Leicestershire is a county in the central region of England, and these are a collection of local and regional recipes handed down within families who have lived and worked in the Leicestershire area. All of the recipes below are regionally authentic, originally coming from recipe books published in the 1800s or 1900s, with the weights and measurements adjusted (alongside the old standards) where appropriate for the modern kitchen.
MELTON MOWBRAY PORK PIE
To make 1 pie: The Crust. 3/4 lb (375g) plain flour, 6 oz (170g) lard, 1/2 teaspoonful salt, 4 fluid oz (120ml) water.
The Filling: 1 lb (500g) pork (failing flitch, use shoulder, and if bought buy 1 1/4 lb (625g) to allow trimming) 1 level teaspoonful salt, 1/2 level teaspoonful pepper, 2 tablespoonfuls water.
The Crust. Put lard and water in saucepan and bring to the boil to melt the lard. Meanwhile weigh and sieve flour and salt, then pour lard and water (while still boiling) over the flour and mix well. Knead well by hand. Leave to cool about and hour but during this time knead once or twice. The dough must not get really cold otherwise it will crack and crumble. Turn onto floured board. Flour mould (the traditional Leicestershire pie mould is wooden, but a 2 lb jam-jar will do), put crust on top of mould and shape it from the top some way down the sides. The crust should be about 1/3 inch (1cm) thick. Leave to set for 20 minutes, then turn crust of mould and trim with scissors.
The Filling. Mince the meat on coarse knife of mincer or chop finely with a knife; add salt and pepper and mix in, add water and mix again. Press meat well into corners of pie, filling within 3/4 inch (2cm) of the top. Make the lid out of the pastry trimmings, press the edges together. Cut round to neaten off – this cutting also helps to bind the top and sides together. Castellate the top with thumb and first finger, make one hole with a skewer and decorate with stars or leaves.
Cut a length of greaseproof paper about 1 inch (2.5cm) higher than the pie, wind it round the pie making sure it goes right down the bottom, and stick it together with flour paste. This holds the pie in position. The pie need not be baked on the same day – in fact it is improved by standing overnight.
To cook, put the pie on a sandwich tin with 1 inch (2.5cm) edges – allowing plenty of room around the pie – and place on baking tray. Cook at 350F (180C) for the first hour, then turn oven to 300F (160C) and give pie another 45 minutes. The sandwich tin will re-absorb the fat. When the pie is nearly cold make a small hole in the top and add jelly. The helly is made from bones and rind, just covered with water, simmered for 2 hours, then strained and seasoned. It should be poured into pie 1 hour after it comes out of oven.
LEICESTERSHIRE CURD TARTS
1/2 lb (250g) curds, 4 eggs (but only use 3 of the whites) only slightly beaten, 2 oz (60g) very dry and fine breadcrumbs, 4 oz (115g) butter, 4 oz (115g) sugar, 3/4 lb (375g) currants and sultanas mixed, 2 tablespoonfuls cream, finely grated nutmeg, 1/2 teaspoonful finely-grated lemon rind, a little rum or brandy, puff pastry.
To make the curd heat 2 pints (1.2 litres) milk to blood heat, add 2 teaspoonfuls of cheese rennet. Strain curds from whey through butter muslin. It is important to leave curd overnight before using.
Soften the curd with a fork, beat in softened butter, then add sugar, breadcrumbs, beaten eggs, fruit, flavourings and cream. This is a very liquid mixture. Line some very deep patty tins with the puff pastry – which has previously been rolled out very thinly and cut with a 3 inch (8cm) cutter. Prick the bottoms of the patty linings to prevent rising, and fill with the mixture. Cook to a rich dark brown – starting with 15 minutes in a hot oven 400F (200c) followed by 15 minutes in a slow oven 280F (140C).
6 oz (170g) butter, 1 lb (500g) sugar, 1 egg, 8 oz (225g) flour, 2 oz (60g) caraway seeds.
Cream the butter and sugar, then stir in the beaten egg and beat the mixture well together. Add the flour and caraway seeds and knead well. Divide the mixture into evenly-sized balls, then make each into an S-shaped piece. Place on baking ray, allowing plenty of room between the biscuits. Brush each over with a little beaten egg and bake in a moderate oven 370F (160C) until a pale brown.