Well worth a Trip(pet)


Trippet’s guinea fowl stuffed with chestnuts and apricots

“Didn’t we once judge cheeses together at Bakewell Show?” said Debbie Shaw, eyeing me up thoughtfully at Trippet’s Lounge Bar on Trippet Lane, Sheffield. She was right. What a memory. And what an opening gambit for a conversation.

To be fair they weren’t the first words we had spoken. There were the usual pleasantries when entering a restaurant and Debbie does them well. When a single male diner calls in for lunch he is either (a) Billy No Mates (b) his wife has gone off to the Chatsworth Christmas Fair or (c) a foodie with a review to do, so perhaps I was a bit conspicuous on a quiet Wednesday.

I plead guilty to (b) and (c) and hope to pick up a few new mates by thoroughly recommending Carl and Debbie Shaw’s new venture as an upscale independent eating and drinking place in a city centre not exactly overrun with them.

Beetroot terrine with whipped goats cheese or fillet of pork in Parma ham with Parmentier potatoes might sound like fancy food on a culinary scene awash with burgers and burritos, pasta and pizza, but it doesn’t come at fancy prices. The food, a sort of Modern British tapas, is offered in ‘small plates for between £4 and £8.

Trippets, the name has been revived as it was previously Dada, is in premises with a long association with food, drink and music. I can remember it in the 80s as wine cellar Vat 69, when each November I would call early one morning to review ice-cold bottles of just arrived Beaujolais Nouveau for The Star.

Trippet’s, with its mix of wine, gins (over 40), fizz, food and jazz (the music is every weekend) confuses some people. “They ask, Are you a restaurant or are you a bar? and I say yes,” said Debbie. Apart from the cheese tent, we had also met at the couple’s previous business, the Bull’s Head in Ashford-in-the-Water. I reviewed it for my paper shortly after it was included in Egon Ronay’s top ten gastropubs for 2006 (in such company as The Star at Harome and the Yorke Arms, Ramsgill).

That award didn’t do them any harm but, perhaps, said Debbie, they should have reinvented themselves a time or two before the recession bit. Well, they have now. “This is me,” said Carl, sitting at the bar after service.

They had looked at taking over Smith & Baker’s premises on Ecclesall Road before owners Thornbridge changed plans, revamping it as Rhubarb and Mustard and offered them Dada. The décor has been brightened up: there’s lots of black and white and people say it looks bigger. I’d seen colleague Lesley Draper’s review after they arrived in the spring and made a mental note to take a look.

The cooking is quiet, understated and confident with precise flavours. After good bread served with rapeseed oil from Ashford’s Brock & Morten I had a glorious duck liver parfait, silky, meltingly soft and buttery, served with toasted brioche and a grape and pear chutney so good I wiped its dish clean with my bread (£6.50).

Sticking to fowl, I had three roundels of guinea fowl breast stuffed with chestnut and apricot. I’ve often found the meat, closer grained than chicken, can be a little dry but not here. It was moist. What actually made me chose this was the fondant potato advertised with it (one of those key ingredients which draw me to a dish) and I was not disappointed. It was served with sprouts far crisper than I’d dare to cook at home. I would have loved a little more of the sauce dabbed on the plate (£7.50).

Debbie’s family had run the Bull’s Head since 1953, down three generations. There it was a family affair and that continues at Trippets. Daughter Hollie is front of house and there is son James while the last member of the team is chef Alex Dobson, previously head chef on the Northern Belle luxury train.

Hollie recommended the pudding, a lovely, springily textured sticky toffee which avoided cloying (£5.75). My bill, with a £5 glass of chenin blanc (Debbie will let you sip samples before you buy) and coffee (£2.20) came to £26.95. You couldn’t hope to get out of All Bar One for less.

Former customers from Ashford have found them in Sheffield, where they are making new converts. TripAdvisor reviews have been extremely favourable. The cooking and the atmosphere puts me in mind of the Old Post Office at Chesterfield in its heyday. It has the same number of restaurant seats, 22, although there are a couple of extra tables nearer the bar.

And if you really are Billy No Mates, you can always eat at the bar.

PROS: Exemplary service
CONS: That day’s menu should be in the window not a sample. I’d selected before entering and had to do it again

Trippet’s Lounge Bar, 89 Trippet Lane, Sheffield S1 4EL. Tel: 0114 276 2930. Visit http://www.trippetsloungebar.co.uk

Read Lesley’s review in the Sheffield Telegraph: http://www.sheffieldtelegraph.co.uk/news/jazzy-new-image-for-lounge-bar-1-7304772#ixzz3sd7CNubd


Sticky toffee pudding

A humdrum little morsel?


That’s a Greggs sausage roll on the left with one from Waterall Brothers’

I’ve never had to think too much about sausage rolls until recently. I’ll sometimes buy one from Perfectionery, the bakers, or Roneys, the butchers, to “help me up the hill” if I’m walking back home from Hunters Bar to Nether Edge around lunchtime.

Sausage rolls are good in buffets and funeral teas. I went to a funeral recently and in the rectory afterwards there was a table with sausage rolls next to the egg sandwiches. I’ve got another funeral lined up and so I hope will be the sausage rolls.

It’s such a workaday, humdrum little morsel that I was surprised to read recently that the august New York Times had told its readers that sausage rolls were eaten by the aristocracy on Boxing Day, to fill their tummies because the servants had taken the day off. It even published a recipe.

No doubt they thought that Downton Abbey’s Earl of Grantham sent Carson the butler out to Greggs for some at Christmas.

Twitter was full of incredulity, not least for the fact that Americans had never heard of a sausage roll. Or of Boxing Day. As one Tweet put it: “America, please don’t explore new planets when you haven’t even had a sausage roll. Your priorities are in the wrong places.”

I naturally assumed the USA, like all Anglophone countries, knew all about the sausage roll. It is, for example, very popular in Australia and New Zealand. This would suggest it first appeared in Britain after the Pilgrim Fathers set sail but before Captain Cook cast anchor in Botany Bay.


Two half eaten rolls

Incidentally, it is not the only misapprehension Americans have about us. I recall reading in a US book a few years ago that British young ladies washed their faces in the water from pearl barley soaked overnight to keep their complexions clear.

The Dutch are rather like us and they have the sausage roll or Saucijzenbroodje, in either puff pastry or bread dough for a wrapping. I think the latter has an English regional cousin, having seen it referred to recently, but I can’t find the information now.

Bread would lose the classic partnership of textures, crisp shards of flaky pastry up against the meaty filling. You perhaps don’t want to know too much about what’s in it except that for ‘mouthfeel’ you need fat, although not so much that it drips down your chin in the way that the pastry crumbs inevitably fall down your front.

All this musing brought me to the Greggs shop on The Moor (the chain has over 1,600 of them and you pass four just walking towards the city centre), about to buy an 80p sausage roll. The company sells 130 million of them a year, accounting for about a third of sales. Until now I’ve always been a bit sniffy about them and avoided going in.

Greggs has been untroubled by my rejection. Its expansion goes on a pace with some 1,600 stores, more in the UK than the ubiquitous Starbucks. Unlike the coffee chain, however, it will not be going for world domination as the sausage roll is too idiosyncratically British. But what does it taste like?

The Greggs sausage roll is a good size, just over 100 grams, and the pastry is crisp while the filling is salty but otherwise a little bland. I’d reckon the ratio of pastry to filling is about 50/50. Incidentally, figures on the net show the fat, at 25g, makes up a quarter of the weight. A single roll will set you back 349 calories, which is 14 per cent of a man’s daily intake, or 17 per cent of a woman’s.

For comparison I popped into the Moor Market and bought a much smaller sausage roll from Waterall Brothers’ stall. This was much smaller, cost 52p and I’d reckon the filling was less than the pastry. The filling was paler than Greggs’ but porkier so, for taste, it gets my vote.

But if you want a really memorable sausage roll you should try the humdinger head chef John Parsons sells at the Druid Inn, Birchover, in North Derbyshire. The crisp sesame specked pastry encases sausage meat, black pudding and chorizo and I’ve already written about it here http://wp.me/p5wFIX-dh


Druid chorizo and black pudding sausage roll















Up yours, Pudsey!

Smoked cod loin

Smoked cod loin

I’m a miserable bugger so when I heard that chef Steven Sumpner’s pop up restaurant, Jack in the Box, was going to be on the same date as Children in Need, that hyped-up frenzy of TV charidee money-raising, I thought: “Good, that’ll get me out of the house and away from it all.” Even if it was on Friday the 13th.

Then I realised it was all in aid of Children in Need.

I first ran into Steven, sous chef at the plush George Hotel in Hathersage, earlier this year for one of owner Eric Marsh’s bashes. Among the nibbles was a pretty nifty mini version of the Sheffield of the Sheffield Fishcake, which, by chance, I was then researching.

The event was in a somewhat chilly hall at Sheffield’s Birkdale School but we had warmed up first with glasses of Buck’s Fizz and canapés which included little balls of juicy homemade potted meat, something of an obsession with Steven. If you read his blog you’ll find out why and discover it is made from beef brisket cooked very low and slow for 24 hours.

In fact, that was one of the highlights of the evening for me although I enjoyed all the food that followed. We started with smoked cod loin spiked with cumin and served with a burnt cauliflower puree, had an old-fashioned country house-style of mulled apple granita, full of Christmassy flavours, then proceeded onto beer braised belly pork enlivened with a crunchy hazelnut dukkah (last encountered in a Bedouin tent in the Jordanian desert).

Steven was letting his culinary hair down. At events like this, chefs can cook what they want, not what the management allows. There was a very tempting, grainy textured spiced cranberry and chocolate tart with pickled walnuts (yes it worked), followed by coffee and petit fours.

In fact, the only thing I felt which didn’t work was the barbecued carrot, another of his obsessions. I’d stick that right up the wrong end of Pudsey Bear.

Towards the end of the evening we all had to put into an envelope what we thought the meal was worth and Steven raised a splendid total of £2,067. 22. (You do wonder about that 22p).

Of course, Steven was helped by all those who had given ingredients for free and by his colleagues from the hotel who provided the excellent service all in their own time. He also got publicity from my friend Lesley Draper of the Sheffield Telegraph whose preview (with recipe) of the event you can read here http://www.sheffieldtelegraph.co.uk/news/chef-s-dish-lesley-draper-talks-to-jack-in-the-box-s-steve-sumpner-1-7567811

I was also delighted to meet for the first time fellow food blogger Ros Arksey, aka Nibbly Pig, who has been entertaining us on the food front for the last five years. You can read her blog http://www.nibblypig.co.uk here

All in all, quite a successful evening.

Terracotta Barmy

Roasted in a chicken brick and ready to eat

Roasted in a chicken brick and ready to eat

I found it lurking in the furthest recess of a kitchen cupboard like some half-forgotten archaeological artefact, which in a way it is: a 1980s terracotta Habitat chicken brick.

It had gone the way of the garlic press (a bugger to clean and messier than a knife), the olive stoner (for Heaven’s sake, just spit discreetly) and the mandolin. Well, some nifty knifework mostly makes this redundant.

The classic Habitat chicken brick

The classic Habitat chicken brick

Gosh, how I remember that brick. Chickens came out tasting super-chickeny as they cooked inside this almost primitive mini clay oven. It required no fat, liquids or basting as it roasted in its own juices and when you took the lid off the skin was crisp and brown. For a short time I was terracotta barmy then, for some reason, stopped. I had to try it again.

I can’t remember buying it but must have been last century as it is stamped Made in England. Henry Watson Potteries stopped making terracotta around 2004 and production switched to Portugal. They fell so out of fashion that Habitat discontinued them in 2008 but reconsidered three years later. They retail online at around £30.

I see Watson has a brick featured on its website but it isn’t the Habitat classic, which is all buxom curves: this has a nobbly bit at one end, a sort of parson’s nose. Habitat’s was designed by a friend of founder Terence Conran, David Queensberry, and his business partner Martin Hunt. It first appeared in 1964.

I’d long lost the instructions but I misremembered you had to soak it in water overnight (actually 15 minutes), although some sites claim you can get away with not doing it. But do so because the clay pot soaks up the water to provide the steam. And you put it in before you turn the oven on.

Most sources online instruct cooking a 3lb chicken for 90 minutes at 250C. My oven can’t actually reach that so I settled for 220C. I’ve since noticed that the Watson website seems to be happy with 200C. I’ll be experimenting because higher temperatures mean more money.

The chicken, weighing it at a little over three pounds, was lovely and swimming in juices. I poured them into a fat separator and made some quick gravy, reserving enough fat for dripping. The next day the meat tasted even better, as all roast meats do. And so did the dripping.

The plusses were taste, ease (no basting or turning) and not being a problem to clean. Don’t use washing up liquid, just water, salt and vinegar.

The big minus is that everything else had to cook at this super hot temperature and it took a bit of juggling not to overcook the spuds and stuffing. But my wife’s Yorkshire Puddings rose and cooked in double-quick time.

It will be interesting to see what else I can cook with it. Habitat originally suggested baked ham, pork and pigeons. Some say baked potatoes taste even better. I’ve resumed my friendship with the chicken brick but it will be a friend which drops by my oven only every so often. That makes for a special treat.

This 3lb chicken is ready to roast in its chicken brick

This 3lb chicken is ready to roast in its chicken brick

Making a stir of tradition

Sue and Rayana stir the Christmas pud

Sue and Rayana stir the Christmas pud

It’s Stir Up Sunday on November 21 which should result in a flaming Christmas Pudding on December 25th. And if you make it yourself it will be far superior to shop-bought versions.

It does require a bit of pre-planning so check below and make sure you have all the ingredients. Bear in mind the mix needs to be left overnight then you have to be on hand to steam it the following day. Here’s how we got on a couple of years ago . . .

For the past few years my wife and I have been celebrating Stir Up Sunday with gusto. You get all the ingredients together and mix them up in a bowl, left overnight for the flavours to develop and infuse before steaming. It can take a good eight hours.

Then it goes into a tin and is stored under the bed (or in the cellar) until Christmas Day and several more hours steaming on the hob.

I’d like to say we were simply following in our own parents’ tradition but we’re not. They just bought one from the grocer. We are following the sainted Delia (Delia Smith, Britain’s answer to America’s Martha Stewart, for overseas readers) as it’s her recipe which we use. It is home made for a reason.

Make sure all the ingredients are mixed thoroughly

Make sure all the ingredients are mixed thoroughly

My wife loves Christmas Pudding but I hated the commercial sickliness of each pudding we bought so we decided to make our own. And you know what? It works. It tastes good and I can eat more than the token spoonful.

We’re also helping to revive an old tradition. All this stirring is a family occasion, held on the last Sunday before Advent, so dates change from year to year. We are not sticklers for the exact date. As the spoon is passed from person to person they make a wish. In the bad old days before health and safety Mum surreptitiously slipped in a silver sixpence which finished up in one of the portions.

I’ve read that the pudding is stirred from east to west in honour of the Three Wise Men but we’d have to find a compass first. It is also claimed Prince Albert brought the tradition with him but, in fact, George I brought it over from Germany at the beginning of the Eighteenth Century.

You can find the recipe on page 37 of her book, Delia Smith’s Christmas, which is the one we use, which serves 8-10 people. A smaller pudding with just slightly less of the same ingredients, which serves six, is listed below.

You will need a 11/2 pint pudding basin, lightly greased.
3oz (75g) shredded suet
11/2oz (40g) self-raising flour
3oz (75g) fresh white breadcrumbs
3/4 level teaspoon mixed spice
good pinch freshly grated nutmeg
good pinch ground cinnamon
6oz (175g) soft dark brown sugar
3oz (75g) sultanas
3oz (75g) raisins
7oz (200g) currants
3/4oz (20g) mixed chopped peel
3/4oz (20g) blanched almonds, finely chopped
1 small Bramley cooking apple (5oz/150g)
grated zest of 1/2 medium orange
grated zest of 1/2 lemon
11/2 tablespoons rum or brandy
2fl oz (55ml) barley wine*
2fl oz (55ml) stout
2 medium eggs

*This is not that easy to find these days so just add a little bit more booze of your choice. I did find it at Waitrose, four cans of Banks’s Barley Gold for £5.25. They don’t sell single cans. Which is rather a lot to pay if you’re not planning to get blotto with this high strength beer. “Everybody just wants one,” said an assistant. Can’t be any demand for it then, can there?

*This year we have bought a bottle of Guinness West Indies Porter. We’ll let you know how well it worked next year! **It worked very well.

For full details on what to do next visit http://downloads.bbc.co.uk/radio2/life2live/dontcancelchristmas/classic_pud.pdf