In Praise of Pies

baked stargazy pie

Stargazy pie

by BigJules

Reminiscing about the good old days with a former shipmate recently I recalled returning to our ship in the wee hours and stopping to grab a meat pie from “Harry’s Cafe de Wheels”, not far from the Woolloomooloo dockyard, Sydney. He told me that so popular with the navy did this eatery become that in 1978 Rear Admiral David Martin – over a pie and a glass of champagne – commissioned it “HMAS Harry’s”!

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Pies have a long history, going back to 9500 BC! In the days of sail, a sea pie was a dish much favoured. Depending on what ingredients were available, it consisted of meat or fish and vegetables between layers of pastry representing decks of a ship. Thus you’d have a two-decker sea pie, a three-decker and so on.

To this day I’m rather partial to pies and would loved to have sampled a great battalia pie, which Disraeli described as a masterpiece of the culinary art of the time! Apparently the ingredients were chicken, pigeon, rabbit, spices, cock’s combs and other delights, in a rich claret sauce. Not sure about the cock’s combs, though…
And to my shame I haven’t yet tasted a stargazy pie, the famous Cornish dish with the heads of sardines protruding through the crust.

When William Pitt the Younger died in 1806 his last words were widely reported to have been, “I think I could manage one of Bellamy’s veal pies.”

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