Beef steak pie

Last week saw us in Wisconsin, and this week we’re staying in the USA but heading further south, viz. to Carolina. “The Carolina Housewife; or, House and Home” was originally published in 1847 by “A Lady of Charleston”. In later editions the lady turned out to be Sarah Rutledge, daughter of Edwin Rutledge, the youngest man to sign the US Declaration of Independence and later governor of South Carolina.

“The Carolina Housewife” aimed to teach young housewives not necessarily how to cook, but to know the process of cooking so as to be able to instruct the servants. The book promises “principally, receipts for dishes that have been made in our own homes /…/ even those dishes lately introduced among us have been successfully made by our own cooks.” Rutledge’s preface also gives us a glimpse of the kitchen staff. This cookbook would be superior to French or English cookbooks found at the store, because “these are for French or English servants, and almost always require an apparatus either beyond our reach or too complicated for our native cooks.”

What I’m cooking this time is a meat pie.

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I don’t cook much with meat these days, preferring to save it for special occasions, and this was just that – a game night with some friends.

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Here’s what you need. Not pictured: frozen pie crust from the shop.

I cheated.

Also not pictured: Cards Against Humanity. But you always need that.

Slice the beef and pound well. I used about half a kilo of beef and finally got to use my tenderizing hammer which I’ve had lying around for a year or two.

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That was surprisingly hard work.

I made a spice mix of about half a teaspoon each of allspice and nutmeg, a few teaspoons of salt and a liberal sprinkling of black pepper. In hindsight I could have used more allspice and nutmeg. The cookbook has a recipe for ketchup, but I might make that another time – for now, I just used regular store-bought stuff, and also a chopped-up onion to spice the meat with as I layered it into the pie.

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The recipe then calls for Irish potatoes. Around the middle of the 19th century the most common variety of potato grown in Ireland seems to have been the Irish Lumper, which is apparently more waxy in texture than floury. Whether these are the ones eaten in Carolina at the time as well I don’t know, but I chose potatoes that would remain firm when boiled so that they’d slice nicely.

Finally, I poured in about 1dl of water, covered the pie with a crust and put it in the oven.

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220 degrees C for about 1 hour.

Unfortunately I found out, much too late, that of the six adults at the get-together two were vegetarians and one was allergic to gluten – but I successfully catered to 50%! Alas, Ms. Rutledge would have considered my efforts exactly what she wanted to avoid: a dinner “over which the mistress of the house cannot smile”.

I exaggerate. The pie was tasty, though a bit more ketchup would not have gone amiss. Both of my girls loved it and the older one waxed lyrical over how it was the best thing I’d ever made. She was a bit caught up in the moment.

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