For the love of Pies
Last week saw British Pie Week come round again and what a great thing it is that we celebrate this brilliant food. The British Pie is one of the most diverse and pretty much any flavour is acceptable. We have no qualms about producing Chicken Tikka Masala flavour right alongside a good old Steak and Kidney. That’s just the savoury ones, who can forget that great staple Apple and all the lovely things that you can put with it like Blackcurrant’s or Raspberries. This talk of pies, apart from making me want one, has got me pondering where they come from? Who, if any one, invented the Pie?
You can see why pies were created. Like its spin off the Pasty pies make great edible containers for your dinner later. As soon as humans were able to make flour they found that by adding, water, fats like butter or lard and salt they had a blank canvas that could, once baked, serve as a space saving container for anything they fancied putting in it. As early as the Neolithic Stone Age and Egyptian times we have evidence of a light type of pie called a galette. This tasty treat is a mixture of various cereals, like wheat and oats, crushed, mixed together then baked with a sweet honey centre. Sounds alright doesn’t it? Pharaoh Ramses the Second thought so highly of them he had a picture of them put on his tombs walls.
As with so much else in our modern world it was the Ancient Greeks who came up with the first proper pastry. This starts with the basic recipe that we know today and the sweet tooth Greeks were soon adding dried fruit. If the Greeks had it then you can bet the Roman’s copied it and so they did with pies. They would cover game and meats with a pastry that was designed to stop the meat juices escaping when they baked it. However they didn’t eat the pastry afterwards so it’s not a proper pie as such but they did have a pie with an egg inside or a tiny bird like a Sparrow. For pudding or a treat they liked a nice honey and goat’s cheese pie to finish.
It’s the medieval period where we really start to see the pie’s we know and love. As it is today, a good baker is seen as having great skill and the landed gentry and royalty would look to employ a decent cook to work with them to sort the fillings out. The Pot Pie is the first and this is where the tasty meat and veg filling was presented in a thick crust “pot” with a removable lid. It certainly saved on the washing up. The first documented appearance of pies is that of the good old Mince Pie for Christmas. It wasn’t like the ones we have today as the “mince” inside wasn’t always fruit. Rabbit, Crow, frogs (all cooked first!) or a mixture were also available. It’s where the song Sing a song of Sixpence comes from.
Whilst none of those flavours might float your boat you’re sure to find one you like and remember, eating a pie is a great way of respecting your ancestors and an essential celebration of our heritage!