Wednesday, 6 June 2007
Weakman in Weegmans
Last month I made a business trip down to my former home of Yorkshire. A bonus of visiting Leeds that day was to see my best mate Jamie and his wife Andrea, proudly beaming with joy with their beautiful new baby Harrison. They are about as happy as can be, even with the lack of sleep and overnight life change, but they will be the best parents in town I just know it.
As I turned off the A1 to make the journey past Harrogate towards Otley, a strange feeling came over me. A kind of familiar feeling, almost like déja vu, but one that was not disturbing in the slightest. What on earth was it? As I crept with the traffic towards Otley town centre to make the short cut towards Guiseley, this feeling became stronger and panic set in. I became faint, turned white as a sheet and had to emergency stop the vehicle. Dragging myself from the car, cold sweat dripping down my back, I staggered through innocent passers by with a look of manic desperation in my eyes. 'Help!', I cried. 'Somebody PLEASE help!'. Yorkshire people ignored this sorry sight and bustled away from me, and children mocked the sad Geordie as he half crawled, half staggered through the quaint market square.
But this isn't the X Files Blog. And of course, all of this is a complete lie. I may have had a huge rumble in my stomach as I approached Otley, and I may have became slightly excited with eager anticipation at what was to come. But that was about it. Otley is the home of possibly the finest butchers in the world who make the finest pork pies in the world. It is the only place I know where you can snaffle a hot pork pie straight from the oven. I was a weak man in Weegmans of Otley.
The smell of the rich pastry hits you first. Then as you take your first huge bite, the taste of the Organic pork and hot jelly surrounds your mouth and makes you instantly happy. After you have dusted off one pork pie, it is time to delve into another. Then another. Let the other 3 cool down and eat them at home with lots of pickles and cheese. Then eat the other 4 the next day. Pathetic I know, but a trip to Weegmans means a whole 10 pork pies in my bag, it has become a tradition. And I'm happy to be so weak for such a British classic.
Unfortunately, like all top institutions, they will never let me have their recipe (although the photo is one that I snapped before snaffling!). But here is one I pinched from Mrs Smith which I have cooked a few times. It is more of a flat pie rather than the traditional raised short pie. Nothing can compare to Weegman's little delights though, and I beg you to travel there if you are ever in the area. Be a weakman in Weegmans. I always am.
Picnic Pork Pie
8 oz (225 g) chump end of pork, trimmed and chopped into ½ inch (1 cm) cubes
8 oz (225 g) best end of veal, trimmed and chopped into ½ inch (1 cm) cubes (if you can’t get veal, use all pork)
4 slices smoked streaky bacon, de-rinded and diced
1 medium potato (7 oz/200 g), peeled and chopped into ¾ inch (2 cm) cubes
1 small clove garlic, crushed
¼ teaspoon dried thyme
¼ teaspoon ground allspice
1 tablespoon vegetable stock (or water)
1 dessertspoon chopped fresh parsley
1 small egg, lightly beaten, to glaze
salt and freshly milled black pepper
For the shortcrust pastry:
6 oz (175 g) plain flour, plus a little extra for dusting
a pinch of salt
1½ oz (40 g) softened lard
1½ oz (40 g) softened butter
You will also need a tin that has a rim and sloping sides, 1½ inches (4 cm) deep, with a 7 inch (18 cm) base and a ½ inch (1 cm rim), lightly greased, and a medium, solid baking sheet.
Begin by making the pastry by sifting the flour and pinch of salt into a large bowl, holding the sieve as high as possible.
Now add the lard and butter, cut into smallish lumps, then take a knife and begin to cut the fat into the flour. Go on doing this until it looks fairly evenly blended, then begin to rub the fat into the flour using your fingertips only and being as light as possible. As you do this, lift it up high and let it fall back into the bowl, just long enough to make the mixture crumbly with a few odd lumps here and there.
Now sprinkle 1 tablespoon of water in, then, with a knife, start bringing the dough together. Then discard the knife and, finally, bring the dough together with your fingertips. When enough liquid is added, the pastry should leave the bowl fairly clean. If this hasn’t happened, then add a spot more water. Now place the pastry in a polythene bag and leave it in the fridge for 30 minutes to rest. Pre-heat the oven to gas mark 6, 400°F (200°C) and pop the baking sheet in to pre-heat at the same time.
Next, place the chopped meats and bacon in a mixing bowl and add all the other ingredients (except the beaten egg). Now, mix them all thoroughly together, with a good seasoning of salt and pepper. Then divide the pastry in half, and roll out one half, on a lightly floured surface, to line the tin. Pile the meat mixture evenly on the pastry, dampen the edges, then roll out the rest of the pastry to form a lid and fit it over the filling, sealing well all round, trimming and pinching (or fluting) the edges.
Make a small hole in the centre of the lid and, if you have time, you can use the trimmings to make a few leaves for decoration. Now brush the pie with the beaten egg, place it on the baking sheet in the oven, then after 10 minutes reduce the heat to gas mark 4, 350°F (180°C) and bake for a further 45 minutes. If the pastry gets a bit too brown during cooking, cover it with foil. Allow the pie to cool, then wrap it (plate as well) in a double thickness of foil ready to take on the picnic.