To celebrate National Pie Week, our Estate Chef Tom Parry has created this delicious recipe using estate reared Raby Longhorn beef.

This rich slow cooked Longhorn Beef pie is best prepared in advance and is the perfect dish to enjoy after a long walk. Simply prepare the beef filling and keep in the fridge, then add the pastry topping when ready to bake.

Preparation time: 30 mins

Cooking time:  3 hours

Serves: One large pie feeds six people 


  • 900g     Diced Longhorn Beef steak
  • 15g          Butter
  • 4g            Sweet Paprika (not hot)
  • 30g         Plain flour
  • 28g         Olive oil
  • 250g      Red onion, sliced into rings
  • 2              Garlic cloves finely chopped
  • 400g     Sliced Button mushrooms
  • 3 stalk   Celery (cut into 1-inch pieces)
  • 100g       Carrot (cut into 1 inch dice pieces)
  • 700ml   Beef Stock
  • 4g            Chopped fresh thyme
  • 4g            Chopped fresh parsley
  • 30g         Tomato purée
  • 30g          Dijon mustard
  • 150ml     Crème fraiche
  • 500g       All butter puff pastry (shop bought)
  • 1                Egg yolk, lightly beaten
  • 30g          Red Currant Jelly
  • Sea Salt and cracked black pepper to taste


  1. Preheat the oven to 160°C/fan 140°C/gas mark 3.
  2. Pat the meat dry with kitchen paper. Put the flour on a large plate or tray, and season. Coat one-third of the meat in the flour. Heat the oil in a large, non-stick frying pan until hot and fry the floured meat over a medium-high heat to seal. When the meat is just brown, remove it from the pan using a slotted spoon and transfer to a flameproof casserole dish. Divide the remaining meat into 2 batches and repeat the flouring and browning, adding more oil if needed.
  3. Add the onion to the frying pan, with a little more oil if necessary, and fry for 3 minutes or until golden brown, stirring frequently. Add the celery and carrots and stir to mix, then fry for 2 minutes before tipping the vegetables on top of the meat in the casserole dish.
  4. Pour the beef stock, tomato puree over the mixture and add the redcurrant jelly into the casserole dish. Mix well and bring to the boil, stirring. Cover the casserole and cook for 2½ hours or until the meat is tender. Remove from the oven, taste the gravy for seasoning and leave to cool. If you prefer, the filling can be transferred to a slow cooker and cooked on a medium heat setting for 4 hours.
  5. Fold in the crème fraiche to the cooled mixture, which will give the pie filling a creamy richness.
  6. Preheat the oven to 220°C/fan 200°C/gas mark 7. Roll out the pastry and cut out a lid and a strip for the lip of the pie dish. Stir the parsley and thyme into the filling, then transfer the meat and vegetables to the pie dish using a large spoon, together with enough of the gravy to come just below the lip of the pie dish. Brush water around the lip of the pie dish then cut the pastry strip into smaller pieces and place the strips on the moistened lip. Moisten the strips with water, cover with the lid and press to seal.
  7. Trim and crimp the edge with a fork, then brush the pastry lid with beaten egg to glaze. Use the trimmings to make decorations and re-glaze with as much of the remaining egg as needed. Cut a small slit in the centre of the pie lid.
  8. Bake the pie for 30-35 minutes or until the pastry has risen and is golden brown. If you have any gravy left over, reheat until bubbling, pour it into a jug, and serve alongside the pie. Serve the pie with new potatoes a selection of seasonal spring vegetables.


Download Longhorn Beef Pie Recipe


Raby Castle regularly hosts research placements for students who are training for careers in heritage and curation. Despite the challenges of the past 12 months this tradition continued during 2020, albeit virtually, and we are delighted to share some of the fascinating stories about Raby’s oriental ceramic collection which were uncovered by a group of Chinese students who joined us for a placement as part of their studies, at Leicester University’s internationally renowned School of Museum Studies.

Students Xinyi, Manle, Sijia and Suwei were excited to have the opportunity to study Raby’s fine collection of European and Oriental Ceramics, which is on display throughout the Castle.

Xinyi originates from Jingdezhen, the Chinese porcelain “Capital of China” and has had a life-long interest in ceramic culture and technique. Former archaeologist Sijia was more familiar with China’s more distant past and the placement offered an opportunity to learn about more recent centuries through Chinese and Japanese decorative arts.

A Brief History of the Collection

Generations of the Vane family appear to have collected ceramics from China and Japan – a tradition that continues even to this day. During the earliest years of the 19th century, fellow enthusiast, the Prince Regent (later King George IV) visited Raby with his brother and was treated to a display of the castle’s collection in a specially designed “Chinese Salon”. Some pieces in the Raby collection would have looked very familiar to the Prince, including a stunning set of porcelain model pagodas, identical to a set that he had purchased for his own home at Brighton Pavilion. These striking pagodas remain a firm favourite with visitors to the castle today.

The lesser-known pieces in the Raby collection are equally intriguing and were the focus of closer study by the four students. Each student was supplied with detailed photographs of around 20 items. They researched form, decoration, function and technique, as well as wider stories of manufacture, trade, fashion and export. 

Fairytale Characters

In this country, those of us that have grown up with Western traditions might see an illustration of a girl in a red cloak alongside a wolf and know immediately that it represents the fairytale character Red Riding Hood – not so obvious if you haven’t been brought up with that story. The same is true for those who are unable to recognise the many cultural nuances evident in Chinese ceramic decoration.  For our four Chinese students recognising what might need explanation to a Western audience brought new meaning to the collections.  At the end of her placement, Manle felt that her own cultural identity had brought a greater level of depth to the information that she had been able to share with the Raby team. From our perspective it added rich layers of detail that otherwise may have been overlooked.

Nowhere is this insight clearer than in one of the pieces depicting Chinese figures and text,  researched by student Suwei. Suwei found that the text and the figures on the vase came from the Wu Shuang Pu, or ‘Table of Peerless Heroes’, a 17th century woodblock print containing a collection of beautiful illustrations of historical figures and folk heroes. The two figures depicted on this vase were identified as the male and female folk-heroes Lü Zhu and Qian Liu.

Lü Zhu (ca.250-300), whose name means ‘green gem’, was the favourite concubine of the wealthy Shi Chong. When a powerful General demanded that she be ‘given’ to him, Shi Chong refused and his enemy sent troops to invade to take her by force. Rather than be captured, Lü Zhu chose death rather than submission. The text is a poem that tells of her brave and tragic end.

The male figure, Qian Liu (852-932) was a warlord and the founder of the Kingdom of Wuyue (Nowadays Zhejiang and Jiangsu Province in Southeast China) during the late Tang period. Qian Liu was named the Prince of Yue in 902 with the title of Prince of Wu added two years later. The text is a poem praising of his loyalty to the Tang Empire and his achievements as a local governor.

But in examining the poetry, Suwei spotted a couple of anomalies. Some words and lines of the usual poems were missing. This, she felt, might reflect the fact that these items were being produced on such a huge scale that the painter perhaps chose to omit some words and sentences to speed up the decoration process. We wonder whether anyone before Suwei had spotted this!

Stories of Global Trade

Xinyi was pleased to find that the collection at Raby Castle demonstrated examples of typical cultural exchanges between the two nations. These stories of cultural exchange provide a window on the history of global trade and networks.

Once piece studied by student Sijia, was a “Kraak” porcelain bowl. Her research highlighted the links between “Kraak” (made in Jingdezhen during the Wanli period of the Ming Dynasty 1573-1620) and the Dutch East India Company who brought examples back to Europe for auction as early as 1602. Archaeological excavations in China have helped build understanding of the trade and export of ceramics from this early period, including routes routinely used by smugglers when exports were banned.

This wider history of global trade was researched more fully by Manle, including the background of Chinese export-ware and links between China and Europe during 17th and 18th centuries. This also meant comparing items that were made in China for the domestic market with those that became popular in Europe, looking at interactions between China, Europe and Japan.

A Lasting Legacy

Despite not being on-site at Raby Castle, the four students were able to provide new insight into the pieces they researched, and the castle team were thrilled with what they discovered. Their collective research and the cultural context they shared with the team added layers of rich detail to our understanding of these beautiful items, giving us greater appreciation of the makers and collectors of the past. But what happens next?

This blog shares just a tiny fraction of the information they unearthed. Their research will be added to the castle’s collections database where it can then be used to help to interpret the history of the castle, its owners and collections, their work will help us to create new art tours, and to contribute to exhibitions and art projects.

Although Manle, Xinyi, Suwei and Sijia were not able to visit Raby Castle last summer, we remain in touch with them as they embark on their careers and look forward to welcoming them to Raby Castle when it is possible for them to visit, to see the collection in person.

Other articles you may enjoy:

Our Favourite Things: A Personal Look at Raby’s Collections

Behind the Scenes – The Octagon Drawing Room at Raby Castle

Whatever Happened to Raby’s ‘Museum of Natural History’?


Recipe by Estate Chef Tom Parry

To mark Shrove Tuesday our chef Tom has shared his ultimate pancake recipe for you to make at home. His recipe is a modern take on a traditional Pancake recipe from the Raby archives, which is also reproduced below. You’ll find a link to download Tom’s recipe at the bottom of the page.

Preparation time: Less than 15 mins

Cooking time: 15 mins

Serves: Makes enough for two people


  • 2 Large free-range eggs, separated
  • 25g Caster sugar
  • 2g Vanilla essence
  • 30ml Milk
  • 15g Self-raising flour
  • 5g Vegetable oil

To serve

  • Whipped Cream
  • Maple Syrup
  • Strawberries


  1. Whisk the egg whites in a clean bowl with 1 tbsp of caster sugar, using an electric whisk or a stand mixer to form stiff peaks.
  2. Beat the egg yolks, 1 tbsp caster sugar and vanilla together in a separate bowl until pale and foamy, and a ribbon trail is left on the surface when the beaters are removed. Gently fold in the milk and flour until just incorporated.
  3. Fold the egg whites into the egg yolk mixture and gently turn the batter over to mix together, using the side of a metal spoon or spatula to keep all the air in the mixture.
  4. Working quickly, heat a large non-stick frying pan with a lid over a very low heat. Drizzle a little oil into the pan, then wipe it with a piece of kitchen roll – you only want a small film on the base of the pan. Make three tall pancakes by piling three spoons full of the batter into the pan, using about two thirds of the mixture. Keep them piled quite high, do not tip the pan or spread them out like you would normally do with thinner pancakes. Cover with a lid and cook for 2-4 mins, the steam will help them set. Remove the lid and add another dollop of batter to each pancake, this will create the classic height and thickness. Return the lid and cook for another 4-6 mins until the top feels slightly set.
  5. Add whipped cream, maple syrup and strawberry to create an indulgent and memorable Shrove Tuesday.

Raby Pancake Recipe and History

During lockdown Raby Castle’s fantastic volunteers have been helping to transcribe some of our archive manuscripts … and look what we found especially for Shrove Tuesday! Here this 1770s recipe for pancakes is quite different to the more usual French-style crêpe or the fluffy American pancake, separating the whites from the yolks and using water rather than milk. We’d love to see pictures of the results if anyone tries this recipe at home.


Take four eggs for three pancakes, so in proportion to the quantity you want. Cast your whites on a dish until they rise to a snow, then cast your yolks in the bowl you mean to make your pancakes in with a little salt. Then mix in your snow with your yolks, then mix it with water to a proper thickness. Then mix your whites and stir it all together. Try not to break the whites too much. Then butter your frying pan well and do one side in the pan, fold the other before the rise until it rises well.

Download Raby Castle Pancake Stack Recipe


Raby Castle and High Force are home to some amazing wildlife, including a wonderful variety of birds.

Our Bird Bingo game is the perfect activity for a cold winter’s day – you don’t even need to leave the house!

Download the activity sheet, grab a hot chocolate and watch our Bird Bingo video clip of some of the birds seen at Raby – can you be the first to spot all nine birds?

For full details, download our activity sheet which also includes everything you need for a nature walk in your local area.

If you enjoyed this then check out our other children’s activities including our Waterfall wordsearch and Deer colouring sheets.

Why not try our Raby Castle Online Scavenger Hunt? Or take a look at some brilliant Castle inspired stories to enjoy at home?

Each year during the winter months, many historic buildings close their doors to visitors. Raby Castle is no exception and after a busy festive period, the castle closes before opening again in the spring.

Although the doors may be closed, this period is anything but quiet for the castle team, as work to care for and maintain the collection continues behind the scenes. Traditionally, these months see the winter deep clean with conservation work and collection checks taking place, as the castle prepares to welcome visitors in the year ahead.

This year sees a focus on Raby’s opulent Octagon Drawing Room, an elaborate Victorian confection of gilding, silk and glass influenced by French 17th century design. Created in 1848 by Scottish Architect, William Burn for the 2nd Duke and Duchess of Cleveland, the room would have made a bold statement that both impressed their visitors and demonstrated their wealth.

It is not hard to see why this room remains a firm favourite with visitors today. Look closely at the ornate ceiling and abundant symbolism can be discovered; the Duke’s monogram, family coat of arms and links with Royalty are all present, picked out in gleaming gilt. The height is accentuated by an enormous Victorian chandelier, painstakingly cleaned by the Raby custodian each winter, which is reflected in the in the two large gilt mirrors above the fireplaces, creating an infinity effect. Bold yellow silk wallcoverings, red and gold curtains and furniture pack a visual punch almost 175 years after completion, the colours still brilliant after a major a conservation project in the 1990s.

This winter, some of the furniture originally supplied for this room by the Bond Street company G. J. Morant has been returned to display after being rested for a couple of years. It is a reminder of how the room would have looked, and how it would have been used in the past. A drawing room (or withdrawing-room) was traditionally a more female domain, the space that women would ‘withdraw’ to after dinner when the men would remain at the table or retreat to a smoking room with port and cigars. The view that this was to spare the women from political debate is certainly ripe for challenge at Raby. The 19th century visitors books, (housed in Raby archives) clearly show that guests to the castle that were vibrant and politically engaged, and both the Duke and the Duchess would have been prominent hosts. Standing in this room today, you can imagine the lively conversation in the candlelight, the sound of drinks being poured, and the warmth and smell of the wood fire from the two fireplaces.

The family entertained Royals, politicians, writers and artists through some fascinating periods of history. During the latter half of the 19th century, guests included the Prime Ministers William Ewart Gladstone and Benjamin Disraeli – both leaders of different parties who visited the castle at different times.  If walls could only talk, what more could this room tell us?

If you enjoyed this blog you might be interested in reading about Raby’s Grand Entrance Hall 

In the early 18th-century an almighty family feud almost destroyed one of Durham’s best-loved castles.

Christopher Vane, 1st Baron Barnard of Raby Castle, was said to be a quiet, book-loving man who liked his estates to be run in good order. He married Lady Elizabeth Holles, the eldest daughter of Gilbert Holles, Earl of Clare. Elizabeth was a formidable character reputed to have an ‘ungovernable temper’.

Christopher Vane 1st Baron and Elizabeth Lady Barnard, painted by renowned portrait artist Mary Beale. (Copyright Raby Castle)

In 1714, their eldest son Gilbert declared that he wished to marry Mary, the daughter of Guildford MP Morgan Randyll who was a wealthy “commoner”, and not a titled aristocrat.  Christopher and Elizabeth were furious and opposed the marriage. History lays the blame for this disagreement firmly at the feet of Elizabeth, who, as a rich heiress was said to be used to getting her own way.

To Gilbert’s horror, in protest against his marriage to Mary, his parents set about destroying his inheritance at Raby Castle.

Christopher paid his steward £50 to employ two-hundred workmen. In just a few days, the castle had been stripped of its lead, glass doors and furniture, and the floors were pulled up. The woodlands were cut down and many of the iconic Raby deer were slaughtered. Household goods were sold for whatever they would fetch, and the remains ended up on enormous bonfire.

Gilbert and Mary were not going to take the destruction of Raby Castle lying down, and successfully took Christopher and Elizabeth to Court of Chancery in the case of Vane vs Barnard.  Christopher and Elizabeth were ordered to cease the destruction and a rebuilding programme began.

Gilbert and Mary are understood to have had happy marriage, and the story of Christopher and Elizabeth’s disapproval slipped into local legend. Christopher almost vanishes into the background, whereas a furious Elizabeth was said to continue to torment her neighbours and became known locally as ‘The Old Hell Cat’. Stories of her fiery temperament continue to be told, and she is said to haunt the battlements of Raby Castle, pacing furiously back and forth, knitting with red-hot needles.

Read this and other myths and legends from County Durham in Visit County Durham’s Durham Stories online storybook.

If you enjoyed this legend, you can discover more tales inspired by Raby Castle from the winners of our 2020 Short Story Competition here 

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