Ask Chef Christy - Ryschewys - medieval hand pies filled with dried fruits and spices

Rychewys – Henry VIII would have liked my GF version!

I recently took an on-line course through FutureLearn on the History of Royal Food and Feasting.  Each week featured a different English monarch and the foods they were served. Ryschewys is a fruit-filled hand pie from the 15th century, and was one of the featured recipes in the first week about Henry VIII.  I have had these before and was anxious to try them out with one of my sturdy gluten-free pie crusts.  They were a huge success!  The pastry was flaky but held together quite well as a hand pie.  The filling was a little dry so they were best with a big glass of milk or tea, but I will definitely make these again!

Here is one version of the original recipe from Two Fifteenth Century Cookery-Books (Harleian MS. 27, c.1430 – Early English Text Society print, 1888).  I have three or four versions of this recipe in other texts from that time period, but they are all very similar to this one.

Take Fygys, & grynd hem smal in a mortere with a lytil Oyle,
& grynd with hym clowys & Maces; & þan take it vppe in-to
a vesselle, & cast þer-to Pynez, Saundrys, & Roysonys of Coraunce, & mencyd Datys, Pouder Pepir, Canel, Salt, Safroun; þan take fyne past of flowre an water, Sugre, Safroun, & Salt, & make fayre cakys þer-of; þan rolle þin stuf in þin hond, & couche it in þe cakys, & kyt it, & folde hym as Ruschewys, & frye hem vppe in Oyle; and serue forth hote.

Saunders is a non-aromatic sandalwood bark, used throughout the middle ages as a food coloring.  It is a bright orangey-red, although I’m not sure it does much for this recipe (maybe if you mixed it into the dough instead of the filling?) but I threw some in because the original called for it, and I have it on hand.  If you are fresh out of Saunders, omit it.

Here is my recipe:

Ryschewys (Spiced Dried Fruit Hand Pies)

Ask Chef Christy - Ryschewys - medieval hand pies filled with dried fruits and spices
Ryschewys – medieval hand pies filled with dried fruits and spices

1/2 cup of figs, chopped fine
1/2 cup dates, chopped fine
1/2 cup currants (zante grape raisins)
1/4 cup pine nuts, roughly chopped
2 tbsp. sesame oil
1 tsp.  cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ground cloves
1/2 tsp. ground mace (use nutmeg if you don’t have mace)
1 tsp. saunders
1/2 tsp. saffron threads, ground
1/2 tsp. ground black pepper
1/2 tsp. salt
1 batch of Gluten-Free Sturdy Crust recipe

Old School: I cut all the fruit by hand, and ground all of the spices in a mortar and pestle.
Modern: Using a food processor to quickly chop the figs and dates and a spice grinder for the spices will save time and effort.

Mix all stuffing ingredients together and set aside.

Ask Chef Christy - Ryschewys
Ryschewys stuffing mix with dates, figs, currants, pine nuts and spices.

Gluten-Free Sturdy Crust

2 cups gluten free all purpose flour blend, with high protein ingredients
1 ½ tsp xanthan gum
1 tsp salt
8 oz cold butter, cut into small chunks
1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
cold water

Use an all-purpose gluten-free flour blend here, which can contain up to 25% bean flours or other high protein additions. Sift together the flour, xanthan gum and salt.

Cut butter into small chunks and keep cold until ready to use. With a pastry cutter (or in a food processor), blend in the butter until it becomes small crumbly pieces.

Stir in the apple cider vinegar.

Working quickly add a tablespoon of the cold water at a time, blending the mixture until it just starts to come together to hold a ball. Check for dry spots of flour and blend well, adding only enough water to incorporate everything, but not enough to let it get wet and mushy.

Form a ball, then flatten into a disc and wrap it in plastic film. Chill.

Forming the Hand Pies

Roll out enough dough for one hand pie between two pieces of plastic wrap. Use a lid or other cutter or just free-form the rounds of dough.  Remove the top sheet of plastic wrap and trim excess dough.

Fill one side with the Ryschewys mixture and use the bottom sheet of plastic wrap to help fold the dough over on itself, pressing the edges to seal.  Use a bit of egg wash to help the seal if you like, but it will probably stick together on its own.

Hold the pie with the plastic wrap until you transfer it to a baking sheet.  Don’t move it around once you have it placed.

Cut vent holes in the top crust and decorate.

Bake at 350 ºF for 40 – 45 minutes.

Ask Chef Christy - Ryschewys Pocket Pies with Sturdy Gluten-Free Crust
Ryschewys Pocket Pies with Sturdy Gluten-Free Crust

They were fantastic, and kept really well sitting in a bag on the counter for the few days it took us to eat all of them.  I am pleased with the durability of this crust (remember when I was working on a gluten-free pot pie crust?) and the very satisfying nature of the whole pie.  Medieval food at its finest!

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