Pot luck

We had our monthly medieval “pot luck” dinner in Goulburn last weekend.

Not everybody was there, but that’s the idea.  It’s intended as a monthly dinner with our friends, which just happens to be in medieval garb.

Ally made some portuguese custard tarts, which she often does when we are knee-deep in duck eggs.  As usual they were delicious.

I had another go at making some individual pies.

My goal is a little pie for one person, which looks medieval and has a rich and tasty venison filling.  This wasn’t it, as I didn’t get organised to pick up some venison, but perhaps it moved the quest a little closer.

A while ago, Ally gave me a 1970s-vintage book on pie-making, that she found while browsing in Bowral.  It had some good recipes for hot-water pastries, particularly in the context of cold pork pies and the like.

Allison and Fiona (a Canadian wwoofer who stayed with us recently) were experimenting recently.  Allison has been trying, with good success, to make large free-standing hot pies made without containers.

In medieval times they made very stiff pastries, with little shortening.  You would model them by hand, and you’d eat then insides then throw away the pastry, or pass it on to the poor.  I’ve made pies like that several times, once in the shape of little owls.  But it does seem a waste.

When we cater for large feasts we have to make some compromises.  And people are disappointed if they can’t eat the pastry.

Allison made me up some of the hot-water pastry, which has lard shortening.  We used one-third wholemeal flour to get a more medieval look.

My innovation was to make up the pies in little ramekin dishes.  The filling was put in, top put on, and the whole lot partly baked.  With practice, you can then wiggle the pies out of the ramekins and onto a tray, ready for glazing and their second stage cooking.  They slump elegantly and do have a visual authenticity.

I was pretty happy with how they worked.  In future I’ll drop the proportion of wholemeal, and our friend Del recommends using beef dripping to get a crisper pastry.  The filling was OK but not fantastic, but that wasn’t my major concern this time.

I hope to report back again later.

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