Introduction: Mummified Cat and Kittens Pie (with Savoury Option)
Bastet or Bast was a Goddess worshiped mainly in the Nile Delta, she was a daughter of the Sun God, Ra and took the form of a lioness or cat. To show their devotion to her cult, followers wore cat amulets or offered her cat statues but between 661-332 BC it became more popular to offer her an actual mummified cat and these were buried in huge cat cemeteries along the Nile and at the centre of her cult Memphis, the capital city of Ancient Egypt.
Some time much later in 1888 a desert farmer dug up a whole field of these cats, preserved in the sands of Beni Hassan, presumably because his farm was located upon one of these ancient cemeteries and offered them for sale. Unbelievably 180,000 of them were shipped to Liverpool and sold at auction...for fertiliser. The British Press, such as the satirical magazine Punch, had a great time (I refrained from writing field day) with this, showing cartoons of ghostly cats emerging from the soil, under the heading: Horrible Result of Using the "Egyptian Fur-tiliser".
As far as the cats were concerned and depending upon how you look at it, this could be a more fitting end as they were returned to the earth and got a chance to upcycle themselves, their bones and mummy wrappings, as living plants.
Mummified cats are an art form and from the way they were created, a horror story, so eminently suited for Halloween.
The background frieze is a watercolour I painted as work in progress for an animation and also a design I have on Redbubble.
To make the mummy wrappings I'm going to use rough puff pastry, which as the name suggests is an easier version of puff pastry but just as tasty. All the ingredients I use are certified organic.
One Large Cat and Four Kittens
For the main pastry wrapping :
1⅔ cups - 8oz - 230g of all purpose/plain flour
¼ cup - 2oz - 60g of chilled butter
½ cup - 4oz - 120g of chilled butter
1 dessertspoon of coconut sugar
4 to 5 tablespoons of cold water
For the contrasting chocolate pastry wrappings:
¾ cup - 3½oz - 100g of all purpose/plain flour
1½ tablespoons - ¾oz - 20 g chilled butter
¼ cup - 2oz - 60g of chilled butter
½ dessertspoon of coconut sugar
2 squares - ¾oz - 20g of 85% dark chocolate
3 - 4 tablespoons of cold water
For the filling:
6-7 large bananas and depending on the size of your pan
1 - 2 dessertspoon(s) of coconut sugar
½ - 1 tablespoon - 7 - 10g of butter
Step 1: Prepare the Filling
As the filling needs to cool before it goes in the pie, it is best to prepare this in advance. I'm using bananas to create my cat and kittens but plums or apples would do too, or any fruit that will hold its shape but still be malleable enough to form a 'corpse'.
I'm preparing the fruit in the way I would make a Tarte Tatin, which is to caramelise it in a frying pan. This way not only makes it very tasty but also drives off excess moisture that could cause the pastry to go soggy and the last thing you want is a soggy moggy.
Take 1 to 2 level dessert spoons of sugar and sprinkle over the bottom of a heavy frying pan.
Add four or five flecks of butter evenly-spaced over the sugar.
Place the whole or halved bananas in the pan and put on the stove. After a few minutes check the underside of the fruit and once it begins to brown turn it over and do the same with the other side.
When both sides are brown remove from the heat and place in a glass bowl or similar to cool.
Step 2: Making the Main Mummy Wrapping Pastry
The way to succeed with this pasty and make it light and flaky, is to keep everything very cold, the butter, the flour and your hands. Luckily I have cold hands but if you don't then washing them in cold water before you start and not over-handling the pastry, works well.
Start by taking the ¼ cup - 2oz - 60g of chilled butter and working it into the chilled flour, this is done by 'rubbing' the butter into the flour with the finger tips. If you cut the butter into small pieces with a cold knife before you start then you will only need to rub in the butter for a minimum time. When the mix looks like bread crumbs, then you can go onto the next stage which is adding the cold water.
Add the water a little at a time mixing it in with a cold knife. The dough should just hold together but not be sticky. Use your hand to finally mould the dough into a ball.
Prepare your cutting board by sprinkling it lightly with flour and also flour the rolling pin. Place the dough in the centre of the board and shape it into a rectangle.
Roll the dough out to a shape that measures roughly 13" x 6" - 33cm x 15cm
Take your chilled grater and half of the remaining butter and grate it over two thirds of the rolled dough.
Now fold the un-buttered third over the buttered middle third of the pastry and then fold the remaining buttered third over the top of that.
Turn the pasty through 90 degrees and roll it out to the same dimensions. (Lift the dough and add more flour to the board and to the pin if the pastry starts to stick to either.)
Take the remaining chilled butter and repeat the process. Turn through another 90 degrees.
Repeat this process another 3 times but obviously without adding butter.
After the last fold, place the dough in a freezer bag and put it in the freezer for 5 minutes or a fridge for around 15 - 20 minutes.
Step 3: Making the Contrasting Chocolate Mummy Wrapping
Add the flour to your bowl and then grate in half the chocolate.
Add the 1½ tablespoons - ¾oz - 20 g of chilled butter and rub into the flour as you did with the plain version of the pastry .
Add the sugar and then the water in the same way as in the previous step to achieve the ball of dough.
Repeat the process of rolling out the dough but once you have grated half the remaining butter over two thirds of the dough, add half the remaining chocolate by grating it over the top of the butter. Repeat as for the plain pastry by folding the unbuttered third over the middle buttered third etc.,.
On the second rolling out of the pastry add the remaining grated butter and chocolate. Now fold the pastry over as before.
I stopped at this stage and didn't proceed with further folding as I didn't want to over-work this pastry but bagged it up and put it straight in the freezer for around 5 minutes or a fridge for around 15 - 20 minutes.
Step 4: Wrapping the Mummy Trials and Tribulations
Retrieve the chocolate pastry from the freezer and roll it out to about ⅛" thick and then cut strips and features for your mother cat and the kittens (keep cool until ready to use).
Take the plain pastry from the freezer and cut it in half length-ways, keep the one half cool whilst working on the other half.
Take the half of plain dough and place it on your floured board, flour the rolling pin and then roll out the dough until it measures around 11" x 8" - 30.5cm x 20cm.
I made three different designs for this Mummy some are easier than others, here's the easiest one first:
Taking a sharp knife cut slits in the dough like bandages on either side of the middle section (lengthways) of the dough, i.e. leaving the area where the body will rest uncut.
Spoon the bananas into the middle section in such a way as to resemble a stretched out wrapped up cat.
Now for the artistic (hard) part, you can make this bit as difficult or as easy as you wish. It will taste good whatever you do but the more intricate you make it the more impressive and authentic the final mummy will look.
Wrap the mummy firstly by wrapping the bandages diagonally, with the feet and head wrapped separately to achieve a smoother look.
Add sections of chocolate bandages on top.
I then took the other half of the dough, rolled it out and cut it into four and filled each piece with banana to make the kittens.
I cooked it for around 20 minutes with the oven preheated to 410°F - 210°C but with a check at five minute intervals just to make sure it wasn't burning.
Both the cat and the kittens were delicious, the cat even more so as we ate it the next day and the flavours had had time to develop. However, I thought the kittens looked rather cartoonish and the cat because of the way the eyes, nose. mouth and chocolate bandages had puffed up, didn't quite look as refined as the original!
In the next trial I decided to incorporate the chocolate and plain bandages into the one wrapping sheet. I also tried to cut finer sections for the features.
Again the taste was really good and the pastry crisp and flaky but because of the complicated way I had had to join the sections together, I believe I over-handled the pastry so I lost some butter and a little of the caramel from the banana in the cooking.
Overall though I liked the bandaged look of the Mummy Cat - I just thought I could do better.
Step 5: Third Time Lucky
This was my final design and I think the best.
Rather than try to incorporate the bandages into one sheet. I wrapped my cats in the plain wrappings and with a knife scored the bandages in the pastry. I then added the chocolate designs on top.
I also made the kitten and cat faces much finer and in keeping with the real mummies by using melted chocolate rather than just the pastry. For the kittens, I finished their wrappings with ar few thin sections of plain bandages.
As a savoury alternative I took two merguez, which are North African spiced beef and lamb sausages and very popular here in France and wrapped them in pastry bandages. These are a version of the good old British snack and party staple 'sausage rolls' and you could obviously use sausage or chipolatas or a vegetarian alternative instead of the merguez.
I cooked them for 10 minutes at 410°F - 210°C.
I Hope you will make a cat and kitten mummy pie and enjoy it as much as we did! If you do please do post images.
Runner Up in the
Halloween Contest 2019