#414 Oldbury Gooseberry Tarts

The summer fruit season is pretty much done and dusted now, with just autumn raspberries and wild blackberries hanging around, but back in June at the very beginning of the season, I made these little gooseberry ‘tarts’. I’m using ‘inverted commas’ there because they are not tarts, they are pies.
In their simplest form, Oldbury fruit tarts are  hand-raised pies made from a hot-water pastry, filled with fruit and sugar and then baked. The pies, according to two of Jane’s correspondents, had links with Oldbury in Gloucestershire, and would be made by families as soon as soft fruits began to appear. In the latter half of the 19th century (and I’m sure much earlier than that too) the pies were ‘sold at fairs at a penny each’.
Below is the recipe and my review of the tarts, but it’s worth pointing out that sometimes these Oldbury pies would be made just like normal raised pies, but instead for being filled with jellied stock as you would  a pork pie, it is filled with fruit jelly preserve instead. This sounds so delicious and I may have a go at these more complex ones. I like the idea of a slice of fruit pie with jelly and some good cheese (Gloucester, of course) to round off a meal.
The hot water pastry for these pies is different to Jane’s recipe for her savoury (#282) Raised Pies in that there is both lard and butter here but no egg or icing sugar (which give crispness and an appetising brown colour to the cooked pastry). However, the method is essentially the same:
First cube 4 ounces each of butter and lard and pour over them 5 tablespoons of boiling water. Stir around until the fats have melted.  Put a pound of plain flour in a bowl, make a well in the centre and tip in the warm liquid mixture. Using a wooden spoon, and then your hands, form a dough.


At this point, I kneaded the dough until smooth – Jane says it should have ‘a waxy look’ – then popped it back in the bowl, covered it with cling film and left it to rest for a bit until it felt like it could be rolled and moulded successfully.

I found that the dough made six tarts using Jane’s method of thinly rolling out batches into circles and, then using a saucer as a template to cut out perfect shapes. I kept the trimmings for the lids.
Here’s the tricky bit: now mould the edges of each pastry circle to a height of about an inch so that they form cases – or in old English coffyns. This was a bit of a nightmare; you need a good cool stiff dough to do this, and if possible, three hands.


Now you can tumble in your topped and tailed gooseberries (about 8 ounces altogether) and a good amount of Demerara sugar (at least an ounce per tart, I’d say, but use your discretion). Roll out the lids, make a hole in the centre, and glue them in place with a brush and water, making sure you crimp the edges. Now leave the pastry to harden, this is a matter of a couple of hours in the fridge, but if leaving them in a cool larder, it’ll require an overnight wait.


Bake the ‘tarts’ for around 25-30 minutes at 200⁰C. Because of a lack of either egg , icing sugar or glaze, the pastry doesn’t turn a nice golden brown, but if the filling is happily bubbling away within, you can be pretty sure they are ready.


I served them warm with some pouring cream.

#414 Oldbury Gooseberry Tarts. Well these were not really worth the effort as the pastry was pretty disappointing in both taste and texture. Gooseberries in any form are good of course, so I did eat them. I’m looking forward to trying to make a larger pie filled with fruit jelly – that hasto be delicious. 4/10.

#402 Blaeberry or Blackcurrant Pie

Wild blaeberries (from berryworks.com)


The flitterin faces come doun the brae
And the baskets gowd and green;
And nane but a blindie wud speer the day
Whaur a’ the bairns hae been.
The lift is blue, and the hills are blue,
And the lochan in atween;
But nane sae blue as the blaeberry mou’
That needna tell whaur it’s been.


Blaeberry Mou,
William Soutar

Here’s recipe from English Food that I have found extremely difficult to cook; blaeberries and blackcurrants simply don’t crop up in greengrocers. Almost all of the blackcurrants grown in this country are snatched up and turned into Ribena, the leftovers being very expensive, assuming you can track them down. Blaeberries are not commercially grown and therefore you have to rely on happening upon bushes – many bushes; you’ll need between 1 ½ and pounds for this recipe!

But then I came across some huge punnets of them at a greengrocer called Elloits in Chorlton, Manchester. I couldn’t believe my luck so I bought a couple and skipped away clutching my precious bounty back home.

 So – and I know you are quite likely to be thinking this – what the heck are blaeberries!? They have many aliases: tayberries, bilberries, whortleberries, whimberries, wild blueberries….the list goes on. Blaeberries are very commonly found in the very north of England, Scotland and Ireland. They are quite popular in France – where they are called myrtles – and are generally used to make liqueurs.

 Jane Grigson tells us of a rather disturbing song she used to sing at school as a child where a young mother is left distraught when her baby is stolen by faeries whilst she picks blaeberries:

I went to gather blaeberries, blaeberries, blaeberries,
I went to gather blaeberries, and left my darling baby-O.
I found the track of the swan in the mist,
The swan in the mist, the swan in the mist,
I found the track of the swan in the mist,
But ne’er a trace of my baby-O.

So the blaeberry is steeped in the history of the northern climes of the British Isles, but people are trying to get this wild, rather niche, delicacy cultivated and into our shops. Susan McCallum of the Hutton Institute is asking for people to keep an eye out for blaeberry hotspots so that the most productive plants can be bred. This is because they match the American blueberry for their health benefits, and sales of blueberries are on the increase. Here’s the post all about the project.

In this recipe, Jane says we can use blaeberries or blackcurrants in this recipe; I assume because they are both found in Britain, but I think that you should use blueberries as alternative fruit because their flavour is so very close to that of the blaeberry. Jane also uses the Yorkshire trick of spiking the tart with some freshly chopped mint.


Pick over 1 ½ to 2 pounds of fresh blaeberries or blackcurrants, removing leaves and stalks. Weigh out 8 ounces of caster sugar and mix it with a heaped tablespoon of cornflour and a level tablespoon of chopped mint leaves. Layer the fruit and sugar mixture alternately in a pie dish, making sure the fruit is humps up in the centre and cover with some sweet shortcrust pastry. Brush the pie with water or egg whiteand sprinkle more sugar on top. Bake at 220⁰C for 15 minutes, and then turn the heat down to 190⁰C and bake for a further 20-30 minutes. Serve with cream.


It’s worth mentioning that it can be made as a double crust pie too.

 #402 Blaeberry or Blackcurrant Pie. I decided to make this pie for one of my Pud Clubs, and not only did it go down very well, but won – pitched against six other puds! It was so delicious; a deep jammy and tart filling that was so intensely flavoured it was almost a shock, and the aromatic mint took it to another level. This might be up for the award of best pud in English Food! 10/10

#384 Quick, Foolproof Puff or Flaky Pastry

Fool-proof? I’ll be the judge of that, Ms Grigson.

This is a recipe I have been putting off for ages; I have become pretty good at shortcrust pastries as well as hot-water pastry, but the rigmarole and potential disaster of a flaky pastry has always filled me with an inner dread. However, now that I am a half a fully-fledged patissier, and chock-full of confidence, I thought now is the time to give it a go.

I really should have looked at the recipe a little closer, because it is actually a rough-puff pastry as opposed to the true pâte feuilletée that can be made up of up to 1500 layers of pastry and fat. I was a little disappointed that it wasn’t the proper stuff, but then one shouldn’t run before one can walk, so perhaps a rough puff would be a happy stepping stone that will one day lead to the dizzying heights of the full puff.

This recipe was devised by, and then given to Jane Grigson, pastry chef Nicholas Malgieri who then worked ‘at Peter Frump’s famous New York cookery school’, and has now created an empire of his own. Like all rough puff pastes, it is best used for tarts, feuilletées or patisserie such as the good-old custard slice. To avoid bitter disappointment, don’t go trying to use them for something that requires a high rise, like a vol-au-vent (does anyone actually eat those anymore…?).

My good friend Charlotte came over to give me a hand, should I need it, though really I think she came to eat the dessert it would be used to make, which is fair enough. She did take some great photos for me though, so cheers Char.

It is important to buy good quality butter when making puff pastes, so don’t go using Tesco Value, instead go for a nice French or Danish one. Jane prefers French, I’d just say go for the best you can afford. This method satisfyingly uses a whole 250g block of butter, which is 8 ½ ounces in old money, which explains the seemingly strange weights used:

Start by cutting up 8 ½ ounces of unsalted butter into cubes, then sieve 8 ½ ounces of strong flour into a bowl. Rub in one ounce of the butter into flour. Tip in the rest of the butter and ‘work lightly’. I took this to mean to make sure each cube is separate and squashed flat, ready for easier rolling later.

In a measuring jug, dissolve half a teaspoon of salt in 2 teaspoons of lemon juice, then top up to 4 fluid ounces with ice-cold water. Tip it in and quickly bring it all together; ‘it will look appalling, a raggy mess’, says Jane, and so it did.

Flour your work surface and manhandle your pastry lump into an approximate 4-by-8 inch rectangle. Flour the top generously and roll out to a 9-by-18 inch rectangle, using more flour to prevent sticking. Now do the first folds: fold the short ends into the centre, then fold the whole thing in half so that it looks like a book. Turn the ‘spine’ one quarter turn to the left, roll out again, and make the very same folds. Turn, roll and fold one more time. If at any point the butter gets too warm and soft, pop it in the fridge to firm up.

Chill for an hour (or freeze it) and it is ready to use. I used mine to make a couple of things. First was a nice crisp apple tart, glazed with brown sugar and apricot jam, and second was a nice pile of Eccles cakes. Lovely.
#384 Quick, Foolproof Puff or Flaky Pastry. Well, I have to say it was quick, and it wasfool-proof. In fact, aside for the rolling out that required some degree of precision, I would say it is easier than a shortcrust for a beginner: rubbing in is minimal, it won’t be too dry and it won’t be over-worked. Why did I put this off for so long? It has already become part of my regular repertoire and I shall be using it in the amuse bouchefor my next pop up restaurant in November. Great stuff, delicious, crisp and rich 9.5/10.

 

#345 English Apricot Pie

Flowers and Apricots by Joseph Bidlingmeyer, 1850

I have been eyeing this recipe for a good while, but fresh apricots are so pricey I have always put it off. However, Soulard Farmers’ market came to save me from my apricot fast by selling them for just over a dollar a pound! They were delicious too.

The reason apricots are so expensive is manifold: they flower very early and suffer poorly from bad weather – they will die even if there’s a light frost or a high wind; they don’t take to grafting well; they are very particular about the soil they grow in, to the point where the amount of fertiliser dug into the soil needs to be calculated; they also do not travel well. They are delicate things and much prefer Eastern climbes as they originated in China, coming to Europe via India and the Middle East. It is for all these reasons that you usually find apricots dried rather than fresh.


As an aside, the reason the apricot doesn’t take to grafting is because they were mis-classified as a member of the plum family, Prunus, and were grafted onto other Prunus species, cherry is usually the grafters’ favourite. It is actually part of the rose family. Everyday’s a school day.


So what are the benefits of eating this temperamental and pricey fruit, other than that they are quite delicious? Well there is quite a long list of benefits to eating apricots. The 18th century French writer Bernard le Bovier Fontenelle, who was a member of the Royal Society, lived to 100 years old and the secret to his longevity was apricots, a tip he got from his grandma. ‘A royal fruit, she called it, saying that the scatterbrained folk of our days ought to make more use of it.’ Quite.

Fontenelle

As it happens, apricots are high in phosphorus and magnesium and can significantly increase mental ability. They are super-rich in beta-carotene (which gives the fruit its yellow colour); 4 ounces of apricots will give you 50% of your daily allowance. They are also good for the blood – they can even alleviate anaemia better than liver! They are also a significant source of fluoride. Amazing.


This pie was invented by the great chef Carême. He is very particular about the type of pie dish you should use; it must be very shallow, not much deeper than a plate.


Halve 1 ½ pounds of fresh apricots and take out the stones. Next, melt 2 ounces of unsalted butter in a frying pan and stir in 8 ounces of caster sugar; this might seem alot but they really do need it. Over a moderate heat stir the sugar into the butter. After a few minutes it should start to melt. Add the apricots and coat in the butter-sugar mixture. Stir for a minute or two – you don’t want to cook the fruit, just get the apricot halves well covered.

Pile the fruit and butter and sugar, which should be toffee-like at this point, into a shallow pie dish.
Roll out some puff pastry. Cut strips around half and inch a glue them around the edge of the plate with beaten egg so that the strips ‘extend partway down the dish itself. This will create a good seal, preventing the apricots from escaping. Brush the strips with egg and cover.

Use a fork to seal the pastry lid then make a central hole so that any steam generated during cooking can escape. Brush with more egg and sprinkle some more caster sugar. Start the pie off in a hot oven – 230°C (450°F) – for 15 to 20 minutes so that the pastry can turn golden brown, then continue cooking at a lower heat of 160-180°C (325-375°F) for 15 minutes. ‘Serve hot or warm with plenty of cream.’

Sorry about the terrible pic.
I’m normally drunk by dessert…

#345 English Apricot Pie. What a delicious fruit pie! It occurred to me whilst I was eating it that I have never eaten apricots this way. Well it certainly won’t be the last time I do it; the sugar and butter became a deliciously sweet sauce and the cooked apricots softened and turned very tart. That Carême chap knew what he was talking about.

#337 Eel Pie

This recipe puts me three-quarters of the way through the book! Who’d have thunk I’d still be ploughing through it!?

The fourth and final eel recipe from the book just in time for Good Friday, hopefully it will be better than the third which was a disaster…

Eel pies or pasties are a food that has a very long history in Britain. Sometimes they were just simply unskinned eels, herbs, spices and water covered with a ‘coffin’ of pastry, probably eaten as a stew rather like water-souchy; the pastry simply serving as a vessel within which to cook the fish. The earliest mention of eel pie I have found comes from an article by A. Peripatetic in a 19th Century periodical called London Society:
East-Farleigh lies in the hundred of Maidston, and was given to the prior and monks of Christ-Church in Canterbury, by Ediva the Queen, mother of the two kings Eadred and Edmund in the year 941, and was…to find the convent with eel-pies.
Eels are associated the most with London and there is a great old proverb that I discovered is used in Shakespeare’s King Lear, which I can really relate to:
Lear:     Oh me, my heart, my rising heart! but down.
Fool:     Cry to it, nuncle, as the cockney did to the eels, when she put
Them i’the paste alive; she rapt ‘em o’the coxcombs with a stick,
And cry’d, Down, wantons, down!

In other words, she  was so squeamish about killing the eels for her pie, she tried to bake them alive, making the whole situation worse and much more stressful than it would have been had she killed them. The first time I made eel I had to do away with them myself and it was pretty distressing (see here).

King Lear and Fool

I’m quite glad to have come to the end of the eel recipes to be honest because I was starting to feel rather guilty about eating a fish whose numbers have been in sharp decline. Anyways, if you do come across an eel for sale you may as well purchase it and turn it into a little piece of history as I did:
The first thing you need to make is the pastry – an unusual one using grated butter and cream that is somewhere between a flaky pastry and a shortcrust.
Place a block of butter in the freezer until it is well-chilled, but not frozen. Meanwhile measure out 6 ounces of flour and mix in a good pinch of salt. Next grate the butter over your kitchen scales until you have 3 ounces and add this to the flour.
Add enough cream – use either single or soured – or water to form a good soft dough, stirring in your liquid of choice at first with a knife then bringing it together with your hands. I noticed that the flour required more cream than it would have needed if using water. Cover and chill in the fridge for at least an hour. A note to Americans:  Soured cream in the USA is far too thick as an option, so go for something like half-and-half or heavy cream.
Peel and finely chop four shallots and soften them slowly in butter in a wide shallow pan. When cooked, tip them into a shallow pie dish or plate with a capacity of around 2 pints.
Now prepare the eels, you need 1 ½ pounds altogether (if your eels are alive, have a gander at this post and also this one, for the good it’ll do you). The best way to skin them I have found is to cut around the base of the neck, then hold down the head firmly with a dry cloth and pull the skin off in one long piece with a pair of pliers like a slender stocking. Trim the thin ends of the tails and add them to a pan along with the heads to 18 fluid ounces of chicken or fish stock, and simmer them together for around 20 minutes. In the meantime cut the eels into one inch pieces.
Coat the eel pieces in seasoned flour and fry them, in batches if necessary, browning them well. Add more butter if need be. Scatter the eel pieces over the shallots and deglaze the pan with the eel-flavoured stock, and reduce it by about a half, then add 2 tablespoons of medium dry sherry and 5 fluid ounces of double cream. Boil for 2 more minutes before adding ½ teaspoon of thyme and 3 tablespoons of chopped parsley. Season with salt, pepper and lemon juice. Add a further tablespoon of sherry if you fancy. Pour the sauce over the eels and allow the whole thing to cool.
Peel and slice two hardboiled eggs and scatter them over the eel, then roll out your pastry, gluing it to the rim of the dish with some more cream. Add a hole or a slit for the steam to escape and decorate with the trimmings – I went with a very complex eel motif of my own design. Glaze with cream and bake at 220C (425F) until the pastry has turned an appetising shade of brown – around 10 or 15 minutes, then turn down the heat to 180 (350F) for 20 minutes.
Grigson suggests serving the pie with peas or a chicory salad, though I just went with a mixed salad.
#337 Eel Pie. A very good recipe this one – especially if you are a newcomer to eel. The sauce was nice rich, and the eel tender. The good thing about eel is that it has a very simple anatomy so the bones are fairly easy to find and remove. The sauce was a little too thick and overpowered the delicately-flavoured eel a bit. It deserves a healthy 6.5/10.

#325 Rabbit Pie

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.

Still Life with Rabbits, a Game Bag and a Powder Horn
by Jean-Baptiste-Simeon Chardin, c1755

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.

My niece and nephew, Emma and Harry, expertly decorate the pie

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.

The best picture of the pie I could get –
it got gobbled up pretty fast!

#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

#322 To Make a Goose Pye

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

#320 Steak, Kidney and Oyster Pie

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…

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It is worth mentioning my supplier for the beef again – I got it from Missouri Grass Fed Beef, the boss, Jeremy, gave my the kidney for nothing as well! Good man.
This pie uses exactly the same filling as the pudding, so click the link here to find out how to make it; it’s pretty straight-forward stuff. The important thing to note is to check how much and how watery the gravy is before you add the oysters – if there is alot, strain the gravy and boil it down until it darkens and thickens. You need to make it thicker that you would think, because you add oyster liquor to it when it has cooled.
Put the cold filling in a pie dish and get the pastry ready. You can use either puff or shortcrust pastry for the pie. I went for puff. Roll the pastry out and cut strips of pastry about half an inch wide to cover the rim of the pie dish, using water as glue. Griggers says to let the strips hang inwards a little to prevent hot filling from leaking out.
Brush the pastry rim with more water and cover the pie. Crimp down the edges so that the pastry is well-secured. Then Jane says to scallop the edges if you have shortcrust pastry or nick the pastry if puff pastry, after that make a central hole and a leaf design from any trimmings. I hardly had any trimmings left as I didn’t really have enough pastry. Lastly, make a pastry rose with a stem and fit it loosely into the central hole, then give the whole thing an egg glaze.
Bake for around 45 minutes at 220-230⁰C (425-450⁰F).
#320 Steak, Kidney and Oyster Pie – well I already knew this was going to be good seeing as I have essentially made this before, but just to reiterate: absolutely amazing. The combination of rich wine gravy, the metallic kidney and the creamy iodine finish of the oysters is fantastic. Mrs Beeton should be made a saint! 9/10.

#312 Pork Pie

Provocative of indigestion as that pie may seem to you, it was put together by a lovely cousin at Melton Mowbray, whose fair hands are equally skilful in rendering a sonata of Beethoven, or in compounding the gastronomic mysteries of the kitchen.”
Excerpt from Dialogues of the Living – Table Talk by J Hollingshead,
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 Olde Pork Pie Shoppe –
the best place to buy a proper Melton Mowbray pork pie

So what makes a Melton Mowbray pork pie special, other than the location it was made in? Well, first they should be hand-raised, second the pork inside should be uncured and the bacon unsmoked. There is also a secret ingredient: anchovy essence. Anchovy essence is not widely available these days, but it is possible to find it. In America, you’ll have to order some from Amazon. You could cheat of course by using some nam pla – Thai fish sauce. There is no difference between them at all. Don’t be put off by this, the sauce gives the meat a delicious seasoning. In fact it is quite common to use anchovies in this way with lamb, and oysters are great in a steak and kidney pudding. We have stopped combining our fish and meat these days, yet have no issue when we eat them together when we order dishes from a Far Eastern restaurant. Strange.

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…

First of all prepare the pork. You will need two pounds altogether  – boned weight. You need a cut of pork that is around one-quarter fat, so go for shoulder, leg or ribs. Make sure you get the bones form the butcher so you can use them in your jellied stock. Also at the butchers, get yourself an eight ounce pack of unsmoked back bacon. When you get home, chop the meat. Keep the best bits chunky, in around a centimetre dice, the other bits, chop finely. This is a bit of an effort, but it is this chopping – rather than mincing – that gives you the proper texture. Also, chop up two rashers of the bacon. Into a bowl, put in your chopped meat and mix in the following: a teaspoon of chopped sage, a teaspoon of anchovy essence and half a teaspoon each of ground cinnamon, nutmeg and allspice. Lastly, season well with salt and pepper. If you want to check the seasoning is correct, take a small amount of the mixture and fry it. Taste and correct accordingly.
When it comes to putting the pie together, use the remaining bacon to line the raised pie crust, add the mixture, packing it in well.

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.

#303 Cornish Charter Pie


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.

Parson Woodforde 1740-1803

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.