Bacon, eggs and fried banana

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IT’S time for Sunday breakfast, a Full English. Let’s see, bacon, eggs, sausage, mushrooms, grilled (or fried) tomato, baked beans, fried potatoes, fried bread and fried oatcake. But there’s something missing, isn’t there? Can’t guess? Where’s the fried banana?

I have eaten at countless hotels and greasy spoons but I have never, ever seen bacon, eggs and fried banana on the menu. At Chez Dawes I – my wife thinks I’m nuts – have it as a special treat and when the bananas in the fruit bowl are just right, ripe but not going to brown mush.

Bacon and banana is a marriage made in heaven. You get a jolt of caramelised sweetness against the saltiness and smokiness of the bacon, as well as a contrast in textures. Add in a shelled soft boiled egg (another little peccadillo of mine) and the oozing yellow yolk sends things up a gear.

This liking for fried banana comes from my early teens when, out with my parents, I ordered chicken Maryland from the menu because I had never had it before. Fried breadcrumbed chicken arrived with fried banana (they should have been fritters but I remember them naked) and I suppose I was hooked. But only gently.

I indulge spasmodically. I don’t have them every week. And it’s not as if when you’re staying over at someone’s house for Sunday breakfast you can say in an offhand kind of way “Could you add a banana to the frying pan?”

I had bacon, eggs and fried banana for breakfast this morning (as you can see) and enjoyed it so much I want to share it.

And shelled soft boiled eggs? You can’t get them breakfasting out, can you? Fried, poached, scrambled or soft boiled with toast soldiers, yes. But there’s a special pleasure, my father taught me, in deftly shelling a soft boiled egg and slipping it wobbling onto your plate. Preferably eaten with a fried banana.

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Still lovely jubbly in Bakewell

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Eric Piedaniel, un chef Normande

“LOVELY jubbly,” I say as I hand back the menu and wine list to our waitress. I catch my wife giving me a look. “That’s the third time you’ve said it since we got here.” That was only five minutes before. The woman at the next table is amused.

I don’t know whether I’m turning into Del Boy Trotter from Only Fools and Horses but he could very well try out some of his fractured French – ‘Mange tout, mange tout’ – at Eric Piedaniel’s eponymous restaurant in Bakewell because the chef-patron is from Normandy. But that was a long time ago. He and his wife Christiana have been in the mock-Tudor building in Bath Street for the last 23 years. And we’ve been going there on and off for all that time.

I’m not sure what the French for lovely jubbly is but we always get it at Piedaniel’s. Here is a chef who cooks accurately and simply and is dependably consistent. We drop in for Friday lunch and have a meal full of surprises.

I am quite content to stay on the TDH until my wife discovers the baked brioche and duck butter pudding (£7) on the carte and I am so intrigued I have to order it. It’s a new one on me. Think bread and butter pudding with the butter replaced by layers of shredded duck confit. The dish arrives as a square-shaped section, the brioche and duck quite compressed, and my tastebuds are in some confusion as sweet meets savoury head on.

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Brioche and duck butter pudding

It seems to make sense by the fourth mouthful, aided by a fine Madeira sauce. Yes, I’m won over. Christiana says it’s very popular as customers are intrigued, like me. But where did it come from? In his kitchen later Eric, aged 52, says he thought of it when there was brioche and confit in the kitchen at the same time et voila. Simple as that.

Meanwhile my wife is getting very excited about her cheese charlotte. No, we haven’t heard of that either. It turns out to be whipped mousse of goats cheese, Roquefort and something else which arrives at the table with an Eifel Tower of rocket and celery batons perched on top (£4). It is beautifully light and zingy, crisp and fresh and decidedly cheesy.

Our first visit here was in 1994, shortly after it opened. Eric, previously at the Cavendish Hotel, Baslow, had not checked his new kitchen was properly equipped. He didn’t have a tin opener to open a can of olives and had to use a chisel. On our night the full restaurant was in near mutiny because he was cooking unaided, the wait time was long and Christiana was not around to soothe uppity patrons because she was having a baby. We nearly joined the mutineers until the food arrived but were captivated by his style and culinary elan.

I’m due for a second surprise with my TDH main (all are £12), two soused mackerel fillets on warm crushed potatoes. I had only previously had soused fish cold but this warm in a vinegary sauce. Again, it takes me a couple of mouthfuls to be won over. Sue has an asparagus and vegetable tart which turns out to be a filo basket with a superior tomato sauce.

For the last eight years Eric has been cooking with Eleanor, from Bulgaria, as his second chef. “She came to do the washing up and we found she was a trained chef,” he says. He now also had a tin opener.

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The soused mackerel is served warm

We have never had a grumble here and we’re not going to have one now. Sweets (£4) are classically simple but beautifully executed: a shimmering crème caramel and a light steamed chocolate sponge with a proper (but not Bird’s Eye yellow and thick) home made custard.

As we go back into the lounge for coffee I can’t help telling the woman at the next table that it has all been lovely jubbly. She nods in agreement.

The bill, which we paid ourselves, came to £64.70.

Piedaniels is at Bath Steet, Bakewell, DE45 1BX. Tel: 01629 812 687. Web: http://www.piedaniels-restaurant.com

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Piedaniel’s mock-Tudor home in Bath Street, Bakewell

English as it is eaten

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Mr Kipling has nothing to do with a Bakewell Pudding

WE had visitors recently from foreign parts (well, Norfolk) and they were stopping off in Bakewell first. Bring us a Bakewell Pudding and we’ll have it for tea, we said.

“What’s a Bakewell Pudding?” was the answer.

Now I thought people the length and breadth of Britain had heard of this delicacy. They may not have known exactly how it was made – an egg and almond mixture spread with raspberry jam in a puff pastry case – but they would have recognised it when they saw it. Oddly, they had heard of a Bakewell Tart with which it is very often confused but is a different article. They have Mr Kipling to thank for that. Anyway, they bought a pudding and thought it was lovely so we shall know what to get them for Christmas.

This got me thinking about the regionality of British food, lovingly listed for all to see in the book Traditional Foods of Britain reviewed here. Even though I live just up the road I don’t buy the story that the pudding was invented in the town but it has made it its own.

When our visitors arrived an eyebrow went up quizzically when a visit to the bakers involved a discussion of how many breadcakes we should buy for lunch. Breadcakes? They were, I explained, the local word for a flat roll (or a barm cake, stottie, cob, bap or batch, depending on which part of the country you’re in).

Or a scuffler. For more about that you need to read this.

So now I was on a roll, so to speak. Had our guests ever had a Derbyshire oatcake, I wondered? They looked blank so I marched the husband down to the shop, announced he had never eaten one (gasps of amused shock and horror) and served them up for Sunday breakfast. “It’s like a pancake,” he observed. But made with oats, I explained. So healthy, then? Not if fried, said my wife. He liked them.

Normally I make them myself. But if you happen to be a long way from an oatcake (not the hard Scots variety eaten with cheese) here’s how to make them.

I said he could take the remaining oatcake home but we forgot so I had it for breakfast myself, griddled and spread with butter and jam. There’s more than one way to eat an oatcake. Now that ought to be a local saying, shouldn’t it?

A Sunday lunch, in which I am overfaced by Mr Brown

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Cary Brown explains a concept at Barlow Woodseats Hall

YOU know that old cliché about tables groaning with food? Well ours was. There were slices of very decent beef the size of rosy red doorsteps, wedges of tender pork so big they could almost have been a pig, wings and breasts of chicken, ribs of lamb, sausages wrapped in bacon and stuffing like golf balls.

 And then they brought the Yorkshire Puddings, the size and shape of cumulus clouds, with crispy crunchy roast potatoes posing as cannon balls. A big dish of cauliflower cheese followed, with another of vegetables. And a half pint jug of proper gravy. Talk about trencherman food: this could have filled a WW1 trench.

 “Right,” I said to my wife.”We’re going to tackle this the Victorian way, eating slowly.” But it beat us in the end and we were the ones groaning – with pleasure. If we had carried on we would have been like Monty Python’s Mr Creosote and exploded.

 “This is like going to an all you can eat buffet, only in this case they bring it to your table and it tastes of something,” I added.
 

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Just part of the main course

We haven’t had a Sunday lunch like this since that time at the Royal Oak, Millthorpe, and it was the same chef. So if I couldn’t tackle all that food I went to tackle the man responsible, Cary Brown. “Sunday lunch should be a time for indulgence. If people say I’ve overfaced them I don’t get offended,” he said.

 Cary has had almost as many venues as I’ve had hot dinners and that’s saying something. A month or two ago he and his partner Shelley spectacularly left the Devonshire Arms at Middle Handley after a dispute with the owners, draining the place dry with free beer for friends and regulars. Since legal matters loom we’ll say no more.

 He has popped up at historic 16th century Barlow Woodseats Hall, down a lane called Johnnygate that leads to nowhere except this former home of the famous Bess of Hardwick, the Elizabethan lass who had four husbands and ended up as the Countess of Shrewsbury. She and Robert Barlow were only 14 at the time and he died within a year.

 IMG_0226 Long Barn at Barlow Woodseats 13-08-2017 13-54-38.JPGTo be more precise Mr Brown has popped up in the Long Barn next door, a magnificent Grade II listed medieval cruck barn which, the last time I looked when reporting for the Sheffield Star was a cowshed knee deep in manure. That was in 2006 when the Milward family put the hall on the market for a million quid and right next door was a working farm, all smells and moos.

 I never checked to see if it had sold but if I had I could have reported it was bought by Nick Todd and his family, a partner in the long established Sheffield auctioneers and valuers, Ellis Willis & Beckett. He did up the hall, bought the barn and it is now a weddings and functions venue and, with Cary at the stove, a pop-up for Sunday luncheons and afternoon teas. The next will be in September and, at £25 a head, you get a doggy bag to take home.

 Nick and Cary, who met over the bar at the Royal Oak just down the road, have big plans for the barn, which comes with several cottages built from the old stables, still with some of the original features plus up to the minute wet rooms, kitchens and four poster beds.

 My wife Sue and I take a break for air after that main course (but before Shelley’s lovely passionfruit cheesecake and chocolate profiteroles) and Nick walks us around the garden with a brace or two of peacocks who have just been in the family way, orchard, pond, tropical garden and lawns. He may have a posh house but he’s not sniffy about letting guests enjoy the surroundings. He seems to enjoy sharing them.

 We join Cary later for coffee and he’s busy tossing culinary concepts up in the air like a juggler with plates. Here’s one. “It can be sweet and it can be savoury but you’ll have to wait and see,” he grinned. Here’s a clue: it’s on wheels. Oh and did I mention the Sunday lunch was absolutely first class?

 *Check Cary’s Facebook and Twitter pages for details of the next Sunday lunch in September. Details going up soon on www.barlowwoodseatshall.com

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Pip! Pip! It’s Lindy’s Jam Session

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Faye (right) watches Beulah crack almond kernels as Lindy preps

“HOW many pips have you got in your lemon?” asked Lindy Wildsmith, cookery tutor and author of umpteen books on kitchencraft. Now there’s a novelty. “Five,” said Faye, who was partnering me that day in the demonstration kitchen at Welbeck Abbey’s School of Artisan Food.

“That’s enough,” said Lindy, the woman who wrote Preserves and Sunny Days & Easy Living. It’s the pectin in them, you see. You need it to set your jams and jellies. We didn’t mean to be smug but the people at the next workstation only had two pips.

You join me at the school’s Best of British Summer Preserves & Pickles course, to which I was invited as a guest. Regular readers know I’m an enthusiastic pickler and preserver but there’s always more to learn. There was. As pips are so important but lemons are so unpredictable you can keep surplus pips in your freezer ready for when a citrus lets you down.

This is my second time at Welbeck. The first was in 2009 shortly after the school had opened and I was writing a magazine article about it. I knew it was a stately home, once belonging to the Dukes of Portland, but the title had died out. I was to meet the school’s guiding light, a lady called Alison, but unfortunately had not done my homework.

First we had a cuppa in the farm shop café before she took me for a spin in her battered car around the 400 acre estate. It looks a small posh village. Imposing buildings once used as garages and carpenters shops now housed the school, a brewery, bakery, dairy, cheesemaker and much else. It was only as the car climbed a rise and the magnificent Abbey rose into view and Alison said “That’s home” that it dawned on me she was the chatelaine of Welbeck itself.

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Birthday girl Kate (left) stirs her pot

She was Alison Swan Parente, wife of current owner William Parente, grandson of the seventh and last Duke of Portland. I was being chauffeured by a member of the aristocracy, albeit with her coronet knocked off.

There were seven women and three men on the course. Faye, the youngest, a teacher from Chapeltown, had won her place in a competition at this year’s Sheffield Food Festival. Paul, from London, and Jonathan from Nottingham, were serious foodies. Kate had been given the place as a 50th birthday present by her friends so three of them decided to join her. Likewise Audrey and Caroline, who were sisters. Some had made jams and jellies before, others were chutney chumps.

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Preserving sisters Audrey and Caroline

We had a whole day to make apricot and Amaretto jam, redcurrant and apple jelly, sweet chilli tomato jam, raspberry cordial and spiced beetroot and marjoram chutney – and take them home to our admiring families.

“It’s addictive. You won’t be able to walk past a market stall laden with fruit and vegetables and not wonder what you can do with them,” Lindy said breezily. “It’s not rocket science but certainly very rewarding.” Too true.

A little later she addressed the elephant in the room. You can’t get away from it but jams, jellies and chutneys contain an awful lot of sugar and that contains an awful lot of empty calories. “Sugar is public enemy number one. It’s taken over from salt. You see some people walking around with Coca Cola bottles in their hands – they are living on the edge. But you won’t get that trouble from home made preserves,” she said.

I tried not to think of that day’s story on page four of The Times which said that sugar made men (but not women) depressed. It sounded like junk science but even so I will be spreading that apricot and Amaretto jam (which smells and tastes heavenly) a little more thinly. I don’t want to live on the edge and be depressed.

I liked Lindy’s style. She was patient and thorough and fussed around us like a mother hen as we roasted (the beetroot), simmered, boiled, stirred, zested, strained and funnelled up a whole store cupboard of preserves. Everything tasted good. “I’m going to have that raspberry cordial with some gin tonight,” said Faye wickedly.

Lindy taught me the upside down spoon test for a set jelly. I do the wrinkle test: put some jam or jelly on a cold plate, leave it in the fridge for five minutes, and if it wrinkles when you push your finger through it’s ready. Lindy scoops some up in a spoon, puts it back in the fridge and turns the spoon upside down five minutes later. If it doesn’t fall off you’re on.

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Jonathan (left) and Paul busy chopping

Some of the students were so keen this was the second or third course. The school runs 15 different courses in baking and breadmaking, 13 in butchery (there’s still time to get on the goat butchery course on October 29, no need to bring your own goat), six in cheesemaking and well over a dozen others from pies and chocolates to foraging and ice cream.

Patience is a virtue in preserving. You can’t rush things. It took Faye and I three attempts before the apricots set. The smell when Lindy dropped in a slug of Amaretto! I don’t mean to be smug (again) but that redcurrant and apple jelly set the first time. And we’d forgotten the pips.

*The School of Artisan Food is at Lower Motor Yard, Welbeck, Nottinghamshire S80 3LR. For details visit www.schoolofartisanfood.org or call 01909 532 171.

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The author pots up

 

Best before Feb 2007

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This tin was only ten years out of date

WE found the tin of Princes peaches in grape juice at the back of the cupboard. On the bottom it said ‘BBE Feb 2007” so they were ten years out of date. We don’t worry about little things like that so we ate them, eventually. No one fell ill.

 They’d have come from my mother in law’s store cupboard. She died ten years ago this year so she would have bought them, probably, around 2005.

 The tin had hung about our cupboard until I unearthed it while rooting through trying to find some marrowfat peas, the kind in pea-ey liquid that helps to make a good gravy if you’re in a hurry. I said we’d better eat them for tea. It took us a month or two to get around to it.

 It was partly in tribute to Margaret and her husband Alan and partly because I wanted to revisit my own Fifties childhood. On Sundays we had tinned peaches for tea, sometimes with evaporated milk, which was to us then what cream (or crème fraiche) is today. Most families did. My father insisted on us eating the peaches with slices of bread and butter. That used to rankle with me but with three growing boys you have to eke out a Sunday tin of peaches.

 My wife has the same memories, only her father would sprinkle his bread and butter with sugar if he thought no one was looking. My father saved the sugar for his lettuce.

 Sitting at my family dinner table I silently vowed that when I grew up and left home I would have my tinned peaches without bread and butter. And so it came to pass. I found myself alone in my bedsit with a tin of peaches on a Sunday evening. I opened the tin and ate the fruit. But something was missing. It didn’t feel right. So I went to the bread bin and buttered a slice of bread.

 I soon got out of the habit but we haven’t bought a tin of peaches for years. Come to think of it, I haven’t had evaporated milk, either. It was always a feature of Chinese restaurants’ businessman’s lunches, three courses for half a crown (12.5p today), soup, chow mein and tinned fruit ‘with E. milk,’ as the menu put it.

 All this went through my head as I opened the tin. I was slightly surprised to see it had a ring-pull but it was obviously an early prototype because it cut me. That tin must have been waiting years to do that. But the peaches were pretty good.

 

 

 

 

 

Is this the perfect Yorkshire pub?

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Topside of beef blushing pink

THEY do things differently at the Board Inn, Lealholm, a little village tucked away in a valley in the North Yorks Moors. My wife Sue has ordered the scallops in butter sauce as her main and the waitress has just asked her if she’d like a Yorkshire Pudding with it.

“With scallops. Why?” she asks, surprised. “Because it’s Sunday,” the waitress says, as if it is the most natural thing in the world. Sue is about to say no when I intervene. Oh yes she will. I’m having the topside of beef and this way I’ll get two Yorkies. Actually I get three because when my plate arrives there are already two big crispy puds on it.

Everything about the Board Inn is supersized. At most pubs the biggest struggle is between choosing the beef or the lamb or possibly the pork. Here you have to make your mind up between three beef dishes, topside, rib or slow-cooked silverside, all supplied, as a blackboard of breeders, growers and suppliers helpfully informs, by M Wood, a local butcher.

I’ve written before about the pub here. Let your imagination run wild on what your ideal boozer would be and the Board Inn (established 1742) exceeds it. On the banks of the River Esk, it has two unspoiled bars and a dining room decorated with prints and pots and fishing rods, B&B rooms, real beer and good food cooked by landlord Alistair Deans, mostly from ingredients grown within a radius of a couple of miles. The fish is a bit of a problem. It comes from Whitby seven miles up the road.

It’s a perfect sunny Sunday with the sounds of light jazz and show tunes coming from a mature five piece swing band playing on the wooden decking over the river outside the dining room window. With a two girl, three man line-up, they’re the Esk Valley’s answer to Fleetwood Mac.

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Sweet scallops with lardons and lemon butter sauc

Lealholm, a pocket-sized village of some 50 homes but still managing to fit in a school, post office and general stores, ice cream and sweet shop, petrol station, garage, post office, three churches, two tea rooms, three water fountains, a garden centre, public toilets and a railway station, is fortunate to have the pub.

Until Alistair and his wife Karen arrived in the summer of 2007 things looked grim on the banks of the Esk. By all accounts the atmosphere at the pub was cold and it opened erratically. “It went up for sale and there was talk of it being turned into a house. There was talk of clubbing together and buying it as a community pub and the next thing we knew it had been sold,” says one resident.

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The blackboard menu at the Board Inn

Alistair had form. A former Smithfield butcher, he had run a foodie pub in Sheringham, Norfolk, before heading north. He keeps in touch with the meat business by raising his own cattle “fussed over by Gill and Richard Smith of Wood Hill Farm,” according to the blackboard, and cooking it.

I can tell my wife her scallops are going to be good because I order a smaller version to start with: three tender, sweet little pieces cook with lardons of bacon in a herbed up lemon butter sauce. She has five complete scallops. They have been cooked precisely, are sweet and come with their corals. I mention this because I was once visiting a restaurant kitchen in France and annoyed the chef because I was horrified he was cutting them off and throwing them away.

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The Board Inn beside the River Esk at Lealholm

The topside comes in two slices the size of paving slabs – well, cut thickly at about a quarter of an inch – and are pink as requested, juicy, easily cut and as tasty as they come. It’s the sort of meat you roll aroud your mouth to give all your tastebuds a treat.

The gravy, with more in a jug, is full of meat juices and if the roast potatoes are a little on the plus side of done I’m not complaining. In fact, I’m wondering if the Board Inn is the perfect Yorkshire pub.

We are full but nothing is going to stop me having a rhubarb sundae, full of sharp-sweet poached fruit and homemade ice cream. Sue has an enormous portion of rich beetroot and chocolate cake.

We sit, replete, with our coffees and listen to the band. Sunday lunches don’t come any better than this, we think. And that’s before I go to the bar to pay to discover that someone has already settled our bill.

Visit www.theboardinn.com

*We visited while on holiday at the delightful Prospect Coach House in nearby Great Fryupdale a couple of miles away. The two bedroom holiday let is available through www.sykescottages.co.uk

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The band plays on at the Board Inn, Lealholm