Last week we looked at the traditional way cattle herdsmen marked Beltane, 1
May, the ancient Scottish Spring fire festival. This week we note how
shepherds, in bygone times, sought to protect their flocks from misfortune.
In Scottish Customs (Birlinn, 1996), Sheila Livingstone writes -
"At Beltane shepherds cut a circular trench and
lit a fire of sacred wood. They made a caudle of eggs, butter,
oatmeal and milk, spilling some on the ground to ensure the safety
of their flock in the coming season and to placate the old gods.
They drank it with bear and whisky. Often an oatcake was baked
with nine raised knobs dedicated to various deities and each
shepherd broke off a piece and said 'This to thee, preserve thou my
In Stirlingshire, they cast lots to determine
which two shepherds would become the Keepers of Beltane. It
was their job to hide away the cake until the following Sunday when
they would break up the oatcake and blacken one piece in the fire.
The company were blindfolded and chose a piece of oatcake and the
one who drew the burnt one then leapt three times through the flames
in continuation of a Druidic custom when the chosen one might in
reality have been sacrificed to the God of Light.
Shepherds made a hoop of rowan and passed the
lambs through this to keep them safe from the evil eye."
Lamb is the basis for this week's recipe and whether we suffer the Gab o Mey,
a cold snap for a few days at the beginning of the month, or not, Minted
Lamb Pasties is just the ticket as they can be served hot or cold.
Minted Lamb Pasties
Ingredients: 200 g (8 oz) plain flour;
pinch of salt; 50 g (2 oz) margarine; 50 g (2 oz) lard or white fat;
water to mix; 175 g (6oz) cooked lamb, finely diced; 1 small onion,
peeled and finely chopped; 3 tablespoons cooked peas; 100 g (4 oz)
boiled potatoes, chopped; salt and freshly ground black pepper; 2
teaspoons freshly chopped mint or 1 teaspoon dried mint; beater egg, to
Method: Sieve the flour with a pinch of
salt into a bowl. Add the fats and rub in until the mixture
resembles fine breadcrumbs. Add sufficient cold water to mix to a
pliable dough and knead lightly until smooth. Wrap in foil and
chill for 30 minutes if possible.
If using raw diced lamb, it should be fried gently in
25 g (1 oz) butter for 5 to 10 minutes before mixing with the other
Mix together the chopped lamb, onion, peas, potato,
salt and pepper to taste and the mint.
Roll out the pastry on a floured surface and cut into
four circles 18 cm (7 inches) in diameter. Divide the meat mixture
between these, placing it in the centre of each. Damp the pastry
edges and bring together at the top to form a pasty. Press well
together and crimp the edge. Place on a dampened baking sheet and
brush with beaten egg. Cook in a hot oven (220°C, 425°F, Gas Mark
7) for 15 minutes, then reduce oven temperature to moderate (180°C,
350°F, Gas Mark 4) and continue for 15 to 20 minutes, until well
Serve hot or cold with tomato wedges.