In every issue of BBC History Magazine, picture editor Sam Nott brings you a recipe from the past. In this article, Sam recreates a delicate chewit – a meat and fruit pie enjoyed in the 16th century.
Britain loves pies, and recipes for them can be found in cookbooks going back centuries. This month I’ve chosen a 16th-century pie called a chewit that mixes sweet and savoury flavours – a combination that was popular in the Tudor era. Recipes from that time often refer to coffins – robust pastry designed more to contain the filling than to be eaten. My version, including measurements, is based on this 16th-century recipe:
Parboyle a piece of a Legge of Veal, and being cold, mince it with Beefe Suit, and Marrow, and an Apple or a couple of Wardens: when you haue minst it fine, put to a few parboyld Currins, sixe Dates minst, a piece of a preserued Orenge pill minst, Marrow cut in little square pieces. Season all this with Pepper, Salt, Nutmeg, and a little Sugar: then put it into your Coffins, and so bake it. Before you close your Pye, sprinckle on a little Rosewater, and when they are baked shaue on a little Sugar, and so serue it to the Table.
400 g [14 oz] flour
1 tsp salt
200 g [7 oz] butter
1 egg yolk
500 g [17,5 oz] minced beef
50 g [1,75 oz] sultanas
Zest from half an orange
2 medium-sized pears, chopped
100 g [3,5 oz] suet
1 tsp nutmeg
Salt and pepper
Rose water (sprinkle)
Pastry: Sift the flour and salt into a basin. Cut the butter into small chunks and rub it into the flour until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Make a well in the centre. Add the egg yolk and 5 tbsp of iced water. Roll the pastry into a ball, wrap in cling film and leave in the fridge for 30 minutes.
Filling: Roll out the pastry and line a pie tin, leaving enough for the lid of the pie. Lightly fry the minced beef, then add the suet, fruit and seasoning. Pack tightly into the pie case and sprinkle a small amount of rose water on the top of the filling before adding the pie top.
Sprinkle sugar on the pastry and cook for an hour in an oven preheated to 200˚ C / 390˚ F .