A Fig (or Fag) Pie is served on Mothering Sunday in the North-West of England, this is a Christian festival falling on the 4th Sunday in Lent. However, secularly overtime it has become a celebration of motherhood and it is increasingly being called simply, Mother’s Day. This Fig Pie has strong associations with another ‘cake’ served at this time of the year, the ‘Simnel Cake’. And although the recipe was written down in the 1900s this recipe stems from pies made in the 1800s and the local traditions it was inspired by, particularly around Blackburn. Dorothy Baldock, “Sometimes called Fag Pie this was a Mothering Sunday dish – so popular that Mothering Sunday was often referred to as Fig or Fag Sunday”.
Lancashire (Blackburn) Fig (Or Fag) Pie Recipe
serves 4 to 6
For The Pie
- 300g dried figs (or fresh ripe figs de-stalked and cut in half)
- 200ml water
- 2 tsp of lemon juice
- 1 tbsp cornflour
- 80g of soft brown sugar (muscovado)
- 1 tsp ground mixed spice
- 50g raisins
- 1 egg, beaten to glaze
For The Pastry
- 250g plain flour
- 50g golden caster sugar
- 50g butter, softened and diced
- 50g lard, softened and diced
- 1 egg yolk
- 1 tbsp milk
- 330ml of whipping or double (heavy) thick cream
The previous day:
Soak the dried figs overnight in a bowl with the water and lemon juice added. There is no need to soak the fresh figs if using them.
The next day make the pastry:
In a large mixing bowl sift in the flour then add in the softened diced butter and lard (or just use extra butter instead of the lard if a vegetarian pie is being made) and rub it together with your finger tips and thumbs until the flour looks like very fine breadcrumbs – it takes a few minutes to get all the fat rubbed in well.
Sprinkle in the sugar and add in the egg yolk and milk and mix with a wooden spoon until the mixture starts to clump together. Then gently squeeze the pastry in your hands and fingers until it comes together into a soft, silky and pliable ball – add a little extra milk only if it feels dry, be careful, it is easy to put too much moisture in, making the pastry wet. When made wrap the pastry in cling film and chill in the fridge for 30 minutes.
Making The Pie:
Pour the dried figs, and the liquid they were being soaked in, into a small saucepan. If using fresh figs cut them in half after destalking them and put them in a saucepan with the water and lemon juice. The liquid should just cover the figs in the saucepan, if not add a little more water.
Bring the figs up to a boil and then turn the heat down and simmer gently for 15 minutes.
After 15 minutes turn the heat off and use a slotted spoon to drain and remove the figs from the saucepan and place them in a bowl to cool – retain as much liquid as possible in the saucepan and reserve for later.
Preheat the oven to 200C
Take the pastry out of the oven and roll it out on a lightly floured work surface. Use the pastry to line a greased (use butter) shallow 20cm (8 inch) pie plate or tart tin. Trim off any excess pastry overhanging the edges. Note: it is recommended to use a pie or tart tin with a removable base to help get the pie out of the tin after baking.
Using ceramic ‘baking beans’ (or cover the pastry with foil and pour in some coins) blind bake the pastry case for 15 minutes in the oven. Blind baking just means weighing the pastry down (to act like a filling: the added weight is important to help keep the pastry case shape) and baking it in an oven to make it sealed ready for the pie filling to be added.
After 15 minutes remove the pie or tart tin from the oven, remove the baking beans etc. and then brush the pastry all over with some beaten egg wash. Put the pastry case back in the oven for 2 minutes to seal the egg glaze.
After 2 minutes remove the pastry case from the oven and neatly place the figs all over the base of the pastry case.
In a small cup add the cornflour and 1 tbsp of water to mix with it, mix it with a spoon to make a paste with no lumps in it.
Put the saucepan with the reserved fig ‘stewing’ liquid back on to a medium heat. Add in the sugar, stir to dissolve, then add in the ground mixed spice and finally the raisins. Heat this through, stirring all the while, to reduce and thicken the liquid.
Add in the cornflour paste and stir it so that it blends into the liquid without making any lumps. Turn the heat up under the saucepan and stir continuously until it boils. Once at the boil reduce the heat to a gentle simmer and simmer the liquid until it thickens considerably, stirring frequently.
Once thickened pour all of this mixture over the figs in the pie case – brush the exposed pastry edges with more beaten egg – and then bake in the oven for a further 20 minutes until the pastry is golden. After twenty minutes remove the Lancashire Fig Pie from the oven and leave to cool for 30 minutes.
After thirty minutes: In a mixing bowl add in the whipping or double cream and use a whisk to whip air into the cream and make it become more stiff.
When the pie is cooler remove it from the pie tin or plate and dollop over the whipped cream and smooth it over the pie. Then serve the Lancashire Fig (or Fag) Pie in slices.