I recently made to visit to my friends in their 18th century house in Mallerstang, Cumbria and have been meaning to bring the ingredients up with me to make this dish. It’s one of those lamb, onion and potato based meals you find in the North of England such as Lancashire Hot Pot and Lobscouse, or indeed Irish stew and Scotch broth. It mysteriously appears in the Meat Pies & Puddings section of the Meat, Poultry & Game Chapter.
This is the last of the raised pie recipes in English Food. It’s a little different in that you don’t need to make a jellied stock like the others, but a gravy made from mutton bones.
If you can’t get hold of mutton, then lamb will do just as well.
For the filling, you need a whole best end of neck of mutton, or a pound of fillet meat. Make sure the butcher give you the bones of the sheep. Chop the meat finely, including some fat. Finely chop 3 shallots or 4 ounces of onion along with 4 ounces of mushrooms and a tablespoon of parsley. Mix all of these together with the meat and a teaspoon of dried thymeand salt and pepper. Place in a pan with ¼ pint of water, bring to a simmer and let it tick over for 5 minutes. Cool.
Fill your pastry cases, however you have constructed them, with the mixture and bake for 25-45 minutes at 200⁰C, depending on size.
Once whipped out of the oven, pour in gravy made from the bones. There is no instruction from Jane as to how to make this, but it’s pretty easy. Make a stock from bones, trimmings and some stock veg. Reduce it and mix into a roux of butter and flour to thicken it up.
#403 Raised Mutton Pies. These were great – I must admit I was a little dubious of the watery filling, but it really was delicious, the vegetables and herbs made the water into a delicious stock, which reduced during baking. They were so good, I added them to one of pop-up restaurant menus. 8/10.
A British classic. It is rather difficult to say how far back the rabbit pie goes – as far back as pies themselves go, I would imagine. The rabbit pie is the archetypal hunter’s family meal and is certainly a cheap – or free – way of getting some good protein in you. These days of course people tend to get their rabbits from the butcher, including myself, but rabbit is getting popular again now that people are trying to cut back on their spending. I wonder if more people have taken up owning an air rifle to hunt their own. The idea strangely appeals. It is worth considering: rabbits are a pest and do not have a hunting season. The reason they are a pest is because they are an introduced species, just like the pesky grey squirrel, only these little blighters came not from America, but from France. The French have kept rabbit farms for a long time and so after William the Bastard/Conqueror came over with his Norman pals to take the English Crown, the later Plantagenet kings brought their farms over. The rabbits escaped and bred like billy-o and we have been stuck with them since.
What is strange is that the French did (and still do) love farmed rabbit and prefer it over wild. Griggers – in all her rabbit recipes – specifies that it must be wild; “[d]omestic rabbit by contrast is as insipid as a battery chicken, even nasty in texture and taste.”
Rabbits were very popular in Northern England as a pie filling in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries and an alternative meat for a steak and oyster pie – back in the day when oysters were poor people’s food.
If you see a wild rabbit in the butcher’s shop try one – it’s cheaper than a chicken and is truly free-range and organic to boot!
Rabbit – like all game – is very lean so it needs a little helping hand with some additional fat, in this case streaky bacon which also helps the meat go a bit further. Forcemeat balls are often added to dishes like this – something stodgy that again increases bulk. I’m a big fan of forcemeat balls, so I was glad to see them appear in this recipe. Last and by no means least is the herb thyme which is essential in any rabbit dish. Don’t scrimp on it. Because it is used quite liberally, use fresh thyme.
This rabbit pie is the last in a trio of game recipes I cooked whilst I was in England over Christmas. It serves 6 to 8 people.
First of all joint a wild rabbit (or ask your butcher to do it) and soak it in salty cold water for around 1 ½ hours.
I am not quite sure why one needs to do this step. Perhaps it reduces the amount of water in the rabbit by osmosis for some reason? If you know, leave a comment, I’d be most grateful. Drain the rabbit and place it in a saucepan. Pour enough fresh water to cover the beast, bring the water to a boil and let it simmer for 3 or 4 minutes. Drain and dry it.
Roll the rabbit pieces in some seasoned flour and brown it in butter, lard, bacon fat or dripping in a large, deep sauté pan then fry a large chopped onion and 5 or 6 ounces of streaky bacon or salt pork. When lightly browned, add the grated rind of a lemon, a heaped tablespoon of parsley and four good sprigs of thyme.
Add enough light beef or veal stock to just cover. Cover and simmer until the rabbit is cooked. Jane doesn’t give a time here, but it will depend upon the age of the rabbit. Mine took about 1 ½ hours. To test it, I just sampled a bit of leg meat. Let the mixture cool and bone the rabbit if you want; I did because little ones were eating it.
Now the pie needs to be made. Place the mixture in a pie dish, piling it in the middle and scatter forcemeat balls around it (look here for the recipe). If you have a rather broad or long pie dish, it may be worth placing a pie funnel in the centre – I didn’t have one and the pie sank a little.
To cover the pie, roll out some shortcrust or puff pastry. Cut strips from the pastry and use it to line the rim of the dish, gluing it in place with some beaten egg. Next, cover the pie and trim any excess pastry and use it to decorate the top. Glaze with beaten egg.
Bake at 220⁰C (425⁰F) for 20-30 minutes and then turn the heat down to 160⁰C (325⁰F) for another 30 minutes. As usual, protect the pastry with some brown paper should it colour too much.
#325 Rabbit Pie. I am on a roll with the pies at the moment because this was another excellent one. The rabbit was very tender and not too rank tasting as the previous rabbit had been. I suppose it is the risk one takes with game. The very lean rabbit was ‘fattened’ up excellently with all the streaky bacon it was fried with. Plus it was complemented perfectly by the fresh thyme and the lemon zest. Really good – now that wild rabbit is getting more common meat in Britain’s butcher shops, there’s no excuse in giving it a try. 8/10
What do you get for the person who has everything at Christmas? A giant pie of course. This goose ‘pye’ consists of an ox tongue within a chicken within a goose within a hot-water crust, so it’s not for the faint-hearted.
Great big pies like this were often given as gifts at Christmas time. The many meats were covered in a nice thick crust, not just because it tastes good, but also to help preserve and protect them – after all, these pyes were travelling by horse and carriage! These days, it is best as ‘a splendid centre-piece for a party’. Indeed, that the was the reason why I made it – my bosses Dave and Joan were hosting a Christmas party, and my fellow workmates are quite enthusiastic about the blog so I knew they’d all be up for this pye. Personally, I have always wanted to do this recipe – these crazy recipes are the reason why I love doing this blog. It comes from Hannah Glasse’s classic 1774 book Art of Cookery:
Half a peck of flour will make the walls of a goose pie…Raise your crust just big enough to hold a large goose; first have a pickled dried tongue boiled tender enough to peel, cut off the root, bone a goose and a large fowl; take half a quarter of an ounce of mace beat fine, a large teaspoon of beaten pepper, three teaspoons of salt; mix all together, season your goose and fowl with it, then lay the fowl in the goose, and the tongue in the fowl, and the goose in the same form as if whole. Put half a pound of butter on the top, and lay on the lid. This pie is delicious, either hot or cold, and will keep a great while. A slice of this pie cut down across makes a pretty little side-dish for supper.
Griggers kindly converts all the quantities into modern-day terms – less flour can be used (unless you are having it sent somewhere by horse!) and birds are rather larger nowadays. Good old Griggers. It is certainly the most extravagant recipe I have done thus far and possibly the most complicated; the recipe itself is quite straight-forward, but it requires a boned goose and a boned chicken, something that I had to do myself. Would the effort be worth it..?
There is a certain amount of preparation required if you are to do this from scratch. The first thing is to pickle an ox tongue in brine (see here for instructions) and cook it (see the recipe here for making pressed tongue; there is no need to press it). You need 2 ½ pounds of cooked tongue, so start with one that weighs at least 3 pounds. Next is the birds: you need a 10 pound goose and a 5 pound chicken. If you can, ask the butcher to bone them for you, if that is not possible, try doing it yourself – all you need is a bit of patience and some good sharp knives. I followed the method on this website for boning a chicken, but had to change the instructions somewhat for the goose as it is much trickier than a little chicken. So here’s a little digression as I give you my version…
Boning a bird is actually quite easy – what you are essentially doing is undressing the meat from the skeleton of the fowl. As you can imagine, it is a little gory.
First thing to do is to cut off the wing-tips and then to peel the skin away from the shoulders and cut through the joints.
Next, pull on the wing bone and scrape the meat from it as you go, turning the wing inside out. Repeat with the other shoulder joint.
Now remove the wishbone from the top of the breasts and start cutting the meat away from the ribcage, pulling the meat back. Keep doing this around the whole of the body. When you are about half-way down, sit the bird up and let the meat hang down by its own weight. When you get to the hips, you need to pop the femur out of its socket, then continue until the whole of the carcass is removed from the bird. You can then remove the leg bones in very much the same way as the shoulder and wing bones. Getting through that socket is very tricky with a large bird like a goose because of the large joint and large amount of fat surrounding it – to get around this, I flexed the knee joint and cut through that so I could scrape the meat off the bones from the direction of the knee.
When the leg bones have been removed, all you have to do is turn the bird outside in. Don’t forget to turn the bones, trimmings and giblets into stock.
So, you have your tongue and you have your birds, next you need to get working on the hot-water crust. You need to make a crust using 3 pounds of flour. I’ve blogged about hot-water pastry before, so follow this link. I made it in 3 batches – the first I used to form the base. I made lots of smallish pastry balls to cover the inside of a glass roaster measuring about 12” x 9” x 2” and pressed them out to make a single layer that overlapped the edges of it.
Next, mix together ¼ ounce of ground mace, 2 heaped teaspoons of ground black pepper and 5 rounded teaspoons of sea salt.
Now place the tongue in the chicken and rub in around a third of the spice mix into the chicken…
before gingerly wrapping fitting inside the goose. Place the goose in the pie and rub in the remainder of the spice and salt mix.
Lastly, smear two ounces of butter over the top of the goose.
Now roll out the rest of the pastry and cover the top of the pie, using some water as a glue. It is quite tricky to pick up such a large piece of pastry without it breaking – so use a rolling-pin and wrap it around it and unfurl it atop the pie. Crimp the edges, trim and decorate with the trimmings. Brush with beaten egg and make a central hole for the steam to escape.
Place it on a baking tray and bake the pie at 220°C (425°F) for 20 minutes and then turn the heat down to 180°C (350°F) and bake for another 2 hours. If the pie is browning too much, cover it with brown paper to protect it. If the pie bubbles ferociously, then turn down the heat again to 140-150°C (275-300°F). Loads of fat comes out the central hole, hence the precaution of the baking tray. I had to empty it twice during the whole process. I reserved it for making roast potatoes in the future, of course.
If you are wanting to serve it cold, then like most cold pies, it is best to make it a couple of days in advance so that the flavours can develop.
#322 To Make a Goose Pye. What a spectacle this pye was – especially when sliced up. I expected it to be rather macabre, but it wasn’t. It was indeed a ‘pretty little side dish’. The meat inside was wonderfully moist and a good jelly had formed inside without the need for jellied stock. Some people were a little suspicious of the tongue, but everyone seemed to like it. The only problem – though others disagreed – was that it was rather under-seasoned for me; with an extra 50 per cent salt, pepper and mace, this very, very good pye would have been excellent. 8.5/10
A while ago I made an extremely similar recipe – steak, kidney and oyster pudding. A seminal English dish that I had saved for the landmark 200th recipe. This pie essentially follows the same history (and recipe) as the pudding – the combination of the three main ingredients seems to start with Mrs Beeton. I have found similar recipes going back further like oyster pie, beef-steak and oyster pie, veal and oyster pie and calves’ foot and kidney pie. I could go on, but I shan’t, I think you get the message. The pudding was delicious so there was no way this could be a fail…
appearing in The Train magazine, 1857
The pork pie is the ultimate raised pie in England and the best come from Melton Mowbray in Leicestershire, a very old English town, founded around the 8th Century. The Melton Mowbray hand-raised pork pie attained Protected Geographical Indication status in 2008 – this means that only pies made within Melton Mowbray can proudly bare the town’s name. If you buy a pork pie that doesn’t bear the name, then it is not the real-deal. Unfortunately, Cornwall missed the boat in getting their pasties recognized by the EU, so a Cornish pasty can proudly bear the Cornish name, when it was actually baked in Milton Keynes or whatever.
The main difficulty for anyone who may want to attempt this recipe in the USA is not finding the anchovy essence – oh no – it is the unsmoked bacon that is the tricky customer. I hunted high and low for it when I was in Houston, but I never found wet-cured, unsmoked back bacon. I assumed that if I wanted to make a pie whilst living in the States, I would simply have to wet cure my own. However, at a Farmer’s Market in Chicago, I happened upon a stall selling not only unsmoked back bacon, but also traditional British sausages. The stall is run by an English chap, who coincidentally comes from Leeds too, called Nicholas Spencer. Check out his website here. He said he’ll be doing mail order soon, so I am looking forward to that.
Anyways, if you want to have a go at making your own traditional pork pie you need to get planning! It is quite an effort, though very good fun. I’ve already posted about making raised pies. In brief (with links) you need to get three things ready: hot water pastry for the raised crust, a jellied stock, and the filling itself. I’ll provide you with the recipe for the pork pie filling here…
Cover with a pastry lid and finish it off, following the method in the raised pies post.
What should one eat with a pork pie? These pies are great for buffets and picnics, so eat whatever you are serving at your buffet or picnic… Personally, I like some nice brown HP sauce or maybe tomato sauce. Some like to warm the pies and have them with mushy peas. I have been eating mine with the preserved spiced oranges I recently cracked open – a really good combination that.
#312 Pork Pie. It seems you can never be let down by these raised pies. This one was great: the mild herbs and spices gave the meat a subtly complex flavour. The idea of a cold meat pie feaked a few people out at work, and suppose the jelly is something you either love or hate. I have been eating the pie slowly over the last few days, and it seems to get better as it ages. Very good, not quite as delicious as the Veal, Ham and Egg Pie, but still pretty tasty. 8/10.
In Jane Grigson’s book Good Things, she quotes from the diary of a Parson Woodforde, a Norfolk clergyman who obviously liked his food. He wrote in his dairy on the 13th of July that “[we] had for Dinner some Pyke and fried Soals, a nice Piece of boiled Beef, Ham and a Couple of Fowls, Peas and Beans, a green Goose rosted, Gooseberry Pies, Currant Tarts, the Charter, hung Beef scraped &c…”. All recognisable as nice food typical of the British Isles at that time, except, that is, for The Charter. “Was it [a] sweet or [a] savoury? Was it in fact even food at all?” she asks. Then, apparently on another occasion at the Parson’s brother’s, an incident occurred where a very naughty dog snook into the cellar and snarfed down The Charter all to itself. It was, at least, food, but dogs will eat pretty much anything, so the type of food isn’t possible to deduce.
My friend Katie has a dog that ate an entire chocolate cake once – fully iced as well. What happened to that cheeky dog’s bowels is not fit for a description in a food blog.
Anyways, the editor of the Parson’s diary assumed it was some kind of custard. It wasn’t until Griggers stumbled upon the book A few choice recipes by Sarah Lindsay (a Lady) from 1883, who gives a recipe for a Charter Pie, saying it is a Cornish recipe and the filling is of chicken in cream. It’s a shame that Jane had no internet in her time; it would have made her life so much easier as I found this little fact on GoogleBooks pretty quick-smart.
Upon doing a quick recipe search on the internet, I found a few versions of the recipe, but they didn’t really give any more background to the pie. I did notice that one website listed it as American cuisine, so it must’ve been taken over the Atlantic at some point and survived there for a good few generations.
Anyways, I thought this pie would go down for my dinner party-cum-buffet that I had last weekend. The Meat Pies & Puddings section of the book has been rather hit and miss, so I did worry that would be a bit crap. Jane does big it up, and it does appear also in Good Things, so for it to occur twice in her writing, it must be good…
The recipe asks for two three pound chickens that have been jointed, so you can imagine that it is a decent sized pie, so make sure that you make enough shortcrust pastry to cover a large, shallow pie dish. The recipe specifies a rich shortcrust pastry too, so make it with at least five ounces of salted butter (and therefore ten ounces of plain flour), an egg yolk and some ice-cold water to bind.
Whilst your pastry is resting in the fridge, chop a large onion and soften it in two ounces of butter. Remove the onions from the pan and spread them on the base of a wide, shallow pie dish or tray. Toss your chicken pieces in seasoned flour, turn up the heat in your pan, add a two more ounces of butter and fry the chicken pieces until they are a nice golden brown. Do not crowd the pan, so cook in two or three batches if you need to. Arrange the chicken pieces tightly together in a single layer on top of the onions.
Next, chop a leek or six spring onions alongside a nice large bunch of parsley. Place in a saucepan and cover with a quarter of a pint each of milk and single cream (that’s coffee cream for any Americans). Bring to a boil and simmer for two or three minutes. Pour this mixture over the chicken and season very, very well with salt and pepper.
Roll out your pastry and cover the pie, using some beaten egg as a seal. Make a hole in the centre of the pie large enough to fit a kitchen funnel. Jane then asks us to make a pastry rose to fit on top of it that also has a hole (so the steam can still escape). Decorate with more pastry if you like. Brush the pastry with more beaten egg. Bake at 220-230°C (425-450°F) for the first twenty minutes and then lower the heat to 180°C (350°F) for the remainder of the cooking time – an hour should do it.
Just before the pie is ready, bring half a pint of double cream to the boil, so that when it is cooked, you can take the pie from out of the oven, remove the pastry rose and pour in, with the aid of your funnel, the hot cream. Then replace your rose.
The pastry is good hot or cold, says Jane. It went for just warm so that the sauce would thicken almost becoming jelly (a benefit of using chicken on the bone, rather than just the meat cut into pieces).
This is perhaps a good point to mention the proper English way of serving up a pie like this. Using a knife, cut away the piece of pastry you would like to serve and place it on the side of the pie. Next, spoon out the filling onto the plate and perch the pastry on top of it. Do not go digging straight in there with your spoon messing up the pastry and getting all mixed up with the filling. This is a deadly sin at the Buttery residence and you will be thrown out should you attempt it.
#303 Cornish Charter Pie. What a great pie! The ingredients made a thick creamy chicken soup that is delicious in itself and the chicken was wonderfully tender from being cooked in all that milk and cream. Much better than the last chicken pie from the book, which was insipid by comparison. This will be my staple recipe for chicken pie in the future (unless anyone has one that can beat it). 8.5/10.