Friday, July 30, 2010

Henry VIII’s Hampton Court and his Chuets (Meat Pies)

For most of us, when we think of a palace we think of this…
and this
... with wild beasties standing guard.

Enormous, grand and crawling with servants. But what of the servants? Where do they work? What do they get up to? Where is Hampton Court's downstairs in their “Upstairs Downstairs” ?

At Hampton Court there is an enormous ‘downstairs” and I have always wanted to explore it as I am a really huge Tudor fan and have been since I was a nipper. It took a mighty army to feed Henry VIII's mighty appetites (as those of you who watch The Tudors know very well).

Hampton Court Kitchen Buildings (positioned in the cool northern reaches of the complex)

are where all the work was done.

Simon Thurley in his book Hampton Court: A Social and Architectural History wrote that at one point the ‘downstairs’ occupied 50 rooms staffed by hundreds and contained a cofferer (kitchen accountant), coal house, spicery (spices and fruits) chandler (candles and linen), pastry house (with 4 ovens, the largest of which measured 12’6”), confectionary (for making the kings puddings and housing the only woman that worked in the kitchen, boiling house (with a 75 gallon copper cauldron for soups), flesh larder, wet larder (fish), dry larder (nuts and grains), 3 wine and ale cellars with special security(they drank 300 casks of wine and 600,000 gallons of ale in a year!!!) as well as the great kitchen with ovens, stoves and 5 enormous roasting fireplaces, some with gargantuan spits. In one year during the reign of Elizabeth I, I read they went through 1,240 oxen, 8,200 sheep, 2,330 deer, 760 calves, 1,870 pigs and 53 wild boar.

I was taken through Hampton Court ‘downstairs’ and some ‘upstairs’ (in a dream-come-true 5 hour tour) by Marc Meltonville, the Royal Palace’s Food Historian.
Palace's Cold Storage (that was cool in July!) with meat, fish and dairy rooms on the sides
Marc told me that Hampton Court was a food factory. Moving from the raw materials at the gate to each of the various storage areas and/or to the appropriate cooking stations and then up to the Lords above. As many as 600 lived and worked there, and most were staff (there were very few guests, strangely enough) since the people who ran the government also stayed there for some period of the year and moved with the king or took their turn at a shift at a job (many had their own estates to manage so couldn’t work full time). However you slice it, there was a lot of cooking going on.
Meat Prep room (don’t you love the tree trunk chopping block?)
Roasts being readied for the spit on the 500 year old English Elm table
The great fireplace and spit… big enough for a whole cow!
Meat slices (with the hole for the spit) on the ubiquitous pewter plates.
Waiter’s station… to pass the prepared food from the kitchen to be picked up before moving upstairs
Mid-station on the way to the dining room… the ancient oak stairs and tiles are 500 years old and have never been replaced.
The Great Dining Hall with a fire pit in the center of the floor for heat, and tapestries that are worth as much as the crown jewels!
The King’s place setting all in pewter (exact replicas of the originals), although he rarely ate in this room, rather, he dined in his private chambers.

For some reason, in deciding what recipe to share with you from this epic excursion, it was the humble Chuet or chewetty that captured my heart. First, they are adorable in a kind of Sweeney Todd ) , there-will-always-be-an-England way. They are, like Cornish Pasties, a meal in your hand and just plain homey and delicious. I was fascinated by the way they were made (that you can see HERE or HERE). Marc told us that the leftovers from roasts and such were used to make the pies. Considering that the worst thing I ever made was a cousin of this… a Renaissance Veal Pye that was ghastly and virtually inedible, making these was a brave step indeed. But I am not the 21 year old who tackled the veal pye. I am now a seasoned and seasoning veteran. I decided on “collar’d beef” from The Compleat Cook by Robt. May to be my inspiration, keeping the spicing but not adding the preservative element. It was delicious on its own and the mace that had worried me… turned out to be a brilliant addition. I think I was not too far off using it. Although the original would be more like corned beef, there are similar recipes that are not.

*****I have put the original recipes at the end of the post.

You can see the progression of the pie from formation to finish in the photographs I took at Hampton Court:
The large chunks are a little confusing, in most recipes the meat is minced!

Chuets remind me of a crenelated magna tourris or castle keep. Appropriate somehow, don’t you think?
Chuets (Meat Pies) 2-4

Filling for the Chuet.

1½ pounds of collar’d beef 
3 T suet, chopped
4 prunes, chopped
4 dates, chopped
1/3 c raisins, chopped 
1/3 c currents
big pinch of saffron
2T verjus or wine vinegar
S & P to taste

Mince these together then moisten with some of the juices from cooking the meat (I used the food processor to mince/pulse this all together) and allow to sit for an hour so the dried fruits can soak up the juices.

Wine Spiced Beef inspired by Collar’d Beef

1 ¾ pound stew beef 
½ bottle red wine
2 T Suet
1 onion
1 clove of garlic
½ t cloves
1 t mace
2 t pepper
3 anchovies
2 T fresh marjoram
2 T fresh thyme
sprig of rosemary
2 bay leaves
¼ c verjus or wine vinegar

Marinate the meat in the wine for a day. Remove the meat, reserving the wine. Preheat your oven to 275º Heat the suet and brown the meat. Remove from the pan and sauté the onion and garlic. Add the herbs and spices and wine and vinegar and put in a covered Dutch oven for 2 ½ hours or until tender. 

Remove stems and bay leaves.


1½  c white flour + 1 ½ c whole wheat flour
4 oz Suet (chopped) * I rendered my suet, but original recipes use it au naturel
salt to taste

Combine flour, suet and pulse in a food processor till it is like very rough meal (or grate the suet and blend gently with the flours), add ½ c or so of water as you would any pie crust to have just enough to bring the dough together, make into a flattened round and chill for an hour.
Chuet, Serves 4-8
Preheat oven to 425ºTake the dough and make 4 circles, 2 large and 2 small for the top for a large chuet, or 4 and 4 for a large muffin size. Make a freehand crust (see the videos). Fill with a good handful of the meat mixture and draw together like a purse, pressing the folds together to make a cup. Cut off the excess just slightly above the meat. Wet the small circle of dough and press onto the sides forming a lid, making the ruffled edge as you go. Make a hole in the top for steam. Cook for 15 minutes at 425º then cover the tops with aluminum foil so they don’t burn and lower temperature to 325º for an hour. Each pie serves 1 large appetite or 2 smaller ones and can be served warm or cold.
You can gild the lily by brushing the tops with butter and rosewater and a few grains of demerara sugar.

Collar’d Beef from The Compleat Cook, 1658

Take the thinnest end of a coast of beef, boyl it and lay it in Pump-water, and a little salt, three dayes shifting it once every day, and the last day put a pint of Claret Wine to it, and when you take it out of the water, let it lye two or three hours a drayning, then cut it almost to the end in three slices, then bruise a little *Cochinell and a very little **Allum, and mingle it with the Claret-wine, and colour the meat all over with it, then take a dozen of Anchoves, wash them and bone them, and lay them into the Beef, and season it with Cloves, Mace, and Pepper, and two handfuls of salt, and a little sweet Marjoram and Tyme and when you make it up, roul the innermost slice first, and the other two upon it, being very wel seasoned every where, and bind it hard with Tape, then put it into a stone-pot, something bigger then the Coller, and pour upon it a pint of Claret-wine, and halfe a pint of wine-vinegar, a sprig of Rosemary, and a few Bay-leave and bake it very well; before it is quite cold, take it out of the Pot, and you may keep it dry as long as you please.
*cochinell is cochineal, an insect derived red dye from the New World that is still used today ( yes, red bugs in your food!)
**alum is hydrated potassium aluminum sulfate used in pickling as a preservative

To make Pyes from A Proper New Book of Cookery, 1575

Pyes of Mutton or biefe, must be fine minced and seasoned with Pepper
and salte, and a lyttle Saffron to colour it, suet or marrow a good quantytye a
lyttle vyneger, prunes, great raisings and dates, take the fatteste of the broth
of poudred biefe…

How to make Chuets from A Book of Cookrye, 1591

Take Veale and perboyle it and chop it very fine, take beefe Suet and mince it fine, then take Prunes, Dates and Corance, wash them very clean and put them into your meat, then take Cloves, Mace, and pepper to season your meat withal and a little quantity of salt, vergious and Sugar, two ounces of biskets, and as many of Carowaies, this is the seasoning of your meat, then take fine flowre, yolkes of Egs, and butter, a little quantitye of rosewater and sugar, then make little coffins for your Chewets and let them bake a quarter of an houre, then wet them over with butter, then strewe on Sugar and wet the Sugar with a little Rosewater, and set them into the Oven again, then take and serve five in a dish.



Diane said...

What an interesting post. Great photos and a wonderful recipe. Thanks for this. Diane

Schnitzel and the Trout said...

What a fascinating post. Love the pictures and all the information. A recipe from a cookbook dated 1658 has to be good!!!!

SavoringTime in the Kitchen said...

I would have loved to have toured Hampton Court. What a wonderful experience! Reading the original recipe I see that they did use some wonderful herbs for flavor. I'll pass on Sweeney Todd's meat pie but I'd love to taste your version.

Medieval Muse said...

That place must have been like a village in itself! As a vegetarian, I wince at the thoughts of such pies, but I thank you so much for the grand tour and information. The hall is magnificent!

Linda said...

I love to visit you Deana...every post you write is so interesting. I would have loved to be along on that tour! In fact thank you for taking us along with you.
The meat pie looks delicious!

Mary Bergfeld said...

You have given us another fabulous culinary post. I was sad to have your tour end. The hand pies look wonderful and are, themselves, a work of art.I hope the day treats you well. Blessings...Mary

Stella said...

Deana, your photos of this chuet are beautiful. I especially love the one with all the chuets on that very plain table near a window-so homey and realistic that one is! The plate with for and knife photo is catching too...
So glad you got to see this beautiful castle-it's so rustic yet also so opulent in a way. Very strange how something can be that way.
p.s. I love mace!

Ken Albala said...

Just fabulous and the pies look absolutely luscious. Almost makes me feel like I was there!

Lazaro Cooks said...

Look at those! Amazing photos as always. Reading your posts are so inspirational. There are not many blogs I can say that about.

Those meat pies are calling my name!


Deana Sidney said...

Foodfun>Thanks... this was a work of love!
Susan> it is amazing how good the recipes are.... and so many books are online now!
Savoring>they are really big on spices but a lot of herbs too... it was a vibrant cuisine that was reveling in the newfound goods of the East.
Medieval>It is as big as a village. Don't be put off by the meat... all that lovely fruit with a tasty oil (pumpkin seed or such) would make an awesome dish!
Stella>they did look great, didn't they (not quite in focus but the light was gorgeous! MAce and beef are great together!
Ken>merci, ...almost like you were there...yeah!
Lazaro> Thanks LAzaro... I will put in your link when I get it!
Linda> I really wanted to give the feeling of being there... I wish I was as good at it as Lorraine (NQN)... but I was too involved and not in the total reporting state of mind... a skill to be developed!
Mary> so glad it entertained a little!

Becky said...

That looks amazing! I could use a bit more meat pie in my life.

Love the history. Love, love, love. I've got to go to Hampton Court if I ever make it back to the UK.

The Cooking Photographer said...

I saw this one Foodgawker and knew it was you!! I love your pictures.

Lisa said...

This looks delicious and something I am definitely going to give a try. It's winter here at the moment and it sounds perfect. A wonderfully interesting post. Thankyou.

Faith said...

I'm in love with this post. This looks like it was absolutely the experiece of a be able to see so much history is amazing! I really enjoyed reading the original recipe too. I've been reading a book of ancient Roman recipes and it's so interesting!

Fresh Local and Best said...

It's incredible to see the oven that was able to hold all of that meat! This meat pie has such a long and interesting history. The pictures are beautiful.

Moira - Tertúlia de Sabores said...

I love meat pies, they remember me Medieval ages ;)

Sarah said...

Makes me want to travel! Love these pies.

Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella said...

I waited until I had a cup of tea to read this post. Deana, this is why I adore your site. You do things that I dream of doing and visit places I dream of visiting! :D

Anna Johnston said...

What a fascinating story because its so much more than a post. The recipes from long ago are magical and even though I'm a meat eater I too shudder at how many animals were eaten each year in Hampton Court. I've been fascinated ever since a child when watching Upstairs Downstairs about this sort of era in history & have always wondered about how & what was prepared in those massive kitchens. Thankyou for such an entertaining write up. I'll be sure to be back. Cheers Anna

2 Stews said...

Thanks for the Hampton Court Food tour. I was there a few years ago and was in awe. I am always in awe of Henry VIII's consumption and large living. And of course, in awe of your beautiful pics and informative tour.

pierre said...

i love your post and the pie looks a delish to me ! thanks for the sharing !! pIerre

T.W. Barritt at Culinary Types said...

What fun! I've made two visits to Hampton Court in my life, and it is one of my favorite places. I, too, have a Tudor fixation that probably began with the Sixth Wives of Henry the VIII. How lucky you were to get a special tour. I've seen part of the kitchen on my last trip - it wasn't open on the previous visit, so I completely taken in by it all!

Joanne said...

I always feel so much more informed and knowledgeable after reading your posts! This is some epic comfort food. My stomach is growling just thinking about all the meaty goodness.

Chef Dennis Littley said...

what a wonderful post, so much information! It's hard to imagine how everything ran so smoothly without any of the modern convenience we enjoy.... your photo's make me feel like I am there with you....thank you so much!

RedBettySummer said...

Someone earlier said, "I am in love with this post." I totally understand! What a great read. I, too, love the Tudors. The show really creates the imagery. Now these meat pies (pyes) set the senses. Thanks so much for sharing.

lotuseater said...

Yeow, Wait til all my friends see what you're up to. Hurrah! Huzzah! Make it two Yeows. Mr. P

Cathy said...

What a fantastic post, Deana. You were so lucky to have a tour of Hampton Court and we are so happy that you took us along. Your photos are wonderful. That was truly living large.

tasteofbeirut said...

I felt transported to old England after reading your post and enjoying these photos; the kitchen was amazing in its size and what a difference with the rest of the castle: makes me think of songs with ogres eating little children. Love that pie and especially your perfect rendition and your beautiful shot of it, truly a work of art.

Sue said...

Did you see the new wine fountain there? Nick wrote about it a while back - it's a replica of the old tudor one and you can buy wine by the glass from it!

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Jorge Ramiro said...

That's lovely. All the pictures and also the food. It is nice for a good vacations, may be. May be for a few days. But is so far from my place... I have eaten some food like this one while I was in some rent apartments buenos aires, Argentina. Is a very nice place, also.