I’ve been thinking that I should revive this, at least long enough to get through my folder of oddities, and what better day to delude yourself with good intentions?
Last spring I cooked a fish pie from the classic 1654 cookbook by Elizabeth Talbot Grey, Countess of Kent, A True Gentlewoman’s Delight. Wherein is contained all manner of cookery: together with preserving, conserving, drying and candying. Very necessary for all ladies and gentlewomen.
It’s a nice recipe and mixes flavors that are no longer found together in Western cookery – herring, pears, raisins (I used currants), cinnamon, ginger and you finish it with rosewater and sugar. But still, people shied away from it – partly, perhaps, due to the fishy emanations (which were more olfactory than gustatory – the flavors were more or less balanced in the pie), but mostly because, at least on this side of the Atlantic, and even here in New England, we have left fish pie behind. Pity.
So for News Years Eve I pulled the second, untouched, pie from cold storage and retrofitted it with herring heads to approximate the effect of the famous Cornish delight, Stargazy Pie. In theory, the justification for having fish heads sticking out of your pie is that the oils slowly travel down the fish into the pie keeping it moist and delightful. Though the idea of rendering the head oil into the pie while keeping the pie free of the head itself is itself delightful, I suspect they just thought it looked cool.
Somewhat surprisingly, the additions didn’t noticeable improve its popularity (plus we were inside this time, with added heads, so the fishy miasma was not improved), though it started some conversations upwind. Those Cornish sure know how to pie.