So many old traditional British dishes have wonderfully quirky and obscure names and Fidget (Fitchet or Figet) pie is one of them. I’ve seen it called Shropshire Fidget pie, Cambridgeshire or even Huntingdon fidget pie but I believe its origins may date back to Anglo-saxon times. As for the name; it’s been suggested that it was given because of the way the ingredients ‘fidget’ about inside the pie.
Fidget pie is a traditional farmers pie which was most often made for the farms harvest workers. Its main characteristic is the marrying of pork, onion and apple and sometimes potato: Meat, two veg and fruit (dinner and pudding all in one go!). I’ve seen recipes that use minced pork, ham or gammon, but I used my favourite dry cure bacon which gave it a slightly salty, smoky flavour, counteracted beautifully by apples, cider and cream.
I love these simple hearty dishes (see the Orwell inspired essay in wrote back in March) many of which had until recently dropped out of favour. But now, as we return to our traditions and once again embrace the national dishes and that characterise our changing seasons. I reckon its time Fidget pie made a come back!
Another reason for my decision to include it on the menu of last weeks wedding was that I found a fantastic variation in a wonderful recipe book I was given last Christmas. Elizabeth Hodder’s The Book of Old Tarts (yes, ha, ha, a friend with a sense of humour!) has I’m ashamed to say sat disregarded on my book shelf for far too long, not because there is anything wrong with the recipes, some of them look far too tempting, but primarily because my teen hates ‘Quiche’ and it’s not particularly good for the waistline.
I really love crisp, buttery well made pastry though and pies and Quiche really come into their own when cooking for a big function or large buffet. They are hearty and filling and when there is no skimping on the filling, are absolutely sublime.
The bride wasn’t totally convinced when I ran it by her, but in the end she let me go with it and I don’t think anyone was disappointed and the simple Fidget pie won the day. It brought the most compliments out of the three different Quiche I made with its unexpected and strangely unusual taste (which sounds strange seeing as it is such an old and simple dish). I have to say though, full credit goes to the fantastic local produce that went into its making…..which included apples straight from my tree!
225g plain organic flour
1 pinch of Halen Mon sea salt
115g Calon Wen unsalted butter
a small amount of cold water.
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 large red onions
225g smoked, dry cure bacon chopped
450g eating apples, peeled, cored and sliced
1 tablespoon sage and 1 of parsley
150ml double cream
150ml organic Welsh cider (Taffy apple I used)
a grate of nutmeg, salt and pepper
Rub butter into flour and salt until it resembles fine bread crumbs. Add water a trickle at a time until the dough comes together in a ball. Wrap in cling film and put in the fridge to rest for at least 15 minutes.
Cut the pastry into two pieces, one larger and one small. Roll out the larger part on a floured board and use to line a 23cm/9inch loose bottom flan tin. Prick the bottom and line with foil or greasproof paper and baking beans. Bake in the oven gas 6/200 degrees C for about 15 minutes then remove the foil/beans and bake for another 5 minutes until set and firm. This prevents your pie developing a soggy bottom.
Heat the oil in a pan and fry the finely chopped onion gently until softening. Add bacon and continue to cook for a another couple of minutes stirring occasionally.
Put a layer of apples in the pre-baked case, then top with half the bacon and onion mixture, half the fresh herbs and some salt, pepper and nutmeg.
Add another layer of apple, followed by bacon and seasoning.
Mix the eggs, cream and cider in a bowl season lightly and pour over the top.
Roll out the remaining pastry to make a lid. Dampen the edges of the case and pinch the top and bottom together to seal. Make a couple of slits in the top and brush with some extra beaten egg. Bake in the oven for about 15 minutes, then turn the heat down to 180 degree C/gas 4 and cook for a further 35 minutes until golden brown.
You can serve this as a dinner pie with potatoes, vegetables and gravy or cold with coleslaw and chutney as part of a picnic…or buffet.