Somerset walnut pye

A while ago as I was driving from one place to another along a Somerset country road, I passed a series of places with ‘walnut’ in their name, Walnut Farm, Walnut Hill, and other walnuts, and I wondered if maybe there was or had been a walnut plantation or wood nearby… I guess there must have been at least a few walnut trees to give their name. Walnuts aren’t actually nuts but drupes (as are plums, olives, apricots, peaches and coconut) There are two common types of walnut, the English walnut which originated in Persia/Iran, and the black walnut which comes from North America. When I saw the name black walnut, I immediately thought of delicious black pickled walnuts, which are actually English walnuts turned black through the pickling process.

Walnuts have been used in English cooking for as long as people have cooked food in this country, and putting them in a pastry case with delicious other ingredients is a very old way of cooking them, and I believe that walnut pie is a traditional Somerset dessert – where I got this idea I don’t know, and I can’t trace it, but I am sure I read it or heard it somewhere. Certainly I have a recipe for it in a Somerset cookery book, and there is a note which claims the recipe was taken to America in the seventeenth century and was adapted into pecan pie… I’m not completely convinced by that, but for the pride of Somerset I’ll go with it!

Here is my version of it:

Walnut Pye

Pastry:

  • 8 oz plain flour
  • 5½ oz butter
  • 2½ oz icing sugar
  • 1 egg yolk
  •  juice  and zest of 1 lemon (only 2 tsp to be used in the pastry)
  • 1 tbsp cold water

Walnut filling:

  • 4 oz ground almonds
  • 4 oz demerara sugar
  •  4 oz chopped walnuts
  • 2 oz walnut halves
  • 1 tbsp Somerset honey
  • lemon juice left over from lemon used in pastry
  • 2 eggs, separated
  • mixed spice, all spice, or any spices you like
  1. rub the butter into the flour, add the sugar and make sure it is well mixed
  2. beat the liquids together, then add to the flour, butter, sugar and lightly pull together into pastry (you may need a little more water, but don’t add too much
  3. chill for 30 mins then roll out to fit an 8 inch pie dish or flan tin, reserving enough for a lid
  4. beat the egg yolks, sugar and honey really well together until very light
  5. add almonds, lemon juice, spice, whole walnuts and chopped walnuts and stir in
  6. beat the egg whites until stiff and fold into the walnut mixture
  7. pour into pastry case, then cover with pastry lid
  8. glaze with egg or milk and bake at 180°C. 350°F., gas mark 4 for 40 minutes
  9. when cold sprinkle with icing sugar if you like, serve with clotted cream

While checking up on a few things, I came across this delightful site:

http://www.innatthecrossroads.com/walnut-pie/

I have no pictures of walnuts, and forgot to take a picture of my pye, so here is a featured image of Bridgwater, a favourite Somerset town.

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