Cook: Sweetpea Pie. Gluten Free. Pretty. Green. Pie. 1744
I haven’t heard of a green peas pie before – certainly not as a potentially sweet ingredient – but as an Australian, and therefore a fan of Asian cookery, I love sweets that use legumes, beans and yam flours, so I thought I’d segue from Florence White and turn these peas into something sweeter.
I’ve really had to wing it, as the recipe was bare.
Here’s what I had to work with.
Boil Them. Drain Them. Season them with salt, saffron, butter and sugar; then fill your tart, close it, bake it and when done, pour in some verjuice, ice it, throw on sugar and serve it. “Adam’s Luxury and Eve’s Cookery”
Et voila. Simple right?
I know one can find Verjuice – Maggie Beer does it in bottles in Australia. It’s hard to find
this kind of condiment without added sulfites – and not having access to Maggie Beer’s from here in London, I don’t have the option anyway. (I’m not implying hers contains sulfites! Given her reputation for freshness and excellence, I’m sure it probably doesn’t.)
As I’m moving the children back to Australia for a school term… in one week… I’m also trying to clean out the cupboards. I don’t like waste. So I’m going to make this tart using only what I have readily available. No purchasing of new ingredients to get left in the larder!
According to the glossary of A Proper New Book of Cockerye (1609, edited by Catherine Frere in the 1920s), Verjuice is a green juice made from crab apples, a little like this:
Leave the crabs in a heap. Remove stalks, blacks and rottenelles, then in long troughs with beetles for the purpose, crushe and break them all to mash. Make a bag of coarse hair cloth and press through into a clean vessel. Turn into sweet hogsheads and add a dozen handfuls of damaske roses to each. “A Proper New Book of Cockerye, 1609”
Some of that sounds delightful (the damaske roses for instance – they also provided a recipe for a damask rose marzipan – brightly pink in colour – which I’ll try another time). Other parts of that recipe require further research before I’m able to decipher it fully. Hogsheads? Beetles? Coarse Hair? horse hair? Are they interchangeable? I’ll come back to you.
So what am I to do. There’s an apple in my fruit bowl. I’ll be happy to use it up.
The Pastry is the next dilemma.
No clarification as to which style of pastry to use. As the instructions say to fill with a jelly/juice AFTER cooking and then ‘ice’ before serving, it is clear this is to be a pie best eaten cold, as in the fashion of a Pork Pie.
So I used a recipe from Florence White “To Raise A Piecrust”, provided by a Mr. Fred Wright of Melton Mowbray, 1927.
Of course, as soon as I started, I realised that a ‘raised piecrust’ requires long kneading to develop the gluten.
The purpose of a raised piecrust was to build a vessel within which to cook the meat.
Traditionally, it was for households that either didn’t have funds for cookware or serving ware. Or for households that had to feed a lot of people – for example, a Royal Court.
If a pie were cooked in a stiff piecrust – you know those really handsome looking pies you see models of when you visit old castle kitchens? – the eater didn’t eat the pastry! They used a spoon to eat the meaty contents.
It was important for the piecrust to be thick and strong enough to sit in the oven, full of meaty stew, on a stone, but not in a dish. This also meant the pastry browned all over nicely.
Preparation Time: 30mins
Cooking Time: 1 hour 15mins
Ingredients For the Pie Filling
- 500gm packet of frozen peas
- 1 tbsp brown sugar
- 1 handful of tiny baby mint leaves or 1 tbsp fine chopped mint
Ingredients For the Jelly Filling
- 1 large apple
- ¼ cup jam sugar (or ¼ cup sugar and added pectin)
- juice and zest of half a lemon
- 1 tbsp agar agar powder
Ingredients For the Pastry
- makes enough for two pies, so you can freeze half
- 300ml water
- 200gm coconut oil (remember I’m emptying the larder, feel free to use only coconut oil or only lard and not both)
- 100gm lard
- 150gm butter
- 700gm gluten-free flour (today, I used the Dove’s Farm Brown Bread mix: remember … larder… emptying… )
- 1 tsp seasalt
- 1 tbsp kuzu
- 2 tsp xanthum gum
- 1 egg yolk
- For brushing the pastry – the egg white; 2 tbsp almond or rice milk; 1 tbsp sugar
- Bring water to the boil and add the frozen peas. As soon as it’s boiling again, throw in the mint, leave for no more than 30seconds and drain peas and mint into a sieve. Set aside.
- Preheat your oven to 150°. Butter a quiche or flan dish and put it in the oven to warm.
Prepare your pastry.
- Bring the water to the boil, then add the coconut oil and lard and half the butter and let all boil for a few moments.
- With your gluten free flour, kuzu, xanthum gum and salt mixed and piled on a pastry board or on your bench, make a well in the centre and add firstly the skimmed fat from the boiling mix. Combine into the flour and keep adding the hot water.
The trick for working this pastry traditionally, is to keep it warm as you knead for thirty minutes, then leave in a warm pan, by the fire for a further thirty mins before using, so that the consistency is just right to shape into a floury pie dish shape.
- For me, I worked it until the mix was combined, but still a little crumby (this is because it wasn’t warm enough on my cold bench…and it’s gluten free, so not becoming more elastic over time), then I rubbed in the rest of the butter and an egg yolk, formed it into a ball as much as I could, then put the mixture back in the water/fat pan to keep warm, pressing it down into a homogenous shape.
- Remove the flan dish from the oven and use it to cover the pastry pan for 15 minutes, while you finish preparing the filling.
Prepare your Jelly Filling.
- Peel and core your apple. Put these peelings in a medium size saucepan in an inch or two of water and bring to the boil. Allow them to boil, lid on, for 10 minutes.
- Meanwhile, cut the apple into a fine dice.
- Remove the peel and core and the ¼ cup of sugar and pectin. Allow to boil for 2 mins. Add the lemon juice and zest and the apple pieces and allow to soften at a boil for a further few minutes.
- Using a holy spoon (I’m sure they have a name), remove the apple pieces and add to the peas/mint. Keep the cooking syrup for later, leaving it to cool.
Getting the pie into the oven.
- Take about ¼ or a little more of your pastry from the warm pan and put it into the flan dish. Press it out and up the sides until it is evenly spread.
- Take another ¼ of the pastry and roll it out onto a piece of cling wrap and leave it while you fill the pie.
- Mix the apple/peas together and using a large spoon, spoon them into the pie, leaving them piled higher in the middle.
- Take the rolled piece of pastry and slide it off the cling wrap and onto the top of the pie.
- Squeeze the edges together so that the pie is sealed. At this point traditionally, you would cut a 2cm diameter hole in the top of the pie, then plug it with a pastry rose. Cut this pastry circle, ensuring it will be able to be removed later, but then pop it back in place for cooking, unless you have a pie ceramic or care to make a pastry rose for the task.
- Whisk the egg white and almond/rice milk and sugar. Brush generously over the pie. I used up the entire mix.
- Put the pie in the oven to cook slowly for 1 and a quarter hours.
- If this were a big pork pie, you’d be leaving it in there for 3 to 5 hours!
- This is when the little pastry hole comes in handy.
- Put your Apple Syrup back on a medium heat, sprinkling the agar agar over it while still cool. Bring it gently to the boil, letting the agar agar dissolve on top. Give it a stir once it’s dissolved, then very slowly, pour your apple gelee (still completely liquid), into the pie through the centre hole.
- Put your syrup-filled pie into the fridge and leave it there to chill. The jelly will set to hold all those peas together.
A few serving options:
As a side at dinner – make it as is and serve with pear chutney, as an entree or side to your main.
As a Vegetarian main course – use a little less sugar if you prefer.
As a main course or a Picnic Pie – If you want to make it more distinctly savoury – omit sugar and make a thick savoury gelee to pour in at the end of the cooking time, using chicken stock and some richly gelatinous bones, instead of the apple jelly.
OK. There you have it. A pie that can be dessert, main or picnic. This definitely feels a bit loopy. What do you think? Would you make it? It didn’t take that long! I’m taking it to a friend’s house tonight. I will photograph a slice for you once it’s chilled and cut; and we’ll give you the verdict.
We served it as dessert with Lemon Sorbet.
The hardest thing was getting our heads around peas as dessert! One of my friends kept expecting the apple pieces to taste like onion. Quite a delightful mind bend.
If you plan to make this as a dessert, and don’t want such a mind bend factor, you could use this Chickpea Pastry instead and do it as an open tart.
Sweetpea Tart; Gluten Free for Dessert
- Blind bake the Chickpea pastry – cooking at 190° for 15 minutes, then at 150° for 15 minutes.
- Uncover. Put the pastry back in the oven for 10 mins at 150° to brown.
- Remove the pastry and allow to cool for 15 minutes.
- Add the boiled peas, mint and apple jelly at the end, then put straight into the fridge. Decorate with tiny mint leaves on top, ensuring they are just glazed in the jelly’s surface so they don’t shrivel.
- Served chilled, like a green myrtille tart! With cream or lime sorbet and a sprinkle of pomegranate seeds.