Thursday, April 12, 2012

Roman Pie.

(I am working from my iPad for the next few days due to a laptop deficiency, soI apologise for the unlinked urls ... it is too slow trying to force Blogger and iPad to co-operate)

It is time for another instalment in our series on the list of the top ten forgotten British foods, as decided by a competition run in 2006 by the Guild of Fine Food Retailers. The list, with links to the blog posts to date is:

1.‘Eadles’ Bath Chaps
2. Mrs Grieve’s Fish Custard
3. Mrs Langland’s Faggots
4. Grey Squirrel Casserole
5. Rook Pie
6. Rabbit with Prunes
7. Fife Brooth
8. Roman Pie ADD
9. 16th C Pancakes
10. A Grand Sallet

Today it is the turn of number 8, ‘Roman Pie.’ I am puzzled about the inclusion of this dish in the list of forgotten foods. It seems to have had a very brief spell in the culinary limelight in the late nineteenth century – so brief and inconsequential that the Oxford English Dictionary does not know it, nor does it appear in Mrs Beeton’s comprehensive work, The Book of Household Management (1861) or amongst the nine thousand recipes in Cassell’s Dictionary of Cookery (1870’s). There is a small (very small) scattering of recipes in the British newspapers for a few decades after the late 1880’s, but by 1924, the Manchester Guardian of November 24 describes it as ‘a new dish for the breakfast table.’ The recipe given is:

Roman Pie.
Well oil a plain tin mould. Sprinkle well with vermicelli broken small, then line it with very thin paste. Have ready some boiled macaroni, cut in pieces half an inch long. Take a sprinkling of grated cheese, cut the meat up into small dice, mix all together, and season with pepper and salt. Add sufficient gravy to moisten the whole. If the meat is white meat the sauce must also be white and made with milk. Then put it all into the lined mould, cover with thin paste, and bake it in a moderate oven half an hour. Turn out with a rich brown sauce round it in the dish.

All recipes for Roman pie are variations on this theme – the pastry crust and the inclusion of macaroni being the constant features. There are some suggestions that rabbit is the traditional meat in the pie, but just about any cold meat appears, and I have seen one recipe for a ‘Roman pie with Fish’. It is presumably the macaroni that gives it this dish its name, although one source refers to it as ‘an Italian lunch dish.’

Oddly, the earliest recipe I have found to date is in fact American. It appears in the Godey’s Lady’s Book (1870)

Roman Pie.
Boil a rabbit; cut all the meat as thin as possible. Boil two ounces of macaroni very tender, two ounces of Parmesan or common cheese, grated, a little onion, chopped fine, pepper and salt to taste, not quite half a pint of cream. Line a mould, sprinkled with vermicelli, with a good paste. Bake an hour and serve it either with or without brown sauce. Cold chicken or cold game may be used for this pie instead of a rabbit.

Does this add up to a dish worthy of mention on the list? I don’t think so. Or am I missing something?

Quotation for the Day.
The English are very confused about food. For example, when you order potato chips there, they bring you a plate of French fries. I'm not sure what they'd bring you if you ordered French fries; probably a raw eel.
David Grimes
Roman Pie.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

never heard of Roman Pie but our local Roman Fort owner (Epiacum in N W England) is holding a Roman Pie Contest on 20th July 2013.

If you asked for French Fries here in England people would send you to MacDonalds - we aren't that stupid!