January redaction challenge

Medieval Meat Pies (adult)

Jump down to the youth challenge, Fine Cakes

(from A Boke of Gode Cookery at  http://www.godecookery.com/goderec/grec11.htm)

DESCRIPTION: Basic recipe for a medieval/Renaissance-style meat pie

Medieval meat pies usually consisted of beef, pork, venison, or fowl, or a mixture of those meats. The meat was either broiled or boiled, then either used in small bite-sized chunks, or else reduced to a paste by mashing or “mortaring,” and mixed with other ingredients.

To make a basic medieval meat pie, choose your meat – a nice roast or even a cheaper cut will do nicely. Don’t use pre-ground raw meat (such as hamburger) – it’s not period, and will completely change the taste of your product. Use about 1 ½ lbs. for a pie that will feed 6-8 people.

Broil or boil it until tender, remove from the broth or drippings and let cool. Chop in bite-sized chunks, mince very small, or chop small and pass through a food grinder or processor to achieve a paste. Mix into the meat any of the following: egg yolks (for liquid and binding), raisins, currants, nuts, cheese, dates, figs, a splash of wine, seasonings (ginger, salt, pepper, etc.) – be creative and have fun!

Mix these ingredients either with the meat chunks or blend them in with the meat paste and place in a pre-baked pie shell . The final mixture should be a little too moist and just slightly runny – it’ll stiffen up when baked, and the extra moisture will keep the pie from going dry. Liquid to use: egg yolks, wine, broth, etc.

Medieval pies (sometimes called “bake metis” in Medieval days) were often topped with either a pastry shell (often called a “coffin”) or “byrdys.” (Medieval man had a reputation for eating practically anything with wings! “Byrdys” could be any small bird, ranging from swallows, sparrows, to game hens. For the 21st c. kitchen, small cooked chicken pieces such as small thighs or the “drumstick” section of the wing will do nicely.)

After preparation, the pies can either be cooked at once or frozen in the raw state to be thawed & cooked later. When baking time comes, keep them in the oven until the pastry is golden brown. Meat pies can be served hot, at room temperature, or even chilled from the fridge.

This means that the busy feast cook can make the necessary pies in advance, and freeze or hold refrigerated until the feastday. They can then be easily cooked or re-heated, or simply served at room temperature. (Be careful, of course, to not let the pies stand in the open too long. Food poisoning is period but as welcome as the plague.) One of the best sources that I know of for finding medieval pie recipes is Austin’s Two Fifteenth-Century Cookery-Books (consisting of 2 period manuscripts) which has an entire section devoted to “Bake Metis.”

Note for the January redaction challenge: consider using your spice mixes where it calls for “1-2 Tbsp. total of the following spices”!


  • 1 ½ lbs. meat (beef, pork, venison, rabbit, poultry, etc. or any combination), parboiled and in small chunks, ground, or mashed
  • 1 9″ pie shell (lid optional)
  • cooked chicken pieces (wings, thighs, etc.) (optional)
  • 4 egg yolks
  • ½ to 1 cup meat broth (quantity depends on the dryness of the other ingredients – use your discretion. The final mixture should be on the wet side.)
  • splash of red or white wine
  • 1 to 2 cups TOTAL of any of the following, separate or in combination: minced dates, currants, raisins, minced figs, ground nuts (almonds, walnuts, etc.), grated cheese, etc. The variety of ingredients & the total amount used depends on personal taste.
  • ¼ tsp. salt
  • ¼ tsp. pepper
  • 1 – 2 Tbs. TOTAL of any of the following spices, separate or in combination: ginger, allspice, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, cardamom, cubebs, galingale, etc. The variety of spices & the total amount used depends on personal taste.

Mix well all ingredients except chicken. Place in pie shell and top with either a pastry lid or the cooked chicken pieces. Bake in a 350° F oven for 45 minutes to an hour, or until the pastry is golden brown and the filling set. Serve hot or cold. Serves 6-8.

Some ideas from Two Fifteenth Century cookbooks (“Bake Metis.” )

A-noþer manere– Take Fygys, Roysonys, & Porke, & a lytel brede y-ground y-fere; take hym vppe, & put Pepir y-now þer-to, & Mace?, Clowys, & make þin cofyn, & putte þin comade þer-on.

A-noþer manere – Tak fayre porke y-broylid, & grynd it smal with ?olkys of Eyroun; þan take Pepir, Gyngere, & grynd it smal, & melle it with-al, & a lytel hony, & floryssche þin cofyns with-ynne & with-owte, & hele hem with þin ledys, – . [Lids. ] & late hem bake, & serue forth.

Tartes of Frute in lente– Take Fygys & sethe hem wyl tyl þey ben neyssche; þan bray hem in a morter, & a pece of Milwel þer-with; take ham vppe & caste roysonys of coraunce þer-to; þan take Almaundys & Dates y-schred þer-to; þan take pouder of Pepir & meng with-al; þen putte it on þin cofynne, & Safroun þin cofynn a-boue, & opyn hem a-bowte þe myddel; & ouer-cast þe openyng vppon þe lede, – . [lid. ] & bake hym a lytel, & serue forth.

Quyncis or Wardouns in past – Take & make fayre Rounde cofyns of fayre past; þan take fayre Raw Quynces, & pare hem with a knyf, & take fayre out þe core þer-of; þan take Sugre y-now, & a lytel pouder Gyngere, & stoppe þe hole fulle; & cowche .ij. or .iij. wardonys or quynce? in a cofyn, & keuere hem, & lat hem bake; & for defaut of Sugre, take hony; but þen putte pouder Pepir þer-on, & Gyngere, in þe maner be-for sayd.

Fine Cakes (youth)

Cinnamon & sugar cakes – contributed by Judith Carr

Redaction recipe from: http://www.godecookery.com/friends/frec13.htm

Original recipe from Gervase Markham, The English Huswife (16th c) (http://www.foodsofengland.co.uk/book%201615%20huswife.htm):

To make fine cakes; take a pottle of fine flour, and a pound of butter, a pound of sugar, a little mace and a good store of water to mingle the flour into a stiff paste, and a good season of salt and so knead it, and roll out the cake thin and bake them on papers.

Modern recipe:

  • 6 cups soft butter
  • 1 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 3 cups granulated sugar
  • 1/2 Tbs. cinnamon
  • 12 cups unbleached flour

Cream together sugar, salt, & butter. Mix together cinnamon and flour. Add this to creamed mixture, adding water as needed to make the dough manageable. Press dough into 2-3 baking sheets lined with baking parchment; prick with fork at regular intervals. Bake at 325º F for 30 minutes; cut into 100 squares while still warm.

Redaction challenge note: the original recipe calls for mace, the modern recipe for cinnamon.

Leave a Reply