Shakespeare's Birthday Pie

francine segan, author of shakepeare's kitchen, offers delicious recipes from a simpler time.

Food History

Shakespeare’s Birthday Pie

Celebrate with some historic pie

-Recipes from Shakespeare’s Kitchen (Random House) by Francine Segan

Shakespeare's Kitchen by Francine SeganApril 23 is Shakespeare’s birthday. Celebrate by preparing one of the pie recipes – either sweet or savory – that were popular back in the Bard’s day. They’re easy to make, thanks to today’s ready-made supermarket dough, and so delicious!

A Bit of Triva: Believe it or not, things were bawdy and fun back in Shakespeare’s time. Know those cakes where a girl jumps out? Well, that was invented back then. They liked to stick all sorts of live things -birds, frog, snakes, and a dwarf or two – into pie and have them pop out as a surprise for the guests. Turns out four and 20 blackbirds really were “baked”- or hidden – in pie!

Mini Meat Pies
Serves 8

Mini Meat Pies

Mmmm, these yummy pies have just a hint of sweetness thanks to the dried fruit.


8 ounces ground pork or beef
2 tablespoons raisins
2 tablespoons nuts like pine nuts or almonds
6 dates, pitted and finely chopped
3 dried apricots, pitted and finely chopped
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
2 tablespoons orange juice
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 box frozen puff pastry, thawed
1 large egg, beaten


1. Place the ground meat, raisins, nuts, dates, apricots, nutmeg, orange juice, salt, and pepper in a bowl and mix well.

2. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

3. Roll out the puff pastry 1/8 inch thick on a floured work surface. Using a 2 1/2-inch round cookie cutter, press out about 30 dough circles. 4. Place 1 tablespoon of the meat mixture on each circle, fold in half, and pinch the edges to seal. Brush the top with the egg and place on a nonstick baking sheet. Bake for 20 minutes, or until golden brown.

Fancy Pants Fish Pie
Serves 12

Fancy Pants Fish Pie

This dish looks and tastes fancy, but is really easy to make. The pretty scales on the dough come by just pressing in with the tip of a spoon.


1 box frozen puff pastry, thawed)
1 salmon fillet, cut into twelve 2- by 3-inch pieces (about 1 1/2 pounds)
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
12 thin asparagus stalks, cut into 1 inch pieces
24 green seedless grapes
1 large egg, beaten
3 lemons, cut in wedges


1. Roll out the dough into a 5- by 13-inch rectangle about 1/4 inch thick and place on a parchment-lined baking sheet.

2. Sprinkle the salmon with the salt, pepper, and nutmeg and place over the dough. Arrange the asparagus and green grapes over the salmon.

3. Roll out the remaining dough into a 5- by 13-inch rectangle and place on top of the ingredients. Trim the dough into the shape of a fish and pinch the edges to seal. Using the excess dough, add fish details, such as an eye or fin. Using a teaspoon, imprint scale and tail marks on the dough, being careful not to cut through the dough. Brush with the egg.

4. Bake the salmon at 375° F. for 40 minutes, or until golden brown.

5. Serve with lemon wedges.

Marmalade Mini Pies
Serves 6

Marmalade Mini Pies

This is a quick trick to turn store bought marmalade and jam into a delicious, unusual filling for the crunchy, ready-made phyllo dough cups available in the supermarket freezer case.


2 tablespoon butter
1/4 cup orange jam or marmalade
1/4 cup lemon marmalade or lemon curd
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground 5 color peppercorns
3 teaspoons fresh ginger, minced
1/2 cup white wine
15 ready-made tiny phyllo tart shells, (1 inch diameter)


1. Melt the butter in a medium saucepan. Add the jams, pepper, ginger, and wine, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes. Allow the mixture to cool to room temperature.

2. Spoon the filling into the tart shells and serve.

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