The Heritage Cooking Challenge: Choosing an Artichoke Pie

Hartichoke Pye.
Warwickshire County Record Office reference CR341/300

When looking for a recipe to try for this project, I gazed wistfully over the choices, bemoaned the fact cheesecakes had already been taken (I do like a good cheesecake, and even tried a coq au vin one once!) and pondered.

As the coq au vin cheesecake escapade referred to above suggests, I like the slightly offbeat recipes. Take a chance, see what happens and, well, what’s the worst that could happen? Actually, the worst that could happen was… well that’s another story.

So my eye fell onto the artichoke pie1. This was wild in the extreme, and clearly something expensive and showy. Artichokes and saffron, anybody? The combination of artichokes, oranges, cherries… this was leftfield and potentially disgusting – it had to be mine!

Eclectic ingredients

Read down the recipe, and there’s a slightly concerning amount of butter sloshing around, and where on earth did the hard-boiled egg yolks come from?!? That, to a modern taste, is so random it sounds pretty repugnant. But that’s the appeal of this recipe, and this project. It’s a chance to challenge my senses, to find out what flavour combinations still work (or otherwise!)

This recipe, then, may look slightly odd to modern tastes. it mixes sweet and savoury but, to be fair, at the time of the recipe this is not unusual. The more lavish meal of the day would be around lunchtime, it could be ostentatious, a display of wealth… and this recipe certainly fits into that. The ingredients (even today! Since when did sherry become so expensive?!?) would be expensive, exclusive… and definitely placing yourself within the higher echelons of society. It’s part of a selection of recipes for food, drink and medicines, in various hands, with occasional naming of recipe owners, such as Lady Nottingham, Mrs Tilson, Duchess of Cleveland, Lady Temple… you get the idea.

As for cooking, I can follow instructions, but am less good at improvising. This recipe makes some assumptions but, beyond the rather eclectic series of ingredients, doesn’t seem overly complicated. I may, of course, live to regret that statement…

1 I’ll use the modern spelling throughout.

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