There is a legend (I can’t find a verifiable source) that Emily Brontë had a thing for pie. Meat pie. Supposedly, Ms. Brontë wrote to her sister from Belgium that she would rather be in Haworth House making this pie than be abroad. I’m not sure what that says about the pie- that she loves it so much she would forgo her trip just to make the pie, or that she hates traveling so much she would rather be home making gross meat pies. However, the legend holds she favored the pie, so here is the recipe. But first a bit about Ms. Brontë.
Emily Brontë was born on July 30, 1818 in Yorkshire, the fifth of six children, including fellow writers Charlotte and Anne. Her mother died when she was young, and her aunt moved in to the Brontë household to help raise the children. Emily Brontë’s childhood play with her siblings significantly influenced her writing. In1824, the Brontë sisters (except for Anne) went away to Cowan Bridge School, where Emily was a favorite; she was called “quite the pet nursling of the school.” Unfortunately, conditions at the school were poor, and Maria and Elizabeth Brontë both caught consumption and died in 1825.
Emily and Charlotte were brought home from school and the Brontë children began to write plays set in the imaginary lands of Angria and Gondal. In 1831, Charlotte left for Roe Head School, and Emily and Anne continued the Gondal play. Emily Bronte’s diary entry on November 24, 1834 contains the earliest piece surviving piece of the Brontë’s writing. It began, “Taby said just now Come Anne pilloputate (i.e. pill a potato) Aunt has come into the kitchen just now and said where are you feet Anne Anne answered On the floor Aunt papa opened the parlour door and gave Branwell a letter saying here Branwell read this and show it to your Aunt and Charlotte–The Gondals are discovering the interior of Gaaldine Sally Mosley is washing in the back kitchen.” The Gondal stories were adventures of royals and soldiers, tragic love and political intrigue, murder and war. The main character was the passionate queen Augusta G. Almeda. Critic Teddi Lynn Chichester suggested that “through Augusta, Brontë could explore, in private, her need to create a powerful, even indestructible” woman, due to the loss of significant women in her life.
In 1835, Emily accompanied Charlotte, now a teacher, to Roe Head, but Charlotte sent her home, believing Emily would die without “sources purely imaginary.” Emily left home only two other times, to teach at Law Hill and to study in Brussels. Back home, Emily continued to write in her spare time. Her poems centered around the themes of nature and death. Emily wondered in her diary on June 26, 1837 where she and her siblings would be in four years and hoped they would be in “this drawing room comfortable” or “gone somewhere together comfortable.” Brontë continued to write poetry in 1838, along with a translation of Virgil’s Aeneid. During this year, she accepted a teaching position at Law Hill, a girls’ school, where she found spare time to write a little, but she only lasted a year.
On her July 30, 1841 birthday, Ms. Brontë wrote that she hoped in four years she and her sisters would have set up a school of their own. In pursuit of this goal, Emily and Charlotte studied at a boarding school in Brussels in 1842. Brontë completed no poems in Brussels, and both sisters left for Haworth again when their aunt died. Emily Brontë never left home again. In 1844, the Brontë sisters sent their poetry to publishers, using the pseudonyms Currer, Ellis, and Acton Bell and agreed to publish Poems at their own expense with the publishing company of Aylott and Jones in 1846. In December, 1847 Emily’s most famous work, Wuthering Heights, was published. Sadly, Ms. Brontë caught consumption in October 1848. She refused all medical help, and died on December 19, 1848, at age thirty.
Had she lived another year, perhaps her next work would have been a cookbook. Certainly it would include the following meat pie recipe, reputed to be her favorite:
Emily Bronte’s Meat Pie
- 2 lbs sirloin or 2 lbs filet of beef
- 1 onion, chopped into small pieces
- 1 lb puff pastry
- 6 ounces chicken pate
- 1 egg
- 3 ounces butter
- 6 ounces button mushrooms
- black pepper (course ground)
- 1 Trim off any large pieces of fat from the meat. Chop into small cubes then season with a little black pepper and salt.
- 2 Melt the butter in a frying pan. Put in the meat cubes and cook in the butter until the outside of the meat is sealed all over. This will take about 15 minutes. Remove the meat from the pan and put to one side.
- 3 Heat the oven to 400oF /
- 4 Add a little more butter to the pan, if needed, and fry the chopped onion and the button mushrooms in the mixture of butter and meat juices. Continue to fry until most of the juices have gone from the pan but take care not to burn anything. Put these to one side too.
- 5 Roll out the puff pastry on a flour covered surface until it is rectangular in shape. The pastry has to be big enough to wrap the meat in to make a ‘pastry envelope’.
- 6 Take the onion / mushroom mixture and spread it onto the pastry, then put the sealed meat on top of the onion / mushroom mixture.
- 7 Spread the pate onto the meat then brush all round the edges of the pastry rectangle with an egg that has been beaten.
- 8 Make the envelope with the pastry to hold the meat and onions. Seal the edges by squeezing together the egg covered pastry edges where they meet.
- 9 Brush all the visible pastry with the remainder of the egg (helps make the pastry go brown).
- 10 Bake in the centre of the heated oven for 20 minutes.
- 11 Keeping the pie in the oven, turn down the heat to 350oF /and leave for another 15 minutes. The pastry should be a lovely golden brown in colour.
I’m not sure the Bronte’s had access to store-bought puff pastry, but as you may have gathered, historical records of the Brontes’ lives are spotty.