National Pie Week: Pie-Off in Special Collections
Until Maia moved to Scotland, she had never known that macaroni cheese and pastry went together. Now, Maia knows that you can put anything in a pie if you live here. However, this is not a new phenomenon, the idea of a handy pastry crust wrapping and protecting your lunch before the invention of Tupperware and clingfilm is an ancient one, and so is the mac’n’pastry combo. There really is nothing new under the sun. So, this week we are celebrating this portable food in National Pie Week by re-creating some historic pies, tarts and pasties from our collections.
Two of our chosen pies, a venison and mutton pie and a macaroni pudding (pie), came from the Edwards family cook book (ms38783). This was a real family treasure, used and added to over a number of generations. The first recipes by Elizabeth Edwards of Henlow Warden, Bedfordshire, are from the 1750s, and more by family members and friends were added into the 1850s.
Despite the reputation in Scotland for heavy meat pies, such as the Scotch pie, most staff opted to make fruit-based pies and tarts for our pie competition, perhaps a reflection of the sweet tooth of many in Special Collections!
Most of the recipes chosen came from Martha Brotherton’s Vegetable Cookery, which has been featured on this blog before. First published in 1812; our copy is the fourth edition, published in 1833. Martha was married to Joseph Brotherton MP for Salford in 1832, minister of the Bible Christian Church and a founding member of the Vegetarian Society. Members of the Bible Christian Church were committed to a vegetarian diet and abstinence from alcohol, a way of life echoed in the subtitle of Martha’s cook book: “recommending abstinence from animal food and intoxicating liquors”. So, the venison and mutton pie, cooked in wine and brandy, would not have been Martha’s choice for pie week!
For one of the recipes we ventured into the more recent past with Lucy Milligan’s St Andrews Festival Cookbook, published by the Festival Committee in 1982. Recipe contributions “came from people with very different but significant links with St. Andrews both as a town and a university”. The recipe for Raisin Pie was given by Lady Douglas. It presumably refers back to the Raisin Monday tradition in St Andrews, which has been blogged about in a previous blog.
Here are the recipes and comments from staff on our pastry offerings:
Orange Tart (1833) from Vegetable Cookery
Staff described this tart as ‘Paddington pie’ due to its very orangey and tangy flavour but one asked if this was cheating due to the simplicity of the recipe!
Cranberry Tart (1833) from Vegetable Cookery
The Cranberry tart received the most positive comments on flavour – “love the sugar on the pastry, good balance between the tartness of cranberry and sweetness of pastry” and “crumbly deliciousness!”
Pear Pie (1833) from Vegetable Cookery
The pear pie was one of the most elegant offerings to our competition with a moist subtle pear flavour and lovely pastry and decorations. It looked so good that a slice went missing before it arrived!
Spinach Tart (1833) from Vegetable Cookery
The only savoury tart picked from Vegetable Cookery was a Spinach Tart. Staff commented on the “smooth spinach and flaky pastry”. The added decoration was also a nice touch.
Raisin Pie (1982) St Andrews Festival Cook Book
The most modern of our recipes was the Raisin Pie taken from the St Andrews Festival Cook Book. Staff said that it was sweet and tart and very moreish.
Venison Pasty (c.1800)
The only meat pie (or pasty) chosen was from the Edwards family cookbook:
A Venison Pasty
Bone a Breast or Shoulder of Venison, season it with Mace, Pepper & Salt, lay it in a deep pot with the best part of a neck of mutton cut in slices and laid over the venison. Pour in a large glass of Port wine. Put a coarse paste over it & bake it two hours. Then lay the Venison in a dish & pour the gravy & put one pound of butter over it, make a good puff paste lay it near half an inch thick round the edge of the dish, roll out the lid which must be a little thicker than the Paste on the edge & cover it up. An Hour will bake it. When it comes from the oven put in a glass of Brandy or Sherry & serve it up if eat hot – if it is not wanted directly it will keep in the Pot it was bak’d in 7 or 8 days. Keep the Coarse Crust on to prevent the air coming to it.
The ‘coarse paste’ was a rolled-out lid of shortcrust pastry used in the same way as aluminium foil today, to keep the meat from drying out while it was cooking. It would probably be thrown away after use.
Staff commented on the alcohol and meat in this pie saying that it was “very boozy!”, had “too much brandy!” and that the “meat too strong for me.” Others though commented that it was “very tasty especially the pastry” and some staff even had the pie for their lunch!
Macaroni pudding (or tart) (c.1800)
The final recipe is the Macaroni Pudding or Tart. For many, the macaroni pie is a core part of Scottish cuisine, macaroni cheese in a Scotch pie case. However, in many of the historical recipe books we find that the macaroni tart was a sweet dish, much like a custard tart with added macaroni for texture. There are similar recipes in both Vegetable Cookery and the Edwards family cook book. Both involve a custard with cinnamon and nutmeg, though in the manuscript version there is also lemon zest and the pasta is boiled in milk. The printed recipe requires puff pastry while the macaroni pudding in the manuscript version is more open to interpretation requiring a ‘crust around the edge’.
A ¼ Lb of Macaroni boiled in
a quart of milk until tender
some Lemon Peel, 3 oz of butter
4 eggs with one white a
little ground cinnamon, a little
nutmeg and lump sugar –
butter a dish, put crust round
the edge of the dish and bake
it one hour
Our pie maker followed the manuscript version as closely as possible (with added sweet shortcrust pastry) though did attempt one version with the cream specified in the 1833 printed recipe. Staff overwhelming preferred the version without the cream with the sweet pastry saying of it: “tastes like custard tart”, “surprisingly lemony”, “reminiscent of rice pudding”, “I liked the subtle flavours and creaminess”. Not everyone was a fan with some saying it was bland and a bit like school dinners! Many commented on the texture of the pudding and a cross section in which you can see the macaroni is quite pretty.
While we didn’t crown a winner (Eddie was supposed to be the judge, but then he ended up making a pie, so wouldn’t have been impartial), we certainly had fun making and eating pies. We hope you also can enjoy National Pie Week and have a go at making your own pastry based treats!
Assistant Rare Books Librarian
Principal Archives Assistant
14 thoughts on "National Pie Week: Pie-Off in Special Collections"
Very interesting ; )
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Nice Information, From World Eye Watch
So much great info, thanksx
very interesting article - and fascinating to see how people used to eat. @peace-of-pie you might enjoy this x
I feel hungry now! You can't beat a good pie. Especially if it's steak and kidney!
This is a thing!? Oh my...I’m in love!
All the pies apart, A Venison Pasty, what a beautiful handwriting! And in ink!
Enjoyed the article, wish I could have sampled some myself! Like my father used to say whenever he was told there was pie for dinner, I only like two kinds of pie- hot and cold.
Great to hear you enjoyed the blog!