Inspired by a recent re-watching of the classic Studio Ghibli film “Kiki’s Delivery Service,” we decided to try our hand at making grandma’s signature dish, herring and pumpkin pot pie. Why? Because the movie made it look so tasty.
We don’t care what that the old woman’s granddaughter had to say, Kiki worked hard to help make that pie and deliver it in pouring rain, and… all right, so perhaps some of our desire to cook actually came from a need to understand how the young lady in the movie could possibly hate her sweet, sweet grandmother’s homemade birthday present. It took a bit of research, but we think we may have found the perfect recipe.
When planning for our very own pumpkin pot pie, we wanted it to be as close as possible to the one made in the film. Unfortunately, as those who have seen the movie would know, Kiki’s offer to help the old woman bake does not afford us step-by-step instructions or even a list of ingredients.
We knew from Ghibli’s website that Stockholm and Visby, both cities in Sweden, were used as primary references for the setting. We can also infer that by the presence of airships and the relative time from which the electric oven was invented that the story probably took place in the early half of the 1920s.
So what do we know about Swedish dishes from that time? Well, first comes the fact that Sweden is known for having the smelliest canned herring in the world. Their fish really stinks. But aside from that, we must also keep in mind that the peak season for catching herring is spring, and the setting for “Kiki’s Delivery Service” is early to mid-summer. There’s little chance that the fish used in grandma’s pot pie was a fresh catch, and freezers had not yet been invented. They must have used a different sort of technique for preserving the fish.
Imagine our delight when a straightforward Internet search revealed a 19th century pumpkin pot pie recipe from a German immigrant using picked herring! Pickling food for preservation was very common for the time period, and pickled herring in particular was eaten quite often in Sweden. We’d be hard-pressed to find a recipe more accurate than this! So here’s how we made it.
(serving size: 2)
-6 pickled herring
-1/8 small pumpkin
-1 medium-sized onion
-2 slices of cheese
-4 sheets of frozen pie crust
-1 teaspoon consomme
-16 black olives
-3 tablespoons melted butter
-oregano, basil, salt and pepper as desired
1. If your pumpkin still has the skin attached, microwave it for about three minutes and peel the skin away. Cut the pumpkin into bite-sized pieces.
2. Finely chop your onion and mushrooms and fry them together in a pan with butter, salt, and pepper.
3. Turn off the heat mentioned in 2 and add your flour, milk, and consomme to the pan. Stir thoroughly and return to heat. If the sauce becomes too thick, then add more milk.
4. While heating, stir in your pumpkin and pickled herring. Add salt and pepper as desired. To counteract the fishy smell of the herring, we recommend adding oregano and basil to the mixture.
5. Using a pair of gratin plates (or other single-serving walled ceramic dishes), coat the inner surfaces with butter and line them with pie crust, using about 4/5 of a sheet for each dish.
6. Place the dishes from 5 in your oven or toaster oven and heat until the crust expands.
7. Fill the pie crusts from 6 with the filling from 4 and add a layer of sliced cheese over the top.
8. Cover the top of 7 using your remaining pie sheets. Again, only about 4/5 of each sheet is needed.
9. Using scraps of unused pie crust, create a fish design for the top of your pie (optional) and decorate the edges with olives.
10. Preheat your oven to 200ºC (390ºF) and bake for 20 minutes. Then enjoy!
Any person who likes the taste of pickled foods is sure to grow addicted to this wonderful dish! It might be worth it to break into the world of “Kiki’s Delivery Service” and steal an extra serving from that ungrateful granddaughter.
Even if you don’t like the idea of pickled fish in your pot pie, you might try substituting the herring for cod. Just be sure to give it a good sprinkling of oregano and basil. Maybe with a different sort of fish, the pumpkin pot pie would have appealed to the old woman’s granddaughter and not just to us. Let us know what you think if you decide to try our recipe.
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