Eagan Whitcombe gets up before dawn each day. He eats a thin watery gruel, often his only meal for the day, and goes out onto the streets to gain clients who need their chimneys cleaned. He negotiates his own prices and works alone, often in unsafe conditions. He eats if he can. He gives most of what he has earned to his master. He sleeps on the floor of a basement, in which he is locked in all night. Eagan is a chimney sweep.
He is 6 years old.
You won’t be able to put down A. M.Watson’s historical novel, Infants of the Brush.
This delicious Savory Onion Pie is paired with this month’s Foodie Lit historical novel. This delicious Savory Onion Pie was typical fare for those in the 18th century lower class, who couldn’t afford much meat. Onions were substituted for meat, with potatoes for bulk and apples for a bit of sweetness.
I modified this recipe from a wonderful website, savoringthepast.net, which collects recipes from 18th century cookbooks. The combination of onions, potatoes and apples is aromatic and hearty—a meal in itself. I have made onion and leek tarts and find this recipe modern in ways those in the 18th century couldn’t image—like not wanting too much meat!! While our 18th century city ancestors didn’t eat too many fresh vegetables due to a lack of refrigeration and slow transportation, we have that luxury and can add vegetables from around the world. I am sticking to the main ingredients here to keep it traditional but have no doubt I will substitute more greens and other vegetables when I make it in the future.
Savory Onion Pie
2 large onions
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 large potatoes
3 large apples
2 hard boiled eggs
1 tablespoon salt
1 teaspoon ground pepper
½ teaspoon allspice
½ teaspoon nutmeg
1 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons water
1 egg for egg wash
Make or buy a pie crust. I have included one of my favorite crusts below.
Peel onions and thinly slice them, about 1/8” if possible. Add olive oil to skillet and warm over medium heat. Add onions to skillet in two batches. Sauté onions, stirring occasionally, until golden, about 15 minutes per batch. Set aside.
Slice potatoes thinly. Peel if desired. Core and thinly slice apples thinly. Peel if desired.
Peel and slice eggs thinly as well, If they crumble a bit, that’s okay. The flavor remains the same.
Mix salt, pepper, allspice and nutmeg together in a small bowl.
Prick bottom of the pie crust with a fork. Sprinkle with a teaspoon of finely ground breadcrumbs. This keeps it from getting soggy. Take half the butter and break into little pieces on the bottom.
Layer half the potatoes on the bottom of the pie crust. Sprinkle with a little of the spice mixture.
Add half the apples, sprinkle with a little of the spices, and now add half the onions and again the spices. Add half the egg slices. Repeat layering with the rest of the potatoes, apples, onions, eggs and spices. Top with remaining butter, breaking into small pieces. Sprinkle with 2 tablespoons of water.
Roll out to crust and place on top. Crimp edges of top and bottom crust together attractively. Cut holes in the top to vent steam. Brush with egg wash. Refrigerate for 15 minutes.
Bake at 350 F for 55 minutes or until crust is golden.
Yield 2 crusts
2 1/2 flour
1 1/2 teaspoon salt
2 sticks (1 cup) cold butter, cubed
1/2 cup very cold water
2 tablespoons finely ground breadcrumbs
1 egg for egg wash
Using a food process or by hand with a pastry cutter or fork, process for 10 seconds or combine flour, salt and butter.
Add ice water and process for 10 seconds more or mash with pastry cutter or fork until the dough comes together.
Transfer to a lightly floured work surface or parchment paper and roll out to 12” or 2 inches wider than the tart or pie pan you have selected. Place in refrigerator until ready to use.
Place dough over the tart or pie pan. Evenly and lightly press into place. With a fork, prick the bottom of the dough about 8-10 times. Sprinkle breadcrumbs over the bottom.
Fill pie. Roll second crust over the pie, with edges of the second slightly overlapping.
Around the edges, fold the upper crust over the lower crust. With a fork, press the edges of the crust for them to adhere together.
Brush with egg wash.
Non-Dairy: Use non-dairy margarine for topping and for crust.
Vegan: Use non-dairy margarine for topping and for crust. Omit eggs.
Add veggies: Steam 1 cup of your choice of thinly sliced carrots, broccoli, cauliflower and add to layers.
Adapted from SavoringthePast.net