It was British Pie Week the other week – and I admit I was a bit tardy making a pie in time but better late than never, innit. The trouble was choosing a pie to make, after a quick flick through I went for this Dartmouth Pie (FYI: Dartmouth is in Devon, SW England). There’s two reasons for this; the meat in it is mutton and after the mutton broth and Lancashire hotpot I made I’ve really got into cooking with it. Secondly, the pie itself is interesting. It’s one of the very few survivors of medieval cuisine; they loved their meat mixed with fruit, sugar and spices. Traditionally, minced mutton is used, but you can use venison or chuck steak. The recipe in English Food is an updated version of this dish containing cubed mutton rather than minced – apart from that is not too far from the proper original one as far as I can see.
This pie serves four, but is quite rich so you could get away with five or six:
Trim some cubed shoulder of mutton well so that you end up with a pound of it in weight. Next, make a spice mix using a teaspoon each of black peppercorns and coriander seed, ½ a teaspoon each of ground mace and ground allspice and an inch length of cinnamon stick. Grind all the spices down – I use a coffee grinder for such things, if you don’t have one use a pestle and mortar. Salt the meat and brown it using 2 ounces of beef dripping in a pan that is ovenproof. Add the spices and fry them gently for a couple of minutes. Add 8 ounces of sliced onions and 1 ½ teaspoons of flour and give it good mix around. Add ½ pint of beef stock (Griggers says you can also use veal or venison stock; oh la-dee-dah!). Now the sweet element – stir in 2 ounces each of dried prunes, apricots and raisins; and to counteract the sweetness the juice and rind of a Seville orange (or, alternatively, a sweet orange plus lemon juice). She doesn’t say whether you chop up the rind or just add it to take out later. I chopped it up like you would for marmalade, but it did make the resulting sauce slightly too bitter; this was resolved by the addition of some sugar to taste later. Bring the mixture a simmer, cover and bake in a low oven – 140°C – for 2 hours (or more if you like). Taste and check for seasoning, transfer to a small pie dish and allow to cool; skimming any fat away that may appear.
Make a shortcrust pastry using 8 ounces of flour, 4 ounces of fat (I used half-lard, half-butter), salt and milk to bind. Cover the dish as normal and decorate the pie with the trimmings. Butters and I had fun making apricots, leaves and a wee sheep to go on it. Brush with beaten egg as a glaze and bake for 25-40 minutes at 220°C until the pastry is cooked and golden brown.
#129 Dartmouth Pie – 7.5/10. A very good pie indeed. Very sweet and rich but went brilliantly with some relatively bland mash and minty peas. The medieval flavours were not alien – I can see why this one survived (and others where fish is used instead of mutton didn’t). As I’ve mentioned before, the secret is the slow-cooking; the resulting meat was so tender, you hardly had to chew and the fruit had become a dark bitter-sweet mush. Lovely. If I owned a restaurant, I’d have it on the menu!