Monday, April 17, 2017

Pilchard Pie

'The Cook and Housekeeper's Dictionary' by Mary Eaton [1822]
Though domestic occupations do not stand so high in the general esteem as they formerly did, there are none of greater importance in social life, and none when neglected that produce a larger portion of human misery. There was a time when ladies knew nothing beyond their own family concerns; but in the present day there are many who know nothing about them. If a young person has been sent to a fashionable boarding-school, it is ten to one, when she returns home, whether she can mend her own stockings, or boil a piece of meat, or do any thing more than preside over the flippant ceremonies of the tea-table.





In honor of the "Poldark" binge I have been on, I present:



Pilchard Pie!  YAYYYY.  If you have watched "Poldark," you will know that they seem to live on pilchards and pies. And look!  This has pilchards AND pie!  I have no doubt Ross would be all over this.



PILCHARD PIE. Soak two or three salted pilchards for some hours, the day before they are to be dressed. Clean and skin the white part of some large leeks, scald them in milk and water, and put them in layers into a dish, with the pilchards. Cover the whole with a good plain crust. When the pie is taken out of the oven, lift up the side crust with a knife, and empty out all the liquor: then pour in half a pint of scalded cream.

But where can one find salted pilchards?



That's because you are the worst, Elizabeth. You are good for nothing but to preside over the flippant ceremonies of the tea-table.   Pilchards are basically the same thing as sardines.  And as the last tin of salted pilchards was packed in Cornwall in 2005, we're going to hope that canned, salty sardines are near enough to rehydrated salt-preserved canned pilchards.  Anchovies would probably also be a good analogue.  This recipe looks like it may only have a top crust, but I wanted to try a raised pie.  To make a raised pie, we need to make a hot water crust.  It's the first time I've done one, and it was not hard.  I didn't make it very attractive, but it was totally functional.  



1 lb. plain flour
1 teaspoon salt
3 ounces butter
4 ounces lard or 4 ounces white vegetable fat
4 ounces milk, and
4 ounces water, mixed in equal proportions

Sift the flour and salt into a bowl, making a well in the centre. Place the water, butter and lard into a saucepan, when the butter and lard has melted bring it all to the boil. Take off the heat. Pour the mixture into the centre of the flour. Working very quickly, mix with a wooden spoon. Then knead with hands to produce a smooth and elastic dough. Allow to rest in a warm place for 15 to 20 minutes. (This pastry must be used whilst still warm, otherwise it will become brittle and hard to mould.) Proceed with your recipe.



Cook those leeks in milk and water!



Drain those leeks, and layer with sardines! 



Bake for 2 hours at 350 F., and use a funnel (I have this cute little one!  Look how wee!) to fill with cream.  Mmmmm.  Cream.  


Verdict: 
My first victim was a friend of my husband's to whom I offered pie.  I am a bad person.



That pretty much covers it.  My dad, who loves sardines with all his heart, loved it.  My mom, who loathes sardines with all her heart, refused to try it.  Everyone else took one or two bites and was done.  My three year old, who loves pies, kept taking bites and then looking hurt and sad, but kept eating.  She looked confused, like she couldn't understand why pie would keep betraying her.  It basically tastes like how a dock smells.  General consensus: not the worst ever.  But please don't ever make it again.

Thanks to Foods of England

2 comments:

Karen K. said...

You are very brave to try this -- I love Poldark but I would probably not touch a pilchard with a ten-foot pole. I was in England last year and did see fish pie on a few menus but they were more like shepherd's pies, just fish and veg in a deep dish with sauce, topped with mashed potatoes. (I did not actually try one).

If you want to read a hilarious description of Starry Gazey Pie (a historic fish pie), I highly recommend Laurie Colwin's essay Repulsive Dinners: A Memoir in her wonderful book Home Cooking.

Jana said...

I did see Lucy Worsley eat some Star Gazey pie on one of her documentaries. I am generally opposed to foods that look back at you while you eat them.