Wednesday, April 23, 2014

T is for Titmouse and Tourtière

Titmice are ctuftedtitmouseertainly a well known variety of bird in England where, I have learned from 10,000 Birds, that their name comes from old English meaning tit, any animal or bird that was tiny, and mase, a small bird. However, they are a well established  bird in the Americas and appear to be spreading north having found their way into southern Canada (possibly due to global warming). Although not a particularly well known bird, they are numerous and always turn up in great numbers in back yard bird counts. We certainly used to get them in large numbers in our feeder in North Carolina and were always a very popular visitor as far as we were concerned.

Some years ago I obtained the current copy of our local liquor board’s magazine, Food and Drink, and one of their featured recipes was their version of Tourtière. Although basically a meat pie, the French influence has raised it above the ordinary and this recipe, with its use of three different meats with unusual spice combinations, is a particularly good one. In the recipe it says ‘serves 6’; however, when I make these they adequately fill four pies (as shown) each of which is more than plenty for 4 people. You can, of course, make your own pastry, but I always use Tenderflake pastry and find it very good, especially not being a particularly good pastry chef. These keep very well in the freezer too and I always make four at a time.


As a change, you can use frozen puff pastry for your pies.

2 Tbs olive oil
1 lb ground pork
1 lb ground beef
1 lb ground veal
2 cup finely chopped onion
¾ cup finely chopped carrot
1¼ cup chopped fennel
1 bay leaf
1 tsp dried thyme
1½ tsp dry mustard
1½ tsp allspice
1 1/4 cup beef stock (or less)
1 tsp cinnamon
3 Tbs rolled oats
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 Tbs chopped fresh parsley per pie
1 Tbs dried breadcrumbs or ½ Tbs semolina per pie

Egg wash
1 egg beaten
1 Tbs whipping cream
4 boxes of frozen pastry, deep dish - defrosted (2 shells in each)

1. Heat oil in a heavy pot over high heat. Add ground meat and sauté, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes or until the pinkness disappears. Drain off fat.
2. Stir in the onion, carrots, fennel, bay leaf, dried thyme, dry mustard, all-spice, cinnamon, rolled oats and salt and pepper. Add enough stock to just cover the top of the meat. Lower the heat to low, cover and cook slowly for about 45 minutes, or until the onions disappear. Check and stir after 30 minutes. Re-season if needed. Cool, remove and discard bay leaf and stir in parsley.
3. Preheat oven to 450°F/230°C.
4. Take out four pastry shells to use as bottoms and sprinkle with breadcrumbs or semolina to absorb any fat. Pile meat mixture onto each pastry crust, leaving a 1 inch border. Brush edge of pastry with water. Top with remaining crusts and press edges together to seal, crimping decoratively if desired.
5. Combine beaten egg with cream and brush over pastry. Cut steam vents into the top crusts.
6. Bake for 15 minutes in lower half of the oven. Reduce heat to 400°F/200°C and bake for another 15 to 20 minutes, or until the crusts are golden. Cooking four pies it is necessary to rotate their positions in the oven.
Servings: 6
Source: Food and Drink Holiday 2006

Have a great day
Jo (2)


  1. Hi Jo
    Just finding your blog today through the A to Z challenge …
    Lovely article
    Fil visiting from
    Fil's Place - Old Songs and Memories

  2. I don't recognise the little grey peak on the head, but we have plenty of tiny birds: bluetits are very common. Pie recipe has made me rather hungry! We are having chicken pie tonight :-)

    1. It is a cute little bird.

      Chicken pie sounds good

  3. Replies
    1. It does Alex, a great favourite in our household.

  4. Those little teensy birds are adorable.

  5. Did you ever take a cooking course? I did not take home economics in high school! I have been thinking about taking a course in pastry. I have titmice birds in my yard and enjoyed reading about it.

    1. No but I would love to have done so. However, my mother was a gourmet cook and anything I learned at the beginning came from her. There was nothing she couldn't and didn't cook. Considering she couldn't make a bacon sandwich before she got married, it was quite incredible how she learned.

      Love to see titmice

  6. Blue Tits, Coal Tits, Great Tits and Long Tailed Tits are the ones that visit our garden. I have never seen a Tufted Titmouse like the one in your photo, not even when I have been in the USA.

    1. We used to get lots of them on our birdfeeder in NC. Maybe Michigan is too cold for them.

  7. Hi Jo - the titmouse is delightful .. we have tits here - mostly the normal ones I think - but I might get my binoculars out a bit more now ...

    The Pie looks delicious .. a rich savoury one for parties looks like to me - though I'm sure I'd be happy to have one on other days!

    Cheers Hilary

  8. It is a cute bird.

    We have these pies on hand in the freezer all the time.

  9. Love the titmouse and would love to try the pie...mmm. (

  10. I printed off this recipe. After the challenge, I'm going to give it a try.

    1. Hope you like it. As I said it makes 4 pies although the recipe expects you to make one large pie I think.

  11. titmouse jokes? Haha. I make a Shepherd's Pie that would make most English people cringe. (My British stepdad certainly does when I talk about it!) I use frozen veggies and beef gravy in a can. I know...shudder. I also make it with ground beef, primarily because ground lamb isn't available in my grocery store.

    1. Yes, I'm cringing. I wouldn't put vegetables in my pie anyway. Just onion. Canned gravy, hmm, I suspect I would hate it. Ground lamb is difficult to obtain in North America though.

  12. Such a sweet little bird with such a funny little name .... and why mouse? I always thought they were tiny MICE... It should be titbird... makes more sense to me. lol.

    Not incredibly fond of mince pies, but it does look good...

    1. Mase means small bird and mase became mouse. Old English word. Bit daft to call it a small small bird but that is basically what it means.

      It is good. I am the same about mince meat pies, but this one is gooooood.

  13. Cute little things the Titmice. Now meat pies are an Australian staple. We eat small versions covered in tomato sauce and sometimes served with sloppy pea mush. Nothing better on a winter's day. Although sometimes they're referred to as "Mystery Bags" because no one is sure what's in the shop bought ones. Yours looks much nicer.

    1. Those pies sound very English actually. Especially with mushy peas. Sort of thing eaten in the north of England. A tourtiére is a very different proposition.