Written by Marie Kreft
Once upon a time, fidget pie was the traditional Shropshire dish – a lunchtime staple baked with gammon, onion, potato, apple and cider. Just like the Cornish pasty, it could be hand held and was ideal for workers. A few years ago it was in danger of dying out in Shropshire, as people hardly made this 400-year-old recipe anymore. Thankfully, it has seen a revival in recent years, largely down to the BBC’s Simon King and Dave Myers, whose 2009 Hairy Bikers’ Food Tour of Britain saw them seeking out the best chefs and dishes from each county they explored. And of course they had a wonderful time in foodie-friendly Ludlow…
Fidget pie is named perhaps for its ingredients’ tendency to shuffle around in their pastry case when baked. Other theories about the name are that it was once ‘fitched’ (or five-sided), or – less appetisingly – that it smells like polecat (known locally as a ‘fitch’ or ‘fitchett’) while cooking. Don’t let the latter put you off: fidget pie is delicious served hot with fresh veg, or cold with pickles for a picnic, washed down with a glass of cloudy cider.
Here’s a recipe reproduced with thanks to Ludlow Food Centre, who offer a twist to their fidget pies by using a piped potato and mustard lid. Feel free to use generic or alternative versions of the gammon steak, cider, mustard and cheddar – but if you can make a trip to Ludlow Food Centre in Bromfield for the real deal, I doubt you’ll regret it. You can also buy fidget pies ready-made by the talented chefs at this wonderful farm shop.
375g Gloucester Old Spot gammon steak
2 medium Bramley apples
160ml Brook Farm Dry Shropshire Cider
750g Shropshire potatoes
1 tbsp Ludlow Food Centre’s wholegrain mustard with honey
80g double cream
100g Ludlow Food Centre’s Oakly Park cheddar cheese
75g plain flour
75g self-raising flour
Pinch of salt
1. Heat oven to 180°C/375°F/Gas Mark 5. Make the pastry by sifting the flours and salt into a bowl. Dice the butter and rub into the flour until it resembles breadcrumbs. Stir in the water, a dessert-spoonful at a time, until the pastry forms a ball. Wrap the pastry in cling film and rest it in the fridge for 20 minutes.
2. Peel the potatoes and cut into chunks and cook in salted boiling water for approximately 20 minutes.
3. Dice the gammon and sauté in a pan for a few minutes until sealed. Add the cider to the pan and simmer for approximately 15 minutes until tender. The cider will reduce to a coating consistency.
4. Peel and dice the apples and add the small chunks to the gammon and stir to coat the apples with the sauce. Cook for a further 2–3 minutes then remove the pan from the heat to cool.
5. Drain the potatoes and mash with the cream, butter and mustard until smooth.
6. Remove pastry from the fridge and roll it out. Use it to line a deep 20cm flan dish or four individual deep tins.
7. Add the gammon mixture to the pastry case and top with grated cheese. Pipe or spoon the mustard mash on top.
8. Place on a baking sheet and bake for 25 minutes. Ensure that the pie is piping hot throughout.