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Historical recipe: chewit – a meat and fruit pie

  • Difficulty 4/10

In every issue of BBC History Magazine, picture editor Sam Nott brings you a recipe from the past. In this article, we recreate a delicate chewit – a meat and fruit pie enjoyed in the 16th century.

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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.

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Ingredients

For the pastry

  • 400g flour
  • 200g butter
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 tsp salt
  • Iced water

For the filling

  • 500g minced beef
  • 50g sultanas
  • 6 dates
  • Zest from half an orange
  • 2 medium-sized pears, chopped
  • 100g suet
  • 1 tsp nutmeg
  • Salt and pepper
  • Rose water (for sprinkling)
  • Sugar (for sprinkling)

Method

For the pastry

  • Step 1

    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.

  • Step 2

    Make a well in the centre. Add the egg yolk and 5 tbsp of iced water.

  • Step 3

    Roll the pastry into a ball, wrap in cling film and leave in the fridge for 30 minutes.

  • Step 4

    Lightly fry the minced beef, then add the suet, fruit and seasoning.

  • Step 5

    Roll out the pastry and line a pie tin, leaving enough for the lid of the pie.

  • Step 6

    Pack the filling tightly into the pie case. Sprinkle a small amount of rose water on the top of the filling before adding the pie top.

  • Step 7

    Sprinkle sugar on the pastry and cook for an hour in an oven preheated to 200˚C.

Discover more historical recipes, including:

This article was first published in the December 2015 issue of BBC History Magazine

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