Devonshire 'Squab' Pie

Devonshire 'Squab' Pie  Picture 1

I saw this dish on the menu of a pub in Devon and the name intrigued me so much I did a bit of research. Young pigeons were the main ingredient originally but these have now been replaced with mutton, then lamb. This is a very old-fashioned English pie as it mixes fruit with meat and spices. Various versions are called Gloucester squab pie or just West Country squab pie. The Devonshire one is unusual in that it is served with clotted cream on the side. No need for that, but as a nod to authenticity I do put some (optional) cream in the filling. This is very luxurious, good enough for a Saturday or Sunday lunch with friends.


1kg (2lb 4oz) lamb neck fillet, cubed
plain flour
2 tbsp oil
2 leeks, trimmed, base removed and cut into rings
1 onion, roughly chopped
¼ tsp cinnamon
¼ tsp nutmeg
½ tsp allspice
1 eating apple
1 bramley apple
10 prunes, pitted
2 sprigs of thyme
2 bay leaves
500ml (18fl oz) lamb or chicken stock
2 tbsp double cream (optional)
250g (9oz) puff pastry
1 egg
1 tbsp milk


Toss the lamb with some flour and salt and pepper. Heat half of the oil in a casserole and the other half in a frying-pan so that you can brown two batches of lamb at the same time. Brown the meat thoroughly on all sides then put the meat from the frying-pan into the casserole.
Wash the leeks well. Add to the frying-pan with the onion – there should be some fat left in it; if not add more oil – and cook over a medium heat until the onion is golden. Add to the lamb, along with the spices.
Halve and core the eating apple and cut it into about 12 wedges. Peel and core the bramley and cut into thin slices. Add both apples to the lamb along with the prunes, thyme, bay leaves and stock. Bring to the boil. Season and turn down to a simmer. Cook, covered, for 30 minutes, making sure it isn't getting so dry it catches on the bottom of the pan. (You do want the mixture to be quite thick, though, so don't add too much extra liquid.)
Stir in the cream if you are using it, check for seasoning and place in a pie dish with a capacity of about 1 litre (1¾ pints). Leave to cool. If you have a pie funnel set it in the middle.
Roll out the pastry until it is large enough to cover the pie. Cut off strips to fit around the rim of the dish. Mix the egg and milk to make an egg wash. Wet the rim with this and press the pastry strips on to it. Brush the strips on the rim with more of the wash. Place the pastry on top of the pie dish and press down all the way round the edge. Trim off the excess. Crimp the edges of the pie and 'knock up' the pastry with a blunt knife all the way round. Use any leftovers to make decorations. If you don't have a pie funnel, make slits in the top for the steam to escape. Paint the rest of the wash all over the pie with a pastry brush. Cook in an oven preheated to 200°C/400°F/gas mark 6 for 25 minutes.