This is an old recipe handed down through generations of farmers' Wives and it still appears in farmhouse cookery books today. There seem to be any number of versions, and many regions or towns (notably Huntingdon in Cambridgeshire) claim it as their own. There are also several explanations of the description 'fidget', one of which is the ability of the different ingredients to move around or 'fidget' inside the pie. But its really distinctive character is the combination of pork and apple, though in this instance I have used bacon instead of pork. This combination allowed farmer's wives to bake their pies knowing that the apple would keep the pie moist.
This is a homely, old-fashioned, special-occasion pie, versatile in the opportunities it offers for serving and eating.
serves 6 - 8
350 g (12 oz) plain shortcrust pastry
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 large onions, finely chopped
225 g (8 oz) smoked streaky bacon, chopped
450 g (1 lb) crisp eating apples (about 3 medium-sized apples)
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh parsley, plus extra for rolling out pastry lid
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh sage, plus extra for rolling out pastry lid
salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 eggs, plus extra beaten egg, to glaze
150 ml (1/4 pint) double cream
150 ml (1/4 pint) dry cider
1/2 teaspoon grated nutmeg
1. Roll out 225 g (8 oz) pastry on a lightly floured surface and use it to line a deep 23 cm (9 in) tart tin.
2. Pre-bake or bake blind. Wrap and chill the remaining pastry. Pre-heat the oven to 200°C (400°F) Gas 6.
3. Heat the oil in a pan, add the onions, cover and fry gently until soft, stirring occasionally. Add the bacon and continue to cook, uncovered, for 2 minutes, stirring occasionally.
4. Meanwhile, peel, core and thinly slice the apples. Put a layer of apple slices in the pre-baked pastry case. Top with half the bacon and onion mixture, then sprinkle with half the fresh herbs and season with salt and pepper. Add a further layer of the remaining apple slices and top with the remaining bacon and onion mixture and herbs. Season again.
5. In a bowl, beat the eggs, then add the cream, cider and nutmeg. Season with salt and pepper, then pour the mixture into the pastry case over the layers of apple, bacon and onion.
6. Take the uncooked pastry from the fridge and roll it out to make a lid, rolling the pastry out on a lightly floured surface sprinkled with finely chopped herbs, so that the herbs become embedded in the pastry. Lay the pastry lid of the tart over the filling, pinch the edges to seal, make a few slits in the pastry and brush all over with the extra beaten egg.
7. Place the tart in the oven and bake for 15 minutes, then reduce the oven temperature to 180°C (350°F) Gas 4 and bake for a further 35-40 minutes or until golden brown.
8. Serve hot with cabbage, spring greens or other green vegetables; or cold with coleslaw, plum or apple chutney and some good strong cider.
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