BRITISH PIE WEEK
This week at Lewis of Radlett we are celebrating British Pie Week with offers and tips on fillings and flavours. But have you ever thought about how the pie came into our cooking heritage?
Like the best things in life you need to look back to those amazing, Egyptians who ate a form of pastry that contained sweet honey, fruit and nuts. Whilst not strictly a pie, that came later after the Ancient Greeks created a flour-water paste substance closely resembling pie pastry and filled it with meat. As the Roman Empire spread, the canny Romans knew a good thing when they saw it and took this Greek food back with them to Rome. It is with the Romans that the pie begins to develop into the pies we know today.
So apart from the aqueduct, sanitation, roads, irrigation, medicine and education, what did the Romans ever do for us?….Pies. The Romans brought the pie during the conquest of Britain and we in turn have put our own unique stamp on it.
In medieval times, pies were elaborate and filled with all manner of exotic fillings including swans, peacocks and magpies. The pie would often be seen as a centre piece rather than something to be eaten. Stuffed birds would it sit atop the pie or it would be decorated to show what the filling inside was.
The French and Italians redefined the pastry of the pie, making it flakier and tastier by new methods of adding butter, rolling, and folding the dough. In 1440, the Paris pastry guild was recognized and started to expand their product and so something like the modern day crust began to be used.
In bustling Victorian London, pie men gave poor, working class families the chance of a hot meal at an affordable price. There were an estimated 600 pie men walking the streets, selling meat, fruit, fish or an eel pies straight from their trays.
In Cornwall, the pie turned into the pasty. Cornish tin miners would take a pasty to work with them. It had a rolled crust which was used as a handle and left uneaten where it was soiled with arsenic-laden ore from the miner’s hand. A whole meal could be safely, taken down into the mines and eaten later. As the Cornish tin miners left to go to the colonies, they took their pasty with them. This in turn, worked itself into other countries food heritage.
Today, the pie can be a simple pastry cover over meat for a quick meal to the exquisite Melton Mowbray Pork Pie. All are delicious and all are being celebrated at Lewis of Radlett this week.