Friday, August 5, 2011

Traditional British Food: Lammas Lample Pie

Lammas, celebrated August 1st, probably began as a pre-Christian Anglo-Saxon festival.  By the early Middle Ages, however, it was already considered a prominent harvest holiday.  Lammas also marked the beginning of autumn at that time.*  August 1st in no way feels like the beginning of autumn in Kansas--the average high temperature in Wichita for that date is 94˚F.  However, London's average high is only 73˚F, which seems a lot more like autumn to me!  In addition, the "Little Ice Age" of the early modern period** probably made August seem that much more autumnal.

Cattern Cakes and Lace suggests celebrating Lammas with a Lample Pie (yes, another food with a funny name).  "Lammas" is either a corruption of "loaf-mass," because bread was made with the first wheat from the harvest and then blessed by the parish priest, or is a corruption of "lamb-mass" because lambs used to be dedicated at church on the first of August.***

Lammas Lample Pie and Haricots verts au maître d'hôtel

Lample Pie is made with lamb and apple and a lot of nutmeg.  I had to use ground lamb, because the only other available lamb were crown roasts or chops.  The roasts and chops were $20+ per pound and the ground lamb was $6-something.  Plus, if I buy a lamb roast or chop, I'm going to roast or grill it, not put it in a pie!  Evidently lamb stew meat isn't very popular in Kansas.  Actually, lamb isn't very popular at all.  I also changed the recipe to make individual pies so I could make my own freezer meals.  The lamb and apple (and lots of nutmeg!) work really well together.  I would definitely make this again and I would be tempted to make it deep dish and add lots more apple, because the apple slices were really yummy with the rosemary-nutmeg lamb fat melted into them.

The green beans are from Mastering the Art of French Cooking, which is always the best source for well-buttered vegetable side dishes.  I usually go with the minimum cooking time on Julia Child's veggie recipes, though.  Fifteen minutes is too long to blanch a green bean!

Lammas Lample Pie

Click here for my shortcrust pastry recipe.

  1. Roll 1/6 of the shortcrust pastry to 1/8" thickness.  Trim to the circumference of the pie plate.
  2. This recipe is a good excuse to get whole nutmegs and a Microplane grater, which is a great investment.
  3. Paul adds ground lamb to our 12" skillet.
  4. Use a leaf-shaped fondant cutter to make pastry leaves.
  5. Lay out your individual pie plates, along with the lamb and apples.
  6. Place a layer of apples on the bottom, topped with lamb and another layer of apples.
  7. Pastry lids are slashed four times and topped with four pastry leaves.
  8. Dig in!

In keeping with the British theme, in the August 1, 1938, edition of Life, "France and England Shake Friendly Hands as King George VI Arrives in Paris" and "Life Goes to a Party with England's Lord Chief Justice in the Sacred Inner Temple," which is a must-read for any fans of Evelyn Waugh or Nancy Mitford, because it's wonderfully absurd: all the games are practically illegal, some barristers provided choral entertainment while other barristers threatened to sue due to the noise and all of it to raise money to pay for barristers for those who can't afford them.  Insert any number of lawyer jokes here.

I hate that food has to be political, but I'm glad I didn't alienate my readership with my anti-GMO rhetoric.  I learned that most of you have the same concerns I have!  In the time since my last post, I've watched The Future of Food (which is currently available from Netflix streaming) and learned exactly how organisms are genetically modified.  It's even scarier than I thought.  Here's a hint: it involves the use of e. coli!  The Future of Food doesn't have the production values Food, Inc. had and the narration reminds me of high school science films, but it was extremely informative and even I understood the scientific explanations and I was never much of a biology person.  I did take botany in college, but that was only because I had to take a life science and I don't like the smell of formaldehyde.  Maybe I should have paid more attention!  The Future of Food also has a nice section about what we can do as consumers and voters.

There's a guy from the Center for Food Safety in the film, so I decided to check out the organization's website.  Turns out, they have a Shoppers' Guide, which lists non-GMO groceries and has tips on avoiding GMOs.  The app version includes news and ways to get involved.  I know that "voting with your wallet" is a problem for people with limited resources, but it's only the cost of a stamp or internet access to write to a government agency or a congressman.  I've had one of my senator's offices hang up on me, but I keep trying and I keep hoping that maybe on the next issue there will be more people who speak up.


*"First Fruits" in Ronald Hutton, The Stations of the Sun: A History of the Ritual Year in Britain (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1996), 327-331.

Graph from Wikipedia

***"Lammas Day" in Julia Jones and Barbara Deer, Cattern Cakes and Lace: A Calendar of Feasts (London: Dorling Kindersley, 1987), 90.  The Oxford English Dictionary states the origin is "Old English hläfmœsse (see loaf, Mass), later interpreted as if it were LAMB + MASS."


  1. Interesting post. Loved learning about Lammas. A senator's office hung up on you? Don't they remember your tax dollars pay their salaries? Just say it's the boss calling next time :-)

  2. Lora- I'll have to try that! Maybe they won't hang up on me if they don't know who's calling...

  3. Mmm...that pie sounds delicious autumnal, what with the nutmeg and apple! I completely agree that a Microplane grater is a wonderful thing for nutmeg (and ginger and lemon zest).

    I assume you've read Michael Pollan's The Omnivore's Dilemma? Great read, and it changed the way we buy and eat food.

  4. Karen- The Omnivore's Dilemma is great, isn't it? I'm always so glad I read it!

  5. "... if I buy a lamb roast or chop, I'm going to roast or grill it, not put it in a pie!"- I couldn't agree more to this statement, so true.

    I like it that you tweak your recipes to suit your tastes or to accommodate what's available. You're creative, not dogmatic!

  6. Interesting! I'd like to try something "absolutely British" :D do you understand what I mean? Well, something as traditional as Christmas pudding and this recipe looks nice!

  7. Your individual Lample pies are so cute! Food should certainly TASTE good, but it doesn't hurt if it also LOOKS good! Loved all the info!

  8. hmm lamb and apple? thats an interesting combination :D

  9. I have never heard of Lammas Lample Pie before, but it looks delicious! How funny that lamb is so expensive - it's not cheap here either, but i think Kansas is more expensive.

  10. Oh, boy, aren't these beautiful! I love how you decorated the tops...just stunning!

  11. I've never heard of Lammas! It sounds rather delicious! Great photos, too! :)

    sorelle in style

  12. These pies are beautiful! My husband and sons are big fans of lamb so I'll have to make these for them.

    I appreciate you sharing your thoughts on GMO produced food and I share your concerns. Makes for a good discussion! I see you've read Michael Pollan...I learned so much reading his book. If you'd like to learn more about meat production and factory farms, Jonathan Safran Foer's Eating Animals is quite eye-opening. I began sourcing the meat I was buying for my family and decreasing the amount I cook for them. There is so much to learn about our food production here.

  13. Beautifully made pies! The flavor combination of apple and lamb should have been very nice.

  14. It's so lucky I am actually eating my cereal now, so I can pretend my cereal is actually your shortcrust pastry melting in my mouth! ;)

    The Cat Hag

  15. Beautiful apple lamb pies. Another great post about GMOs. Thank you for giving us those links. I want to point out that not eating organic only has the illusion of being much cheaper in the short run. The inferior nutrition causes malnutrition, overeating (more food cost), obesity, the need for greater amounts of supplemental vitamins (expensive), and higher incidence of medical problems (also very costly). We have found that we eat about half as much when it is organic than when it is "regular" so the cost increase is not nearly as great as it might seem at first glance. Processed organics are particularly more expensive, but it is best to stick to fresh foods and avoid the snacks anyway.

  16. Great observations, Joy. We've also been conditioned to think that we shouldn't spend that much money on food. Americans only spend 6.9% of income on food, while the French spend 13.8% and the Italians 14.7%. (


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