A Boke of Gode Cookery Presents

Tourtes parmeriennes

PERIOD: France, 14th century | SOURCE: Le Viandier de Taillevent | CLASS: Authentic

DESCRIPTION: A meat pie decorated with crenelated pastry and miniature banners


197. Tourtes parmeriennes: Parmesan Pies. Take mutton, veal or pork and chop it up sufficiently small; then boil poultry and quarter it -- and the other meat must be cooked before being chopped up: then get fine powder and sprinkle it on the meat very sensibly, and fry your meat in bacon grease. Then get large open pastry shells -- which should have higher sides than usual and should be the size of small plates -- and shape them with crenellations; they should be of a strong dough in order to hold the meat. If you wish, you can mix pine nut paste and currants among the meat, with granulated sugar on top; into each pastry put three or four chicken quarters in which to plant the banners of France and of the lords who will be present, and glaze them with moistened saffron to give them a better appearance. For anyone who does not want to go to such expense for poultry, all he has to do is make flat pieces of pork or of mutton, either roasted or boiled. When the pies are filled with their meat, the meat on top should be glazed with a little beaten egg, both yolks and whites, so that this meat will hold together solidly enough to set the banners in it. And you should have gold-leaf or tin-leaf to glaze the pies before setting the banners in them.

- Scully, Terence, ed. Le Viandier de Taillevent. An Edition of all Extant Manuscripts. Ottawa: University of Ottawa Press, 1988.


  • 1 ½ lbs. cooked veal, mutton, or pork, diced
  • ½ - 1 tsp. each of salt, pepper, cloves, cardamom, ginger, cubeb, etc. - use to taste.
  • small amount bacon grease or cooking oil
  • one 9" (or larger) deep-dish pie shell
  • 1 batch Basic Pastry
  • 1 beaten egg white
  • OPTIONAL: 1 cup ground pine nuts (or substitute ground walnuts or almonds)
  • OPTIONAL: 1 cup currants
  • OPTIONAL: 1 Tbs. sugar
  • 3 chicken quarters (thigh and leg sections attached), boiled until just done
  • few threads saffron moistened in a little water (or few drops yellow food coloring mixed with 1 beaten egg yolk)
  • OPTIONAL: 3 -4 flat pieces of roasted or boiled mutton or pork (boneless)
  • OPTIONAL: 1 beaten egg
  • 2 beaten egg yolks colored with a few drops of yellow food coloring
  • about ½ dozen wooden skewers (kabob-style)
  • kite string or butcher's thread
  • glue
  • 3 small banners or flags (see NOTE below)
Heat a small amount of bacon grease or oil in the bottom of a large frying pan; sauté the meat and the spices in this until lightly browned; remove from oil. The meat should be moist; if too dry, add some wine or broth.

OPTIONAL VERSION: Make a paste out of the ground pine nuts and a little water; mix well together the meat, paste, and currants.

Place meat filling in the pie shell; if using the pine nut/currant version, sprinkle the 1 Tbs. sugar on top. Arrange the whole chicken quarters on top of the filling, and brush the chicken with the saffron water or the colored yolk.

OPTIONAL VERSION: if not using chicken, cover the top of the filling with flat pieces of cooked pork or mutton. Brush the entire top with the beaten egg.

Roll out the Basic Pastry to a piece of dough ¼ to ½ inch thick; with a knife cut out small rectangular blocks of dough approx. 1 ½ inches long and ½ inch tall. These are the "crenellations." (The idea is to make the rim of the pie shell resemble the top of a castle wall with battlements.) Brush the beaten egg white on the pastry rim of the pie; brush egg white on the bottom of the crenellations, and arrange them evenly around the rim so that the final effect resembles the indented parapets of castle battlements.

Place your finished pie in a 350° F oven and bake for approx. 45 minutes, or until the pastry begins to turn a golden brown. Remove from oven. Immediately brush the top of the entire pie with the yellow egg yolk & food coloring glaze. (This will substitute for using gold or tin leaf.)

While the pie is baking, you will be making small flagpoles with the skewers, string, & glue to place on top of the pie. Cut 1 skewer into 3 pieces, each being in length a little longer than the width of your miniature flags. Attach the flags to these pieces by folding the top around the skewer and securing with glue. Cut out 3 pieces of string with lengths longer than the flag sections; glue each end of the string to the ends of the flag section, then glue the middle of the string to the top of one of the uncut skewers. This makes your flag - please see the illustration below for a view of the finished results.

This is a scan of one of the flags shown in the photograph below.

After the pie has been removed from the oven, plant one flagpole in each chicken quarter or in the flat pieces of meat. (Sharpening the bottom of the skewer will help.) Serve at once.

NOTE on the flags: when done at a Medieval event, these flags should ideally be the coats-of-arms of some of the people attending the feast. For other dinners, the flags should at least be personal and recognizable (a school's flag or mascot, a team's colors, etc.); otherwise, use any colorful design that feels appropriate, but try not to use any modern standards if it can be helped.

Here is a photograph of Tourtes parmeriennes made for a dinner in January 1998. Please keep in mind that these were just 6 of 37 pies made for a 300-person feast! Because of the sheer numbers involved, only 1 chicken quarter and 1 flag were used per pie. A 3-banner pie is a much more impressive sight, as you may see below.

And here is another Tourtes parmeriennes:

Made by Mary Clinton, a member of the OWS, the Order of the White Stag, for an OWS feast held in December, 2000.

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Tourtes parmeriennes © 2000 James L. Matterer

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