Robert May’s Chicken Pie

Robert May had an extensive and impressive career spanning over fifty-five years and the most tumultuous part of the seventeenth century, from the twilight of the reign of Elizabeth I, through the civil war, the protectorate and the restoration of the monarchy. His cookery book, The Accomplisht Cook, was first published in 1660, when he was in his mid seventies,

As a boy, he apprenticed in France and upon his return worked for many important Catholic families in England. As a consequence, his book not only chronicles multiple decades of British food, but thanks to the generosity of his patrons, that of France,  and via printed recipe books, of both Italy and Spain. In his preface, May praises the generosity of hs patrons in allowing him the funds to prepare food at the highest quality, and admits that not all purses will be able to stretch to all of the recipes he presents. He nevertheless holds it his responsibility to pass as much of his 55 years of knowledge as he can. For the most part he claims that with his book:

the Reader shall find most of the Compositions, and mixtures easie to be prepared, most pleasing to the Palate, and not too chargeable to the Purse; since you are at liberty to employ as much or as little therein as you please.

On which note we come to this recipe.

There are two variations of this recipe in The Accomplisht Cook, with only trifling differences between them: one has nutmeg and pistachios, the other cream and breadcrumbs. It is a fraction of a much larger and more ostentatious banqueting dish, and constitutes merely the centrepiece. Robert May has called it a “Pine-Molet”, which is later defined by Randle Holme¹ in 1688 as:

a Manchet of French Bread, with a hole cut in the top, and all the crum taken out, and filled with a composition of rost or boiled Capons minced and stamped to a Paste, with sweet Herbs, Eggs and Spices, &c. and so boiled in a cloth; and serve it in strong Broth, with several sorts of Fowls about it.

This definition seems to have come from a reading of May’s own recipes, as there is no indication of the name being used prior to 1660. It is quite possibly a corruption from French of “pain mollet” a light, spongy bread introduced to France in the early 17th century and much admired and sought-after by, if not the great and the good, then definitely the wealthy, including the queen, Marie de Medici. In following Robert May’s advice, I have decided to dispense with the ‘garnish’ of several cooked birds and focus on the stuffed loaf, because it is so deliciously original, and have opted for baking rather than boiling. Leftover chicken never looked so good!

I tried several variations of the recipe, in terms of both the filling and the exterior, and have made only slight adjustments in order to keep the flavours authentic, and appetising to our 21st century palates. I like all three variations seen here, each delicious in its own right.

Pine Molet Loaf

The filling is a wonderfully unusual but distinctly savoury jumble of meat, eggs, herbs, nuts and spices, bound with more egg and with a smattering of currants. Seen here, chopped uniformly and baked in an enriched milk bread loaf, the crust has been moistened with stock to prevent it drying out as it bakes in the oven. The result is a crisp outside and a moist and savoury inside. Delicious eaten hot, the pie firms up as it cools, making it ideal for picnics and outings.

Pine-Molet Loaf 2

In this version, the filling has been chopped less finely, so that the different elements can be easily distinguished. In addition to the large loaf, I have also baked some smaller, individually-sized buns, perfect for a packed lunch.

Pine Molet Filo

This third variation has been baked in filo pastry for a thin, friable but deliciously crisp and buttery exterior. This is the same mixture as the pie on the main photograph, with the filling pleasantly chunky and the different elements providing interest visually as well as through taste. This is best enjoyed at home, as the pastry doesn’t retain its crispness once cooled, and would therefore not travel well.

Robert May’s Chicken Pie

You can customise the proportions of the ingredients to suit your  own personal tastes, but the following is both flavourful and delightfully different.

75g breadcumbs
100g shelled pistachios
50g ground almonds
50g currants
4 large eggs – hardboiled, chopped²
2 large eggs – whisked
300g cooked chicken – chopped
1/2 nutmeg – grated
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp coarse ground black pepper
1tbs fresh chopped (or 1.5tsp dried) each of chopped thyme, chives, rosemary, marjoram
2tbs chopped fresh parsley.

(optional) chicken stock

A large round loaf/brioche, buns or 1 pack of filo pastry and butter for brushing.

  • Mix all of the ingredients together well. Set aside while you prepare the loaf/pastry.
  • If using a loaf or buns, cut off the ‘lid’ neatly and hollow out the interior. Keep enough structural integrity so that the walls remain standing (no thinner than 1cm). Blitz the insides to breadcrumbs and use in the filling if required.
  • If using filo pastry, generously butter a 24cm spring-form tin and line with sheets of filo.  Brush each sheet with melted butter and allow at least 10cm of the sheets to hang outside the tin.
  • Check the filling for moistness: the breadcrumbs and almonds will have absorbed some of the moisture, so if required, add in stock until the mixture is moist but not over-saturated. Check the seasoning by frying a little patty of the filling in a pan, then tasting and adjusting as necessary.
  • Spoon the filling into the prepared loaf/buns/tin.
  • For the stuffed loaf/buns: add the lid and brush the outsides with either stock or water. Wrap in foil.
  • For the pie:  fold over the excess filo pastry to cover the filling. Cover with a loose bottom from a springform tin, or a baking sheet, and add a weight. I use a large, smooth rock, wrapped in foil.
  • Preheat the oven to 200°C/180°C fan.
  • Bake for 30-40 minutes until the filling is cooked and the pastry/crust is crisp. To check, use a probe thermometer, which should read at least 75°C-80°C. If making the smaller filo parcels, cooking time is reduced to 20-25 minutes.
  • For the stuffed loaf/buns: remove the foil and place on serving dish, or if eating cold, keep wrapped until required.
  • For the pie, remove the weight and baking sheet/base. place your serving plate on top of the pie and flip over. Remove tin and serve.

¹ The academy of armory, or, A storehouse of armory and blazon (1688), Holme, Randle (1627-1699), Chester

² The original recipe (as seen in the first loaf picture) suggested yolks only. I subsequently chose to use the whites as well, to avoid having to find a use for them. If you have a favourite go-to recipe, then by all means omit the whites from the filling.

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Venison Pie

This is a great Deja Food way to transform the cooked venison from a joint into another meal. Since the filling has already been cooked, there is little shrinkage during baking, thus making it a fabulously sturdy picnic pie once cold.

Whichever way you choose to enjoy it, remember to serve with redcurrant jelly.

Venison Pie

500g cooked venison
salt and pepper
300g cooked potatoes
venison, beef or lamb stock, thickened with a little cornflour
beef or lamb dripping pastry, made with stock instead of water.
1 large egg to glaze

A 24cm spring-form tin.

  • Divide the chilled pastry into two pieces, one large than the other.
  • Cut off about 1/3 of the pastry and roll out for the lid of the pie. Cut it to size with 2cm extra all round. Cover with cling film and set aside.
  • Gather the trimmings together with the rest of the pastry and roll out for lining your greased pie tin. Be sure not to have your pastry too thin, as it will have to support a lot of filling – no less than 1cm on the sides and a little thicker over the bottom half of the pie. Let any excess pastry lie over the edges of the tin.
  • Chill the tin in the fridge until required.
  • Preheat the oven to 200°C/180°C fan/gas 6.
  • Cut the meat into cubes, discarding any fat or connective tissue.
  • Season well with salt and pepper.
  • Cut the potatoes into cubes roughly the same size as the meat.
  • Add the cubed potatoes to the seasoned venison, together with enough gravy to coat.
  • Add the filling to the pie and press down firmly. Spoon over a little extra gravy.
  • Moisten the top edges of the pastry with water and cover with the pre-cut lid. Press firmly to seal, then crimp the edges either by hand or with the tines of a fork. Use the offcuts of pastry to form decorations and secure to the lid using a little water.
Venison and Potato Pie decoration
Pie decoration example
  • Cut a vent hole for steam, then whisk the egg and brush over the top of the pie.
    Bake for 30-40 minutes until the pastry is crisp and brown and the filling hot.
  • Allow to cool for 10 minutes in the tin, then remove and serve, or if eating cold, allow to cool fully in the tin.

Christmas Pie

Charles Elmé Francatelli, 1863

This is a version of the traditional raised pie that graced the sideboards of many a rich household going back centuries. With much time being devoted to celebrating the festive season, the amount of time spent waiting on the kitchen could be drastically reduced with a sideboard groaning under selection of cold cuts and pies to slice throughout the twelve days of Christmas.

The most famous Christmas pies were undoubtedly from Yorkshire, whose frequently gargantuan sizes inspired both awe and wonder, not to mention expense.

“The host of the Angel Hotel, at Whitby, last week, set before his friends a Yorkshire Christmas Pie, seven feet in circumference and containing four stones of flour, 12lbs butter and suet, a brace of pheasants, a brace of partridges, two geese, two rabbits, ten chickens, six ducks, two tongues, one turkey, and six pounds of ham.” ¹

The traditional format of these pies consisted of the birds being boned, seasoned, rolled and then stuffed one inside the other, in the manner of Russian babushka dolls, quite putting the modern ‘turducken’ to shame for its amateurishness. Hannah Glasse’s recipe of 1747 called for a turkey, a goose, a fowl, a partridge and a pigeon. In addition, to fill up the gaps around the main bird, on one side was laid a jointed hare, on the other side woodcock, and “more Game, and what Sort of wild Fowl you can get.”

These large pies were frequently packaged up and sent to London as gifts, or merely as provisions for the festive season. Unfortunately, their size and sturdiness wasn’t always a guarantee of safe travel. In 1832, The Age newspaper carried the following morsel of information in it’s roundup of news snippets column, the Georgian newspaper equivalent of an “And finally…” news item:

“The Lord Chancellor’s Christmas Pie upset, broken and devoured by dogs.”

Adapted from his book The Cook’s Guide and Housekeeper’s & Butler’s Assistant, Francatelli’s recipe simplifies the difficulty of baking so many different types of game and poultry from raw, by pre-cooking the birds to medium rare, filling the pie with the meat, and then finishing the cooking when the pie is baked. The baking time is also considerably reduced.

Christmas Pie cut

This recipe has a lot of steps, none of which are particularly difficult, but you can spread them out over a couple of days rather than feel obliged to have one mammoth kitchen session.

Christmas Pie

Seasoning
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp mace
1/4 tsp cloves
1 tsp peppercorns
2 crushed dried bay leaves
1.5tsp dried basil
1.5 tsp marjoram
1.5 tsp winter savoury
1.5 tsp thyme
0.25tsp chilli pepper
0.5tsp sumac dried mango powder
1tsp garlic powder

Forcemeat
150g butter
1 clove of garlic, chopped fine
1tsp salt
500g rindless streaky bacon, chopped
500g chicken livers, rinsed

Filling
1 whole turkey leg, slow-cooked overnight on a raft of celery, carrot and onion
An assortment of game birds, preferably with carcass, such as:
1 duck crown
1 goose crown
1 pheasant
2 woodcock

Savoury jelly
1 litre of beef stock
turkey stock from cooking the turkey leg
Any trimmings/bones from cooking the game birds
1 onion
2 carrots
3 sticks celery
2 bay leaves
1tbs black peppercorns
3 sprigs thyme
1 blade mace
1 batch game pie pastry (see page xx)
1 large egg for glazing.

  • Preparing The Pie Components
  • Set aside 1 tablespoon of the seasoning mixture for use on the filling.
  • Melt the butter for the forcemeat in a large pan with the chopped garlic.
  • Add the chopped bacon and cook for 5-10 minutes.
  • Add the chicken livers and sprinkle with the seasoning mixture.
  • Cook until just pink in the middle.
  • Remove from the heat and tip into a food processor fitting with a chopping blade.
  • Blitz until smooth, pour into a bowl, cover and set aside until required.
  • Preheat the oven to 180°C/160°C fan/gas 4.
  • Season the game birds with salt, pepper, and the tablespoon of the seasoning mix.
  • Spread with a thin layer of the forcemeat.
  • Arrange in a baking tray and brush over with melted clarified butter.
  • Bake until just cooked through (internal temperature of 74°C).
  • Remove from the oven and allow to cool for 15 minutes.
  • If using crowns or whole birds remove the breasts, as whole as possible, from the carcass and strip the rest of the meat from the bones. Allow to cool completely then cover and chill in the fridge until needed.
  • Put the remnants of the carcasses into a large pan, together with the stocks, seasonings and vegetables for the savoury jelly.
  • Bring to a boil, then cover, turn down the heat and simmer for 2-3
    hours to allow the flavours to develop.
  • Strain the stock twice: once through a fine sieve and then again through dampened muslin to remove all the unwanted solids.
  • Allow the stock to cool, then chill in the fridge. Remove the fat from the surface of the chilled stock and decant the stock into suitable containers.
  • Make a note of how solid, or not, the stock is when cold, and when the time comes to mix the gelatine, adjust accordingly: if the stock is fairly stiff,
    then little or no gelatine will be required, if it is a soft-set, then just half the regular quantity of gelatine may be all that is required.
  • Constructing The Pie
  • Cut off about 1/3 of the pastry and roll out for the lid of the pie. Cut it to size with 2cm extra all round. Cover with cling film and set aside.
  • Gather the trimmings together with the rest of the pastry and roll out for lining your greased pie tin. Be sure not to have your pastry too thin, as it will have
    to support a lot of filling – no less than 1cm on the sides and a little thicker over the bottom half of the pie. Let any excess pastry lie over the edges of the tin.
  • Spread a 1cm layer of forcemeat all over the inside of the pie. Arrange a layer of the meat and cover with a layer of forcemeat to fill in any gaps. Continue layering until all the filling and forcemeat has been used up.
  • Brush the top edges of the pastry with water. Lay the pie lid over the top of the pie. Press firmly around the edges to seal. Trim any excess pastry using the back of a knife, then crimp the edges of the pie to decorate. Use the trimmings to make decorations for the top of the pie.
  • Cut a 1-2cm steam vent in the top of the pie, large enough for the savoury jelly to be poured through once the pie is baked.
  • Preheat the oven to 200°C/180°C fan/gas 6.
  • Brush the lid of the pie with beaten egg and bake for 1 hour and 15 minutes, or until the internal temperature reaches 70°C. If the top starts browning too much, cover loosely with a sheet of baking parchment or foil.
  • Remove from the oven and set aside to cool for several hours. When almost cold, measure out 600ml of the savoury jelly and warm in a pan. If using gelatine, soak as many leaves as required in cold water before draining and adding to the stock.
  • Stir until the gelatine has melted.
  • Before you start pouring the savoury jelly into the pie, you might want to check whether there are any holes in your pastry. Carefully remove the pie from the tin and inspect closely. You can either mix up a flower and water paste to fill any cracks, or wrap the sides and bottom of the pie tightly in cling film: this won’t stop the leaks, but it will keep everything contained until the jelly has set.
  • Return the wrapped pie to the tin before adding the jelly.
  • Pour the jelly a little at a time through the hole in the top of the pie. Use a jug and/or a fine funnel.
  • Allow time between pourings for the liquid to permeate the pie filling – it has to find and fill all the air pockets between the meat.
  • Leave to set in a cool place, or, if you have room, in the fridge overnight. The jelly will seal off any air pockets and thus prolong the shelf-life of the pie.
  • Properly stored, it can adorn a sideboard buffet all the way from Christmas almost to the New Year.

1 “Local and General Intelligence”, The Northern Star and Leeds General Advertiser (Leeds, England), Saturday, January 7, 1843; Issue 269. p3.

New Potato Pie

Pies are frequently seen as the star of a meal, but this new potato pie is a delightful accompaniment to numberous meals. Tender new potatoes are baked beneath a rich buttery crust with a creamy sauce flavoured with parsley.

Not only does the crisp and golden pastry lid keep in all the flavours, it allows the potatoes to finish cooking without fear of them falling to pieces.

Simple and delicious with a gratin of leeks, sprinkled with cheese, or fresh, farmhouse ham and salad.

New Potato Pie

500g new potatoes, scrubbed
2tbs plain flour
1/2tsp salt
1/4tsp ground white pepper
3-4tbs chopped, fresh parsley
80ml double cream or creme fraiche
1 sheet puff pastry
beaten egg to glaze

  • Preheat the oven to 200°C/180°C fan/gas 5.
  • Bring a pan of water to the boil.
  • Boil the potatoes for 5 minutes, then drain.
  • When cool enough to handle, cut the potatoes into slices, 2cm thick.
  • Mix the flour, salt and pepper, sprinkle over the potatoes.
  • Add the parsley and toss to coat.
  • Put potatoes into an oven-proof dish and pour over the cream.
  • Cut some strips of pastry and line the edge of the dish.
  • Dampen the pastry rim and cover with the sheet of pastry, pressing the edges down firmly.
  • Brush wih beaten egg and cut a vent in the middle to let out steam.
  • Bake for 20-30 minutes, depending on the size and shape of your dish until the pastry is crisp and brown and the potatoes cooked through.

Gooseberry and Elderflower Raised Pie

Traditional

There’s a 200-year-old tradition in Oldbury-on-Severn of making gooseberry pies with a sweetened hot water crust pastry as part of the Whitsun celebrations. Jane Grigson mentions them in several of her writings on English food. Due to the age of the recipe, it was some time before I managed to find a picture of these iconic tarts, and for a long time had to rely solely on my imagination. Consequently, what I pictured in my mind was the pie you see above, and was just a little disappointed to eventually learn that the pies were small, hand-sized, shallow, round pies with a single layer of gooseberries and a lot of sweet/sharp juice.

The use of a hot water crust for a fruit pie is unusual, and can be tricky to work with. Some recipes even recommend that once the tart shell has been formed, the pastry is chilled overnight in order to make a firm casing for the gooseberries, but this then makes it difficult to attach the lid firmly once the paste is cold.

In my searching, I also found accounts that seemed to agree on two things: everyone seemed to like these tarts, even if they didn’t like gooseberries, and that they were extremely juicy when bitten into. I decided to make a large, consumer-friendly variation of this classic dessert pie by setting the juice with gelatine, so that it could be sliced and each slice would hold its shape.

Elderflower is a classic flavour pairing with gooseberries, and this pie combines a jelly made from the gooseberry juice syrup and elderflower cordial with fresh gooseberries and a sweetened hot water crust. The jelly is sweet and delicately flavoured and the gooseberries are so sharp, the contrast between the two is both delicious and refreshing. To make everything much easier, it is baked in a loaf tin.

Sweet Hot Water Crust
600g plain white flour
400ml water
100g butter
100g lard
60g caster sugar

  • Put the fats, sugar and water into a pan and warm over a low heat just until the fat has melted.
  • Put the flour into a bowl and pour on the warmed liquid. Stir well.
  • The paste will be very soft when it comes together, and you can roll it out if you like, but it can also just be flattened and pressed into the tin by hand.

1kg fresh gooseberries
1kg caster sugar
2-3 tablespoons of elderflower cordial

beaten egg to glaze.

3-4 sheets of leaf gelatine

  • Use a sharp knife to top-and-tail the gooseberries, removing the stalk and the calyx.
  • Generously grease a large loaf tin. You can, of course, make this in any shaped tin, but a rectangular loaf tin does produce pretty and regular slices. In order to decide what size of tin to use just tip in your prepared gooseberries. The best fit will be from the tin the gooseberries only just fill.
  • If liked, line the tin with baking parchment in order to help with the removal of the pie once it has cooled.
  • Make the pastry and divide into two. Roll out one piece and cut a lid for your pie. Use the empty tin to mark out its size, then cut the pastry 3cm larger all the way round. Set aside.
  • Gather the trimmings and the rest of the pastry together and roll out to about 1cm. Line your greased loaf tin and allow the excess pastry to drape over the sides for now. Make sure any cracks are well patched, so that the juice stays inside the pie.
  • Layer the gooseberries in the lined tin with the sugar.
  • Moisten the edges of the pastry with water and place the pastry lid on top of the pie. Press the edges together and trim the excess. Crimp the edges in a decorative manner.
  • Cut three circular vent holes in the lid at least 2cm in diameter.
  • Use the pastry trimmings to make additional decorations if liked.
  • Cover lightly with cling film and chill in the fridge for 1 hour to firm up.
  • Preheat the oven to 200°C/180°C fan/gas 6.
  • Brush the lid of the pie with beaten egg and bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour, until the top is crisp and golden and the sides are well-baked. It is better to cook the pie a little longer than for the pie to be under-baked, so if the top is becoming too dark, cover with some foil.
  • When you’re happy with the done-ness of the pastry, remove the pie from the oven and set aside to cool for 10 minutes.
  • Tricky Part: You need to drain the juice from the pie in order to mix in the elderflower cordial and the gelatine that will make it set. After much experimentation, I recommend the following method:
    • Put your pie onto a wire cooling rack.
    • Put a second rack upside-down on top of your pie.
    • Place a large bowl on your work surface. If you think it necessary, place a damp teatowel underneath to prevent slippage.
    • With your thumbs uppermost, pick up your pie tin, sandwiched between the wire racks.
    • Holding the pie tin over the bowl, flip it towards you and let all of the juice drain out of the pie through the vent holes. Once the juice has topped dripping, turn your pie the right way up and set aside.
  • Taste the syrup and add sufficient elderflower cordial to flavour. Since the pie will be eaten cold, you can make the flavouring slightly stronger than usual, since the flavours will be somewhat muted when served.
  • When you’re happy with the taste, measure the volume of syrup. For every 150ml, you need to bloom (soak in water) 1 leaf (sheet) of gelatine. Once bloomed, drain and add the gelatine to the syrup and warm gently until melted.
  • Pour the syrup/gelatine mixture back into the pie. You want enough syrup in the pie to make the cooked gooseberries float.
  • Leave your pie to cool. Cover with plastic wrap and chill overnight in the fridge.
  • Allow to come to room temperature before removing from the tin and cutting in slices to serve.

Goathland Treacle Tart

Goathland is a tiny village – population less than 500 – tucked away in the North York Moors National Park, just south-west of Whitby. It looks an absolutely delightful place, and Harry Potter fans will recognise Goathland Station as doubling for Hogsmeade (the station nearest Hogwarts) as well as Aidensfield from the popular TV series Heartbeat.

In the 1930s, Mrs Arthur Webb was commissioned by the BBC to visit farms throughout the UK “in order to secure something that was characteristic of its cooking and preparation of food.” In much the same way as her contemporary, Dorothy Hartley, would – Mrs Webb tramped around the countryside conversing with farmers wives and watching them cook in their own kitchens, frequently with awe and respect.

I looked at the fireplace. I watched the flames travelling under the oven.
“How do you manage to keep the heat going – you burn coal, of course?”
“Oh no” the answer came swiftly; “I never trust coal or anything else than wood for my baking. I understand wood better and I know exactly what heat it will give.”
“Do you ever have failures?”
“Failures? Of course not. I know exactly what I want and I make it.”
“Well, how do you manage to arrive at such delicious pies as these?” and I pointed to the laden table. “Do you weigh the ingredients?”
“Never. I could not spare the time. I just know how much the flour, butter, lard, milk, water and eggs will make.”

Luckily for us, Mrs Webb was able to jot down the ingredients for this fantastic tart, which I have only tweaked very slightly in converting to metric measurements and adding cooking times/temperatures. I’m curious to know which farm in this peaceful area was the origin of such a flavour-packed bake.

As you can see from the photograph. it bears little resemblance to the traditional British, tooth-achingly sweet, open-topped Treacle Tart made with golden syrup and fresh breadcrumbs. Whilst still containing breadcrumbs, the filling for this double-crust tart is packed with fruit both fresh and dried, actually contains treacle, and is much closer in taste to a traditional mincemeat, although blessedly fat-free. Along with the dried fruit and spices, the filling is given some fresh zing with chopped apple and lemon zest/juice. The dry breadcrumbs absorb any apple juice during cooking, resulting in a tart with a firm, fruity filling, no soggy bottom, and packing a huge wallop of flavour. The lack of fat in the filling means that the taste is bright and fresh and never cloying or overly rich.

I’ve chosen to wrap this in my favourite cornflour shortcrust, as its dry crispness when baked is the perfect foil against which the filling can really shine.

Sidebar: Mrs Webb’s notes tell us merely to “cover with another pastry” – which is all well and good, but pays little attention to the presentation which is, after all, usually the first thing that tempts us with a dish. I’ve made a conscious decision to try to present dishes, no matter how humble their ingredients, in the most appetising and eye-catching way. If I may paraphrase the great William Morris “Serve nothing from your oven that you do not know to be delicious or believe to be beautiful.”

Tart top
Tart top

Which is all well and good, except that when it comes to decorating, I usually have the patience and finesse of a potato. But I also have a little imagination, so I created the above decoration for the tart lid, in the best traditions of housewives across the years, with what I had to hand: namely, a teaspoon, an apple corer and a skewer.

The pastry was crimped by laying the pastry lid so that the edges lay vertically against the sides of the tin. Insert the handle of a teaspoon between the outer edge of the pastry and the tin and your finger and thumb against the inside of the pastry. Press inwards with the spoon handle as you pinch the two pieces of pastry together. I had intended only to hand-crimp the tart edges, but the imprint of the teaspoon handle has made a pretty design, so I’m going to run with it. *lying* I totally meant to do that.

The pattern was made firstly by gently pressing an apple-corer into the lid – enough to mark, but not enough to cut all the way through the pastry. Then I used a wooden skewer to poke holes in lines from the centre ring to each of the surrounding rings. Lastly I  added a line of holes between each of these lines.

If you’re in any doubt whether or not to try this tart – and I really hope you will – let me just say that I’m seriously considering using this as my mince pie recipe this year.

Just sayin’.

Goathland Treacle Tart

Pastry
225g plain flour
60g cornflour or rice flour
140g butter
ice cold water

  • Put the flours and butter into the bowl of a food processor and blitz until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs.
  • With the machine running, gradually add the cold water a tablespoon at a time until the mixture comes together in a ball.
  • Tip the mixture onto a floured surface, knead smooth then wrap in clingfilm and chill for 30 minutes.
  • Remove the pastry from the fridge and cut off two thirds. Put the remaining third back into the fridge.
  • Roll this piece out to a thickness of 4-5mm and use it to line a greased 18cm pie tin, loose-bottomed for preference, making sure there is enough pastry overlapping the sides of the tin to allow for joining the lid.
  • Chill while you mix the filling.

Filling

60g dry breadcrumbs [1]
60g currants
60g sultanas
30g candied orange peel – diced
30g candied lemon peel – diced
1 small cooking apple – peeled, cored and chopped/grated
zest and juice of 1 lemon
1/2tsp ground ginger
1/2tsp ground mixed spice
30ml treacle
30ml milk

  • Mix the breadcrumbs, dried fruit, candied peel, spices and lemon zest in a bowl.
  • Warm the treacle by placing the open can in a saucepan of water over a low heat. As it warms, it becomes less viscous and easier to pour.
  • Pour out the required amount of treacle and mix with the lemon juice, then add the milk afterwards. NB Don’t mix the lemon juice with the milk first, otherwise it will curdle.
  • Add the liquids and the chopped apple to the rest of the ingredients and stir to combine.
  • Preheat the oven to 200°C, 180°C Fan.
  • Add the filling to the chilled pastry case and smooth over.
  • Roll out the remaining pastry to make the lid.
  • Wet the edges of the pastry with water, and lay the pastry lid onto the filling. Ease the edges together as per the diagram above. Make sure there’s no air trapped underneath the lid – in the oven this air will expand in the heat and may cause the lid to lift away from the filling.
  • Use the back of a knife (so as not to scratch your non-stick tin) to trim away the excess pastry, then crimp the edges as described above.
  • Decorate as desired.
  • Brush with beaten egg, or with milk and then sprinkle with a little caster sugar. (I used just egg).
  • Bake for 30 minutes, turning the tin around after 20 minutes to ensure it colours evenly.
  • Set aside to cool.
  • After cooling for 10 minutes, if you’ve used a loose-bottomed tin, the tart can be gently removed  and served, or set onto a wire rack until cold.

[1] These must be really dry. Definitely not fresh. If you have none to hand, nor any stale bread, make breadcrumbs of 3 slices of bread and lay them on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Dry (without browning) in a 120°C/100°C Fan oven for 20-30 minutes.