Grab a Meat Pie and travel back in time!





“Had Anna been allowed to choose, she’d have become a professional time-traveller. No luck there, so instead she became a financial professional with two absorbing interests; history and writing.” (

Like his Grandmother Alex before him, Duncan Melville finds himself on a crossroads during a terrible thunderstorm. Instead of falling backwards 300 years as she did, he falls forward in time, from 1716 to 2016, landing like his grandmother, at the feet (well, actually in front of a modern automobile driven by Erin Barnes!) of a person destined to be important in his life. Living in 2 time periods can be enlightening, confusing and, for a reader, so compelling that it is difficult to do anything else until  you read to the novel’s end!

The crossroads are symbolic of life choices. For Anna Belfrage, they “…represent a moment in which there are multiple choices and you never know beforehand what will happen if you choose road A or road B. Obviously, my poor time travellers don’t get a choice, they’re just thrown through the nexus to land in an entirely new time. There are days when Alex, the female protagonist of The Graham Saga, still hasn’t forgiven me for this, but all I do is point at her Matthew and she swallows back her recriminations.”

You have to love an author who actively argues with her characters who tell her what to do, nag her if they don’t have an important enough role and consume her thought processes as she writes.

Despite the 300 year era difference between Duncan and Erin, the two have many similarities, including childhoods that had been filled with abuse and less than loving mothers.  Both are saved by strong and caring grandmothers. Grandparents have a more mature point of view, lacking much of the angst and emotion of a parent.

Anna commented, “Speaking as a grandmother myself, I think the relationship between a grandparent and a grandchild is less complicated than between parent and child – for the simple reason that being a parent comes with so much responsibility. Ultimately, you’re responsible for creating a decent human being. As a grandparent, all you have to do is love—and boy, do you love! With my little grandson, it’s as if an entire sun explodes in my chest.”

As in other historical novels about the Scottish Clans, there is a great deal of admiration, even nostalgia, for the Clans, whose lifestyle and self-determination were destroyed by the British after the Battle of Culloden.  Conflicts with unscrupulous people in both time periods add suspense and tension to the plot.

Anna creates strong and passionate relationships; Duncan and Erin’s is resiliant enough to withstand the test of time and time travel. I asked the author if this was a relationship many experienced in real life or one that was better realized in romance novels. “As to those passionate and close relationships, I am fortunate enough to live in one such relationship since forty years back. He always has my back, I always have his, and no one makes me laugh as much or holds me as tenderly when I need it. So I know such relationships exist.”

Lucky Anna!

I am a fan of Anna Belfrage’s time travel novels and historical fiction. The Whirlpools of Time is no exception. Looking for strong and interesting characters, a twisting and satisfying plot, a great love interest and historically complicated problems (such as  Erin being of mixed heritage in the South of the 18th century)? Open the pages of this book right now!

In Erin and Duncan’s travels, a favorite meal offered at inns was Meat Pie, still offered at British pubs today. Delicious then and now, I have recreated  one with beef and alternatives that are with chicken, fish or vegetarian. No need to travel back in time to enjoy!

Tradition has it that Meat Pies were created for miners who took their lunches into the mines with them. No tables or chairs or even utensils for them, the pies were made with crimped edges, some a bit thick, to create a small handle for the miners to hold onto while they ate. The meat pies were typical meals for inns to serve throughout the 18th through the 20th centuries and today are popular pub food all over the UK, with some regional specialties. Some were full pies to be sliced and others hand-held pies, still sold as handy street food. I like the small handheld pies, perfect as a first course, a quick lunch and as a dinner. Fill them with the traditional meat and root vegetables, make them with chicken, wine and mushrooms, make them vegetarian or vegan and even with a fish chowder as a filling. These handheld pies will be a treat any time of the year, or in any year, even if you time travel back 300 years, as did a main character in this month’s Foodie Lit choice!

Meat Hand Pies


Yield: 18 hand pies

Puff Pastry (2)

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 pound steak, beef chuck, beef stew meat, small dice

1 medium onion, chopped

2 garlic cloves, minced

1/4 cup potatoes, chopped

1/4 cup bell peppers, chopped and sautéed 

1/4 cup carrots, chopped and steamed until soft

1/4 cup peas, steamed

1/4 cup mushrooms, washed and sliced

1 12-ounce can ale, porter or stout

2 tablespoons tomato paste 

1 tablespoon flour

1 tablespoon water

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon ground pepper

2-3 sprigs fresh thyme or 1/2 teaspoon dried

1 small sprig rosemary or 1/4 dried rosemary leaves

  1. Turn the flame to medium high, Add olive oil to a large skillet and warm for 1 minute. Sear beef for 4-5 minutes, stirring to keep from sticking.

  2. Add onions and cook for 3-4 minutes, stirring occasionally to keep from sticking. Add garlic and stir for 1 minute.

  3. Add vegetables and stir for 2-3 minutes on high heat. Add ale or other beer. I used a local craft beer. Stir the ale for 1 minutes.

  4. Make a well in the center of the vegetables. Add tomato paste into the liquid. Add flour slurry in center as well and stir into the liquid until totally dissolved.

  5. Lower to a simmer, cover, and cook for about 45 minutes or until the vegetables are fork tender. Check to make sure there is enough liquid, adding water if needed.

  6. Note: If using any frozen or canned vegetables, add them to the mixture when the other vegetables are tender.

  7. Remove skillet from stove and let cool. Preheat oven to 375 F.

  8. Place defrosted but cool puff pastry onto a sheet of parchment paper that is 2 or 3” larger than the puff pastry.

  9. Cut Puff Pastry into 9 segments.  I used a pizza cutter. You can use a sharp knife or a scissors you used for culinary purposes.

  10. Put 1 tablespoon filling on one side. Do not use much liquid, enough to be moist but not enough to spill over from the pastry.

  11. Fold pastry square into a rectangle. With a fork, press down firmly to seal around the entire edge, using a bit of water if the dough doesn’t stick together. When you have completed all, brush each with an egg wash.

  12. Bake at 375 F until the dough is golden. Remove and serve.

  13. If refrigerating, let cool to room temperature before placing in refrigerator. Cover with plastic wrap.  If freezing, bring completely to room temperature. Wrap each hand pie in plastic wrap and place in a freezer proof bag or a lidded container. Freezes well for 3 months.

  14. Multiply recipe for larger yields.

Expandthetable suggestions

Crust: May use phyllo dough or your own crust recipe instead of the puff pastry.

Vegetarian: Make the pies vegetarian: Choose only the vegetable options and leave out the meat. Add other root vegetables such as rutabaga, turnips, parsnips or butternut squash cubed.

Vegan: Use only the vegetables for the filling and omit the egg wash. Use a vegan egg substitute or a nut or seed milk to brush on top.

Gluten free: Use potato starch in place of flour for slurry

Chicken: Substitute chicken for beef. Simmer with mushrooms and onions in a white wine sauce. Thicken with a slurry of flour, almond milk and thyme. Use as filling as above.

Fish: Substitute fish for the beef. Use salmon or a nice white fish such as pollock, tilapia, haddock or mahi mahi. You may sprinkle with a cheese on top of the filling before baking.

Ground meat: Ground beef or chicken will work nicely as well instead of the steak.

Whole pie: Instead of the hand pies, make in a full pie pan crust, blind baking the crust before adding the entire filling. Put a top crust on as well, cutting slits in the top for venting. You may use your own pie crust or 2 store bought crusts for bottom and top.

Dessert pies: Place cooked fruit inside each puff pastry square and make small turnovers. Try apples, pears, plums, blueberry or a fruit of your choice. Bake as in the recipe directions.

Extra filling: I had extra filling and I used it to stuff a kabocha squash. You may use any larger winter squash, such as a large acorn, butternut, spaghetti, or buttercup squash. You may also  use a smaller pumpkin. Cut squash in half horizontally, so that each side can be filled. Remove the seeds with an ice cream scoop. Place squash skin side up in an over proof pan with sides. Fill with 1” of water (I added the water after the squash was in the oven) and roast for 40 minutes at 400F or until the squash pushes in gently when you press with your fingers.  Remove from oven, mash the insides down a bit. Fill with meat filling and return to oven for 15-20 minutes or until heated through. You can save the seeds, salt and roast them  for a snack or for salads.

#main course  #meat  #British  #appetizer

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