Get potting that leftover turkey or ham!


Potted turkey or ham (it looks the same!)

If you’ve still got turkey or ham in the fridge and can’t bear the thought of another ham sandwich or turkey curry, why not pot it? This blog has been here before but the post is way back in the archives.

Christmas food is lovely but it’s what to do with the leftovers which is the biggest problem. Since we also had a home-baked ham we had double the amount of food – and surplus – to find a use for. I did it with one day to spare before the end of the year and we’ve only had turkey leg curry once!

I gave some of the meat (it was a 14lb bird) to family and some of the ham but that still left a lot. The carcase was easy. I made a stock. And that helped to produce a turkey and leek soup, with the rest in the freezer. The essence from the dripping has gone on my breakfast toast (what I don’t eat will be the basis of even more soup) and I am still working out what to do with the fat left on top.

We’ve had ham sandwiches for lunch all week. There was more than enough turkey and ham to make fillings for future pies, the meat in a white sauce enriched with the double cream bought for the Christmas pudding. That went in the freezer. But there was still more. So I made potted ham and potted turkey. It’s easy. Here’s the technique. It’s not so much a recipe as a procedure.

Chop up about 8oz of meat and put in a processor. Whizz. Meanwhile gently heat half that quantity of butter to clarify. Add what spices you want to the blender with a tablespoon of wine or cider vinegar and pour in two-thirds of the melted butter, making sure not to add the solids. If you do it’s no big problem. Whizz again to the required consistency.

If you don’t want the bother of a blender and are adept with a sharp cook’s knife then the meat can be easily minced using that. I’ve just done it this year (2017) with 3oz of roast beef, mixed with half that amount of melted butter, salt, pepper, nutmeg (or mage), paprika, finely chopped cornichons and mustard, although to be honest I forgot the mustard!

Pack into small ramekins (you will need to press down with your fingers to exclude air spaces) and pour over the rest of the butter to seal. When set keep in the fridge for a week or double wrap and freeze for up to three months.

For the ham I used Dijon mustard and a pinch of ground cloves as well as salt and pepper. With the turkey I replaced the cloves with ground mace. If you haven’t got that, try its cousin nutmeg. I got two ramekins of each.

That still left me with acres of cooked turkey skin. I heated a frying pan and cut the skin into two inch squares and cooked until crisp, about three hours on the lowest light. Dried on kitchen paper and salted, it made some lovely scratchings.

I have also got the fat from the scratchings . . . Naturally I’ve saved it for the next time I have to fry.


Giblets in the gravy


Turkey giblets – not mine, I borrowed a picture

I push my hand up our turkey’s bottom and feel for the plastic bag of giblets. The heart, liver and gizzard don’t look much but I will put them to good use. The liver will go in the stuffing, the rest will make a giblet gravy.

I am always relieved when I find the little plastic bag. One year it was not there and I thought I must have mistakenly bought one of those birds the supermarket labels as ‘giblets removed for your convenience.’ Inconvenience, more like, if you’re not the sort who gets squirmy at the sight and feel of innards. When the turkey was cooked and had shrunk I was horrified to see the bag poking out of the neck end. It had been pushed too far up.

My wife and I looked at each other. Would cooking the bird with a plastic bag inside it poison our family or make the meat taste funny? Should we scrap Christmas dinner there and then? Or say nothing? We did the latter. No one noticed. No one died. It was years before we mentioned it.

The heart and kidneys only go some way towards the gravy. You need the neck. I reach up again and find it. A turkey neck looks like a part of the male anatomy and when I was younger that would trigger a kitchen routine. I am too old for that now. I have my dignity to consider.

The giblets are washed, the neck severed, with difficulty, into three pieces and put into a pan with water. I bring it to the boil, simmer, then lift off the scum and add a chopped onion, skin included for the colour, a few vegetables and herbs and simmer again for a couple of hours before straining. That is the stock for the Christmas Day gravy.

Meantime I made the stuffing, nothing too complicated: sautéed onions and mushrooms, bread crumbs, blitzed up nuts, a grated carrot, sausage meat and a splash of Port. The liver was blitzed in the blender with some onion and the Port and stirred into the mix before putting into a small loaf tin and popped in the fridge for the flavours to develop overnight.

That little bag of giblets makes all the difference to Christmas dinner. You just don’t have to be a squirmy sort of cook.

A life with Pie


Pork and leek pie at the Broadfield

Pies are not necessarily a man thing. I am on my way to the Broadfield for a date with a pie and a pint with fellow journalist Colin Drury when I fall in step with pop singer Annie Ashcroft of the group M.O., back in Sheffield to see the folks for Christmas.

For a minute or two Annie’s thoughts on the promotion of her group’s new single Not In Love on Radio 1 are interrupted by those of pastry. “The pies! I had one there so big, with chips and peas, I’d need to do a workout all day to get over it.” And then she is off to Sainsbury’s: such is life before stardom twinkles, as I hope it will.

The Broadfield, once a scruffy boozer with a dubious reputation, is now a bustling pub with a reputation for pies and good beer. That’s thanks to businessman Kane Yeardley, whose True North Brew Company has revitalised a clutch of pubs the big PubCos had run into the ground. It’s not the only thing on the menu. Colin is tempted by the festive spiced pork belly but finally plumps for pie.

I last came here on eating duty for the Sheffield Star when they sat me by the kitchen door and I was serenaded by a klaxon all night – the horn the chef sounded to tell staff an order was ready. “Parp, parp, pies ‘ave come.” The pies were good but I was parped out and wondered in my review if Mr Toad of Wind in the Willows fame had somehow crashed his car in the kitchen. Mr Toad would certainly like pies.

So do me and Colin, who took over The Star’s Saturday review slot for a time. We reflect on Great Pies of our Time, which you do after a pint. Actually it is more than that because neither of us former restaurant reviewers has thought to book. The Broadfield has a strict policy: eating one side, drinking the other and the floor manager can’t guarantee a table before 9.30pm. “Try me at 9,” she soothes.

For me pies are as much about the pastry as the filling and I can still recall the great Cow Pie steaming up the windows of Butler’s Dining Rooms, on Broad Lane, in a tin the size of a baby’s bath. This was the place when Picasso came for lunch and signed a napkin with a dove of peace. The premises became an Indian restaurant and then a heap of rubble when the Asian owners tried a little sub-standard sub-continental building work.

The pastry here was architectural: a dome over a filling of beef fit for Desperate Dan. They say men stoked up with slices of pie before providing donations at the fertility clinic then across the road. At Tuckwoods, now long gone on Chapel Walk, the pie was more ladylike, fitting for a place full of blue-rinsed matrons. It was a plate pie, made on a plate, a filling of mince and mushroom top and bottomed by thin pastry. You got a quarter serving and a jug of gravy.

Top pies of today include the pie at the Scotsman’s Pack, Hathersage. It is a tray pie but with a proper top and bottom and the thing here is to ask for a corner section because that way you get more pastry. The first time I ate at this pub I didn’t order the pie but the man at the next table did. I was filled with pie envy and had to go back.

The pastry, then, is as important as the filling. That can take reheating but the pastry doesn’t always survive a second baking. That is why at Charlie’s Bistro in Baslow chef Charlie Cartledge cooks his from scratch when ordered so allow for at least half an hour. It can look a bit lopsided, like a square pasty, but you do get the shortest and crispest of pastry and it’s well worth waiting for.

So pies come in all shapes and sizes but what they are not is a stew topped with a bought-in puff pastry lid, which is what one city centre eaterie specialises in.

Our pies arrive. There are four flavours, all at £8.50, to choose from and we both go for pork and leek. When one goes out to review one never commits the cardinal sin of having the same as your partner but, then, this is not a review as such, more a reverie over my life with Pie.

These before us are pies with character: big and burly, each a little different in shape. The filling is generous with plenty of tender porkiness and the leek adds contrasting flavour to each mouthful. The pastry is, here and there, a little tough but the chunky chips are properly cooked and the mushy peas have collapsed into a welcome mash. Colin would have preferred mashed potatoes but there is something rather dissolute about chips and gravy, here made with beer.

Tonight my pie may not have been in the Premier League  but, after three pints, for taste, much needed stodge and contentment, it is riding high in the Championship.

Broadfield Hotel, 452 Abbeydale Rd, Sheffield S7 1FR. Tel 0114 255 0200. Web:

Christine Keeler, the Grosvenor and me


My former breakfast companion Christine Keeler

There was just me and former call girl Christine Keeler for breakfast – with the entire dining room of Sheffield’s Grosvenor Hotel earwigging in. It wasn’t just the sausages spluttering as she talked loudly about three in a beds, naked swimming, whips and chains on that March morning.

 And then we played footsie underneath the breakfast table. I’m sure it was accidental. It certainly was on my part. But her’s? This was the woman who styled herself the Great Strumpet for bringing down Tory minister John Profumo, having a simultaneous affair with him and Russian attaché Eugene Ivanov. Of course it was accidental but it didn’t stop me blushing deeply.

 She was in Sheffield in 1983 to promote her autobiography and breakfast was the only time she could fit a reporter from The Star in, so to speak. Breakfast interviews are no fun for a reporter. It is extremely difficult to ask questions, write answers and eat at the same time. Going for the killer question or the swift interrupt is difficult if you’ve got a mouthful of mushroom and my mother taught me never to speak with my mouth full. So I just picked. But it was a memorable morning.

 For the interviewee it’s different. Taking a forkful of something is good cover while you’re trying to come up with the right answer. I’m not sure which of the 100 rooms Ms Keeler stayed in but the most expensive was the Executive Suite at £170 a night.

 In the Eighties, when there weren’t that many restaurants, the Grosvenor and the Hallam Tower were the places to eat. When Charles and Diana blew into town the following year the hotel put on a £6.95 Royal menu: Diana salad, crown roast lamb with princess potatoes and Prince of Wales gateau.

 In 1988 it opened the Club House restaurant when Gary France was one of the city’s first home-based celebrity chefs. He was styled chef-patron (then a novelty) and went on to cook at the Harley Hotel, then a swank boutique hotel with a sprung dance floor and trio. Eventually he left for the Middle East to cook for wealthy Arabs but his mum kept him in touch with Sheffield by sending him my restaurant reviews.

 Any hotel worth its salt has famous guests. The Grosvenor’s included celebrity players up for the World Snooker (I was sent, hopelessly, to ask Alex Higgins for an interview), Rick Wakeman of Yes, comic Charlie Drake and Walter Koenig, aka Ensign Chekov in Star Trek.

 The Grosvenor was a regular place on my beat as the ‘colour writer’ for The Star because it was not shy of publicity stunts. In 1997 general manager Duncan Carr allowed motorcyclist Dougie Lampkin, competing at the Arena, to perform wheelies down the stairs for practice (and publicity).

 And being a mini skyscraper people were always abseiling down the sides for charity. There was a rumour that Marilyn Monroe stayed here. She didn’t because she died four years before the hotel opened in 1966. People may have been confusing her with dancer Jean Monroe-Martin who, clad in only a fur bikini, danced on the roof in 1980. I can’t remember if I covered that one.




Coming down – the Grosvenor Hotel

Has the fish knife had its chips?

OTT perhaps but does fish cutlery still have a place on the table?

I thought I was being posh when I proudly acquired a set of six Sheffield-made fish knives and forks in an antiques centre but now I know I am just common. Or should that be vulgar? Or affected? Like most things, it all depends of timing.

When they first appeared in the late 1700s they would have been made of silver, to stop the fish and vinegar reacting with the metal. By the mid-Nineteenth Century they were in every middle class home – and that was their downfall. Come the 1920s and with the invention of stainless steel almost everyone could afford a set. It was soon noticed.

The poet John Betjeman sneered at the nouveau riche in his poem, How To Get On in Society, which begins: “Phone for the fish knives Norman,”* in which he pokes fun at them and the lower middle classes for aping their betters.

At one time if you were ordering fish in a restaurant you would be given fish cutlery as a matter of course. “Are you having the fish, sir?” the waiter would purr, removing your ordinary cutlery and replacing it with a fish knife and fork. But it doesn’t seem to happen so much now – or perhaps I am not going to enough posh restaurants.

I had these thoughts on a visit to the top-rated Rafters restaurant on Oakbrook Road, Sheffield, and noticed the locally made Carrs Silver fish knives and forks set out for my wife’s loin of cod with a crab beignet and tarragon-spiked gnocchi. I’m sure it tasted better for the right eating implements!

Rafters co-owner Alistair Myers reckons his is one of the few restaurants still with fish knives. “We do it because it is the correct and proper way. It’s important from the service point of view. Some of the younger staff ask ‘what is this?’ but we believe in keeping the art of service alive. After all, you wouldn’t eat soup with a dessert spoon, would you?”

No one is quite sure why the fish knife with the curly-wurly blade is as it is. There is no sharp edge but then you don’t need one to cut through fish which is why they can be made in solid silver). The point could remove small bones and the wide flat blade is an aid in filleting fish off the bone but if you have ever watched an old-fashioned waiter doing the same job he will use two forks.

I love the fish knife (the fork is little different if slightly more ornamental than its cutlery cousin) because it is a leftover from its Victorian heyday. Manufacturers listed increasingly obscure items in their catalogues to drum up business, aimed at those who wanted ’cutlery bling,’ as it we might call it today. A Victorian place setting could be a bewilderingly complicated-looking arrangement, guaranteed to catch out those lower down the social strata.


Carrs’ fish cutlery at Rafters

One cutlery manufacturer listed around 150 different items of flatware, as it is called in the trade, but that is nothing compared to Carrs, based on the Holbrook Industrial Estate near Crystal Peaks, with187 pieces, according to managing director Richard Carr, who supplies to the trade and retail. Not that he expects a customer to buy them all. “We have a bespoke place setting of 38 different eating pieces and let chefs decide their own setting based upon what food they serve,” he says.

He has seen a decline in fish knives and forks, certainly on the retail side. “It’s becoming less fashionable with the more casual dining style. If I go to eat at friends’ houses and have fish, invariably they will use normal cutlery.” (According to a survey for Debenhams in 2009 28 per cent of people didn’t have fish knives and could not see the point.)

Richard’s not yet been tempted to carry a spare set in his back pocket but he does use them at home. I confess I get them out for fish and chips from the chippie!

He still supplies fish cutlery to restaurants but this tends to be for places at the top end of the market, such as Rafters. And wealthy Arabs, who buy the whole range.

Sales of fish knives may have declined but Richard is sanguine, like an angler who knows he will one day catch his trout. “If we look five years into the future things (may) come full circle.” Take, for example, pastry forks. Sales have taken off with the boom in afternoon teas and tearooms.

I ask which items of his cutlery are the most obscure and he offers the asparagus tongs (popular in the Middle East) and the snail fork. Of course, if you really want to be super blingy, there’s the silver chip fork. And Americans like the spork, a cross between spoon and fork.

There can be no doubt what Betjeman would have said about that!

*Betjeman uses words then thought common: phone, for telephone; Norman, as a name; fish knives, as a product.


Richard Carr, go-to man for a silver chip fork