In his Concise History of Gastronomy, first published in New York during 1952, André Simon included this Scottish recipe for Resurrection Pie among the preparations he considered essential to understanding the western culinary canon. The recipe dates from 1936, when it was published by the Kincardine and West Aberdeenshire Unionist Association. Its ‘editoresses,’ according to the title page, were Lady Mabel Forbes and Miss Janet Mitchell-Thompson. They compiled their book from recipes submitted by members of the Association, and if the book strikes the reader as obscure the reader has a point. Cook o’ the North is difficult indeed to borrow or buy.
We know from undisclosed sources that ‘resurrection pie’ started out as a catchall for leftovers thrown together under a crust, but the people of Aberdeen and environs, or at least some people there, liked this version so much they started to make it from scratch. The recipe is simple, short and clear, and worthy of quotation in full:
“Ingredients: Equal portions of liver, steak and rabbit; two or three rashers of bacon, onions, potatoes, pepper and salt.
Method: Cut all meats into thin slices and put a layer into a casserole with a few pieces of bacon, then a layer of sliced onion and potato. Then, put another layer of meat and bacon, season to taste and cover with cold water; cover all with a good layer of sliced onion and potato. Put on the lid and cook for about 1½ hours in a moderate oven.”
That, as they say, is the dish, or almost. In the tradition of all recipes written before Eliza Acton, this one for Resurrection Pie discloses no amounts. Those trusty siblings judgment and experience, however, suggest
- about ¾ lb thinly sliced calf’s, lamb or chicken liver
- about ¾ lb thinly sliced beef shank
- about ¾ lb thinly sliced boneless rabbit (or duck or chicken in a pinch; prescient readers will have noted emergent trends)
- 8-10 bacon slices
- 2 big sweet onions (like Vidalia) cut into thin crescents
- 2-3 Idaho potatoes peeled and cut into thin discs
- pastry of your choice (see the Notes)
-The pie is even better watered with beef stock instead of… water.
-The siblings believe these quantities and a light salad would make four diners very happy.
-By custom and usage, a moderate oven is one (pre)heated to 350°. At that temperature the pie should be ready to go in an hour or so.
-Any crust suitable for a savory pie will do but the Editor’s choice is the classic, simple, versatile and unique British suet pastry. All you do is mix together sifted self-raising flour, or plain flour with a heaped half teaspoon baking powder, with half as much shredded suet as flour, a little salt and barely enough water to bind the pastry together. Work the dough gingerly so that it will become light and fluffy once cooked rather than lumpen.
-Suet pastry takes well to flavorings; dried or fresh herbs, parsley, white pepper, cayenne, mace and other spice. You also might substitute good Cheddar or another hard British cheese for as much as about a third of the suet but the pastry will turn out more robust (heavier).
-If, however, the idea of pastrymaking defeats you, frozen puff pastry makes a perfectly suitable pie.
-Short crust is of course another option; check our recipes.
-Terri Pischoff Wuerthner picks up the leftover theme with an analogous recipe In a Cajun Kitchen (New York 2006). Her “chicken pie” is but the recommendation to turn Scottish into Louisianan recycling rather than a recipe per se. It calls only for “2 pie crusts, purchased [the horror! if not puff pastry] or homemade” for encasing “….boneless leftover chicken stew, fricassee, etouffee, sauce piquante, chicken and gravy, or jambalaya.” Why, however, limit your leftovers to the boneless species? Britain has a long tradition of savory pies made with poultry joints and you do, after all, have access to a table knife.
-Ever frugal, Mrs. Beeton also notes in her recipe for ‘Beef-Steak Pie’ that “underdone roast or boiled meat may in pies be used very advantageously; but always remove the bone from pie-meat, unless it be chicken or game.”