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A brief history of the great British pie

It's British Pie Week, and to celebrate we asked Food Tube's very own Katie Pix to delve into the history of one of Britain's favourite dishes to reveal the life of pie.

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Gluten-free chicken pie

With ham, leeks & a cheesy crust

You'd never know this shortcrust pastry is gluten-free – the cheese and egg help bind the flour for the perfect texture

Be it steak and kidney, chicken and leek or humble apple, the good-old pie is Britain on a plate. Unassuming and simple it may seem, but there’s a much richer history to this perfectly packaged pick-me-up than meets the eye.

Pie-like dishes have been around since the ancient Egyptians, but the idea of enclosing a filling inside a sort-of-pastry made from flour and oil actually originated in ancient Rome. The first published recipe featured a decadent rye dough filled with goat’s cheese and honey – surprisingly delicious sounding for ancient Roman food!

However, the pie we know and love today has its roots in Northern Europe. Back in the day, olive oil was scarce to nonexistent in the region. Instead, butter and lard were the fats of choice in the harsher and colder climes north of the Mediterranean. The use of these solid fats created a pastry that could be rolled and moulded – and so the true pie was born.

We defy you to beat this gluten-free chicken pie

The early “pyes” were predominately meat pies. In the 12th century, the need for nutritious, long-lasting food that was easy to store and carry, particularly at sea, was initially solved by taking livestock along with a butcher or cook. Needless to say, the ships quickly became pretty cramped, so a solution was found – a crust! The hardened pastry packages were not necessarily eaten – think of them as disposable medieval Tupperware. Fruit pies did not appear until the late 16th century, when Queen Elizabeth I was served the first cherry pie.

The expression “to eat humble pie” derives from umble pie, which was a pie filled with the chopped or minced innards of an animal. Umble evolved from “numble”, after the French “nomble”, meaning deer’s innards. It is believed that the cheap offal filling meant it was more commonly eaten by the poor. You may think the dish’s name derived from its humble status, but oddly there is no etymological link between umble and humble – the phrase evolved by chance as an idiom over the years.

The origin of festive mince pies can be traced back to the 13th century, when European crusaders returned home from the Middle East with recipes containing meats, fruits and spices. Because of their religious ties (eaten in the build-up to Christmas), mince pies were banned during Oliver Cromwell’s period of power in the mid-17th century. Cromwell was a staunch puritan and such frivolities as Christmas and pies were not to be tolerated. For 16 years, pie eating and making went underground (the first rule of Pie Club is…) until the pie ban was lifted following the Restoration of the monarchy in 1660.

Pumpkin pie was first introduced to the holiday table at the pilgrim’s second Thanksgiving in 1623. Pumpkins were one of the earliest foods the first European explorers brought back from the New World. It’s hard to imagine an American Thanksgiving table, now, without the ubiquitous orange-crusted custard.

Its exact origins are unknown, but the first formal mention of Key lime pie as a recipe may have been made by William Curry, a ship salvager and Key West’s first millionaire. His cook, Aunt Sally, made the pie for him and if the rumours are true, it’s likely that Aunt Sally adapted the recipe already created by local sponge fishermen. Sponge fishermen spent many days on their boats, and stored their food on board, including nutritional basics such as canned milk (which would not spoil without refrigeration), limes and eggs. Without access to ovens out at sea, the original recipe for Key lime pie did not call for cooking the mixture of lime, milk, and eggs.


Pie has become so much a part of American culture that we now commonly use the term “as American as apple pie”. But as popular as the tasty dessert might be in the land of the free, it isn’t actually American. When colonists arrived in North America, they found only crab apple trees – and if you’ve ever tried to eat a crab apple, you’d know they are not pie-appropriate. The Romans are thought to have introduced apples to England, and intrepid Brits brought them to the New World when they settled in America. The first recorded recipe for apple pie was written in 1381 in England, and called for figs, raisins, pear and saffron, in addition to apples.


Sing a song of sixpence, a pocketful of rye, four and 20 blackbirds baked in a pie. When the pie was opened, the birds began to sing. Now wasn’t that a dainty dish to set before a king?

In medieval times, pie crusts were thick and could be baked first, rising to form a pot – hence the term “pot pie”. Contrary to the popular nursery rhyme, the birds were not actually baked in the pie, but rather placed under the removable lid after cooking and unveiled before the excited host of the banquet. Chefs would get quite competitive at feasts and try to outdo other lords and ladies’ cooks. It is said that not only were birds “baked” into pies, but also rabbits, frogs, dogs, dwarves (who would pop out and recite poetry) and at one time a whole musical troupe.

So as you can see, any way you slice it, the simple pie actually has a long and interesting history in Britain and beyond. Celebrate National Pie Week with some of Jamie’s epic recipes and tell us your favourite lidded delight – it’s easy as pie!

Pie recipes

Perfect pastry and delicious fillings, both sweet and savoury. Cut a slice and dig in.

Chicken, kale & mushroom pot pie

A satisfying chicken and mushroom one-pot that makes a great family supper or freeze leftovers for another day.

Chicken & mushroom puff pie

This is just what you need on a cold night. Serve with creamy mashed potatoes

Indian potato pie

This impressive vegetarian pie is really versatile - it tastes great hot, warm or cold, so you can make it well ahead

Chicken, leek & mushroom pies

Make these creamy chicken, leek and mushroom pies from scratch or use up leftover roast chicken and make a stock from the bones. They require a little extra effort, but they're worth it

Veggie shepherd’s pie with sweet potato mash

The secret to this shepherd's pie filling is to choose big carrots so they don’t lose their texture when cooked

Shepherd’s Pie (Cottage Pie)

Have you ever had a shepherd’s pie? If not, you’re missing out. We’ve got a from-scratch authentically-made recipe that you’ve really got to try! But first, let’s talk about the history of one of Britain‘s most beloved dishes and why it’s so adored by the English and non-English alike.

What is the origin of shepherd’s pie?

Shepherd’s pie first came about late in the 1700s and early 1800s. Accordingly, housewives back then were on the frugal side. Much like we do today, they were looking for ways to incorporate those leftovers that husbands and kids would turn up their noses at. The struggle was real back then just like today.

Shepherd’s pie, common and inexpensive British dish originated from the sheep country in Scotland and northern England. It is a homely thing in one or another sense of the word, depending on your point of view. The coziest comfort food on a wintry night, shepherd’s pie in different guise. Comfort comes from fresh ingredients selected for the very purpose of assembling the pie.

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Originally, shepherd’s pie was made from chunks of meat, probably leftover from a roast, as mincing machines weren’t invented until the 1870s. The dish as we know it, though, couldn’t have originated before potatoes became generally accepted in the UK, which wasn’t until the end of the 1700s.

Before that, the dish or a very similar one was made in Scotland, but topped with a pastry crust instead of mashed potato. The name for the dish appeared in the 1870s.

How to make a shepherd’s pie

While shepherd’s pie certainly came about as a way to put those leftovers to good use, the results were delicious. Recipes vary widely but have the same basic structure. There’s a crust of mashed potatoes on the top and bottom. Inside, there’s minced meat.

The meat is simmered in a gravy of onions and other vegetables like celery, carrots or peas, sometimes all of these. The result is something comforting and delicious that will warm you from the inside out. So while the history of this dish is anything but mystifying, it is something that Irish and English cooks like to put their own unique spin on. Like anything else, it’s fun to try out different seasonings and vegetables. And just like everyone makes mashed potatoes in their own way, the whole thing can be an incredibly diverse experience.

What is the difference between shepherd’s pie and cottage pie?

Originally, a pie made with any kind of meat and mashed potato was called a cottage pie. In modern British English, the dish is usually called “cottage pie” if it is made with beef. If it is made with lamb, it is usually called “shepherd’s pie” (because a shepherd looks after sheep). Both have mashed potatoes on top, and occasionally on the bottom as well.

The name “cottage” was applied to this kind of meat pie around the time potatoes were being introduced in the UK, because they were an affordable thing to eat for peasants, many of whom would live in cottages.

The term “cottage pie” predates “shepherds” by nearly a century, but each was used synonymously with the other for a long time. According to the Oxford Companion to Food, Scotland used to make its shepherd’s pies with pastry instead of mashed potatoes.

Although variations of this dish crop up throughout history, no name for it came into use until the introduction of the mincing machine. Before that, the meat would have to be chopped by hand, or made from leftovers.

This version of shepherd’s pie calls for ground lamb, readily available in most supermarkets. If you have a tight relationship with your butcher, ask them to grind it fresh. This pie was actually created as a way to use up leftover lamb, probably over a century ago. It is completely worth making even without leftover lamb.

What are the variations of shepherd’s pie?

The recipe has many variations, but the defining ingredients are minced red meat, cooked in a gravy or sauce with onions and sometimes other vegetables, such as peas, celery or carrots, and topped with a layer of mashed potato before it is baked. The pie is sometimes also topped with grated cheese to create a layer of melted cheese on top.

The modern Cumberland pie is a version with either beef or lamb and a layer of breadcrumbs and cheese on top. In medieval times, and modern-day Cumbria, the pastry crust had a filling of meat with fruits and spices.

In Quebec, a variation on the cottage pie is called pâté chinois. It is made with ground beef on the bottom layer, canned corn in the middle, and mashed potato on top.

The shepherdess pie is a vegetarian version made without meat, or a vegan version made without meat and dairy.

In the Netherlands, a very similar dish called philosopher’s stew (Dutch: filosoof) often adds ingredients like beans, apples, prunes, or apple sauce.

In Brazil, a dish called escondidinho refers to the fact that a manioc purée hides a layer of sun-dried meat. The dish often includes cheese, and chicken or cod are sometimes used instead of beef.

In France, hachis Parmentier is what comes the closest to shepherd’s pie. Hachis Parmentier used to be prepared with mashed baked potatoes that were combined with diced meat and sauce lyonnaise (a French sauce of demi-glace, white wine, vinegar and onions) and served in the potato skins. However, the modern version is exactly the same as a shepherd’s pie or a cottage pie. This traditional French recipe was invented by Antoine-Augustin Parmentier, a French pharmacist and nutritionist, in the late 18th century.

The best recipes for shepherd’s pie keep things simple and season the dish with abandon. If using an herb, stick to one and choose a lot of it. Forego false finery and choose good organic sourced ingredients. The mashed potato on top should have lots of butter and milk in it. Ideally, they’re not mashed too smoothly.

The British pie – 10 fun facts you didn’t know

1. Pie is an ancient dish invented by the Romans
They gave us roads and running water and the Romans are also credited with giving us pie – the first example of a meat filling enclosed in a basic pastry made of flour and oil can be traced back to ancient Rome.

2. Pie crust was originally used as tupperware
The crusty top/lid of a pie actually served to preserve the food as a sort of container – in fact the shells were tough and basically inedible but they served well as a sort of utensil to eat the filling before being discarded.

3. The theatre of pie
Medieval chefs were often tasked with outdoing one another for their masters entertainment. Birds are said to have flown out of pies and it’s even rumoured that dwarves came out of pies at feasts.

4. Fruit pies and the Tudor connection
Called ‘pyes’ in medieval England and filled with meat, fruit pies first appeared in the 1500s, but British tradition says that the first cherry pie was served to Queen Elizabeth I in the late 16th century.

5. Mince pies were once banned
Legend has it that in the 17th century Oliver Cromwell (Lord Protector of the Commonwealth) banned eating mince pies at Christmas as he saw it as a sign of gluttony. Luckily the ban didn’t last long and we are able to enjoy the delicious pies once more.

6. To eat humble pie
‘Umble pie’, a pie made from the innards of deer, was said to be a dish for the lower classes as venison was reserved for the wealthy. But while it might be fun to put ‘humble’ and ‘umble’ together, there’s no real evidence to link this saying with the dish.

7. The Cornish delicacy that features fish that stare at you
Stargazy pie involves baking seven types of fish, including herring and mackerel, and a filling of eggs, potatoes and thickened milk. Whole pilchards are then arranged so their heads (and sometimes tails) emerge from a shortcrust pastry topping. The pie is traditionally cooked in the fishing village of Mousehole on 23 December to celebrate Tom Bawcock’s Eve, a day commemorating the heroic 16th-century fisherman who braved winter storms in his boat to ensure the locals didn’t go hungry over Christmas.

8. Jellied Eels is a popular pie accompaniment in East London
In London, pie shops often sell jellied eels –a classic Cockney dish of native British eels, boiled and then cooled – as an accompaniment to pie.

9. ‘Death by pie’ has been cemented in literary legend
Shakespeare killed off two characters in Titus Andronicus by baking them into a pie, and Sweeney Todd, the fictional Victorian character who ran a London barber shop, disposed of his victims by baking them into pies.

10. Pies pop-up in many a nursery rhyme
Four and twenty blackbirds were baked in a pie in ‘Sing a Song of Sixpence’, Simple Simon met a pieman in his eponymous rhyme a nd even Little Jack Horner stuck his thumb into a pie.

A brief history of baking

When did people in Britain first start baking bread, cakes and biscuits? What ingredients and equipment did they use, and was baking expensive? Here, food historians Professor John Walter and Dr Sara Pennell explore the history of baking…

This competition is now closed

Published: August 28, 2018 at 3:00 pm

Middle Ages

In the medieval period baking was a luxury few were able to enjoy. But those who could afford a wood-burning stove (and to heat it) would start with bread. The better the quality, the higher up the social order you were

Ovens were not a standard fixture in any household, so bread-baking never really entered the home in the medieval period, says Pennell. It was a niche, commercial activity. For example, you had bread-bakers in London.

Rich people ate fine, floured wheat bread. But if you were poor you cut your teeth on rye and black bread, says Walter. Only the very wealthy ate the cakes we tend to think of today. But they were much heavier – 10 to 20lbs. This was subsistence-focused baking, with an emphasis on bread and pies.

“If you were wealthy, your baked goods would be rich in exotic colour. But if you were poor, you were grateful if you could afford meat for your pie,” says Walter.

15th century

Britain saw an explosion of expensive spices, such as saffron, in the 15th century. Sweet dough, with lots of cream and butter, started to be enjoyed by those who could afford it

The wigg – a small bun made with sweetened dough and herbs and spices – became popular.

But mince pies were made with minced beef or mutton, and biscuits were “the equivalent of Ryvita – pretty nasty stuff,” says Walter.

Meanwhile, gingerbread was made with breadcrumbs.

16th and 17th centuries

Baking was transformed in the 16th and 17th centuries by globalisation, which heralded an explosion of treacle and currants. Plump cake and bready dough with lots of butter, cream and raisins became popular

Economic growth prompted an emerging middle class, and baking ‘trickled down’, says Walter. Amid growing wealth and social change, people could think about eating things other than bread, and imitate the upper-class diet.

Baking became more accessible, and so more people started to bake cakes and biscuits.

By the late 17th century sugar was cheap, and so you saw the emergence of mince pies as we know them, made with sugar and spices. And with the refinement of flour you saw the development of gingerbread as we know it.

From the 16th century came the first cookery literature, in which you start to see recipes for things we might recognise today as small, yeasted cakes and buns, says Pennell. They would be eaten as part of the dessert course, to help you digest the rich meal you had eaten beforehand.

You also started to see the emergence of kitchen equipment, such as the ‘cake hoop’ – that is, a cake tin. The tin was lined with buttered paper.

But cakes were made with ale and were very solid. The modern-day equivalent, in terms of the yeast-bread-based dough, would be a lardy cake. Seed cakes were also popular.

Pastries, too, were considered fashionable in the late 17th century. The English prided themselves on their pastry-making and it was considered a skill all good housewives should have, says Pennell. London cookery schools also began to teach pastry-making – it was a fashionable skill.

18th century

Cake-making soared in popularity in the 18th century, but the industrial revolution from 1760 saw a return to more stodgy baked goods

The 18th century was when cake-making really took off, says Dr Pennell.

The Art of Cookery, written by Hannah Glasse and published in 1747, contained a catalogue of cake recipes. Integral to this was the development of the semi-closed oven. “The development of baking is as much to do with technology as it is taste,” says Pennell.

Fast-forward to the industrial revolution and Britain saw a return to heavy baking, where the working class ate bread and jam, says Walter. But at Easter, Christmas and other seasonal occasions, a richer diet would be available to even the poorer members of society.

Merchants and shopkeepers could afford ovens by the 18th century, and to bake.

19th century

Convenience food grew in popularity in the 19th century, and the advent of baking powder saw cakes become lighter

As more working-class women were employed in the 19th century, they had less time for elaborate food preparation, says Walter. “We often think of the ‘fast food culture’ as being a recent thing, but women in Britain in the 19th century increasingly relied on convenience food such as pasties and pies.”

Meanwhile, the introduction of baking powder saw the style of cakes change from dense, yeast-based bakes, into cakes made with flour, eggs, fat and a raising agent.

Professor John Walter is Emeritus Professor in the Department of History at the University of Essex, specialising in popular political culture in early modern England.

Dr Sara Pennell is a senior history lecturer at the University of Greenwich who specialises in social and cultural histories of 17th and 18th-century Britain, with particular interests in food cultures, health and architecture.

This article was first published by History Extra in October 2013

Pressure Cookers, a Potted History

Hello everyone! It’s been a while hasn’t it? My apologies but getting the book ready for handing in took rather longer than expected.

I thought I’d break the ice with a post all about the pressure cooker – an odd subject to choose, you may think, but bear with me, for it has a particularly interesting genesis. (Also, I recently received one from my sister-in-law.)

Pressure cookers are ingenious things because they cook food much more quickly than regular saucepans or stockpots, and this is because the food – usually a stock or casserole – is cooked under high pressure and therefore a higher temperature. A regular pot of water boils at 100°C, but cannot reach a higher temperature because the water becomes steam, boiling away into the ether. However, place a sealed lid on top, the steam – a gas – cannot escape and consequently pressure builds up in the air space within the cooker. Because the steam it at high pressure, it’s harder for water to enter the gaseous phase, and it requires more energy to do so, effectively raising the boiling point. Inside a domestic pressure cooker, water boils at 120°C (around 2 atmospheres of pressure), and reduces the cook time by as much as 80%.

Until recently, I was a bit dubious about cooking in this way, because whenever I make stock, or slowly braise some meat, I bathe the meat and vegetables in water or stock at around 80°C, I don’t boil them that usually results in tough meat and a lot of scum. Not good. The thought of cooking something at 120°C and having something tender as a result, seemed unintuitive, but I was wrong, tenderness is expected in fact some “gourmets” are of the opinion that the meat is too soft and cannot “replace the traditional method of simmering.”

Its origin story goes right back to the 17 th century. French physician Denis Papin invented his ‘Digester’, as he called it a large cylindrical sealed chamber, heated over coals able to reach pressures of eight atmospheres (boiling point around 175°). He presented it to the Royal Society in 1679 amongst the fellows were luminaries such as Isaac Newton and Robert Hooke, and so impressed were they that they commissioned his book A New Digester or Engine for Softening Bones in 1681. The next year, he cooked the Society a Digester dinner. Present at the meal was the great diarist and champion of salads, John Evelyn, who later wrote:

12th April, 1682. I went this afternoon with several of the Royal Society to a supper which was all dressed, both fish and flesh, in Monsieur Papin’s digestors, by which the hardest bones of beef itself, and mutton, were made as soft as cheese, without water or other liquor, and with less than eight ounces of coals, producing an incredible quantity of gravy and for close of all, a jelly made of the bones of beef, the best for clearness and good relish, and the most delicious that I had ever seen, or tasted. We ate pike and other fish, bones and all, without impediment…the natural juice of all these provisions acting on the grosser substances, reduced the hardest bones to tenderness…I sent a glass of the jelly to my wife, to the reproach of all that the ladies ever made of their best hartshorn.

So it seems that Evelyn not only confirms that cooking under pressure makes meat – and even bone – exceedingly tender, but also that it is a very good thing.

As good as it may be, that it was invented in the first place seems rather odd – why build a machine for softening bones? Papin makes his objective very clear: “no body can deny that…by the help of the Engine here treated thereof, the oldest and hardest Cow-Beef may be made as tender and as savoury as young and choice meat.” Cheap cuts that cost little but require a lot of fuel to cook tenderly, were suddenly quick to prepare and very pleasurable to eat, and he knew that this had huge implications for the working poor, and the improvement of their scant, and often miserable, diet.

Papin was very influential as part of the Royal Society, and worked alongside Robert Boyle, assisting him in his experiments exploring the nature of pressure, the result of which being Boyle’s Law. It wasn’t long before someone realised that his Digester had potential beyond the softening of bones: “all you need to do is attach a piston and you have begun to produce a steam engine.”

The Digester as a piece of cooking equipment did not take off – it was expensive to build and could be rather dangerous. It wasn’t until the addition of safety valves that effectively stopped the pressure from getting too high, and safety locks preventing the lid from flying off if opened too soon, would it become more common. This would take a while, and domestic pressure cookers only became available in Britain from 1949 where they were “hailed with delight”. The cookers were still prone to exploding, and they still wouldn’t become very popular until the 1970s when safety legislation was tightened further.

Today, pressure cookers are very safe and are very easy to use though I do admit I was a little worried using one for the first time. With a pressure cooker, a rich beef stock can be made in 2 ½ hours rather than 12, making stock-making suddenly economically-viable. This fact convinced me to give it a go. After a quick rummage in the freezer, I found not beef bones but hogget bones, leftover from the legs I roasted for the podcast and Grigson blog last year (see here and here). The resulting stock was magnificent – richer and more delicious than any meat stock I had cooked before. Then, I tested it out on some pigeons, cooking them pie-style just as John Evelyn had mentioned in his diary, but you’ll have to wait until the next post to hear about that!

A New Digester or Engine for Softening Bones (1681) by Denis Papin. Available to view at:

The Diary of John Evelyn Volume II (1665-1706) by John Evelyn. Available at:

The Instant Pot of the 1600s Was Known as ‘the Digester of Bones’, Atlas Obscura website (2018):

Larousse Gastronomique (2001)

Marguerite Patten’s Century of British Cooking (2015) by Marguerite Patten

British Meat Pies

Todd Coleman

From traditional dishes like mincemeat pies to modern takes on old classics, these savory pies are a British delight.

Stargazy Pie (English Sardine Pie)

In this whimsical Cornish dish, whole sardines poke their heads through the crust of a savory pie filled with bacon, hard-boiled eggs, and a mustard-laced custard. Get the recipe for Stargazy Pie (English Sardine Pie) »

Steak and Stilton Pies

Pungent Stilton cheese and malty stout beer enrich the filling in these classic Lancashire meat pies. See the Recipe for Steak and Stilton Pies » This traditional Lancashire pork pie recipe is typically served cold, often with a dollop of English mustard. See the recipe for English Pork Pie

Modern Mincemeat Pie

Currants, raisins, nuts, and spices sweeten up this traditional chopped beef pie. See the recipe for Modern Mincemeat Pie

Traditional Mincemeat Pie

A version of mincemeat pie featured in the classic 1861 volume of _[Mrs. Beeton’s Book of Household Management](/ Shepherd’s pie gets its name from the romantic notion that it was eaten by shepherds in the north of England long ago! We decided to make ours with lamb, keeping the spirit of the idea. See the recipe for Shepherd’s Pie

GBBO: Who invented the caged tart? Was it actually Nicholas Cage?

But as host Noel is known for telling lots of jokes, it’s hard to tell how accurate this piece of information really is.

So who invented the caged tart? Was it actually Nicholas Cage? We done some research to find out the pastry dish’s history!

Did Nicholas Cage invent the caged tart?

Nicholas is a 56-year-old American actor and filmmaker. He has starred in a number of films, such as Leaving Las Vegas, Ghost Rider and Spiderman: Into the Spider Verse to name just a few.

According to Noel, a caged tart – a tart contained in a lattice cage – was invented by actor Nicolas Cage.

MasterChef 2021 | Trailer - BBC Trailers

However, it’s likely that it’s all a joke, because Matt Lucas says he already knew that, and goes on to add that Nicholas Cage watches Great British Bake Off and Homes Under the Hammer.

Given that Nicholas was once considered one of Hollywood’s highest paid actors and has a busy work schedule while living in Los Angeles, one can only assume this is unlikely!

However, in the past, many viewers have wondered if Bake Off’s name is inspired by the Face Off film which stars Nicholas Cage, playing a terrorist called Caster Troy.

Who invented the caged tart?

According to, tarts in general come from from the Medieval pie-making tradition, and are in fact a kind of flat, open-faced pie.

Short crusts came into common use about two hundred years after pies, in 1550. But the caged tart is just one section of the circle of tarts!

The name of the exact person who invented caged tarts is unknown.

I miss the history bit on bake off. I mean, where the fuck does a caged tart come from?#gbbo

— Princess Geia (@GuyOHarrison) October 20, 2020

Fans react to GBBO’s caged tarts

Most viewers recognised that Noel was joking, however the potential truth of it was welcomed by them.

One Twitter user said: “It would genuinely not surprise me if Nicholas Cage’s fave shows WERE Great British Bake Off and Homes Under the Hammer. #GBBO.”

Many fans also insinuated that the cage was representative of their time spent during lockdown.

One viewer said: “Bake off’s showstopper giving a representation of me during lockdown… “a caged tart” #GBBO.”

While another wrote: “Caged tart is many of us in lockdown…”

They have to make a caged tart for the bake off show stopper tonight..

Im half expecting to see a pastry version of myself in lockdown #BakeOff

— LozzaMcNozza (@LozMcNick) October 20, 2020


History of Pies

The purpose of a pastry shell was mainly to serve as a baking dish, storage container, and serving vessel, and these are often too hard to actually eat. For hundreds of years, it was the only form of baking container used, meaning everything was a pie.

The first pies, called “coffins” or “coffyns” (the word actually meant a basket or box) were savory meat pies with the crusts or pastry being tall, straight-sided with sealed-on floors and lids. Open-crust pastry (not tops or lids) were known as “traps.” These pies held assorted meats and sauce components and were baked more like a modern casserole with no pan (the crust itself was the pan, its pastry tough and inedible). These crust were often made several inches thick to withstand many hours of baking. According to Janet Clarkson in her book, Pie: A Global History:

“It is surely not likely that such a hard-won resource was simply discarded after the contents were eaten even in the great houses. The crust may not have been intended for lords and ladies, but the well-to-do were obliged to feed their servants and were also expected to feed the local poor. Would not this largesse of sauce-soaked crust be distributed to the scullery boys and the hungry clamoring at the gate?”

A small pie was known as a tartlet and a tart was a large, shallow open pie (this is still the definition in England). Since pastry was a staple ingredient in medieval menus, pastry making was taken for granted by the majority of early cookbooks, and recipes are not usually included. It was not until the 16th century that cookbooks with pastry ingredients began appearing. Historian believe this was because cookbooks started appearing for the general household and not just for professional cooks.

6000 B.C. – Historians have recorded that the roots of pie can loosely be traced back to the ancient Egyptians during the Neolithic Period or New Stone Age beginning around 6000 BC. The Neolithic Period is characterized by the use of stone tools shaped by polishing or grinding, the domestication of plants or animals, the establishment of permanent villages, and the practice of such crafts as pottery and weaving. These early forms of pies are known as galettes, which are essentially rustic free-form pies. Our ancestors made these pie-like treats with oat, wheat, rye, and barley, then filled them with honey and baked the dish over hot coals.

1304 to 1237 B.C. – The bakers to the pharaohs incorporated nuts, honey, and fruits in bread dough, a primitive form of pastry. Drawings of this can be found etched on the tomb walls of Ramses II, located in the Valley of the Kings. King Ramses II was the third pharaoh in the 19th dynasty. He ruled from 1304 to 1237 B.C.

The tradition of galettes was carried on by the Greeks. Historians believe that the Greeks actually originated pie pastry. The pies during this period were made by a flour-water paste wrapped around meat this served to cook the meat and seal in the juices.

The Romans, sampling the delicacy, carried home recipes for making it (a prize of victory when they conquered Greece). The wealthy and educated Romans used various types of meat in every course of the meal, including the dessert course (secundae mensea). According to historical records, oysters, mussels, lampreys, and other meats and fish were normal in Roman puddings. It is thought that the puddings were a lot like pies..

160 B.C. – The Roman statesman, Marcus Porcius Cato (234-149 B.C.), also know as Cato the Elder, wrote a treatise on agriculture called De Agricultura. He loved delicacies and recorded a recipe for his era’s most popular pie/cake called Placenta. They were also called libum by the Romans, and were primarily used as an offering to their gods. Placenta was more like a cheesecake, baked on a pastry base, or sometimes inside a pastry case.

The delights of the pie spread throughout Europe, via the Roman roads, where every country adapted the recipes to their customs and foods.

16th Century

1545 – A cookbook from the mid 16th century that also includes some account of domestic life, cookery and feasts in Tudor days, called A Proper newe Booke of Cokerye, declarynge what maner of meates be beste in season, for al times in the yere, and how they ought to be dressed, and serued at the table, bothe for fleshe dayes, and fyshe dayes, has a recipe for a short paest for tarte:

“To Make Short Paest for Tarte – Take fyne floure and a cursey of fayre water and a dysche of swete butter and a lyttel saffron, and the yolckes of two egges and make it thynne and as tender as ye maye.”

1553 – From the English translation by Valoise Armstrong of the 1553 German cookbook Kochbunch der Sabina Welserine, includes a recipe for pastry dough:

󈬭 – To make a pastry dough for all shaped pies – Take flour, the best that you can get, about two handfuls, depending on how large or small you would have the pie. Put it on the table and with a knife stir in two eggs and a little salt. Put water in a small pan and a piece of fat the size of two good eggs, let it all dissolve together and boil. Afterwards pour it on the flour on the table and make a strong dough and work it well, however you feel is right. If it is summer, one must take meat broth instead of water and in the place of the fat the skimmings from the broth. When the dough is kneaded, then make of it a round ball and draw it out well on the sides with the fingers or with a rolling pin, so that in the middle a raised area remains, then let it chill in the cold. Afterwards shape the dough as I have pointed out to you. Also reserve dough for the cover and roll it out into a cover and take water and spread it over the top of the cover and the top of the formed pastry shell and join it together well with the fingers. Leave a small hole. And see that it is pressed together well, so that it does not come open. Blow in the small hole which you have left, then the cover will lift itself up. Then quickly press the hole closed. Afterwards put it in the oven. Sprinkle flour in the dish beforehand. Take care that the oven is properly heated, then it will be a pretty pastry. The dough for all shaped pastries is made in this manner.”

Animated Pies

Animated pies or pyes were the most popular banquet entertainment. The nursery rhyme “Sing a Song of Sixpence . . . four and twenty blackbirds baked in a pie,” refers to such a pie. According to the rhyme, “When the pie was opened, the birds began to sing. Wasn’t that a dainty dish to set before the King.” In all likelihood, those birds not only sang, but flew briskly out at the assembled guests. Rabbits, frogs, turtles, other small animals, and even small people (dwarfs) were also set into pies, either alone or with birds, to be released when the crust was cut. The dwarf would emerge and walk down the length of the table, reciting poetry, sketching the guests, or doing tricks.

13th Century – A Tortoise or Mullet Pie was in the 13th century cookbook called An Anonymous Andalusian Cookbook of the Thirteenth Century, translated by Charles Perry:

“Tortoise or Mullet Pie – Simmer the tortoises lightly in water with salt, then remove from the water and take a little murri, pepper, cinnamon, a little oil, onion juice, cilantro and a little saffron beat it all with eggs and arrange the tortoises and the mullets in the pie and throw over it the filling. The pastry for the pie should be kneaded strongly, and kneaded with some pepper and oil, and greased, when it is done, with the eggs and saffron.”

14th Century – During Charles V (1364-1380), King of France, reign, the important event at banquets was not dishes of food but acts such as minstrels, magicians, jugglers, and dancers.

The chefs entered into the fun by producing elaborate “soteltie” or “subtilty.” Sotelties were food disguised in an ornamental way (sculptures made from edible ingredients but not always intended to be eaten or even safe to eat). In the 14th to 17th centuries, the sotelty was not always a food, but any kind of entertainment to include minstrels, troubadours, acrobats, dancers and other performers. The sotelty was used to alleviate the boredom of waiting for the next course to appear and to entertain the guest. If possible, the sotelty was supposed to make the guests gasp with delight and to be amazed at the ingenuity of the sotelty maker.

During this time period, the Duke of Burgundy’s chef made an immense pie which opened to the strains of 28 musicians playing from within the pie. Out of the pie came a captive girl representing the “captive” Church in the Middle East.

15th Century – At the coronation of eight-year old English King Henry VI (1422-1461) in 1429, a partridge pie, called “Partryche and Pecock enhackyll,” was served. This dish consisted of a cooked peacock mounted in its skin, placed on top of a large pie. Other birds like partridges, swans, bitterns and herons were frequently placed on top of pies for ornament and as a means of identifying the contents.

1626 – Jeffrey Hudson (1619-1682), famous 17th century dwarf, was served up in a cold pie as a child. England’s King Charles I (1600-1649) and 15-year old Queen Henrietta Maria (1609–1669) passed through Rutland and were being entertained at a banquet being given in their honor by the Duke and Duckess of Buckingha. At the dinner, an enormous crust-covered pie was brought before the royal couple. Before the Queen could cut into the pie, the crust began to rise and from the pie emerged a tiny man, perfectly proportioned boy, but only 18 inches tall named Jeffrey Hudson. Hudson, seven years old and the smallest human being that anyone had ever seen, was dressed in a suit of miniature armor climbed out of a gilded pastry pie stood shyly on the table in front of the Queen and bowed low. Hudson was later dubbed Lord Minimus.

Hudson would remain with the queen for the next 18 years, serving as the Queen’s Dwarf, where he became a trusted companion and court favorite. His life after being a court favorite were just as interesting. He was kidnapped by pirates twice. In 1633, his portrait, along with Queen Henrietta Maria, was painted by Sir Anthony Van Dyck (1599-1641), the famous 17th century painter. He spent the next quarter-century as a slave in North Africa.

16th Century – In the English translated version of Epulario (The Italian Banquet), published in 1598, the following is written on making pies:

“To Make Pie That the Birds May Be Alive In them and Flie Out When It Is Cut Up – Make the coffin of a great pie or pastry, in the bottome thereof make a hole as big as your fist, or bigger if you will, let the sides of the coffin bee somwhat higher then ordinary pies, which done put it full of flower and bake it, and being baked, open the hole in the bottome, and take out the flower. Then having a pie of the bigness of the hole in the bottome of the coffin aforesaid, you shal put it into the coffin, withall put into the said coffin round about the aforesaid pie as many small live birds as the empty coffin will hold, besides the pie aforesaid. And this is to be at such time as you send the pie to the table, and set before the guests: where uncovering or cutting up the lid of the great pie, all the birds will flie out, which is to delight and pleasure shew to the company. And because they shall not bee altogether mocked, you shall cut open the small pie, and in this sort you may make many others, the like you may do with a tart.”

17th, 18th and 19th Century

English and American Pies:

English women were baking pies long before the settlers came to America. The pie was an English specialty that was unrivaled in other European cuisines. Two early examples of the English meat pies were shepherd’s pie and cottage pie. Shepherd’s pie was made with lamb and vegetables, and the cottage pie was made with beef and vegetable. Both are topped with potatoes.

1620 – The Pilgrims brought their favorite family pie recipes with them to America. The colonist and their pies adapted simultaneously to the ingredients and techniques available to them in the New World. At first, they baked pie with berries and fruits pointed out to them by the Native Americans. Colonial women used round pans literally to cut corners and stretch the ingredients (for the same reason they baked shallow pies).

1700s – Pioneer women often served pies with every meal, thus firmly cementing this pastry into a unique form of American culture. With food at the heart of gatherings and celebrations, pie quickly moved to the forefront of contests at county fairs, picnics, and other social events. As settlers moved westward, American regional pies developed. Pies are continually being adapted to changing conditions and ingredients.

Rev. George Acrelius published in Stockhold in 1796, A Description of the Present and Former State at the Swedish Congregations in New Sweden, where he describes the eating of apple pie all the year:

“Apple-pie was used all the year, the evening meal of children. House-pie, in country places is make of apples neither peeled nor freed from the cores, and its crust is not broken if a agon-wheel goes over it!”

A Pie of Sweetbreads was one of George Washington’s, the first President of the United States, favorite pie recipes, which are taken from Martha’s Historic Cook Book, a possessions of the Pennsylvania Historical Society. Martha Washington (1731-1802) was an excellent cook and the book features some of the dishes that were prepared by the original First Lady in her colonial kitchen at Mount Vernon. Following is the modern-day version of the recipe:

“Pie of Sweetbreads – Drop a sweetbread into acidulated, salted boiling water and cook slowly for 20 minutes. Plunge into cold water. Drain and cut into cubes. Stew a pint of oysters until the edges curl. Add two tablespoons of butter creamed with one tablespoon of flour, one cup cream and the yolks of three eggs well beaten. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Line a deep baking dish with puff paste (dough). Put in a layer of oysters, then a layer of sweetbreads until the dish is nearly full. Pour the sauce over all and put a crust on top. Bake until the paste is a delicate brown. This is one of the most delicate pies that can be made.”

1800s – Whenever Emperor William I of Germany visited Queen Victoria (1819-1901) of England, his favorite pie was served. It contained a whole turkey stuffed with a chicken, the chicken stuffed with a pheasant, the pheasant stuffed with a woodcock.

1880-1910 – Samuel Clemens (1835-1910), a.k.a. Mark Twain, was a big fan of eating pies. His life-long housekeeper and friend (she was with the family for 30 years), Katy Leary, often baked Huckleberry pie to lure her master into breaking his habit of going without lunch. According to The American Heritage Cookbook, Katy Leary said in her book on Mark Twain:

“She ordered a pie every morning, she said, recalling a period in which Twain was depressed. Then I’d get a quart of milk and put it on the ice, and have it all ready – the huckleberry pie and the cold milk – about one o’clock. He eat half the huckleberry pie, anyway, and drink all the milk.”

During a trip to Europe in 1878, he felt nothing but disdain for the European food he encountered. He composed a list of foods that he looked forward to eating on his return to the United States. In his 1880 book, A Tramp Abroad, he wrote:

“It has now been many months, at the present writing, since I have had a nourishing meal, but I shall soon have one–a modest, private affair, all to myself. I have selected a few dishes, and made out a little bill of fare, which will go home in the steamer that precedes me, and be hot when I arrive. . .” On his long list of foods was apple pie, peach pie, American mince pie, pumpkin pie, and squash pie.”

Samual Clemens also had a recipe for English Pie:

“RECIPE FOR NEW ENGLISH PIE – To make this excellent breakfast dish, proceed as follows:
Take a sufficiency of water and a sufficiency of flour, and construct a bullet-proof dough. Work this into the form of a disk, with the edges turned up some three-fourths of an inch. Toughen and kiln-dry in a couple days in a mild but unvarying temperature. Construct a cover for this redoubt in the same way and of the same material. Fill with stewed dried apples aggravate with cloves, lemon-peel, and slabs of citron add two portions of New Orleans sugars, then solder on the lid and set in a safe place till it petrifies. Serve cold at breakfast and invite your enemy.”

1900s – The appetite of James Buchanan Brady (1856-1917), known as Diamond Jim Brady, a legendary glutton and ladies’ man, was awesome. One dinner that Brady particularly liked to recall was arranged by architect Stanford White (1853-1906). A huge pie was wheeled in, a dancer emerged, unclothed, and walked the length of the banquet table, stopping at Brady’s seat and falling into his lap. As she spoon-fed the millionaire, more dancers appeared and attended to the feeding needs of the other guests.

Brady was known to finish lunch with an array of pies (not slices of different pies, but several pies). It was said that would begin his meal by sitting six inches from the table and would quit only when his stomach rubbed uncomfortably against the edge. Charles Rector, owner of ” Rector’s Restaurant” on Broadway in New York said he was “the best twenty-five customers I ever had.”

For a detailed history of the following individual types of pies, click on the underlined:


Berry was born on 24 March 1935, the second of three children, to Margaret (‘Marjorie’, née Wilson 1905–2011) and Alleyne William Steward Berry (1904–1989). Alleyne was a surveyor and planner who served as Mayor of Bath in 1952 and was closely involved in establishing the University of Bath at Claverton Down. Mary's great-great-grandfather on her father's side, Robert Houghton, was a master baker in the 1860s who provided bread for a local workhouse in Norwich. [4] Her mother died in 2011 aged 105. [5]

At the age of 13, Berry contracted polio and had to spend three months in hospital. This resulted in her having a twisted spine, a weaker left hand and thinner left arm. She has said that the period of forced separation from her family while in the hospital "toughened [her] up" and taught her to make the most of every opportunity she would have. [6] [7]

Berry attended Bath High School, where she described her academic abilities as "hopeless" until she attended domestic science classes with a teacher called Miss Date, who was particularly encouraging of her cooking abilities. [1] Her first creation in the class was a treacle sponge pudding which she took home, and her father told her that it was as good as her mother's. [1]

She then studied catering and shipping management at Bath College of Domestic Science. [1]

Berry's first job was at the Bath Electricity Board showroom and then conducting home visits to show new customers how to use their electric ovens. She would typically demonstrate the ovens by making a Victoria sponge, a technique she would later repeat when in television studios to test out an oven she had not used before. [1] Her catchment area for demonstrations was limited to the greater Bath area, which she drove around in a Ford Popular supplied as a company car. [1]

Her ambition was to move out of the family home to London, which her parents would not allow until she was 21. At the age of 22, she applied to work at the Dutch Dairy Bureau, while taking City & Guilds courses in the evenings. [1] She then persuaded her manager to pay for her to undertake the professional qualification from the French Le Cordon Bleu school. [8]

She left the Dutch Dairy Bureau to become a recipe tester for PR firm Benson's, where she began to write her first book. She has since cooked for a range of food-related bodies, including the Egg Council and the Flour Advisory Board. In 1966 she became food editor of Housewife magazine. She was food editor of Ideal Home magazine from 1970 to 1973. [9]

Her first cookbook, The Hamlyn All Colour Cookbook, was published in 1970. [10] She launched her own product range in 1994 with her daughter Annabel. The salad dressings and sauces were originally only sold at Mary's AGA cooking school, but have since been sold in Britain, Germany and Ireland with retailers such as Harrods, Fortnum & Mason and Tesco. [11]

She has also appeared on a BBC Two series called The Great British Food Revival, and her solo show, Mary Berry Cooks, began airing on 3 March 2014. [12]

In December 2012, Berry became the first president of the new Bath Spa University Alumni Association. [13]

In her own kitchen, she uses a KitchenAid mixer which she describes as being the one gadget she could not live without. [14] She has always had an AGA cooker, [15] and used to run cooking courses for AGA users. [16] She describes Raymond Blanc's restaurant Le Manoir aux Quat' Saisons as one of her favourites as well as the Old Queen's Head, local to where she lives in Penn, High Wycombe. [14]

In February 2015 Berry featured in a programme in aid of the Third World charity Comic Relief. [17] In May 2015 she began presenting a new BBC Two series called Mary Berry's Absolute Favourites. In November 2015 she was the subject a two-part biographical documentary entitled The Mary Berry Story. [18]

Starting on 30 November 2015, she was one of the two judges for a four-week American edition of the popular baking competition The Great Holiday Baking Show on ABC, which followed a similar format to the British competition. [19]

Berry became President of the National Garden Scheme in 2016 having opened her garden for charity for over 20 years. [20]

In November 2016, it was announced that Berry would present a new six-part series, Mary Berry Everyday in which she would share her cooking tips, family favourites and special occasion recipes. The show aired on BBC Two. [21]

In April 2017, Berry launched a series of cakes that could be bought from supermarkets. The cakes contain emulsifiers and preservatives that Berry has previously described as "unwanted extras". [22]

From 22 November 2017 to 13 December 2017, Berry presented a 4 part series called Mary Berry's Country House Secrets on BBC One. In this series, she ventured to four of the UK's stately homes and explored each through the prism of food and history. The locations were Highclere Castle, Scone Palace, Powderham Castle and Goodwood House. [23] [24]

In 2018, Berry was a judge on Britain's Best Home Cook alongside chef Dan Doherty and Chris Bavin.

Berry's new six-part television cookery series called Mary Berry's Simple Comforts premiered on BBC2, 9 September 2020. [25]

Mary Berry Saves Christmas, a BBC1 special in which Berry helps a group of amateur cooks make a Christmas feast for their families, was shown on Christmas Day 2020. [26]

In 2021, Berry will be a celebrity judge on the BBC series Celebrity Best Home Cook alongside Angela Hartnett and Chris Bavin while Claudia Winkleman will be the show's presenter. [27]

The Great British Bake Off Edit

From 2010 to 2016 she was one of the judges on BBC One's (formerly, BBC Two's) The Great British Bake Off alongside baker Paul Hollywood, who specialises in bread. Berry says that since working together, she has learned from him. However, some viewers were outraged during the first series when a decision was made to make the contestants use one of Hollywood's recipes for scones instead of one of Berry's. [1]

Her work on the show with Hollywood led to The Guardian's suggesting that it was the "best reality TV judging partnership ever." [28] In September 2016, Love Productions announced that a three-year deal to broadcast the show on Channel 4 instead of the BBC from 2017 had been agreed. [29] Co-hosts Mel Giedroyc and Sue Perkins announced that they would not be continuing with Bake Off on its new network. [30] Berry announced she was also leaving Bake Off [31] on the same day that fellow judge Paul Hollywood announced he would be staying with the show. [32]

In June 2009, Berry was awarded the Guild of Food Writers Lifetime Achievement Award. [33]

Berry was appointed Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in the 2012 Birthday Honours for services to culinary arts. [34] [35]

In 2012, she was awarded an honorary degree by Bath Spa University which incorporates the former Bath College of Domestic Science. [36]

On 7 June 2014, Berry was awarded the Freedom of the City of Bath [37] [38] and, having already received the Freedom of the City of London, on 19 November 2014, she was made a liveryman of the Worshipful Company of Bakers. [39]

She was awarded the Specsavers National Book Awards "Outstanding Achievement" prize in December 2014. [40]

On 25 January 2017, Berry won the award for Best TV Judge at the National Television Awards for Great British Bake Off. [41]

Berry was appointed Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire (DBE) in the 2020 Birthday Honours for services to broadcasting, the culinary arts and charity. [42] [43]

Berry married Paul John March Hunnings in 1966. [44] He worked for Harvey's of Bristol and sold antique books and is now retired. The couple have two sons and a daughter one of the sons died in 1989, in a car accident aged 19. [45] Berry is a patron of Child Bereavement UK. [46]

In March 2013, Berry was placed second in a list of the fifty best-dressed over 50s by The Guardian. [47] In September 2014, Berry was the subject of an episode of the BBC genealogy series Who Do You Think You Are? and discovered among her ancestors illegitimacy, bankruptcy and a baker. [48]

Berry is a member of the Church of England and has worshipped at Holy Trinity Church in Penn since 1989. [49] Her mother, who died in 2011, had also been an active church member. As part of the BBC2 programme Mary Berry's Easter Feast at Easter 2016, Berry visited Bishopthorpe Palace, the official residence of the Archbishop of York, who is the second most senior cleric in the Church of England, and filmed a special "Cooking with the Archbishop" segment. [50]

Berry has written more than seventy cookery books since her first book was published in 1970, [51] and has sold over five million cookery books. [10] She regularly works on her cookery books with Lucy Young, who has been her assistant for over twenty years. [52] Her best-selling Baking Bible was rated one of the ten best baking books by The Independent. [53]

Since September 2014, Berry's recipes have also been packaged in an interactive mobile app called "Mary Berry: In Mary We Trust". [54]

Her autobiography, Recipe for Life, was published in 2013 by Michael Joseph.

A Brief History of Pork Pies Through the ages

In 1928, we baked our first pork pies in Leeming Bar. However, the humble pork pie has been a staple in diets for centuries, so we wanted to delve a little deeper and take a look at the pork pie through the years.

The first time we can trace the word ‘pie’ by The Oxford English Dictionary was back in 1303 and was a popular, well known word by 1362. Whilst these days, the word ‘pie’ is an everyday word and a staple in our diets, you might not actually know where the word originates. According to The Oxford Companion of Food by Alan Davidson, “Pie… a word whose meaning has evolved in the course of many centuries and which varies to some extent according to the country or even to region… The derivation of the word may be from magpie, shortened to pie. The explanation offered in favour of this is that the magpie collects a variety of things, and that it was an essential feature of early pies that they contained a variety of ingredients.” If this explanation of the word rings true or not, the Middle English language which was used from c. 1150 to c. 1470 has given us many words today that the origins have nice stories we’re not sure if they’re accurate.

The basic concept of the pie has changed little from the conception despite the huge difference in cooking methods from ancient hearths to our modern ovens. The first pies were simple and savory – mainly meat and cheese and any sweet flaky pastry pies with fruit in were only made popular in the early 19th century.

Pies around the World

We know from food historians that ancient people had excellent taste and ate pie. The way they were eaten – their recipes and obviously cooking technique varied around the different cultures – with no Google recipes to search, each culture had their own method to cook a pie. In the Mediterranean areas which included Ancient Rome and Greece to Egypt and Arabia, olive oil was (and remains today to an extent in many Med areas) the primary fat. To create pastry with the olive oil, they ground grains and combined the two, resulting in a type of pastry. With many documents and texts from the time on all subjects are difficult to interpret because of their language so we rely on the scholars educated interpretation. It was from the Medieval Europeans that we got our modern way of making pies, using lard, suet or butter to create delicious pies – and the pie plates and shape of free standing pies we know today. It’s funny to think of so many centuries of people from all over the World enjoying a good old pork pie in whatever shape and form they experienced them in. Whilst many foods of today have tradition – fish ‘n’ chips for example, few have a history that spans so many centuries, so many cultures and has had so many alterations and tweaks to alter it to modernise and suit the time until we have what we have today!

Recipes of the pork pie throughout the ages

We find it incredibly fascinating as a pork pie brand and pork pie lovers to see recipes of how ancient civilizations created their pork pies. So when we came across this Latin text, we immediately wanted to share it with you! (Taken from: Around the Roman Table: Food and Feasting in Ancient Rome, Patrick Faas because translating Latin recipes isn’t our forte.)

“Pernam, ubi eam cum caricis plurimis elixa veris et tribus lauri foliis, detracta cute tessellatim indicis et melle complebis. Deinde farinam oleo subactam contexes et ei corium reddis et cum farina cocta fuerit, eximas furno ut est et inferes.” Translation: Boil the ham with a large number of dried figs and 3 bay leaves. Remove the skin and make diagonal incisions into the meat. Pour in honey. Then make a dough of oil and flour and wrap the ham in it. Take it out of the oven when the dough is cooked and serve.

For American settlers, pies were more of a necessity than a luxury. Settling on unfamiliar land and with no corner shop to pop to, they were surviving on hardly any provisions and setting everything up themselves, it was a hard time to survive. As soon as they were established on dry land they used the popular English dish of pie, the harsh conditions meant that despite these pies not being appetising with heavy crusts, they ate them to keep going whilst they built their communities. The pastry used less flour than bread would and didn’t require as complicated of a cooking process when resources were limited, it also meant that the food they did have could be stretched – pie is filling and would preserve meat for slightly longer.

It’s incredible how pork pies have been enjoyed for both pleasure and survival throughout history! Being huge fans of pork pies, we’re grateful they’ve been kept such a traditional British staple food from at least 1362!