• The melt-in-the-mouth deliciousness of a pie begins with a good pastry.
The melt-in-the-mouth deliciousness of the modern pie evolved from food wrapped in a parcel of reeds. Let's all be thankful for butter, lard and oil, without which, our flaky pie crust would just be, ah, crusty.
By
Anneka Manning

1 Aug 2016 - 5:20 PM  UPDATED 22 Aug 2016 - 12:00 PM

A crusty, oozing wedge of pie seems to be made for Instagram sharing, but its origins are not nearly as evocative. Food historians surmise that the pie originated in ancient Egypt, where food was wrapped in a casing of reeds meant for packaging rather than eating.

Later, in ancient Rome, a mixture of oil and flour was used to encase fillings such as goat’s cheese and honey, but the emphasis was still on what lay within.

The pie as we know it came closer to being in Northern Europe around the 12th century, thanks mainly to the need for storing and carrying food on sea voyages. And thanks also to butter and lard, which were used to form a rollable and mouldable pastry. So a fresh filling was baked within a sturdy crust that was for storage, essentially, and not for eating. We were still a few steps and several centuries away from the melt-in-the-mouth deliciousness of the modern pie crust of our dreams.

Around the late 16th century it seems both pastry and fillings were evolving into a completely edible and desirable package – indeed, it was during this time that Queen Elizabeth was served the first recorded cherry pie.

Nowadays, pies have a firm and favourite place in national cuisines all over the globe. My favourites include a Scottish staple, the bridie pie, where well-flavoured savoury minced beef sits within an extremely edible flaky pastry. Salmon and dill meet beautifully in the Finnish fish pie and the Mediterranean provides the inspiration for the super tasty filo-enfolded Greek chicken and rice pie.

On the sweet side, the cooking traditions of Denmark and the Ukraine provide two different but profoundly delicious takes on the idea of pie – the Danish linser pies and the Ukrainian cheese pirog.

And, of course, no recipe list is complete without the all-time pick of the pies – the beloved apple kind – to which I have added rhubarb for a heavenly texture and tang. My rhubarb and apple pie with vanilla sour cream pastry is a winter favourite (and is just made for Instagramming). Enjoy eating (and snapping).

 

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Rhubarb and apple pie

Classic apple pie (served with a overly-generous scoop of vanilla ice-cream, of course) is one of the perennial delights of winter and can only be improved by the addition of rhubarb and a deliciously rich vanilla sour cream pastry. This pie just may be a little hard to beat.

Finnish fish pie

On a trip to Finland a few years ago it only took me a couple of meals to realise how much dill and salmon feature in the country’s wonderful cuisine. This pie is a little ode to the Fin’s favourite ingredients, all topped off with a deliciously buttery, flaky pastry.

Scottish Bridie pies

Originating from Forfar in Scotland, the bridie pie is said to be named after a travelling food seller, Margaret Bridie, who sold them during the mid-19th century. Deliciously more-ish, they resemble the pastie in shape and concept but are surprisingly similar in taste and texture to a plain sausage roll. Whilst not traditional, a beetroot relish tomato chutney makes a perfect accompaniment. O why has it taken me so long to discover the bridie!

Ukrainian cheese pirog

This pirog, or pyrith, is the Ukranian take on a sweet cheese pie. Based on a lemon-scented bread dough, it is filled with a delicate fresh cheese and crème fraîche filling studded with raisins.

Greek chicken and rice pie

This pie is one of my all-time favourites and brings together some of Greece’s most popular ingredients – silverbeet, haloumi, Kalamata olives, rice and filo pastry. It takes a little while to prepare but don’t be put off, I promise it will be well worth the effort. 

Danish linser pies

These simple custard pies are truly divine. Vanilla-infused custard is encased in a shortbread-like pastry and then dusted liberally with a flurry of cinnamon-scented icing sugar. The perfect accompaniment to a cuppa for afternoon tea.

 

Photography by Alan Benson. Styling by Anneka Manning. Food preparation by Tina McLeish.

 

Anneka's mission is to connect home cooks with the magic of baking, and through this, with those they love. For hands-on baking classes and baking tips, visit her at BakeClub. Don't miss what's coming out of her oven viaFacebookTwitterInstagram and Pinterest.

 

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