to 1 portion of veg makes a great pie. Vegetable pies are, of course, a different matter.
- DO make sure your ingredients are fresh and of the finest quality.
- DO have a thick flavoursome gravy.
- DO try to cook your meat until tender. There’s nothing worse than biting expectantly into a pie only to have to gnaw away at something that could easily be mistaken for an army boot.
Only seven points, but I am happy to report that Tilana and Rudi’s pies, not only deliciously comply with all 7 points, but they go even further. In addition to their pies being made from scratch, most of the meat for their pies comes from their own farm. Rudi and Tilana butcher and process their own meat –removing all the extraneous bits by hand – none of this dodgy mechanised nonsense for their customers.
I could go on, but all this chat about their pies has made me ravenous and, as luck would have it, there are just two more pies left in the freezer. I shall therefore issue instructions to Mrs Chips…. to sit back and relax. I am making supper.