Charcutepalooza #9 Leicestershire on a plate
I was born for this months challenge, literally. I was born and grew up in a county of England called Leicestershire (Les-ter-sheer). Leicester city was once described by the Lonely Planet as a “nondescript town in the centre of England”; it may not be much to look at but Leicestershire is home to some great British food. The Melton Mowbray pork pie being one of those foods. So you can imagine my excitement when I read this months Charcutepalooza challenge and realised that is was packing meat, and pork pie is one of those recipes that fits the bill for packing.
The Melton Mowbray pork pie is a bit of of a British institution, but it’s kind of the lesser known cousin to the Cornish pasty. The Melton Mowbray pork pie was given the Protected Geographical Status in 2008 by the European union meaning that only pork pies, baked in the traditional method, in and around the town of Melton Mowbray in Leicestershire can be called a Melton Mowbray Pork Pie. This means that despite my best efforts at following the traditional method to make my pork pie, I cannot call it a Melton Mowbray pork pie as I now reside 17000 or so kilometres from there, but I did my best and I was pretty chuffed with the results.
What makes a pork pie a Melton Mowbray pork pie, I hear you ask? Well apart from the obvious (where it’s made) it’s also about how it’s made. The meat in a Melton Mowbray pork pie is grey, this is becasue it does not contain any cured meat, like bacon, or any pink salt. It is also all about the shape. The Melton Mowbray pork pie has a distinctive bulge, because they are hand formed around a pie dolly, rather than baked in a tin. Sadly I don’t have a pie dolly, so mine was hand formed around a jam jar, but it did the same job.
But making a pork pie doesn’t really give you Leicestershire on a plate. There are other great foods the can thank Leicestershire for their existence; the second of these are crisps (potato chips to my Australian and American readers). Ok, so this one isn’t such a large claim, crisps were not invented in Leicestershire, or even the UK, but for many years Leicester has been home to one of the most popular brands of crisps, Walkers. And while I am on the trivia theme, Walkers actually started out life (and still is) as a butchers shop, but after World War 2, when meat was scarce and expensive they diversified and started making crisps.
I made homemade crisps from Gordon Ramsay’s Great British Pub Food. They were much easier than I thought to make, and surprisingly authentic. For some reason I thought crisps were one of those foods that taste good because they are mass produced and processed. But I hand cut them, and hand fried them and sprinkled them with sea salt and rosemary, and they were the real deal. Golden, crisp, salty perfection.
With pork pie and crisps I was starting to build up a Ploughman’s type lunch so to complete the set it has to be served with a slice of Stilton Cheese. Another EU protected product, this smelly blue cheese can only be called Stilton if it is made in a small corner of Leicestershire, Nottinghamshire or Derbyshire. There are only six dairies that have the licence to make the cheese and three of them are in or around, yes you’ve guessed it, Melton Mowbray. Blue cheese, especially Stilton can be an aquired taste, and it’s one I aquired many years ago. I like it with garlic mushrooms and steak; in a quiche with bacon; after dinner with port; or served with a slice of bread and butter and a chunk of pork pie.
I’m not sure how I’m going to top this challenge and I’m looking forward to making more pork pie, but I’m sure Mrs. Wheelbarrow will come up with something good for the October Challenge – nine down three to go. So here is my pork pie recipe, formulated from reading Charcuterie by Ruhlman, The Hairy Bikers Food Tour of Britain, Gordon Ramsay’s Great British Pub Food and the Dickinson and Morris pork pie website.
My Pork Pie (makes 2)
For the Pork Jelly:
2 pigs trotters
500g pork bones (I used the ribs from my last pork belly)
2 carrots chopped
1 onion roughly chopped
2 sticks of celery roughly chopped
2 bay leaves
2 sprigs of rosemary
1 tsp black peppercorns
For the Pastry:
225g plain flour plus extra for dusting
salt and pepper
For the filling:
400g pork neck
100g pork belly mince
1/2 tsp ground allspice
1/2 tsp ground mace
1 tsp salt
2 anchovy fillets finely chopped
small handful chopped fresh sage leaves
pepper to taste
1 egg, hard boiled
Start with the jelly. Put all the ingredients in a large pan, cover with water and bring to the boil. Simmer for 4 hours, remove the meat and veg and boil to reduce to about 500ml. I saved the meat from the trotters and ribs and combines with the leftover jelly to make brawn, a Charcutepalooza added bonus. Set aside to cool completely. This can be done the day before.
For the pastry, heat the lard, milk and water in a pan until the lard has just melted. Put the flour, salt and pepper into a bowl, make a well in the centre and p0ur in the warm lard, milk and water. Combine to make a pastry. Wrap in clingfilm and allow to rest in the fridge while you make the filling.
For the filling, finely chop the pork neck by hand then combine with the pork belly mince. To this, add the chopped sage, allspice, mace, chopped anchovies salt and pepper. Mix well by hand, then divide into two balls and chill until needed.
Pre-heat the oven to 180C. To assemble the pies, divide the pastry into two portions one for each pie. Reserve a quarter of each ball of pastry for the lid then roll out the remaining pastry to form the pie shell. Place your flour dusted pie dolly, or equivalent (I used a jam jar) in the centre of the pastry circle and form the pie crust around it. Remove the pie dolly and place the slightly flattened ball of filling in the centre of the pie crust. Roll out the remaining quarter of pastry into a circle for the lid. Brush around the edge of the pastry case and seal the top, crimping the edges to ensure they are stuck, but also make it look nice. Repeat with the rest of the ingredients to make the second pie.
At this stage, for a twist on a regular pork pie, you can add in a boiled egg to make a gala pie. Mold the pork mixture around the peeled, boiled egg before placing in the pastry case.
Brush the pie in beaten egg and cook in a pre-heated oven for 45 minutes to an hour until the pastry is golden brown and the meat is cooked through. To finish off, cut a hole in the top of the pie and fill with the pork jelly. You might need to warm the jelly so it can be poured. This was the hardest part and I didn’t manage to get as much in the pie as I would have liked. Allow to cool completely, before cutting and serving.