Dis­cover how the hum­ble pie rose to promi­nence over the cen­turies, se­cur­ing its sta­tus as the ul­ti­mate com­fort food. By Frances Hedges

Town & Country (UK) - - CONTENTS —WINTER 2017 -

In praise of pies

‘Good ap­ple pies are a con­sid­er­able part of our do­mes­tic hap­pi­ness,’ wrote Jane Austen to her sis­ter in 1815. And how right she was. ‘There’s some­thing so whole­some about pies – they make you feel cosy,’ says Linda Lomelino, a food writer and pho­tog­ra­pher whose new cook­book, Lomelino’s Pies, fea­tures a se­lec­tion of recipes Austen might well have en­joyed, from ap­ple-crum­ble pie with honey and pecans to an ap­ple and pear galette. Recre­at­ing them is eas­ier than it looks, she prom­ises: ‘Just don’t over­work the dough, pre-cook the fruit to avoid a soggy bot­tom and in­vest in a glass dish so that you can check how your pie is cook­ing.’

The con­cept of a ‘soggy bot­tom’ is no Bake Off in­ven­tion, for the art of pas­try-mak­ing goes back to the An­cient Greeks, whose fruit-filled sweet­meats are men­tioned in the plays of Aristo­phanes. The first pub­lished pie recipe – goat’s cheese and honey in a rye crust – orig­i­nates from the Ro­man era, while the term ‘pye’ was used in Eng­land as early as the 12th cen­tury, pre­dom­i­nantly re­fer­ring to poul­try-based dishes where the fowl was en­cased in a crust, or ‘coffyn’, de­signed to pre­serve it as long as pos­si­ble. Soon af­ter­wards, when Euro­pean cru­saders trav­elled back from the Mid­dle East with a new-found fond­ness for spices, the mince pie was born, then made from a com­bi­na­tion of minced meat, dried fruits, cinnamon, nut­meg and cloves.

To­day, pas­tries that com­bine sweet and savoury flavours re­main pop­u­lar, with Dayles­ford an­tic­i­pat­ing high de­mand for its or­ganic veni­son and cran­berry pie. Mean­while, show-stop­ping cen­tre­pieces for the ta­ble that hark back to me­di­ae­val ban­quet­ing are once more in favour: or­der a be­spoke tiered ‘pork-pie cake’ from the Gin­ger Pig, or bring your fes­tiv­i­ties to a tri­umphant con­clu­sion with Fort­num & Ma­son’s over­size ‘shar­ing’ mince pie, crowned with hazel­nuts, al­monds and tof­fee. ‘Lomelino’s Pies: A Cel­e­bra­tion of Pies, Galettes & Tarts’ by Linda Lomelino (£20, Roost Books) is out now. Find a se­lec­tion of recipes from the book at www.tow­nand­coun­try­mag.co.uk/ food-and-drink.

left: cherry and al­mond pie, clas­sic ap­ple pie and pie pops from linda lomelino’s book

be­low: lomelino’s choco­late and cherry pies

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