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Steak and kidney pie

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Steak and kidney pie
A steak and kidney pie, as served in a pub
TypeSavoury pie
Place of originBritain
Serving temperatureHot
Main ingredients

Steak and kidney pie is a popular British dish. It is a savoury pie filled principally with a mixture of diced beef, diced kidney (which may be beef, lamb, veal, or pork) and onion. Its contents are generally similar to those of steak and kidney puddings.

History and ingredients[edit]

In modern times the fillings of steak and kidney pies and steak and kidney puddings are generally identical,[1] but until the mid-19th century the norms were steak puddings and kidney pies.[2][n 1] Bell's Life in London and Sporting Chronicle, 1826, records a large dish of kidney pies in the window of a baker near Smithfield,[4] and ten years later a kidney-pie stand outside what is now the Old Vic, emitting sparks every time the vendor opened his portable oven to hand a hot kidney pie to a customer.[5]

"Rump Steak and Kidney Pie" was served in a Liverpool restaurant in 1847,[6] and in 1863 a Birmingham establishment offered "Beef Steak and Kidney Pie".[7] But until the 1870s kidney pies are far more frequently mentioned in the newspapers, including one thrown at a policeman during an affray in Knightsbridge in 1862,[8] and an assault case in Lambeth in 1867 when a customer attacked a waitress for bringing her a beef pie instead of a kidney one.[9] By the mid-1870s steak and kidney pies were as often mentioned as kidney ones. Both appeared in verse of the period:

     You say you are too sad to eat!
          Just hand your plate and try
     This steak and kidney pie, my love–
          This steak and kidney pie.
                                        From Fun, 1875[10]

     I've eaten as much as a man could eat,
          I've gone through a very remarkable feat;
     From the twopenny tart to the kidney pie,
          I've swallowed as much as I could, have I.
                                        From The Zoo (1875), by B. C. Stephenson and Arthur Sullivan[11]

According to the cookery writer Jane Grigson, the first published recipe for the combination of steak and kidney was in 1859 in Mrs Beeton's Household Management.[12][n 2] Beeton used it in a pudding rather than a pie. She had been sent the recipe by a correspondent in Sussex in south-east England, and Grigson speculates that it was until then a regional dish, unfamiliar to cooks in other parts of Britain.[12]

Beeton suggested that steak and kidney could be "very much enriched" by the addition of mushrooms or oysters.[13] In those days oysters were the cheaper of the two: mushroom cultivation was still in its infancy in Europe and oysters were still commonplace.[12] In the following century Dorothy Hartley (1954) recommended the use of black-gilled mushrooms rather than oysters, because long cooking is "apt to make [oysters] go hard".[1][n 3]

Neither Beeton nor Hartley specified the type of animal from which the kidneys were to be used in a steak and kidney recipe. Grigson (1974) calls for either veal or ox kidney,[12] as does Marcus Wareing.[14] Other cooks of modern times have variously specified lamb or sheep kidney (Marguerite Patten, Nigella Lawson and John Torode),[15] ox kidney (Mary Berry, Delia Smith and Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall),[16] veal kidney (Gordon Ramsay),[17] either pork or lamb (Jamie Oliver),[18] and either ox, lamb or veal kidneys (Gary Rhodes).[19]

Cooking and variations[edit]

Round steak and kidney pie

Some versions are full, or "double-crust", pies, in which the cooking dish is lined with pastry before the meat mixture is added, after which a pastry top is put over it.[20] In other versions the meat is put straight into the dish, with only a pastry lid.[21] In either case, a pie funnel is often used to stop the top crust sinking into the meat mixture during baking.[22] Some recipes call for puff pastry; others for shortcrust.[21] In some the meat is cooked before going into the pie;[23] in others it goes in raw.[1] In addition to the steak and kidney, the filling typically contains carrots and onions, and is cooked in one or more of beef stock, red wine and stout.[24]

The steak and kidney pie is found in numerous regional variants. In the West Country clotted or double cream may be poured into the pie through a hole in the pastry topping just before serving.[25] The Ormidale pie from the Scottish Highlands is flavoured with a teaspoon each of Worcestershire sauce, vinegar and tomato sauce.[25] In East Yorkshire sliced potatoes are substituted for kidneys and the dish is called meat and pot pie.[25] In the English Midlands, Northern England and Scotland oysters or mushrooms or both are often added; in Scotland this variant is known as Musselburgh pie.[25]

Popular culture[edit]

Among the various vernacular names for steak and kidney pie are Kate and Sidney pie, snake and kiddy pie, and snake and pygmy pie.[26] Eric Partridge dates the first of these to around 1880.[27] A substantial part of the plot of P. G. Wodehouse's 1963 comic novel Stiff Upper Lip, Jeeves hinges on the disruptive allure of a magnificent steak and kidney pie for a young man whose fiancée has decreed that he must turn vegetarian.[28]

See also[edit]

Notes, references and sources[edit]


  1. ^ Elizabeth David came across a 17th-century recipe for a "Steake Pye", but unlike modern pies it had no lid, and contained a mixture of beef and mutton.[3]
  2. ^ The work was published in book form in 1861, but had appeared as a part-work over the previous two years.[12]
  3. ^ Hartley suggested that if seafood were wanted in a steak-and-kidney mix, cockles would be preferable to oysters.[1]


  1. ^ a b c d Hartley, pp. 87–88
  2. ^ Davidson, p. 754
  3. ^ David, p. 145
  4. ^ "Jack Scroggins and the Kidney Pie", Bell's Life in London and Sporting Chronicle, 12 November 1826, p. 3
  5. ^ "the Streets at Night", Bell's Life in London and Sporting Chronicle, 17 January 1836, p. 3
  6. ^ "Café Français et Restaurant", The Albion, 25 October 1847, p. 5,
  7. ^ "Benson's", Birmingham Daily Post, 17 February 1863, p. 1
  8. ^ "Local Police", West Middlesex Advertiser, 1 November 1862, p. 3
  9. ^ "Police Intelligence", The Sun, 30 March 1867
  10. ^ "Tiffin'", The Star, 24 July 1875, p. 3
  11. ^ The Zoo Archived 2021-10-07 at the Wayback Machine, Gilbert and Sullivan Archive, p. 7. Retrieved 2 May 2022
  12. ^ a b c d e Grigson, p. 243
  13. ^ Beeton, pp. 281–282
  14. ^ "Steak and Kidney Pudding by Marcus Wareing" Archived 12 May 2021 at the Wayback Machine, The Caterer, 11 September 2006
  15. ^ Patten, p. 156; Lawson, Nigella. "Steak and kidney pudding" Archived 27 November 2021 at the Wayback Machine, Nigella Recipes. Retrieved 1 May 2022; and Torode, p. 122
  16. ^ Berry, p. 65; Smith, Delia. "Mum's Steak and Kidney Plate Pie" Archived 20 March 2022 at the Wayback Machine, DeliaOnline. Retrieved 1 May 2022; and Fearnley-Whittingstall, p. 53
  17. ^ Ramsay, p. 138
  18. ^ Oliver, Jamie. "Steak and kidney pudding" Archived 2 May 2022 at the Wayback Machine, jamieoliver.com. Retrieved 1 May 2022
  19. ^ Rhodes (1994), p. 122 and (1997), p. 118
  20. ^ Berry, pp. 184–185
  21. ^ a b Martin, p. 53
  22. ^ Willan, p. 91
  23. ^ Smith, Delia. "Mum's Steak and Kidney Plate Pie" Archived 20 March 2022 at the Wayback Machine, DeliaOnline. Retrieved 1 May 2022
  24. ^ Cloake, Felicity. "How to cook the perfect steak and kidney pudding" Archived 31 March 2022 at the Wayback Machine, The Guardian, 1 March 2012
  25. ^ a b c d Boyd pp. 321–322
  26. ^ Icons.org - steak-kidney-pie Archived 17 December 2006 at the Wayback Machine
  27. ^ Partridge, p. 502
  28. ^ Wodehouse, pp. 50, 52, 56, 73–74 and 98


  • Beeton, Isabella (1861). The Book of Household Management. London: S.O. Beeton. OCLC 1045333327.
  • Berry, Mary (2006). Mary Berry's Christmas Collection. London: Headline. ISBN 978-0-7553-1562-8.
  • Boyd, Lizzie (1977). British Cookery: A Complete Guide to Culinary Practice in the British Isles. London: Croom Helm. ISBN 978-0-85664-851-9.
  • David, Elizabeth (2000) [1970]. Spices, Salt and Aromatics in the English Kitchen. London: Grub Street. ISBN 978-1-902304-66-3.
  • Davidson, Alan (1999). The Oxford Companion to Food. Oxford: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-211579-0.
  • Fearnley-Whittingstall, Hugh (2005). The River Cottage Year. London: Hodder & Stoughton. ISBN 978-0-340-82822-9.
  • Grigson, Jane (1992). English Food. London: Ebury Press. ISBN 978-0-09-177043-3.
  • Hartley, Dorothy (1999) [1954]. Food in England. London: Macdonald and Jane's. ISBN 978-1-85605-497-3.
  • Martin, James (2008). James Martin's Great British Dinners. London: Mitchell Beazley. ISBN 978-1-84533-582-3.
  • Partridge, Eric (2009). A Dictionary of Historical Slang. London: Penguin. ISBN 978-0-14-051046-1.
  • Patten, Marguerite (1958). Learning to Cook with Marguerite Patten. London: Pan. ISBN 978-0-330-23025-4.
  • Ramsay, Gordon (2009). Gordon Ramsay's Great British Pub Food. London: HarperCollins. ISBN 978-0-00-728982-0.
  • Rhodes, Gary (1994). Rhodes Around Britain. London: BBC Books. ISBN 978-0-563-36440-5.
  • Rhodes, Gary (1997). Fabulous Food. London: BBC Books. ISBN 978-0-563-38385-7.
  • Torode, John (2008). Beef. London: Quadrille. ISBN 978-1-84400-690-8.
  • Willan, Anne (1979). Grand Diplôme Cooking Course. Danbury: Grolier. OCLC 1035310033.
  • Wodehouse, P. G. (1966) [1963]. Stiff Upper Lip, Jeeves. London: Penguin. ISBN 978-0-14-002479-1.

See also[edit]

External links[edit]