Monday, 15 December 2014

Star Gazey Pie – Mousehole …



Our Cornish family by birth or by addiction, 
or near birth appearances down there and regular visits all these years: 
View eastwards over Mousehole, towards
Penzance and the Lizard - our mother had
a cottage up here for a few years


… we always have a good fish pie on Christmas Eve – only a few days to go …








If there’s a symbol of Christmas in Cornwall
It has to be the StargazyPie, served on
23rd December in the homes and pubs around
the Cornish village of Mousehole

It is said that in years gone by, this pie
was made to celebrate the brae fisherman
Tom Bawcock, who’d once ventured out into the
stormy seas and caught a record haul,
which - saved the village from starvation;

… the entire catch was baked into a huge pie,
with the heads poking through the crust
to prove there was fish inside.





Variations on a theme in making the dish can be used … Cornish pilchards (the smaller version of a Cornish Sardine) … 



c/o SeaSalt and their blog  and five of the seven fish
... along with a creamy white sauce, extra fish, hard-boiled eggs and potatoes … making a rich pie – out of which could be seen pilchard heads or tails … ensuring the veracity of the pie.



Tom Bawcock’s catch at Mousehole that day included seven types of fish … pilchards (sardines), mackerel, ling, dogfish, sandeel, herring and a.n.o. ... what ever other fish was caught ... perhaps a shrimp ... a touch of crab ... 





The fish heads on poking through the pastry “appear to gaze at the stars” … and as the whole fish is used in cooking, the goodness of the oil content seeps in to flavour the dish.




The harbour entrance at Mousehole

The Cornish tale be told in true Cornish dialect …:



"Merry place you may believe, Tiz Mouzel 'pon Tom Bawcock's eve
To be there then who wouldn't wesh, to sup o' sibm soorts o' fish
When morgy brath had cleared the path, Comed lances for a fry
And then us had a bit o' scad an' Starry-gazie pie
As aich we'd clunk, E's health we drunk, in bumpers bremmen high,
And when up caame Tom Bawcock's name, We'd prais'd 'un to the sky"

Cover for the book


The children’s book “The Mousehole Cat” by Antonia Barber is inspired by Tom Bawcock’s Eve … it is the story of Tom Bawcock and his loyal black and white cat, Mowzer;



Mowzer - c/o The History Telling Hour


... a lovely tale of Mowzer purring the storm to rest – so they can return safely to harbour … and thus to cook the imaginative Star Gazey Pie.




An individual Star Gazey Pie ...
My mother had a cottage in Mousehole – possibly round about where the photo at the top was taken – for a couple of years, from where she had lovely views across to Penzance Bay and further east to the Lizard.


An Australian friend came down years ago, before I went off to South Africa, and said only you could live in a place called Mouse Hole ... pronounced impossibly in Cornish dialect as "Mauz'l" ...



Enjoy a good fish pie over the Christmas Season …


Much of this information comes from a wonderful Cornish website promoting all things Cornish:  Seasalt ...

Hilary Melton-Butcher
Positive Letters Inspirational Stories


50 comments:

Dianne K. Salerni said...

Uhhh .... enjoy your fish pie ... :)

I'm not keen on eating things that look back at me. I don't like being served shrimp with the head still on, and even though an Italian-American Christmas tradition calls for serving smelts on Christmas Eve (tiny little whole fish), it is one I definitely pass on!

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

I always wondered about the pie with the fish heads. Thanks for the history lesson.

dolorah said...

Uh, I doubt I'd enjoy the pie. But I sure enjoyed the story, and history. Interesting.

Have a good Christmas Hillary.

Out on the prairie said...

I never heard of this dish. I have had pasties in a small Cornish settlement near me. The coal miners took them for lunch. Have a lot of fish after fishing all morning. I cut the gills out and roast them whole.

Suzanne Furness said...

Ah yes Stargazey Pie, love the Mousehole Cat story, some beautiful illustrations in there too.

Janie Junebug said...

I love it that Mowzer purred the storm to rest. That's a great story, though I don't think I care to eat the pie.

Love,
Janie

Suze said...

I had trouble reading the Cornish dialect but I am very curious, Hil: why are the fish gazing at the stars?

Clarissa Draper said...

I'm a fan of pies but not of fish. Interesting post though, as usual.

Mason Canyon said...

What an amazing bit of history. If only parts of the fish were used the pie might be a bit more appealing to me. But like with most things, if we closed our eyes and were given a bite of the pie, we might find it to be quite tasty.

Friko said...

I had a holiday in Mousehole once and enjoyed it tremendously. I even learned to pronounce it the Cornish way. But I was never served fish pie. Should I complain? Go back and ask for my money back?

bazza said...

Any fish pie is OK with me although I have never seen a Star Gazey Pie (but I had heard of it).
I have never gone further than Polperro in Cornwall but I like that part of the world. I just got back from a family wedding weekend in Bristol. We had a great time - but no fish pie!
CLICK HERE for Bazza’s fabulous Blog ‘To Discover Ice’

rosaria williams said...

What a delightful tradition. Thanks for sharing it with us.

Al Diaz said...

First time I see such a pie. It looks funny, but this is a dish I would try. I like fish! Dragon Hugs!

Paula Kaye said...

I have never heard of such a pie before. And, sorry, but I don't think I want to make one. Thanks for sharing this with us!

Empty Nest Insider said...

Your mother's cottage in Mousehole must've been a great place to visit! Such lovely views! The pie would look much more appetizing without the fish heads, though I'm sure I'd feel differently if I grew up with this popular tradition. Enjoy your Star Gazey Pie, Hilary!

Julie

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ Dianne – I shall and we will enjoy our Christmas Eve fish pie … and I love smelts … always have – they were one of my favourites years ago … I think our sprats are much smaller than your smelts … they are coming back onto menus now .. sorry about the ‘looking back at you’ … !

@ Alex – well I’m glad I’ve enlightened you … it’s a fun bit of folklore ...

@ Donna – no fish pie for you either .. missing so much! Glad you enjoyed the history tale though ..

@ OOTP – fish pie, as you know, is delicious and this is just one of those traditional tales … oddly enough I’m making pasties tomorrow for a supper with some friends. Yes the story of the dirt hands of the coal miners holding the ‘knob’ of the pasty is true … I’m very jealous every time you roast one of your fish straight from the lake ... they look so good –even at breakfast time!

@ Suzanne – being a Cornish lady too … and knowing the Mowzer cat story .. the book is beautifully illustrated isn’t it … I always feel warm looking at the illustrations … so Cornish.

@ Janie – yes Mowzer was a good cat – he cared for his community … and the fish pie is delicious – normally not served with the heads or tails sticking out!!

@ Suze – the Cornish dialect is difficult for me too .. the burrgh of the Celtic Cornish dialect is not easy … I never lived there, but obviously having been down so often I’m used to the old folk’s way of talking …

The fish are gazing at the stars … as the storm has passed … the sea is calm … Mowzer did his magic … and Tom Bawcock was able to get back safely into harbour … and from there fed the villagers, who were starving … with this marvellous fish pie. The head and tails needed to show as in centuries past … the folk needed to know that fish really were in the pie – hence using the whole fish … they’d have cooked that way anyway – more nutrients using the whole fish.

@ Clarissa … oooh I love fish! Pies are good too .. but am glad you enjoyed the post …

@ Mason – it’s a fun bit of folk lore isn’t it … and the book, The Mousehole Cat, keeps the story alive and is promotional for the village! We don’t use whole fish in our pies … but for an effect and at a restaurant – it gets served that way. It’s very tasty!

@ Friko – Muiz’l is a delightful village isn’t it … and I can imagine you’d enjoy the Cornish dialect … I guess you could try complaining, and perhaps ask for your money back .. but you might get drummed out of Muiz’l and perhaps even out of Cornwall!! It’s a beautiful part of the world though .. I get nostalgic talking about it …

@ Bazza – ah well we’d be very happy sharing a fish pie together .. love it … Mark Hix made Star Gazey Pie for the Great British Menu a few years ago .. he won the fish section: pleased me enormously!

Sounds like the wedding was fun and Bristol is getting towards the western part of the West Country … and it is a lovely part of the world, I agree …

@ Rosaria – glad you enjoyed the read and the traditional story …

@ Al – Father Dragon has been introduced to Star Gazey Pie … and wonderful you’d give the dish a try – fish pie is so good … and dragon hugs aren’t too bad either!!

@ Paula – oh dear … fish pie is delicious .. I can see the head and tail difficulty though … good to see you enjoyed the story though …

@ Julie – it had a wonderful setting … sadly she sold it after only a couple of years to start a business … but that had good views too – though not quite so high up. The pie is good to taste … we don’t usually have it with the heads and tails showing … but in previous centuries nutrition of any kind was essential and nothing was wasted … I shall enjoy my fish pie – but I’d love to try a real star gazey pie some day …

Cheers to you all – thanks for your visits … enjoy the build ups to Christmas … and remember others, as I know you all will … Hilary

M. J. Joachim said...

Truth be told, I've never had a fish pie. I've eaten lots of fresh fish out of the Pacific Ocean though, because I grew up in California and we lived 30 minutes away. The ocean was my backyard and playground. When it wasn't fried, baked or bbq'd, chowder was the way to go - red, white, didn't matter. A good fish chowder or fish stew with some nice sour dough bread on the side hit the spot every time. Hmmm, now that I've read this post, I may have to try fish pie some time. It sounds really good. :)

Nick Wilford said...

I'd heard of Stargazy pie but hadn't realised what it was. I'm sure it's delicious as long as the heads are taken away before serving!

Lenny Lee* said...

hi grandblogmom!
stargazy pie??? yikes! just a fancy way of saying fish eye pie! ack! for sure im not gonna eat something that's staring at me while im eating it. yeeech!! im glad tom bowcock saved mousehole from starvation and its cool that mowzer helped by calming the sea. but id of rather they had a big fish fry instead of that fishy eyed staring back at you pie. you've always got so much neat stuff to share. i always learn something new when i come to your blog. ...hugs from lenny

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ MJ – gosh and living by the coast for so long .. yet chowder could almost be a soupy fish pie .. I love it – but the thought of all that fish on offer – so like Cornwall, and Cape Town … just there and always a ready meal.

I hope you give fish pie a go … a thick white sauce, some chopped up hard-boiled egg, mashed potato on the top … served with peas, tomatoes .. what could be better! And your sour dough for extra mopping up …

@ Nick – the heads and tails were for extra nutrition back in the days when food was not a constant … and it is delicious … we have it as a fish pie … but in ‘posh’ restaurants they serve it as a Star Gazey pie …

@ Lenny – aka GrandBlogSon … good to see you – did the Star Gazey title catch your attention. Sorry about the thought of fish eye pie … don’t worry we don’t usually serve it that way now-a-days … so you’re safe!!

Good to know you eat fish though … and fried fish is good … I just try not to eat too much of it – but fish I have all the time and quite often make a pie, probably without the potato topping … just some good fish pieces in a white sauce, with a chopped hardboiled egg …

Lovely seeing you and that you enjoy your visits here to just enjoy and/or learn … hugs from me too …

Cheers to you all – we had a lovely sunny day here, not cold … tomorrow it’ll be warmer with lots of that wet stuff … ah well ‘tis winter!! Hilary

T. Powell Coltrin said...

Oh my, a fish pie. Probably not my cup of tea. I will be fixing a Turkey as usual.

Merry Christmas, dear friend.

Theresa Milstein said...

I've never made fish pie. I'd be curious to try it... without the fish heads and tails!

beste barki said...

.....but all them fish bones......I'd be worried....... I did not about the pie tradition. The story is wonderful.

TexWisGirl said...

oh, dear. i'd have a hard time partaking of that dish! :)

Christine Rains said...

While it is amusing to look at the pie, I don't think I could eat one! My husband on the other hand... :)

Gattina said...

I loved this little town ! My friend Doug is from Cornwall, he certainly knows this traditional dish, but then he married an Irish girl and Christmas uses changed, lol !

Nicola said...

Sounds very interesting, Hilary, but seeing head and tails sticking out of it puts me off a bit. However, I absolutely love Cornish cream teas with lashings of clotted cream.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ Teresa - we're having Turkey too .. but on Christmas Day ...

@ Theresa - oh it's such a good standby .. fish pie - and ok without the heads and tails ..

@ Beste - well that was centuries ago when food was difficult to come by and the storm raged, so they couldn't fish .. the story is great isn't it ..

@ TWG - oh gosh another who's not keen on fish .. you're missing so much!

@ Christine - well I'm glad your husband would enjoy it ...

@ Gattina - I'm glad you remember Mousehole .. it is delightful isn't it .. Interesting that Doug is from Cornwall ... and yes married to an Irish lady - traditions would change ..

@ Nicola - sorry about the heads and tails - just so the villagers knew the fish were real ... Cornish cream tea is delicious isn't it .. we're going tohave lots of Cornish cream over the Christmas season ..

Cheers everyone .. the pie is really good ... we just tend to make it with two or three fish now ... and we don't leave the heads and tails on .. but then we're lucky we've enough food .. thanks - Hilary

Lynn said...

That fish pie is an astounding sight! I love learning about traditions from other countries. Lovely.

Suzanne Sapsed said...

Love learning new info :) Never been to Mouse Hole, maybe one day! x

Val Poore said...

What a lovely idea. I really need to visit Mouse Hole. A place with a name like that needs to be visited!! I'm not sure I'd like the fish heads staring at me either. It would rather put me off eating it, I think. I also like the upside down Gazy pie. It must have been looking for Australian stars :)

M Pax said...

What a lovely tradition. No fish pies over this way, but it does sound yummy. My husband loves pie of all kinds.

Karen Lange said...

I've heard of fish pie but did not know where it originated from. Thank you for enlightening us! Someone we knew used to have fish pudding (they were from Norway or Sweden - I forget which), so now I wonder where that came from. Blessings to you this season, Hilary. Hope you enjoy your fish pie! :)

Sue McPeak said...

Now that was a 'Fish' story if ever there was one. I loved it. What a super Brit history lesson, and 'MOUSE HOLE"...that's a place that beckon's one to visit. Thanks for such a fun post and lesson.
Sue at CollectInTexas Gal

Munir said...

I remember eating Cornish Pasties when we were in Redruth. I also remember the beaches. They are beautiful.indeed.

Juliet Batten said...

What a great story. The Mousehole Cat has been a favourite book of my granddaughter and I must have read it dozens and dozens of times. Cornwall is a special place for me, after spending a winter there many years ago. I've been very busy & am going on holiday tomorrow, but look forward to catching up with your blog again in the new year. Meanwhile, Happy Christmas Hilary.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ Lynn – that’s great – very happy you enjoyed the post and its story ..

@ Suzanne – lovely to see you .. it’s a very pretty village … lots of Cornish down-hill to the harbour walks!

@ Val – I agree .. it is a wonderfully named little place – and I hope you can get down there sometime … I think the concept of the star gazey pie .. is fun .. and as you say looking for Australian stars perhaps ..

@ Karen – I’m not fish pie per se originated from Mousehole, but I’m sure all fishing villages would have had some fish delicacy … and now – fish pie is to be eaten by many.

Fish pudding sounds interesting and I must check it up .. thank you – next week’s fish pie will be good …

@ Sue – it is a fun story isn’t it … and am so glad you enjoyed the tale … and learnt about our Mouse Hole! It enjoys being visited .. happy to have you here ..

@ Munir – Cornish pasties are everywhere now .. and those who’ve read the book about Mowzer are happy when we can see the beaches and they’re not swamped in storm!

@ Juliet – I remember you spent a winter in Cornwall … even in its bleakness it’s very embracing … how lovely to hear about your grand-daughter enjoying Mowzer and his book ..

Happy Christmas to one and all and a very happy and peaceful New Year and continuation into 2015 … cheers Hilary

Brian Miller said...

ha. fish pie...i am intrigued...as i will try anything...i like the story it is based on though...to honor one that save the town from starving....

Trisha F said...

My mum used to make a type of fish pie - SOOOO delicious! I am gonna have to tell her to make it again sometime soon. :)

I don't know about having the fish heads sticking out though. ;) I like my meat disguised.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ Brian - thanks .. it's a good story isn't it - woven in the fabric of Cornwall .. oh and fish pie is so delicious ..

@ Trisha - oh well that's a great idea - I'm sure your mother would be happy to make fish pie again ..

Disguised meat .. well I guess the fish had better be below the potato topping blanket!

Cheers to you both - have a happy last weekend of 'rush! Hilary

Kittie Howard said...

Loved this post! I've never had a fish pie, sounds delicious, but not sure about the fish heads poking up. :)))) Merry Christmas and Happy New Year, Hilary.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Theresa .. you made it and posted in on FB .. now I wish I was more conversant with the 'dreaded FB' and that twittering tweet thingy! ... congratulations and you all obviously enjoyed it .. here's to many more .. H

DMS said...

What a fascinating post! I have never heard of fish pie, nor have I had it. It was fun to learn the history behind the pie and it is interesting that the fish heads are often popping through the pie! Thanks for sharing and I hope you enjoy your fish pie. :)
~Jess

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ Kittie - living in the sight of the ocean ... I think fish pie should be added to your repertoire ... no need for the fish heads or bones in today's age!

@ Jess - delighted you enjoyed the post .. and another who has never had fish pie ... We don't have the fish heads poking through now .. but for posh occasions, or in some restaurants it's on the menu ... it's a fun dish ..

Thanks and Happy Christmases and New Years to you both .. Hilary

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Theresa Milstein above .. has been brave enough to make fish pie, which she thoroughly enjoyed .. she posted on FB .. so the family must have enjoyed it!!

Congratulations Theresa and Milstein family .. so pleased the post inspired you ..

Today is a good (bad) Tom Bawcock day - howling gale and going to get worse as Christmas week goes on ... cheers to one and all - Hilary

Charan said...

Really enjoyed reading the history behind the Stargazy Pie, I am sure that fish pie tastes yummy!! :) Thank you for sharing such wonderful posts Hilary!! :) The town Mouse Hole looks like a lovely place in Cornwall!! :)

Take care,
Charan :)

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Charan - that's good you enjoyed this story .. and fish pies always taste yummy!! Part of my history .. of times long gone .. but Cornwall always call - delighted you think Mousehole is an attractive place .. tiny - but lovely .. cheers and thanks for visiting - Hilary

Annalisa Crawford said...

Well, Hilary, you know all about my school trauma with Star Gaze Pie, but I never realised it had a Christmas significance. Daft, really, given that's the most famous star! I'll blame it on my mum being from Manchester.

My grandfather was from Mousehole, although I don't think I've ever been. I've been everywhere else down that way though, so maybe I need to make more of an effort.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Annalisa - I copy your comment over on my January 2015 Bones post:

"Bones are fine on my plate... eyes are not! I was 'encouraged' to make star gazey pie at primary school - we were in a group and all took home a portion. Only my portion contained the fish head - my mum was even less impressed than me!!"

I'm always amazed at what I keep learning or finding out more like. Ok - your poor mother! Perhaps my mother is regaling your mother about more Cornish folklore .. and getting some very good Mancunian lore in return?!

My grandfather and his family was from St Ives ... but how fascinating .. have you got some records of his life? That is definitely a very good reason to visit Mousehole .. enjoy it when you do .. but go out of season!! A good walk along the cliff path ... thanks for coming over to comment - cheers Hilary

Lisa said...

Wonderfully written fish story. I can say I've never had fish pie been to Mouse hole. :)