“An outstanding historical feature of the pie is that it is a self-contained meal which can be eaten in the hand, without the need of cutlery, crockery or napery.”
Janet Clarkson, Pie: A Global History
Meat pies or what some call pasties actually go back to the Neolithic period. That is about 9500 BC. In fact, pies were featured on Egyptian tomb walls. The Egyptian pies were filled with honey and baked over hot coals. Stradley, Linda (19 May 2015). “History of Pies”.
Tilly: Just to confirm: ‘Pies were invented 12,000 years ago by the Egyptians. It was an easy way to preserve food that would be carried over long distances. They were like ancient Slim Jims.’ – Craig Ferguson
The Greeks filled their pies with meats and cooked them under coals. Enter the Romans, who went on to conquer the Greeks and took the pie recipe home with them.
The Roman recipe for the pie crust was flour, oil, and water and not meant according to some historians to be eaten. Meats, oysters, and mussels just to name a few stuffed this nasty pie crust.
“ [Baked picnic] Ham [Pork Shoulder, fresh or cured] Pernam
Tilly: Pernam: (of animals) A thigh-bone, with the meat upon it to the knee-joint, a leg of pork, a ham or gammon of bacon.
The hams should be braised with a good number of figs and some three laurel leaves;
the skin is then pulled off and cut into square pieces; these are macerated with honey.
Thereupon make dough crumbs of flour and oil.  Lay the dough over or around the ham, stud the top with the pieces of the skin so that they will be baked with the dough [bake slowly] and when done, retire from the oven and serve. ”
—Apicius, Book VII, IX, Apicius: Cookery and Dining in Imperial Rome,
Tilly: Make sure you use bay leaves! ALL parts (leaves, berries etc.) of all Laurels, apart from Bay Laurel, are poisonous.
So where did the recipe for today’s modern crust come from. Well Tilly, it wasn’t England, it was in northern Europe. They made their pastry shells with lard and butter.
In fact these medieval dishes were given the tantalizing name of “coffins”.
So what or who changed the name from “coffins” to “pies? Geoffrey Chaucer used the word pie in “The Canterbury Tales” “koude rooste, and sethe, and broille, and frye / Máken mortreux, and wel bake a pye”
One more piece of trivia / history, if the pie had a top piece of crust it was called a “lid”.
Tilly: Of course it was! Coffins always have a lid.
The first fruit pie did not appear until the late 16th century. Queen Elizabeth I was served the first fruit pie in England, it was a cherry pie.
To make a close Tarte of Cherries.
Take out the stones, and laye them as
whole as you can in a Charger, and
put Mustard in, synamon and ginger
to them, and laye them in a Tarte whole,
and close them, and let them stand three quar-
ters of an houre in the Ouen, then take a
sirrope of Muskadine, and damask water
and suger, and serue it.
“The Good Huswifes Jewell” published in1596
Tilly: Cinnamon and ginger are okay, though I love the flavour of cherries au naturel … mustard? Must have been a smidgeon not to spoil the luscious taste and juiciness of the fruit.
Today in England they celebrate those pies, having a “British Pie Week” which is the first week of March.
Tilly: Really? Just looked it up.
Who won British pie Awards 2023?
Leeson Family Butcher wins Best Pork Pie at the British Pie …
Steve Leeson and the team at Leeson Family Butchers in Oakham, Rutland, has been awarded first place in the 2023 British Pie Awards. Leeson Family Butchers have notched up over 100 awards for their Melton Mowbray pork pies and award-winning sausages.
Well, now back to the colonies. Yes, pies were baked in America when the early settlers finally landed. Thank heavens they brought the recipe with them.
Tilly: I gather that fried pies are a thing in the South in the US of A. What are they? Deep fried like doughnuts?
From meat pies to fruit pies it seems they are here to stay. Pies of one variety or another are made around the world.
Tilly: This could put you off cooking for life … ‘If you wish to make an apple pie from scratch, you must first invent the universe.’ – Carl Sagan
Olive and Tilly
Tilly’s Recipe Don’t Tell her but it is good.
Soured Cream Beef Pie – serves 6-8
Soured cream pastry:
12oz/350g plain flour
1 level tspn fine sea/kosher salt
5oz/160g soured cream
3-4oz/75-100g streaky bacon, chopped or use lardons
2 medium carrots, sliced, diced or whatever shape takes your fancy
1 medium onion, sliced thinly
2 sticks celery, thinly sliced
1 tblspn olive oil
1/2 lb/225g quality minced beef
Level t or bls flour
Sea salt and fresh black pepper
2 tbls tomato purée or tomato pesto
¼ pt/5fl.oz/150ml stock
Optional – but not for me – chopped or grated garlic to taste!
Optional – a slug of brandy
Cream Cheese Layer:
4oz/100g cream cheese – better from a deli than supermarket tubs
1 dsstspn cornflour (dessert spoon)
Lots of chopped fresh parsley
Remaining soured cream from making the pastry
Pastry: Blend flour and butter. Add 5 tbls soured cream and egg. Chill on a covered plate till needed.
Filling: Cook the bacon and veg for ten minutes. Add the meat to brown. Add flour, seasonings and fry a further 5 minutes. Add stock and tomato purée or pesto. Simmer for 15 minutes. Leave to cool, then stir in the breadcrumbs.
Cheese Layer: Beat the cream cheese with the soured cream, Add the flour and plenty of chopped parsley.
Assembley: Divide the pastry – cut off a cut for the pie lid. Roll out the larger portion and line a springform cake tin. (I usually put a layer of baking paper on the base.) Add half the cold beef mixture, cover with the cheese mix, top with the rest of the meat. Cover with the pastry lid. Brush with milk or beaten egg.
Bake for 40-45 minutes, Gas No.5/190C (lower in a fan assisted oven)/375F.
This is rather rich, so beware of too large portions! I tend to make it a deeper pie by using more beef.