Early in the fourteenth century, the prior of Holy Trinity, Dublin, along with the kitchener and others, were served a pasty for breakfast.
“One pasty. At breakfast for the Prior, seneschal, Kitchener, and others. 1d,” reads the account entry, documenting the detail.
This is important for several reasons. It tells us that pasties, still popular nowadays, date back at least to the fourteenth century. It also tells us that professional bakers in Dublin were making and selling pasties, and that the cost of the pasty was one penny.
Entries for other items costing the same amount include oysters, bread, one-quarter of a roast lamb, mustard, and cooked salmon. This gives us an idea of what a penny could buy.
The pasty purchased for the priory would have been a filled, sealed pastry case containing some kind of meat or fowl, and vegetable, which was either baked, or deep-fried in lard.
As well as Ireland, these pastry foodstuffs were popular in Britain and France. Pastry goods in general were popular in the Middle Ages, and ranged from simple “chewets” – which are smaller than pasties, but have similar fillings – to luxurious, tall “Parma pies”, filled with layer upon layer of meat and fowl, and surrounded by pastry castellations, glazed with gold or silver leaf, with banners of the country the pie was to represent.
Pastry foodstuffs were plentiful during the era. Most differed to anything we are familiar with today. Sometimes, the pastry was used just as the vessel in which to cook delicate contents, then discarded. This was more likely to happen in wealthier households; the poorer members of society would likely have eaten the pastry as well as the contents.
Pastry tarts were made with self-supporting crusts of just flour and water, but a sweet version also had sugar and saffron. They had interesting names. “Tart of Flesh” was filled with minced pork, white cheese, nuts, spices, wine and raisins. “Cheese Tart” came with white cheese and eggs. “Crustardes”, or custards, contained rich mixtures of meat, bone marrow and dried fruits set in egg and milk batters. “Pies of Paris” were made with pre-cooked meats. And there were many, many more.
This month’s recipe is for a flampoint, so called because the pastry is formed into flame points. The flame points were sometimes glazed with egg yolk, to give them an appropriate yellow colour. This type of tart called for the filling to be ground, using a pestle and mortar.
Flampoint: a 14th-Century Pork Pie
For the Pastry
- 350g./12 oz. plain flour
- 50g./2 oz. caster sugar
- 3 eggs
For the Filling
- 350g./12 oz. finely chopped pork
- 2 dried figs
- 150 ml./ ¼ pt. ale
- ¼ tsp. black pepper
- a pinch of saffron
- ½ tsp. salt
Put the pork in a pan, add enough water to barely cover it, simmer for 45 minutes, drain and cool. Simmer the figs in the ale for 5 minutes, cool, drain, and chop.
Meanwhile, sift the flour into a bowl, add the sugar, mix in 3 beaten eggs and knead to form a stiff dough. Take approximately two-thirds of the pastry and roll out. Cut a circle in the pastry, measuring approximately 24 cm/9 ½ inches. Build up a wall in pastry case of approx. 3–4 cm/1 inch, supporting it externally if possible.
Using a pestle and mortar, or the back of a wooden spoon, grind the pork, figs, pepper, salt, and saffron together, adding 2 beaten eggs to soften the mixture, and working it until it resembles a paste.
Put this paste into the pastry case. Roll out the remaining pastry, and shape to form a lid. Beat the third egg, brush some of it onto the edges of the pastry case, place the lid on top and pinch the edges together in order to seal it.
Make 8 cuts through the lid, almost to the edges, then fold each point back, bringing the tip forward again, to form the “flame”. Roll some of the remaining dough into small balls, placing one at the tip of each of these 8 flames. Brush the flames and small pastry balls with beaten egg.
Bake at 180⁰C/350⁰F/gas mark 4 for 40 minutes.