March 5th is British Pie week, a week-long celebration of, you guessed it, pies! But do you know what one is and where the name came from?
Britain and Ireland have had a love affair with them since the 12th century; whether a savoury, sweet, shortcrust or puff pastry. Some with no pastry at all but mashed potato aka Shepherd’s, Cottage et al. Back then, they were called a “coffyn” which sums up a pie quite nicely, but unlike pies of today, these were often was more crust than filling.
So, What Is a Pie?
According to the Chambers Concise Dictionary, “Pie is a savoury or sweet dish, cooked in a container, consisting of a quantity of food with a covering of pastry.”
The word itself, reputedly, comes from the Magpie; the bird collector of many things; which in effect is what a pie is if you stop to think about it.
Normally a pie will have a base and a covering of pastry – a pastry base only is a tart, let there be no mistake except, of course, you only have to think of a lemon meringue pie; no pastry lid just meringue and the definition starts to wobble. And, as mentioned above there are even pies without pastry at all, such as a Shepherd’s or Cottage.
Trust the British not to make it easy!
My favourite pies and the classics of the British kitchen and include beauties like a Beef and Ale, or a goof proper old-fashioned Apple Pie. But really, I am a sucker for anything with pastry and when hunger strikes and I need food fast, what better fits the bill than a proper pie.