Happy British Pie Week!
By Jove! Miss Windsor has certainly surpassed herself today! You see, in the spirit of British Pie Week, and my passionate quest in "Bringing food history alive," I recreated Mrs Beeton’s Veal & Ham Pie. And so, I excitedly announce with oodles of glee that it turned out to be an absolute culinary triumph – How spiffing!
Oh, and I must mention, that I stumbled upon Mrs Beeton’s Veal & Ham Pie recipe in my 1906 edition of Mrs Beeton’s Book of Household Management – first published in 1861, whilst searching for something frightfully unusual, yet awfully hearty and traditional which one could recreate for British Pie Week!
Darlings, now you’re forbidden to turn your nose up to this glorious dish, which I must admit, is of an acquired taste, yet delightfully delicious (believe me, I was extremely surprised by how mouth-watering tasty this recipe turned out to be!) British, suet crust, meat-based pie created with an unusual concoction of ingredients such as sliced veal fillet or cushion, chunky bacon bits, hard-boiled eggs, a sprinkling of seasoning, followed by a "gill" (translation: 140ml or 5 US fl oz.) of beef stock – and nothing more!
That’s right, darlings, you’ve read it correctly - boiled eggs, three in fact! even Miss Windsor suffered a moment of doubt when she spied this rather interesting addition - a Victorian delicacy, I wonder? Or, to be honest, at first glance of this recipe, one may presume it was served during some kind of medieval banquet – in any case, aren’t you curious to find out? Miss Windsor certainly is!
Okey dokey, darlings, I’ve just consulted one of my modern mentors: the jolly old internet, thus I discovered that we’ve been gorging on pies since the medieval times and maybe a trifle before then – well, what do ya know! Apparently, during the late 14th century a cookbook which included many recipes for all kinds of pies was written for the chefs of King Richard II.
In fact, during such times a pie was commonly known as a "coffyn" or "coffin", which means container. This was actually a stiff paste created with flour and water that would act as a robust vessel for baked sweet and savoury fillings. Apparently, in Elizabethan England, one would revel, “If it’s good, tis better in a coffyn.”
Darlings, and rather interestingly, the Victorians were still making a similar kind of paste, which the cook would whip together with ingredients such as flour, water, plus the addition of butter, egg, lard, or dripping.
Also, by such era suet crust for meat and sweet pies was terribly popular and so easy to make – just flour, suet, cold water, baking powder, and/or sugar! I say, when I was a nipper Grandmother Josie advised little me that one must bring the pastry together with the blade of a knife, including the likes of suet pastry!
And so, I vividly recall Grandmother Josie reciting one of her mother’s culinary maxims, Great Grandmother Gertie’s to be precise, “Stir with a knife, stir up strife!”
Oh darlings, I like to think it’s an old wive’s tale, but I must say Miss Windsor is very superstitious, so if I ever find myself armed with a knife immersed in a bowl of pastry dough, I always feel utterly compelled to mutter that rather ghastly phrase, but of course, as a matter of caution I do so with all my fingers crossed, including my teeny toes!
Moving swiftly on, now according to the food history records, during the medieval times, one would feast on pies made with a hot water crust. You see, back in those days of beyond pies were an elaborate and exceedingly grand centrepiece of the banqueting table – How fabulous! They were baked in decorative moulds, often glazed, and on occasion would boast a stuffed animal or bird which would, of course, suggest the filling of the pie.
Just one more thing, whilst scouring through the jolly old internet for snippets of information about veal and ham pie, I learned that many recipes for veal and ham pie are actually enwreathed in hot water crust, and some recipes call for whole hard-boiled eggs, not slices. Therefore, suffice to say, I do believe some kind of version of veal and ham pie would’ve perched gracefully on a medieval banqueting table – How fascinating!
Darlings, before you dash to your kitchen to recreate this scrumptious slice of food history, I must say, if you’re a tad put off by the addition of hard-boiled eggs, then may I suggest slices of parboiled potatoes instead.
Cheerio for now,
ALL PHOTOGRAPHY BY MISS WINDSOR - EXCEPT FOR 1940'S FAMILY PHOTO!
Mrs Beeton’s Veal & Ham Pie
Preparation time: 40 minutes
Cooking time: 1 & 1/4 hours
Serves 6 hungry guests!
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