Chefs Francis Denford and Chris Heaver from the Arundell Arms show us how four-and-twenty black birds can be baked in a pie. Rook pie used to be a country kitchen staple. Dare you attempt this classic?

Rook pie is widely thought to be the infamous nursey rhyme’s “four-and-twenty blackbirds baked in a pie”. Rather than the popular garden songster filling the pastry crust, it is thought to actually apply to “black birds”, presumably young rooks. Chefs Francis Denford and Chris Heaver from the Arundell Armshave the best rook pie recipe.

If you prefer fish for supper rather than rook, their wing feathers can make a very neat little fly which is perfect for catching trout. Read rook shooting: four-and-twenty black birds to learn how to make David Pilkington’s Crooked Rook.

For another pie recipe, try Drew Ackroyd’s pigeon pie. Wonderfully hearty and perfect for when you have a fridge full of leftovers, mix whatever you have to find your favourite filling.


Rook pie. Breasts

Francis Denford, breakfast chef at the Arundell Arms, expertly breasts the rooks for the pie’s filling.

Organised rook shoots were once a traditional part of the country calendar. Young rooks, known as “branchers” as they hop around on the branches, would be shot in the vicinity of the nest and a rook pie would be made from the breast meat. Older country folk still talk nostalgically of rook pie and it is time to bring this classic recipe back into the modern country kitchen. Try this rook pie recipe from Francis Denford and Chris Heaver at the Arundell Arms.

  • 4-6 fledgling rook breasts
  • 100g chopped beef
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 2 carrots, chopped
  • 55ml beef stock
  • 1 packet puff pastry
  • Egg wash
  • Salt and pepper

Cut the meat into thumb-sized chunks. Seal both meats for a few minutes then add the onion and carrots.

Introduce the beef stock and simmer for 30 minutes. Remove the meat and reduce the stock to a thick sauce.

When reduced to the required consistency, return the meat and place in a flameproof pie dish. Place the rolled pastry on top. Vent the pastry before egg washing and seasoning.

Cook at 180°C/350°F/Gas Mark 4 for 30 minutes.