|Place of origin||Britain|
Steak and kidney pie is a popular British dish. It is a savoury pie filled principally with a mixture of diced beef, diced kidney (which may be beef, lamb, veal or pork) and onion. Its contents are generally similar to those of steak and kidney puddings.
In modern times the fillings of steak and kidney pies and steak and kidney puddings are generally identical, but until the mid-19th century the norms were steak puddings and kidney pies.[n 1] Bell's Life in London and Sporting Chronicle, 1826, records a large dish of kidney pies in the window of a baker near Smithfield, and ten years later a kidney-pie stand outside what is now the Old Vic, emitting sparks every time the vendor opened his portable oven to hand a hot kidney pie to a customer.
"Rump Steak and Kidney Pie" was served in a Liverpool restaurant in 1847, and in 1863 a Birmingham establishment offered "Beef Steak and Kidney Pie". But until the 1870s kidney pies are far more frequently mentioned in the newspapers, including one thrown at a policeman during an affray in Knightsbridge in 1862, and an assault case in Lambeth in 1867 when a customer attacked a waitress for bringing her a beef pie instead of a kidney one. By the mid-1870s steak and kidney pies were as often mentioned as kidney ones. Both appeared in verse of the period:
I've eaten as much as a man could eat,
I've gone through a very remarkable feat;
From the twopenny tart to the kidney pie,
I've swallowed as much as I could, have I.
From The Zoo (1875), by B. C. Stephenson and Arthur Sullivan
According to the cookery writer Jane Grigson, the first published recipe for the combination of steak and kidney was in 1859 in Mrs Beeton's Household Management.[n 2] Beeton used it in a pudding rather than a pie. She had been sent the recipe by a correspondent in Sussex in south-east England, and Grigson speculates that it was until then a regional dish, unfamiliar to cooks in other parts of Britain.
Beeton suggested that steak and kidney could be "very much enriched" by the addition of mushrooms or oysters. In those days oysters were the cheaper of the two: mushroom cultivation was still in its infancy in Europe and oysters were still commonplace. In the following century Dorothy Hartley (1954) recommended the use of black-gilled mushrooms rather than oysters, because long cooking is "apt to make [oysters] go hard".[n 3]
Neither Beeton nor Hartley specified the type of animal from which the kidneys were to be used in a steak and kidney recipe. Grigson (1974) calls for either veal or ox kidney, as does Marcus Wareing. Other cooks of modern times have variously specified lamb or sheep kidney (Marguerite Patten, Nigella Lawson and John Torode), ox kidney (Mary Berry, Delia Smith and Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall), veal kidney (Gordon Ramsay), either pork or lamb (Jamie Oliver), and either ox, lamb or veal kidneys (Gary Rhodes).
Some versions are full, or "double-crust", pies, in which the cooking dish is lined with pastry before the meat mixture is added, after which a pastry top is put over it. In other versions the meat is put straight into the dish, with only a pastry lid. In either case, a pie funnel is often used to stop the top crust sinking into the meat mixture during baking. Some recipes call for puff pastry; others for shortcrust. In some the meat is cooked before going into the pie; in others it goes in raw. In addition to the steak and kidney, the filling typically contains carrots and onions, and is cooked in one or more of beef stock, red wine and stout.
The steak and kidney pie is found in numerous regional variants. In the West Country clotted or double cream may be poured into the pie through a hole in the pastry topping just before serving. The Ormidale pie from the Scottish Highlands is flavoured with a teaspoon each of Worcestershire sauce, vinegar and tomato sauce. In East Yorkshire sliced potatoes are substituted for kidneys and the dish is called meat and pot pie. In the English Midlands, Northern England and Scotland oysters or mushrooms or both are often added; in Scotland this variant is known as Musselburgh pie.
Among the various vernacular names for steak and kidney pie are Kate and Sidney pie, snake and kiddy pie, and snake and pygmy pie. A substantial part of the plot of P. G. Wodehouse's 1963 comic novel Stiff Upper Lip, Jeeves hinges on the disruptive allure of a magnificent steak and kidney pie for a young man whose fiancée has decreed that he must turn vegetarian.
|Part of a series on|