Saturday, February 24, 2007

Regional Cookery

Although I have lived in Yorkshire for roughly half my life-time, my roots are in the Midlands (and as far as I am concerned that starts somewhere below Sheffield !) so today I am offering recipes from the centre of England. Being traditional they are naturally inexpensive so fit well into my Challenge as I still have all the ingredients to hand.

Fidget Pie: serves four or more
12 oz shortcrust pastry
1 lb (450g) potatoes, peeled and boiled for 5 mins.
2 onions, thinly sliced
2 or 3 apples, peeled, cored and sliced
8 oz (225g) bacon pieces, cut into strips
half a pint of stock
Cut the par-cooked potatoes into not-too-thin slices. Place a layer of the potatoes on the bottom of a pie dish, cover with a layer of onions, then apples, then bacon. Season each layer with a grind of pepper, a pinch of salt (if diets allow), then repeat until the dish is full. Pour in the stock and cover the dish with a lid of pastry. Cut a slit in the top and brush with milk or egg. Bake at 200C. 400F, gas 6 for 30 minutes then reduce heat to 170/325/3 and cook on for a further hour.

Leicestershire Rock Buns (aka Rock Cakes): makes a dozen
8 oz (225g) self-raising flour
2 level tsp. baking powder
4 oz (110g) soft margarine
2 oz (50g) gran. sugar
6 oz (150g) mixed dried fruit
1 egg plus 1 tblsp milk
demerara sugar
Sift together the flour and baking powder and add the sugar. Rub in the margarine until like breadcrumbs (this can be done in a food processor). Stir in the dried fruit. Beat the egg into the milk and stir into the dry mix. If too dry, add a little more milk. Take a teaspoon in each hand and lift up clumps of the mixture and pop them onto lightly greased baking trays. They are supposed to look like rough mounds of cake mixture. Sprinkle with demerara sugar.
Bake at 200C, 400F, gas 6 for 15 minutes. They should be golden. Cool on a cake airer.

Bakewell Pudding: (please don't call it Bakewell Tart)
Make shortcrust pastry with 6 oz (175g) plain flour, 4 oz (100g) butter, lemon juice and water. Preferably use the flaky pastry method, but the more usual shortcrust would suffice.
Roll out the pastry and line a flan tin. Bake blind for 15 minutes at 200C/400F/gas 6. Remove from oven and reduce heat to 180C/350F/gas 4
For the filling:
2 eggs plus 2 egg yolks
4 oz (100g) butter, melted
1 tblsp. ground almonds
raspberry jam
**secret ingredient** (optional but see below)
Beat together the eggs and the yolks, and add the melted butter together with the ground almonds (and the secret ingredient if using). Spread jam over the base of the pastry and pour over the egg mixture. Bake in the oven (remember to reduce the heat as given above) for about half an hour until cooked.
**In an old book it states the secret ingredient is a tblsp of lemon brandy.** Don't ask me how to make this, I have said too much already.

Leicestershire Pikelets: makes 8
5oz (150g) white bread mix (with yeast added in proportion)
5 fl oz (150ml) hand hot water plus 1 tblsp.
1 level tsp. bicarbonate of soda
2 fl oz (50ml) milk
Put the bread mix in a bowl and mix in the water. Beat well and leave to stand in a warm place for about half an hour. When risen, put the bicarb. soda in a cup and pour on the milk. Mix then beat into the flour and water. Stand, covered, in a warm place for half an hour until frothy. This has the appearance of batter NOT bread dough.
Grease some muffin tins (or use large plain scone cutters), and heat a heavy frying pan for a few minutes. Place the muffin tins on to the pan base and spoon 2 tblsp batter into each ring. Reduce heat and cook until dry on top (about 10 mins). Remove the rings, turn the pikelets and cook for a further couple of minutes. Cool on a wire rack and cover with a cloth to keep soft. Eat hot with butter or toast them under the grill when cold.
Tip: If you haven't any muffin rings, make your own using 12" strips of card about 1 1/2" wide (30cm x 4cm). Staple the ends together then cover with foil (or first cover with foil then staple together). These can also be used for fried eggs and can be reused several times.

Melton Mowbray Pork Pie has to have a mention although I'm not (as yet) giving a recipe on how to make. Very simply, it is assembled using hot water crust pastry formed round a large jam jar to make a container, filled with minced pork (pref. a mixture of lean and belly pork), with a pinch of nutmeg,and another secret ingredient: a little anchovy essence. Put on a lid of pastry, seal edges, make two holes in the top**. Bake at 180C etc. for (not sure but about 45 mins.), covering if getting too brown. When cooked stand the pie on a plate and pour hot stock through one hole (preferably made with pigs trotters but a pre-made thick jellied chicken stock would do). Do this slowly and shake the pie from time to time to release any air bubbles. When the stock comes up through the second hole then you know it is full. Leave to get cold and set. Keep chilled, but eat at room temperature.
** The two holes are made so that air has a hole to escape from as the stock is poured through the other.
Tip: The best pork pies we have ever tasted come from the very old old family firm of Walker's in Leicester. Their main shop is in Cheapside but they do have branches in the locality.

Coventry Godcakes - these were traditionally given by godchildren to their god-parents on New Years Day. Exactly the same recipe as Eccles cakes, but instead of being oval, they are triangular.

Hope you will try one or more of the above, and if you live in the Midlands, keep the tradition going.