For our popular 'Cooking the Books' event staff at the Record Office volunteered their time and culinary skills to recreate recipes from the archives ... here is a modern take on the 18th century cook and businesswoman Elizabeth Raffald's herb pie!
Just nine lines of recipe but how to translate into a modern pie? I began with groats … any grain with the husk still on. Thought about going a bit Yotam with freekeh which I think would work nicely with the other flavours but settled on pot barley to remain authentic local.
I decided early on that I wouldn’t be adding a pound of butter at the end but would cook with butter throughout – I wondered if the reasoning behind boiling all the ingredients and then adding such a large quantity of butter was to do with how tricky it may have been to control the heat on domestic fires and ranges so risk burning it, but how vital it would have been for flavour and calories during Lent? The fact that Elizabeth mentions the option of a raised crust made me opt for hot water crust pastry.
For the filling
75g unsalted butter
1 large onion, diced
200g pot barley
1 large leek, sliced
beetroot tops or chard
baby leaf spinach
2 apples, sliced
For the pastry
300g plain flour
135 ml hot water
Take a large saucepan. Gently cook the onion in 25g of the butter, stir in the barley to coat and add enough boiling water to cover. Leave to simmer for around 40 minutes, topping up with boiling water as necessary. Test the barley can be bitten, turn off the heat and leave to cool with the lid on, any remaining liquid should be absorbed.
Make the hot water crust pastry. Rub the butter into the flour until it looks like fine breadcrumbs. In a small pan on a gentle heat melt the lard in the hot water, then pour onto the flour mixture. Mix with a knife and bring it together into a ball. Leave to cool until room temperature and finish making the filling.
Take a deep frying pan and gently fry the leeks in the remaining butter. Roughly chop enough lettuce, parsley and beetroot tops or chard to match the quantity of leeks and add them to the frying pan with the same quantity of baby spinach leaves. (If using chard add the chopped thicker stalks at the same time as the leeks). Cook until the leaves have collapsed and stir in the sliced apple and groats. Season well with salt and pepper to taste.
Roll out two thirds of the pastry and line a ten inch square baking tin. Add the filling and top with a lid rolled from the remaining pastry. Press the edges together and beat the egg with a pinch of salt and brush onto the pie.
Place in the middle of the oven preheated to 180 degrees centigrade and bake for about an hour, the pastry will be golden brown.