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Grete Pyes

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This recipe is a beautiful example of a medieval meat pie. Large, precooked pieces of meat - sometimes with the bones still in - baked in a pie crust, with dried fruits and spices. When served, the top crust is broken and the diners then select the pieces they want. In essence, the crust is meant to be more of a baking and serving dish than food (though there is evidence that the crusts were intended to be edible).


1 pound beef
1 pound chicken (may have bones)

1/4 cup suet (optional)
1/4 cup dates, sliced in half
1/4 cup prunes
1/8 cup currants
3 hard-boiled egg yolks
1/2 tsp. cloves, whole
1/2 tsp. mace
1/4 tsp. cinnamon
pinch saffron
1/8 tsp. pepper
1/8 tsp. salt

pastry for a double-crust pie


Cut beef into small pieces, about 1 inch cubed. Cut chicken into medium pieces, with wings and legs optionally on the bone. Boil beef for 30 minutes in a large pot. Add chicken and continue to boil for another 30 minutes. Skim the scum off the surface as necessary

Remove the meat from the broth and arrange in pie crust. Add remaining ingredients and cover with top crust. Bake until top crust is golden. Serve hot, breaking the top crust and dishing out the meat as desired.

Source [Two Fifteenth-Century Cookery-Books, T. Austin (ed.)]: Grete pyes. Take faire yonge beef, And suet of a fatte beste, or of Motton, and hak all this on a borde small; And caste thereto pouder of peper and salt; And whan it is small hewen, put hit in a bolle, And medle hem well; then make a faire large Cofyn, and couche som of this stuffur in// Then take Capons, Hennes, Mallardes, Connynges, and parboile hem clene; take wodekokkes, teles, grete briddes, and plom hem in a boiling potte; And then couche al this fowle in the Coffyn, And put in euerych of hem a quantite of pouder of peper and salt// Then take mary, harde yolkes of egges, Dates cutte in ij. peces, reisons of coraunce, prunes, hole clowes, hole maces, Canell, and saffron. But first, whan thou hast cowched all thi foule, ley the remenaunt of thyne other stuffur of beef a-bought hem, as thou thenkest goode; and then strawe on hem this: dates, mary, and reysons, andc.;, And then close thi Coffyn with a lydde of the same paast, And putte hit in the oven, And late hit bake ynogh; but be ware, or thou close hit, that there come no saffron nygh the brinkes there-of, for then hit wol neuer close.

Published: October 10, 2008

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