Boondi for breakfast


Sugar Puffs without the wheat

If it’s Monday it’s Boondi for breakfast. And very possibly on Tuesday as well. I seem to have invented Britain’s newest breakfast cereal but I doubt it will transform me into the Twenty-First Century version of Mr Kellogg but it does mean I can eat my very own ‘Sugar Puffs.’

 Perhaps invention is a little too strong but I have certainly given an Anglo tweak to an Indian food you very rarely see in restaurants. I came across it when invited to a Hindu festival in Sheffield and the food afterwards included what looked like puffed wheat or rice in a sauce of watery yoghurt. This, I was told, was Boondi. It was pleasant: savoury but low key in flavour and I thought little more about it.

 Then I came across packets of it at my local Indian shop which I visit for my lottery ticket, big bags of  cashew nuts, poppadoms, spices and the like.  I always like to browse the shelves and pick up a packet of this or that to try back home.

 Boondi isn’t wheat or rice but made with chickpea (basen) flour so if you like breakfast cereals but are gluten intolerant this would be ideal. It is whisked into a thin batter with water and dropped through a kind of spatula with circular holes into boiling oil. If you get it right it forms perfect hollow spheres. Otherwise they look wobbly. For me, it’s easier to buy a packet, around £1.50 for 400g.

 You can get it roasted or spiced but I have only seen it plain. To be honest, it’s really bland. So I added some to the oats and nuts the next time I made some granola. It worked pretty well. Then I tried eating it like Sugar Puffs in milk with a sprinkling of sugar. Not bad. But I was convinced I could do even better. And I have.


Let the boondi cool before storing in a jar

 I gently heat a large heavy-based pan, melt some butter and honey, add some spice, stir in the Boondi and stir until every ‘grain’ is covered in the butter-honey-spice mix. Do all this on the lowest heat setting: you don’t want to fry. I add a pinch of salt and a teaspoon or two of icing sugar for extra sweetness, in much the same way as you make popcorn. And that’s it.

 Here’s the recipe:

 250g Boondi

30g butter (I used leftover brandy butter!)

1 tbsp honey

I tsp of cinnamon, cardamom or mixed spice

Pinch of salt to taste

Icing sugar to taste

Proceed as above. To avoid the cereal turning into a solid lump turn out onto a baking try lined with greaseproof paper and stir every so often until cold. This filled a one litre Kilner jar which you might have to shake firmly before tipping the cereal into your bowl. You might think making this is a bit nerdy but I do like DIY breakfasts.

 Indians use it to make a pudding, topping a layer of sweet boondi with a milk and breadcrumb mix and baking in the oven.


Look out for bags of boondi in an Indian store

Giving a fork about your pork


Konrad Kempka at the 70-year-old bacon slicer



At first sight F J Kempka & Son’s butchers shop on Abbeydale Road, Sheffield, could be a TV set designer’s recreation for a series set in the Sixties. The name is written in elegant flowing script across a red and white fascia conveying a subtle message: these are the national colours of Poland.

‘Pork Butchers’ it says underneath and, as if you need reassurance of the fact, there are sides of mahogany coloured just-smoked bacon hanging in the window, their residual warmth faintly misting the windows.

You walk though the doorway with its metal flyscreen and see the pork pies, coils of sausages, the old fashioned bacon slicer which, at 70 years, is older than the shop, pork chops, slabs of glistening liver and the faintly racy ‘I Give a Fork about My Pork’ poster on the wall and think, ‘This is how I want a butchers shop to look.’ It smells that way, too, with whiffs of woodsmoke and garlic in the air.

There’s a whiff of history in the series of faintly blurry black and white photographs on the walls. The butcher in the picture is Polish-born Frank Joseph, a dark haired man with a look of concentration on his face as he strings a row of gleaming black sausages – perhaps just the ones he used to sling into the pannier on his cycle and pedal all the way to Thurgoland to sell to the Polish miners living there.

“When he took over the shop it was not doing well so he started smoking bacon and making Polish sausages and would cycle over in the afternoon with them. Even today, I get third generation families coming to buy them here,” says Konrad Kempka, the ‘& Son’ on the fascia.

This month sees the 60th anniversary of his father starting the business, hence those old photographs. It’s quite a story. Young Frank was a 17-year-old apprentice butcher when the German tanks rolled into his village, just 15 miles from Auschwitz. “They put everyone in a German uniform or shot them,” he adds drily.


The shop opened on 5 January, 1957

His father was sent to the Russian front then, when that was going badly, to France, where he, like others, escaped to join the Free Polish Army and fight in Italy. When the war was over he was given the choice, Canada or Britain. He found himself in a Polish camp at Hardwick Hall and while some went to work in the steelworks, he took up his old career as a butcher, working for Roneys on Sharrowvale Road, then for Cyril Rackham, who had a string of shops in the city. Dad worked at Heeley Green but when Rackham retired he sold him the shop on Abbeydale Road.

In the meantime Frank had met a local girl called Jeanne at a dance at St William’s Church Hall on Ecclesall Road and married. With the Communists in charge in Poland there was no chance of going back.

As for Konrad, he ‘just fell into’ the butchery trade, from keeping watch on the shop to helping out his Dad. For a time it seemed he wouldn’t. At 21 he went to Los Angeles, working illegally as an engineer, but the pull of Sheffield was too strong. There wasn’t enough trade in the shop so he bought a lock-up butchers on Greystones Road, taking over when his father retired.

He’s seen some changes. “I probably sell less continental stuff these days but at one time we were the only people who sold garlic in Sheffield. Now garlic is in everything. And we sold buckets of sour cream, local people couldn’t believe it! And at Christmas we used to sell carp from Poland in blocks of ice. You couldn’t do that now.”

There are still reminders of the shop’s heritage. Kabanos, long, thin, smoked Polish sausage, are in the display counter, along with two types of Black Pudding, one English, one continental. The shelves are lined with jars of bockwurst, gherkins, sauerkraut and red peppers. In the window is a stack of Ukrainian loaves.


Konrad’s father Frank – see the resemblance?

Kempka’s is still mainly a pork butcher although you can get chicken, lamb and beef. Oxtails will often hang in the windows along with magnificent home smoked hams, a fine sight at Christmas but available all year round. A Kempka’s pork pie is a wonderful thing, always praised when pork pie lovers swap recommendations, and among the biggest sellers, along with Konrad’s smoked bacon. I am, though, one of the few customers who ask for it still with the rind on. You can do a lot with a bacon rind!

He and his wife Pat, who helps in the shop, have noticed that customers have shied away from fatty pieces of meat, But that, we agree, is where the taste lies. “It will come back again,” he says. That is why he always buys bigger sides of pork to include the fat for, unlike some shops which buy in their sausages and bacon, they need it in the manufacture of products.

The shop has seen some 60 years. Konrad, at 63, and always a little hazy on dates, reckons he has done half that. But for how much longer will Kempka & Son keep going? Konrad, serving his second year as president of the Confederation of Yorkshire Butchers Councils, won’t be drawn.

Those of us who like their smoked bacon, a ham to boil at Christmas and a pork pie – ‘hold it upright as it’s still warm and not quite set’ – for tea or, as the poster says, give a fork about their pork, hope it will not be just yet.

352 Abbeydale Rd, Sheffield S7 1FP. Phone: 0114 255 1852


Smoked hams in the window at Christmas


The Star Maker still twinkles


Mick Burke takes it steady with an orange juice

A magazine once dubbed him the Star Maker. A former student affectionately referred to him as “the old wizard.” Whatever you call him, an awful lot of chefs, some now with Michelin stars, are very grateful to Sheffield College chef-lecturer Mick Burke, who has just retired.

So when his friends, staff and former students organised a farewell lunch for him at Sheffield’s Copthorne Hotel there was a big turn-out to pay tribute to the 62-year-old chef whose culinary skills,particularly in patisserie, are a legend in the industry.

 They weren’t just content to sit down to a slap-up meal and swap stories. Some, like Rupert Rowley, of Michelin-starred Baslow Hall and Nathan Smith of the Old Vicarage, both Burke protégés, teamed up with chef-lecturers Neil Taylor and Len Unwin to plan and cook the lunch. Joining the brigade was Will Haythorne of Jersey’s Langueville Manor, where another of Mick’s Michelin Men, Andrew Baird, is in charge. Andrew couldn’t make it but gave the nod to Will, another ex-student, to lend a hand.

 Naturally the college, which is losing the brightest star from one of the country’s leading catering sections, made the most of the do: trainee chefs helped out the star names while other students brushed up their waiting skills under the eye of lecturer Maxene Gray.

 It’s a good job there was so much talent in the temporary kitchen offered by the Copthorne. It was Friday the Thirteenth and bad luck struck early when the power went off and stayed off. Food had to be cooked in the hotel’s kitchen and ferried upstairs. “The room we used turned out to be a changing room!” grinned Rupert. But only afterwards.

 Guests wouldn’t have known as they tucked in to game terrine with anise, a terrific crab and lobster ravioli in langoustine sauce, roast sirloin and a wickedly citrousy lemon tart. “That’ll have woken you up,” said Andrew Baird, drily, retired executive chef of the Sheraton Park Lane Hotel, a lifelong friend. One of Mick Burke’s greatest strengths was his connections. He could send students to the best places, get the top chefs to do demos, and call in favours. I recall him getting Michael Gaines down to star in the new kitchens that he had a big hand in commissioning in 2009.

 His involvement didn’t stop at picking up the phone. The room was full of tales of him ferrying students to competitions in his own car or a minibus, from which they all seemed to return with a medal, very often gold.

 “He gives back twice as much as you give him,” said Tom Lawson, now co-owner of the often dazzling Rafters restaurant. “It’s just his enthusiasm as a chef and his ability to instil that in you,” added Marcus Lane, previous owner of Rafters. He, like other former students, now grown up and perhaps wealthier than him, still refers to ‘Mr Burke. Why? “To me he is till my lecturer.” Among other well known local chefs there to pay tribute were Jamie Bosworth, Richard Irving, Christian Kent and Chris Hawkins.


Mick Burke in his chef’s whites

 Mick, a miner’s son from Bolton on Dearne, was the first boy in his domestic science class at Pope Pious secondary school, Wath. Going home with his box of buns on the bus could be challenging. He studied catering at Rotherham and passed with honours as student of his year. Before long he was at Claridges, later coming back to Sheffield’s Grosvenor Hotel as chef tournant, the bloke who can fit in anywhere when needed.

 But Mick never stopped learning. He went to Granville (a predecessor of Sheffield College) to take his 7063 City & Guilds and finished up student of the year again.

 It was around this time he thought of a career in education. As one of his colleagues put it, he could have worked anywhere and would doubtless have influenced many chefs: by choosing education he influenced thousands. It was his pastry work that singled him out. Typically, he made sure he had the right teacher, Roger Taylor, then pastry chef at the Connaught. At this time Mick was lecturing at Granville and the course was in Birmingham. He would teach until noon, catch the train at 1pm and not return home until the following morning.

 Mick is 62, still relatively young. “I have worked here for 37 years and 109 days. There is life outside Sheffield College,” he said enigmatically. Whatever it will be, and he was giving no clues, he will be up to his old wizardry.


Students made Mick this retirement cake


And also:

*Mick said the lunch had disrupted his retirement plans – it was held on the day he and his wife Jill had designated ‘Tidy Friday’

*Each table had a butter hedgehog, in memory of a competition for a themed dinner, in the college’s case Sheffield Steel. Asked by judges how the hedgehogs fitted into the theme a bright female student explained that in Sheffield the little beasts hibernated in the city’s warm steelworks