Gongoozling, pie and guava jelly

A gongoozler is a person who enjoys watching activity on the canals in the United Kingdom. ‘Gongoozler’ may have been canal workers’ slang for an observer standing apparently idle on the towpath. Though it was used derisively in the past, today the term is regularly used, perhaps with a little irony, by gongoozlers to describe themselves and their hobbyWikipedia.


Going a bit off my usual northern patch with this one – a canalside pub in Coventry which was also a bit of a trip down memory lane.

The Greyhound Inn sits at an important waterway junction where the Coventry Canal meets the Rugby waterway and in times gone by was a strategically important transport hub for working boats carrying goods.
The Inn, the facilities for water, rubbish, toilets etc. are still important for boat folk and were a regular port of call for us when we lived afloat – including a memorable winter when we were iced in and unable to return to our regular mooring.

I have to admit that being iced in at outside a pub which serves great food and just a hop skip and a jump from one of the city’s main curry centres wasn’t that much hardship tbh!

One of the best things on the menu back then was a bit fancy in hindsight – rich fish (Bouillabaisse style) stew served with French bread and helpings of grated cheese.

But its big claim to fame is pies so, here’s the chicken, leek and mushroom variety. What can I say……I think you can tell from the picture we’re talking about a mouth melting pastry and a pie packed with filling.
No sloppy measures here and they serve gravy separately if you prefer your pie experience rather runnier.

The post blow out lunch walk took us up the canal to admire the visiting and resident craft. If you’re ever looking for a reminder of English eccentricity and individualism I’d recommend a walk along your nearest tow path.

On this trip I spotted this foodie inspired example which prompts you to wonder way, why someone would name their home after a Colombian confectionary product.


Even so, nothing will beat the highly memorable and beautifully traditional sign-written example we once spotted near Wolverhampton proudly bearing the legend, Morning Flatulence.

Making breakfast pastries, Istanbul style

On a couple of recent business trips to Istanbul I’ve been fortunate to stay in a residence where an amazing breakfast spread was prepared from the small kitchen each day.


Cheeses, fruit, meat all laid out – plus some baked tasty, freshly-made that morning pastries of a different style every day but usually involving egg or cheese. The city that truly never sleeps has a great tradition of morning baked goods with shops and cafes selling filled pastries opening early in the day.

As the rest of the household slept, I ventured in to see what was cooking one morning and got this instruction on making the delicious hot cheese and dill pastries while sipping chai and being invited to take these pictures.

It starts with spreading out the large sheets of very thin floured pastry which is sold fresh.

Next comes the filling, but first each of the large sheets are cut into four squares. As far as I know, the exact ingredients aren’t easily available in the UK (or maybe they are in large cities with a Turkish population) but I think it would be possible to create something very similar using filo pastry and a 50/50 mix of mozerella cheese (in place of the stringy Turkish version) and a slightly sharper, harder cheese such as feta. It takes about half a cup of each plus a generous handful of dill only in the centre of the squares.

Finally, each quarter is folded over itself before being brushed by bean egg and sprinkled with seseme seeds. It’s te little touches of seseme seeds or poppy seeds that really add to the pastry’s flavours. They are then cooked in a medium oven for about 10mins until golden on the top and gooey within. Serves hot. What could be a better start to a busy day!

Holland’s Pies new range tried and tasted

Louise Bolotin from the Lone Gourmet blog gets to grips with the latest pie range from Holland’s.

HollandsA pie and a pint are a match made in heaven – comfort food and traditional thirst-quencher. What’s not to like? So when an invitation from Holland’s Pies turned up, inviting me to taste their new range, how could I resist?

Holland’s consultant chef Tom Bridge was on hand to talk us through the pies, while the beers, each matched to a pie, were provided by JW Lees. First up for tasting was the new chicken and ham hock pie – the filling had a good creamy texture and the meat was pleasingly chunky, but alas I couldn’t taste the ham hock. This cut of pig usually has a very pronounced flavour from its prolonged simmering then roasting but it was undetectable here. Nevertheless, overall it was a tasty pie that went down well with the glass of bitter. We also got to try the beef and vegetable pasty, a Holland’s staple, which smelled good and had plenty of vegetables, but not much meat although I may just have had an unlucky scoop of filling.

Of the meat pies the clear winner was the peppered steak pie – fabulously meaty and peppery, with a good after-tingle on the palate. I’m often wary of beef in pies as it’s usually from the cheapest cuts and lumps of gristle tend to turn up every bite. Not here though. Just steak and umami all the way, washed down with Lees’ gold award-winning The Governor.

The thing about pies is that they are filling and even arriving hungry and cold after a long day at work, I was starting to feel rather full. But there was still one more to try – the cheese pie. Chef Tom explained it was made with real cheddar, not factory cheese. Cutting into it there was a good strong smell of cheese and a subtle undernote of onion, and it had a good runny melted texture, although I felt the flavours were slightly overwhelmed by the pastry. This came with a small schooner of ruby port that spoiled the experience – the port was sickly sweet and coated my palate, destroying the lingering taste of cheese and making me feel a little nauseous.

I was pleased that Tom took the time to talk about the pie shells as well as the fillings. Holland’s use a secret hot water pastry recipe dating back to wartime. This kind of shortcrust pastry stays crispy, which is important for pie – you don’t want a soggy base or a collapsing shell that spills piping hot filling over you. No chance of that here – Holland’s know their stuff. Tom also emphasised the need to reheat in an oven as microwaving will soften the pastry. There’s a reason why bought pies come in a foil tray…

I was stunned to learn they make a million pies a week at their Lancashire factory. In the absence of homemade pie, which can be time-consuming and fiddly to make (especially if you struggle to get pastry right), for a mass-produced product this is about as good as gets. I doubt I’d buy the new chicken and ham hock but the peppered steak definitely gets the thumbs up from me.