The Everyday Lore Project

12 July 2020 – Pestle Pies

12 July 2020 – Pestle Pies

I made pestle pies today, or at least an approximation thereof. The first Sunday after 7 July was the traditional date for the Lapford Revel in Devon, and traditionally, pestle pies were very much the dish of the day. 

According to A Dictionary of Archaic and Provincial Words, Obsolete Phrases, Proverbs, and Ancient Customs from the reign of Edward I by James Orchard Halliwell in 1847 (or MDCCCXLVII in old money), a pestle is ‘a leg of an animal, generally of a pig’ thus making a pestle pie a ‘large standing pie which contains a whole gammon, and sometimes a couple of fowls and a neat’s tongue’ (p.618), a neat being of the bovine persuasion. Yum. 

Besides all the meat and wheat and obvious delights of eating ox tongue, my main problem was that I don’t own a pie dish. Or at least a pie dish for proper pastry pies. But after much froing and toing with recipe subversions, finally the solution presented itself in the form of Delia and her ‘Not Pork’ Pies baked in a muffin tin. I was away.

The filling is your basic vegetarian nightmare of lentils and tiny diced vegetables, with the addition of sundried tomatoes, eggs and spices. This is then spooned into pastry cases and baked tinwise for half an hour, and then for another 25 mins on a baking tray. I cheated with the pastry. From what I can gather, pestle pie pastry is a hot crust pastry, but that doesn’t come in gluten free ready roll, so I settled for puff. 

And besides having to physically saw through the pastry with a bread knife, they were very tasty, in a non-offensive vegetarian kind of way (helped greatly by the huge whack of black pepper I loaded them with). In the oven they smelled of pork pie, but on the tongue, not so much, plus there was no salty jelly to be repulsed by (and secretly attracted to). It certainly won’t be a chore to finish off the batch, but I might have to make some piccalilli tomorrow to compensate.

Two last things on pestle pies. The first is pestle of a lark, a new phrase I learnt meaning ‘a trifle, an unimportant matter’ (1590s, Online Etymology Dictionary) as a lark’s leg is very unsubstantial. The second is according to their Facebook page, the Lapford Revel was in fact held yesterday and Friday. If at all. But frankly at this point, I feel that’s just a pesky pestle of a lark detail. 

Barometer Watch – I think I’ve created a new lifeform in the green water which was up again today (sunny, warm), no change with the new balloon jar. 

Veg Vig
My beans plants are dying. The instructions said direct sunlight, but they’re not thriving. I may have to repot. There are still beans though. I used the thyme in my Not Pork Pies, and jolly lovely it was too. The Mangelwurzels are springing up apace and the parsley is covered in spots. Hmm. But maybe there might be a little digitalis action starting.

And finishing today’s report, it’s back to my lovely friend, Hildegunn. She updated me on her crops this week. And I’m not going to lie, I am rather jealous of her healthy, robust sage, chamomile, and Turk’s Turbans (not a euphemism).

And utterly thrilled for her too. She’s also just opened a brilliant Etsy shop with some beautiful folklore themed work, you should definitely check it out: HildiesArtShop


Cooper, Q. and Sullivan, P. (1994) Maypoles, Martyrs & Mayhem: 366 Days of British Myths, Customs & Eccentricities, London, Bloomsbury Publishing Plc

Orchard Halliwell, J. (1847) A Dictionary of Archaic and Provincial Words, Obsolete Phrases, Proverbs, and Ancient Customs from the reign of Edward, London, John Russell Smith

Smith, D. (2007) Delia’s Vegetarian Collection, London, BBC Books

Published by Liza Frank

Author of My Celebrity Boyfriend. Obsessed with hula hooping, sons of preachermen and fresh dates, sometimes all at the same time. Curator of Folklore Agony and The Everyday Lore Project.

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