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