Blaeberry pie - Going back in time

The first time I baked this pie it felt like magic when I took it out of the oven.
Not only has this dish been around for centuries, I got to taste a bit of Britain's beautiful food heritage. There are quite a few cookery books around that were written more than hundreds of years ago and are still influencing cooks today.
Like in politics, we are supposed to learn from our history. So whenever I am cooking a dish I research it to find out how it was prepared by the Elizabethans, Victorians, Edwardians and learn about how tastes changed and some things just stayed the same.

I am eternally grateful to Florence White who wrote the book 'Good things in England'. Born in 1863 she was the first ever freelance journalist specializing in food and English cooking in particular.
For the creation of the book she went out looking for traditional British recipes that were handed down in families for generations. Some of the regional recipes that she found or had been sent by her readers, dated back as far as the 14th century.
In 1931 she founded the 'English Folk Cookery Association' and later she set up a cookery and domestic training school in Fareham.

Another interesting read about English traditional cooking are the books from Jane Grigson, some of the recipes in her books are from or inspired by Isabella Beeton, the author of the book 'Mrs Beetons's Book of Household Management' in 1861.
Both White and Beeton's books influenced the work of Elizabeth David and so do we go on to keep British food heritage alive.

This pie is inspired by Jane Grigson's Blaeberry pie from the 70s.
These days puff pastry is more popular for fruit pies but in the old days Shortcrust pastry would have been used.
I am not a big fan of puff pastry and when I read about Flaky Shortcrust pastry in Beeton's book I thought I would give it a try. The recipe was very similar to my recipe for savoury pie pastry.
The pie worked best with the Flaky Shortcrust pastry, I added a pinch of sugar to the dough and used sparkling water instead of still water.

Blaeberries are known in England by various of local names, these include Bilberries, Wimberries and myrtle blueberries. In Ireland they are known as Fraughan and are traditionally picked on Fraughan sunday on the last sunday of july.
Bilberries were gathered by the Gaelic on the feast of Lughnasadh which is celebrated on the first of August. The Bilberries were gathered to bake pies and make wine.
Lughnasadh is a harvest celebration, a time when food is plenty and has to be preserved for the more lean days ahead in the year.
I am fascinated by these feasts which all celebrate food, fertility and life. Things were so simple and so straight forward. People were looking forward to the first berries and now we can buy them all year long. We are losing our connection with the seasons...

By chance while I write this, it's the last sunday of July. So this pie is for the harvest and the start of a whole new chapter in my life... but more on that at a later date.

What do you need
a 22 cm pie dish, I used enamelware

For the pastry 
this recipe is for a pie in a 22 cm pie dish, including the bottom part, I only use the top for this pie so you will have some leftover dough to freeze or make little pies with

• 250 g plain white flour
• 150 g cold butter
• 1/2 teaspoon of lemon juice 
• 100ml ice cold sparklingwater
• pinch of sugar
• 1 egg white for egg washing the pastry

You can do this with a food processor, but I like to do it by hand.

Mix flour and sugar.
Finely slice half of the butter finely into the flour, shake the bowl so the butter is covered in flour.
Use a round knife to cut the butter into smaller pieces until the mixture resembles crumbs. You can also use a fork to do this.
Put in the fridge for 30 minutes
Now add the other half of the butter and do the same thing, cutting the butter into smaller pieces.
Add the lemon juice to the water
Start adding the water to the flour and butter, bring the dough together.
Make sure you don't over handle the dough, when it gets sticky, refrigerate again.
The dough needs to stay cool.
When you've managed to bring the dough together into a large lump, wrap in clingfilm and refrigerate for 1 hour.
Now prepare your pie filling

For the filling

• 500 g blueberries
• 85 g cane sugar (you can add 100g if you like things very sweet)
• 1 level tablespoon of cornflour (cornstarch) 

Mix the sugar with the cornflour
Add a layer of berries to the pie dish
Add a layer of sugar and cornflour mixture and keep on doing this until the pie dish is slightly heaped with fruit.

When the dough has rested enough.
Preheat your oven to 220°

Roll out your dough on a flowered surface.
It should be half a cm thick.
Line the pastry over the pie dish filled with fruit and trim the edges.
Give the pastry a generous egg wash
score the middle of the pastry with a sharp knife so the steam can get out.

Put the pie in the bottom part of the oven for 15 min at 220°
After 15 min reduce the heat to 180° and bake for 20-30 minutes

When ready, leave it to rest for 20 minutes so the fruit can set a bit.

Enjoy with a dollop of clotted cream, double cream or ice cream.

The magic that is opening the lid of a pie and discovering color...

Please leave a comment, I enjoy reading them 

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