The French are intrigued by the British love of pies, puddings and tarts and seem to think we have a different variety for every day of the year!
I remember explaining the Cornish stargazy pie to a French chef and he thought it was a joke.
He could just about accept wrapping a fillet of salmon with puff pastry (en croute) but a pie with herring heads sticking out from under a pastry lid was a dish too far.
There is one type of pie that the area around Montpellier have adopted as their own and is a speciality around Easter, and it’s all down to Clive of India.
He spent time in France and lived in a chateau overlooking the Valley of the Peyne, and it was here that he entertained the local aristocracy and introduced them to mince pies.
They have been adopted as a regional speciality and are called Les Petits Pates de Pezenas. The story is that Clive’s Indian chef was asked for the recipe by many of the families who had visited and enjoyed the strange little delicacies so much that they wanted their chefs to prepare and cook them as well.
This recipe is said to be very near to the original given by Clive of India’s chef.
Pezenas – Easter Pies
400g/1lb puff paste
200g/1/2lb lean lamb/mutton
2 large oranges
Egg yolks for eggwash
Brown sugar for sprinkling.
Finely chop the lamb/mutton.
Mix together with the mincemeat in a bowl.
Squeeze the lemons/oranges into mixture, stir and leave overnight to marinate.
Roll out puff paste and make mince pies in the usual way.
Eggwash the pastry lids and sprinkle with a little brown sugar.
Bake in a moderate oven and serve warm.
NB. A little curry powder may be added to the mix for an interesting kick.