A few years ago, a list of Britain’s ten best dishes was created and made much of. I have previously given this list, and intended to eventually find historical recipes for all the dishes for you. I don’t know how many I have found so far, but I am sure rook pie has not been one of them.
The rook is often confused with the crow, which is a carrion-eater. Humans tend to avoid eating carrion-eaters, I presume out of fear of inadvertently indirectly consuming an ancestor. Rooks, however, I am reliably informed, have a more acceptable diet to those who may choose to make a meal of the birds themselves.
I don’t know how popular rook pies have been in the past – most likely, I would guess, during times of necessity. They certainly seemed to engage some public interest during the meat-rationing times of World War II. There was a veritable flurry of correspondence on the topic in The Times during 1940.
Miss H. Brown, of 27. Peppard Road, Caversham, Reading, submitted the following recipe.
Use only the breast and legs of the bird, as the other parts are very bitter and unsuitable for eating. Fill the piedish with layers of breast and legs with hard-boiled eggs and a little fat bacon. Well season with pepper and salt. Cover with a good crust of pastry, and cook well in a moderate oven.
Over the ensuing months, other correspondents weighed in with hints about the making of rook pie. Some of the ideas were: the birds should be skinned, not plucked; best to steam the flesh before baking in the pie; pie is best eaten cold; best washed down with some good Bordeaux wine; pies are spoiled by having too little pepper and salt in them; the gravy should be liquid and the crust thick and flaky.
Quotation for the Day.
Hunting is now to most of us a game, whose relish seems based upon some mystic remembrance, in the blood, of ancient days when to hunter as well as hunted it was a matter of life and death.
Will Durant, Our Oriental Heritage (1935)