Sunday, January 06, 2008

The Twelfth Day of Christmas

January 6

“On the Twelfth Day of Christmas
My true love gave to me
Twelve drummers drumming ”

I had to save the best till last, and present my dozen with a fanfare of drums (is that musicalogically correct?). Pies, of course.

I would like to offer you a dozen pies. Some you have met before, but may have forgotten. Some are new, just to delight you. They are all – lets say – a little unusual. Hard to find nowadays. Waiting to be rediscovered and molecular gastronomised.

1. Pie of Bull’s Testicles.

2. Pies with live birds and frogs.

3. Blood Pie.

4. Calf’s Head Pie.

5. Old Maid’s Pie

6. Parrot Pie.

7. Burr Pie.
… the rest [of the carcass after the main joints are removed] are brought to market with the hide, and are there taken out by poor women, who also cut off some bits of flesh that lie by the horns, called burrs, with these are made pyes … (Houghton, John . A collection for the improvement of husbandry and trade, 1727)

8. A Pan-pie made of Carps-roes and Tongues.
The Tongues and Roes of the Carps must be laid in order upon a piece of fine Paste, in the bottom of the Pan; season’d with Pepper, Salt, Nutmeg, fine Herbs, Chibbols, Morilles, common Mushrooms, Truffles and sweet Butter. Then, all being cover’d with a Lid of the same Paste, let the Pie be bak’d with a gently Fire, and serv’d up with Lemmon-juice.
[Massialot. Court and Country Cook. 1702]

9. Amblongus Pie.

Sadly, amblongusses don’t actually exist. They have not been eaten to extinction, they have never existed - apart from in the imagination of Edward Lear. Should they one day be made flesh, here is his recipe for them.

Take 4 pounds (say 4 ½ pounds) of fresh Amblongusses, and put them in a small pipkin.
Cover them with water and boil them for 8 hours incessantly, after which add 2 pints of new milk, and proceed to boil for 4 hours more.
When you have ascertained that the Amblongusses are quite soft, take them out and place them in a wide pan, taking care to shake them well previously.
Grate some nutmeg over the surface, and cover them carefully with powdered gingerbread, curry-powder, and a sufficient quantity of Cayenne pepper.
Remove the pan into the next room, and place it on the floor. Bring it back again, and let it simmer for three-quarters of an hour. Shake the pan violently till all the Amblongusses have become a pale purple colour.
Then, having prepared a paste, insert the whole carefully, adding at the same time a small pigeon, 2 slices of beef, 4 cauliflowers, and any number of oysters.
Watch patiently till the crust begins to rise, and add a pinch of salt from time to time.
Serve up in a clean dish, and throw the whole out of the window as fast as possible.

10. Seal-Fipper Pie.
When it was politically correct to eat baby seal flippers, these pies were a specialty of Newfoundland. Have seal-flipper pie-eaters now been forced underground?
As featured in (and apparently actually eaten by Kevin Spacey) in the movie The Shipping News.

11. Electric-eel pie.
Apparently eaten at a nineteenth century dinner of the London Electrical Society, at which they also drank Whitbread stout in order to “trace the galvanic action produced by the contact of the pewter pot with the moisture of the under lip.”

12. Tortoise or Mullet Pie.
Simmer the tortoises lightly in water with salt, then remove from the water and take a little murri, pepper, cinnamon, a little oil, onion juice, cilantro and a little saffron; beat it all with eggs and arrange the tortoises and the mullets in the pie and throw over it the filling. The pastry for the pie should be kneaded strongly, and kneaded with some pepper and oil, and greased, when it is done, with the eggs and saffron.
[From a 13th century Anonymous Andalusian Cookbook, translated by Charles Perry]

“On the twelfth day of Christmas
My good friend gave to me
Twelve pies a-baking
Eleven puddings cooking
Ten beers a-brewing,
Nine loaves a-rising,
Eight cheeses ripening,
Seven fish a-swimming,
Six eggs a-poaching,
Five golden fruits,
Four keeping cakes,
Three boiling hens,
Two chocolate tarts,
And a partridge in a pear tree.”

Monday’s Story …

A Special Day for Fanny.

Quotation for the Day …

There are few articles of cookery more generally liked than relishing pies, if properly made. Mrs. Rundell, in her New system of domestic cookery. 1807.

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