Mashed potato adds to flour power!

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Russian potato bread: one-third mash but you’d never know

WELL. who would have guessed we have so many secret home bakers in Sheffield, judging by the way all the flour has disappeared off the shelves in the Coronavirus panic buying sprees?

Those of us who bake bread regularly and who obeyed the government’s pleas not to raid the supermarkets are now having to rethink. It’s not staying on the shelves  that long.

You can’t do without flour but there are ways to eke out your supplies of strong white.

For a start, plain or self-raising can help but you wouldn’t want to use more than, say, four ounces to every pound of bread flour. Portuguese breads get their distinctive yellow colour from maize, polenta or semolina which you can use in a 2:1 ratio in favour of bread flour.

If you have rye, add a little of that, or whiz your porridge oats in a blender to make flour.

And then there are spuds.

Russian potato bread uses mashed potato and I have just baked a very successful loaaf, weighing just under two pounds, using eight ounces of mashed to one pound of bread flours (12oz white, 4oz wholemeal), a ratio of 2:1 which is a significant saving.

You couldn’t tell the difference unless you knew. This makes a very pleasant moist bread which toasts well and has good keeping qualities.

You can find plenty of recipes on the web but mine came, adapted, from the book Bread by Christine Ingram and Jennie Shapter {Hermes House).

It assumes you start from scratch, cooking your potatoes then reserving some of the water to knead. I already had the cooked potatoes so simply warmed them in milk (the equivalent of the reserved water), mashed them and carried on from there.

A couple of points. I needed more liquid than suggested but do be careful not to add too much. It felt heavier to handle and did not rise much while proving but came out fine. I made it on a baking tray rather than in a tin.

This is what you do. Peel and dice 8oz (225g) of spuds in unsalted water until soft. Drain and reserve a quarter pint (150ml) of the cooking water and mash the potatoes.

Put 12oz (350g) of strong white and 4oz (115g) of wholemeal in a bowl, adding 7g (quarter ounce) easy bake yeast and two tsps of salt.

It called for an ounce (25g) f butter to be rubbed in but I used olive oil. You can also add caraway seeds if you like.

Now add mash and potato water (probably best reunited beforehand) and work to a soft dough. This is the bit you adjust as you go but keep kneading before you add any more liquid.

As I said, it is not so light a dough to handle and less responsive in rising.

It was baked for just over 30 mins in a fan oven at 200C and is pretty good.

It doesn’t have to be potato. In Madeira they have the a griddle bread made with flour and sweet potato, baked as a flatbread on a hotplate. When the taters run out I’ll give that a spin.

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It’s got a lovely, moist crumb

 

 

Ready to order your ethnic authentic? It’ll take 30 years

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Lamb on the bone

FOREIGN restaurants go through a period of evolution when they arrive in this country. The first Indians, Chinese or Greeks might want to give their English customers a taste of what they eat back home but they soon realise it doesn’t pay to be that authentic.

Indian restaurants, in reality Pakistani or Bangladeshi, for long had dishes that wouldn’t be recognised in their own countries. Many still do. Chicken tikka masala? Pull the other poppadom!

I still remember Sompranee Low, who opened the city’s first Thai restaurant, the Bahn Nah, back in the Nineties (Sheffield has always been late for dinner compared to the rest of the country) telling me that she ” dialled down the chilli heat” for customers.

It wasn’t good business for a pallid Englishman, more used to the tranquil flavours of cottage pie or bangers and mash, to be left reeling by an authentic but fiery chilli.

So what we got was a pale shadow of a native cuisine, filtered through several layers of difficulty. The first restaurateurs may not have been natural cooks (many, particularly, Italian and Indian, were redundant steelworkers), the ingredients, herbs and spices were often not available, and Mr and Mrs English knew no better.

If they thought spaghetti carbonara came with cream and complained when it didn’t, unaware that the creaminess came from the emulsion of egg, water and cheese, they got cream.

Then things happened. The first was foreign travel. Holidaymakers in Italy realised that pasta didn’t grow on trees or come out of a tin. The sharper ones, who didn’t high tail it down to the English pubs on the Costa Brava, realised there was a difference.

Secondly came the wider availability of exotic ingredients. Avocados and aubergines started appearing on menus, and much else.

And, thirdly, there are now other customers to please besides Mr and Mrs English: Their own countrymen and women.

Earlier on, immigrants were too poor, too busy or just not in the habit of going out to eat so there was then no need to cater for them. And they would probably have something sharp to say if they did.

When, say, the Pakistani, Chinese or Italian diasporas in Sheffield got to a certain size and had the habit of eating out and money to spend, they could support their own authentic restaurants. This is not true yet of all communities. A Thai woman told me recently: “Why should I eat out when I can cook it myself?”

So we have seen little Pakistani and Kashmiri restaurants spring up in the city, unconcerned about Anglo trade, and just think what has happened to the Chinese restaurant business with the influx of students from Mainland China. Suddenly restaurants other than Cantonese have appeared, along with noodle bars and hot pot eateries. Some have not even bothered to have menus in English.

Not too long ago my wife walked into a place full of Chinese. We were the only Europeans and the waiter confidently expected us to take one look at the menu, which contained not a word of English and leave, so he didn’t bother to come across and ask our order. We stood (or sat) our ground until he did.

I don’t suppose that would happen now as there is a band of ultra foodies who delight in finding the most obscure ethnic places and reporting their finds enthusiastically on social media and blogs. (I have followed up some rave reports with less than euphoric results.)

So where is this leading? These thoughts were triggered by a visit recently to one of those little ethic restaurants, Apna Lahore, on Abbeydale Road, Sheffield, with fellow foodie and blogger Craig Harris. Now Craig majors in Italian cuisine but is currently studying for a critical Dip Ed in Pakistani food and this is one of his regular haunts. He’s written about it here

Its sit down custom is almost exclusively Asian, although this place started life as a takeaway. I’m scanning the menu and see among the specials is maghaz, which means brains.

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Samosa and pakora starters

I have eaten brains and trotters, also on offer, before, although in very upmarket restaurants, so miss these and take Craig’s advice to order lamb on the bone. It is a robust, earthy, fiery curry with plenty of chopped bone but I am a natural gnawer so that no problem. And it’s the bone which gives it a deeper flavour.

He has ordered chicken daal, not on the menu, but basically chicken in a sauce of large, soft lentils still holding their shape.

Gutsy is the word I would use to describe both dishes, good nourishing stuff without any hairs and graces.

The decor is bright and basic and very blue. There is music but not too loud. It is of course, alcohol free. You get a bottle of water and glasses when you sit down. Most customers eat with rotis, just workaday bread in my opinion, although cutlery is available.

Pickles and fajitas are very good. Meat samosas come man-sized with proper crisp pastry not filo. The chicken pakoras aren’t bad either.

Two courses, with rice, comes to £26. It’s a bargain. Probably not a first date night place but one to put on your list.

We finish with unspiced Pakistani tea with condensed milk. And a plate of ginger biscuits. Dunking away, we are both impressed by these. Did they make them themselves?

“We get them from Lidl,” said Ali, our server.

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Chicken daal

Apna Lahore is 342 Abbeydale Road, S7 1FN Sheffield.
Tel: 0114 258 8821

Jarvo keeps his mojo with lomo

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Peruvian dish lomo saltado

HEAD chef Steve Jarvis has never been to Peru but he knows a bear who has.

And take it from Jarvo, as he is known to his mates, Peruvian food is the Next Big Thing.

If so, he’s ahead of the game because the Andean country’s national dish, Lomo Saltado, is already a big seller on the new menu at the Lone Star restaurant on Division Street, Sheffield.

Now you might think of Peru as all llamas and Machu Picchu but there’s a definite Northern twang to this dish which centres on chips and gravy. Of course, there’s more to it than that!

The Chinese brought this to Peru as a beef stir-fry but Steve, 42, who took over the kitchen just before Christmas, cooks beef shoulder until it pulls into strands in a sauce with onions, vinegar and cumin, which provides intriguing base notes. Then it’s served with chips and rice: double carbs but they’ve got to keep the cold of the Andes out of their bones, I suppose.

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Steve ‘Jarvo’ Jarvis

It was a new one on me and something I savoured. It’s also a hit with customers, although how they know about a Peruvian dish Steve himself found on Pinterest beats me. Perhaps it’s the friendly waiting staff who push this one, available in two sizes at £5.95 (enough to serve as a tapas along with others such as Baba Ghanoush or crispy, crunchy, fiery Korean popcorn chicken) and £11.95.

We’re here at Steve’s invitation. He’d just left Rotherham College of Art and Technology for a new life in catering after a career in building when he emailed me at The Star to recommend the college training canteen. We popped round to review and enjoyed it. So we reckoned Steve knew a good thing when he saw it, even if it was his own.

At 32 when he switched from building conservatories to catering, he was one of the oldest students there. It came about on the death of his gran, whom he enjoyed cooking with as a kid, so maybe there is a connection.

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Bao buns with pork

He’s cooked around the area since college and “eight years in I have still got my mojo,” he says. Well lomo has helped him keep it!

Lonestar, opened last year by Barnsley-based Brook Leisure which runs Sheffield’s Crystal Bar and other nightspots, is in premises previously  occupied by Costa Coffee.

It’s towards the town end, not that far from the City Hall, so somewhat off the student beat. In fact, the majority of customers are 35 or over.

To the casual observer the menu covers a lot of ground, from tapas to sourdough pizzas, Mexican to Moroccan, with a good line in cocktails offered on a two for £10 basis. Or as Steve puts it, “Here, there and everywhere.” Or as they say in the guides, eclectic.

It still is but he’s introduced a pie (in answer to Pieminster which has opened up across the road) and that safety-first dish fish and chips to cater for all tastes. Lonestar is running a Pie Week from March 2.

Our other main was a very pleasing curried cod (£12.95), nice, firm flesh, mildly spiced in a mango sauce on a bed of potatoes and cauliflower.

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Window onto Division Street

Not everything is made in-house. The popcorn chicken (£5.95) isn’t nor the bao buns (£6.95), but the filling certainly was, juicy pulled pork given a sweet edge with a little apple.

Lonestar is a friendly place with pleasant staff and prices which won’t scare the horses. And if you try the lomo saltado and like it, word is that Jarvo has another Peruvian favourite up his sleeve.

And just to keep the Peruvian theme going, the toilets are up a couple of flights of stairs so it can feel like climbing the Andes on a lomo-full stomach.

Web: http://www.lonestarsheffield.co.uk

*This blog ate at Lonestar as a guest

 

 

 

 

A curate’s egg at Butcher & Catch

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Duck breast

THERE’S a famous 19th Century Punch cartoon which shows a young clergyman struggling to say something good about the bad breakfast egg he’s eating at the Bishop’s table. “It’s good in parts,” he says, or some such, thereby launching the phrase ‘a curate’s egg.’

Which is what I think about Broomhill’s trendy Butcher & Catch after a meal there. Good in parts but then not in others.

Let’s start on a high note. You pass an open kitchen before which is set store a display of the tempting meat and fish waiting to be cooked to find a decent sized table in a bright, buzzy room.

And they can cook fish. One of our party had the catch of the day (£17), a whole sea bass as sparkling and fresh and equally as good as that she’d just eaten in Portugal. “Really on point,” she approved.

But why, and here we come to the curate’s egg, had the kitchen served up a heap of practically tasteless new potatoes alongside it?

Our friend’s starter of salt cod and mussel fritters (£6) knocked your socks off in the cod department  – salty, intense, vibrant – but the mussels were hard to find. My wife opened with a blackberry and apple cured sea trout, really quite lovely, but it was set on what was described as a buttermilk pikelet.

“It’s got the texture of a shoe insole,” she bemoaned. It was duly passed around the table and we all agreed it was a load of cobblers.

Both chaps ate the same. Our brioche doughnut filled with sticky oxtail (£6), obviously a Euro riff on a bao bun, was a little underwhelming. There was scant meat inside the sweet bun, burnished with a Henderson’s and maple syrup glaze. The roast carrot puree added an extra pleasing sweetness.

The duck breast (£18) ultimately failed to shine. There was plenty of it, pink and relatively tasty, but why on earth was it served into two big tranches when this is a meat which needs to be eaten sliced thinly? Worse, a thin layer of gristly cartilage was left on both our dishes and the skin, one of the glories of duck, was flabby not crisp.

It did, however, come with a lovely duck leg bon bon which showed what the kitchen can do: lip-smacking, shredded, confited meat in a crisp shell.

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Brioche with oxtail

The kitchen isn’t so hot on the pass, though. Both our dishes were missing their sweet potato fondant. It was rectified but, frankly, sweet potato doesn’t have the texture to make a fondant.

Service here is studied casual so they don’t offer to take your heavy coats unless you ask, put bottles of wine on the table without removing the tops or offering to pour and ask you one too many times if you want more drinks when those bottles are still clearly half full. So, in a similarly studied casual way we don’t leave a tip.

And the wine.!We had a Chilean Merlot and a Spanish Verdejo, both at the cheap end of a short list and poor value, lacking fruit and over acid respectively.

It might have been an off night. I hope so. But they might want to rethink some of their dishes and ask themselves if they really hang together.

In my reviewing days for The Star the tenor of my report often hung on the dessert course. Many a restaurant which faltered on the mains, cooked there and then, scraped home on the starters and puddings, prepped more leisurely in advance.

But this was our money, not the company’s, and my wife and I weren’t prepared to try.

We did, however, give it the old fingers test, where we each raised the number of fingers on one hand to show what we felt. In the spirit of generosity I raised three. She put up two fingers. She had just taken a sip pf wine.

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Sea trout with pikelet

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Lucked out with the duck, again

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The duck looked nice but . . .

TIME was when I ordered duck breast in a restaurant the waiter would lean over his notepad and say in hushed tones, to prepare me for the bloody spectacle to follow, “We serve our duck pink here, sir.” Ah, those were the Eighties when customers expected all meats to be incinerated.

Of course, chances were it would appear anything but pink, perhaps pinkish but very often grey.

There were two possible reasons. First was inept over-cooking. Secondly, when a duck breast is thinly sliced and fanned – the juices running out to add resonance and depth to your sauce – oxidation quickly sets in and pinkness fades.

Now I have not been having a lot of luck in the duck department while eating out lately and I’m wondering if there’s been a cheffy twist in fashion I have not yet caught up with.

On two recent meals chefs have treated duck like steak, serving it up as thick, bloody, chewy, inelegant tranches of meat. Perhaps they are worried it will go grey. Worse, each time the breast retained a sliver of gristle or cartilage from where it was attached to the breastbone. Inexpert butchering: I wonder whether they have the same supplier?

This last was at the otherwise excellent Silver Plate training restaurant at Sheffield College (I go back far enough to remember it as Granville) which is well worth that proverbial detour if you want a more than decent luch or dinner.

The £25-a-head Wine and Dine evening had rattled through splendidly: excellent canapes which included a dinky little falafel; smoked eel, perhaps not Capstan Full Strength but with just a whiff to balance against delights such as a soft-boiled quail’s egg and a first class cabernet reduction; then hot mackerel fillet strips partnered not with the more usual gooseberry (not yet in season) but rhubarb puree, which is. It delivered just enough tartness on the palate.

Our table of four chortled happily, praising the precision of level three students under the guidance of chef-lecturer Neil Taylor.

Then we had the duck.

It was described as: “Caramelised duck breast (with) glazed pear, truffled gnocchi, celeriac, duck parfait emulsion.” Which sounded lovely.

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Mackerel with rhubarb puree

Sadly, my duck was nowhere near caramelised and the skin was flabby. It was lukewarm at best and a bit of a chew. Oddly, the taste was fine but that strip of ligament prevented me cutting it up properly and I gave up wrestling with it. In Man versus Duck there was only one winner and it wasn’t me. By contrast my wife’s duck was cooked to grey.

A pity, because the other elements were fine: the pear delicate, the gnocchi generously truffled, the foam tasted good (Heaven knows what a duck parfait emulsion is) while the jus was excellent.

But if the central element is off kilter it doesn’t work. A double pity, because the wine pairing in our wine flight (£10 a head), was a little stunner. Look out for Poderi Parpinello ‘San Constantino’ from Sardinia.

The duck apart, the kitchen’s handling of ingredients was impressive. Our dessert, Opera Gateau, a French sponge classic looking like a little like a Tecnhnicolor liquorice allsort came with roast pineapple (makes a change from grilled) with a malty ice cream.

But I don’t want this to be one big grouse: beside, I am going back later in the year, virus permitting.

I want to add a word of praise for the breads, particularly the focaccia and light-as-a-feather rolls.

Just as important in a training restaurant are the front of house staff. They were a delight. I like the way my serviette, accidentally dropped on the floor when I went to inspect the facilities (sparklingly clean by the way), was replaced on my table shaped like a cardinal’s hat.

And our server fielded our grumps over the duck well. It appeared we weren’t the only table. We were promised extra petit fours (petit eights?) but it didn’t appear we did, looking at other tables. But coffees were deleted from our bill.

If you want  a different take on this meal check out Craig Harris’s review here as he was sitting at our table.

Not every meal out works 100 per cent but I do know one thing – next time I order duck I’ll get it in writing how the chef cooks it first!

*Because of the corona virus the Silver Plate has now closed until at least after Easter.**The restaurant lighting is a curious pink so my photographs came out in a bilious colour. These pictures of dishes have been taken from the restaurant’s Twitter feed.

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Opera gateau with malt icecream

 

 

 

 

 

Hanrahan’s – posh totty and ten bob millionaires

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Hanrahan’s was a trendy place in the Eighties

THE news that the site of the semi-legendary Eighties Sheffield Hanrahan’s bar and restaurant on Glossop Road may finally to go the same way as other iconic nightspots has brought back memories for locals of a certain age.

The Grade II listed building, opposite the Royal Hallamshire Hospital, is to be turned into 27 apartments in a £4 million scheme by city-based Primesite, according to plans.* The scheme follows the conversion by another company of the Beauchief Hotel into homes.

It’s been empty ever since it closed as an outpost of the Loch Fyne seafood restaurant chain in 2016.

When it first opened in the Eighties Hanrahan’s was the place to be and be seen. The clientele was a mixture of footballers from United and Wednesday, hangers-on, the wealthy, pretty girls on the make and posers – “ten bob millionaires” as the local expression had it. There were ordinary members of the public but it was known, like Menzel’s wine bar, as the place for “posh totty.”

VIP customers found their names attached to dishes on the menu. The Sheffield businessman Stephen Hinchliffe was one – before he was sent to prison for fraud.

I forget what it was – probably a steak – but further down the menu was the famous deep-fried ice cream.

And you could order a Mars Bar cocktail which came garnished with the chocolate. It was sickly and if you were wise you didn’t order another, even though the bar’s cocktail hour stretched to two hours. Another infamous cocktail was the Zombie.

It is claimed that the cocktail bar mentioned in the opening lyrics of the city group Human League’s hit Don’t You Want Me Baby was Hanrahan’s. It’s a nice story but the group released the song before the bar opened, although Phil Oakey did visit.

I recall conducting several interviews there, among them hearing from businessman Lawrence Wosskow that he was buying Bradwell’s Ice Cream, which helped catapult him to success in the food and beverage industry. He stuck to orange juice.

The building is early Victorian and dates from the 1840s. It was built as an elegant terrace of town houses. Around the turn of the 20th century it was used as a nurse’s home. It had been boarded up and empty when Whitbread took over to launch it as a Cheers-style American bar, after the popular TV series.

It was around the same time that they launched another famous brand, Henry’s, across the city.

Hanrahan’s lasted until 2008 although it had a brief name change to Casa before reverting back. There was quite a substantial revamp in 1999 which included swapping over the ladies’ and gents’ toilets, causing considerable confusion!

Loch Fyne, also a Whitbread enterprise, followed but sadly failed to encourage enough custom after the initial interest.

Getting on for almost two centuries later, the building is being returned to its original use as homes.

*Since this article was written the relevant committee has rejected the plan. Expect them to be revisited soon.

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Hanrahan’s was a trendy place in the Eighties

Now dinner parties are a bit of a fondue

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Fondue parties – back in fashion?

APPARENTLY there’s a new trend in dinner parties. Instead of your host or hostess laying on a spread they expect you to do the cooking.

It’s even got a name: social dining.

If so, it’s passed me by. I only know about it because a very nice chap from BBC Radio Derby rang me up one morning and asked if I could talk about social dining on-air in half an hour.

My first thought was that Radio Derby had been let down by someone else at the last minute and they’d thought of me in desperation. My second thought was that BBC Radio Sheffield had buggered me about on the last two occasions so why not?

And my third thought was that I knew nothing about the subject but the very nice chap said he’d email me a story about it from the Daily Mail. Well, it must be true, then.

The article talked about the return of fondue, so very much Abigail’s Party, Chinese-style hot pots where you cook food in a fragrant broth, and cook-your-own-strips of meat and steaks on red hot grill plates. And I realised I had done them all while restaurant reviewing at some else’s expense.

I was on the Sally Pepper morning show and she’s a pretty lively interviewer. I knew what she wanted. It’s what any journalist or interviewer wants. She wanted the conversation heavily seasoned with anecdotes.

Well you don’t review restaurants for over 25 years without a few tales to tell but during that time we didn’t get invited to that many dinner parties. I like to think that it was more because people were frightened to invite a food critic than because they didn’t like me.

Could I count Christmas Dinners which are a big family dinner party? If so, I could tell about the time we couldn’t find the turkey giblets inside our bird before cooking but when we took it out of the oven, there was the plastic bag poking out the other end.

Would we poison anyone? Should we cancel dinner? Or say nothing? We did the latter. We watched closely but no one died.

Luckily my wife had a couple of tales from the time before me. She always helped polish my reviews with a good line and she’s still doing it.

So I told Sally about the time Sue and her ex went to dinner with a farmer’s daughter in Bamford and had rabbit. She doesn’t care much for it so picked here and there. In conversation another woman guest asked if it had come from the village’s excellent butchers shop.

“Oh no, the cat brought it in,” said the hostess, the owner of a posse of feral felines. She was ahead of Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall there! Not roadkill but moggykill.

I gather there was a rush to the bathroom.

Sue was fated at dinner parties. There was the time she was invited by a couple she had never met and she still hasn’t seen the wife. There must have been a big row so the woman stayed upstairs while the husband tried to cope. The night ended early.

“So I never, ever saw her. They divorced shortly afterwards,” said Sue.

Sally did wonder aloud if the next stage on from social dining would be people bringing along their own food as well as cooking it. As long as it wasn’t rabbit, I said.

I think they liked it. The very, very nice chap from the BBC said the control room joined in the laughter. So perhaps they’ll have me back.

You can hear it here (but not if you’re overseas}from 15 minutes in. https://www.bbc.co.uk/sounds/play/p0807gz8

No Flummery, tell me what you think!

I AM being quite sincere about this, I think there should be more flummery on our dining tables.

It’s nothing to do with being polite about the food and murmuring meaningless praise but the dish itself. It’s as old as the hills but hasn’t been seen around much since Victorian times.

Flummery is what you get if you mix oatmeal with some water, let it sit for a couple of days, strain off the liquid and boil it down then pour it into a dish to set, which it will.

I have been fascinated by flummery ever since reading a brief account on page 521 of Dorothy Hartley’s excellent Food In England (1954) which, if you haven’t got means you are not a proper ‘foodie.’

Here is the recipe she quotes from 1700.
“To make a pretty sort of Flummery. Put three handfuls of fine oatmeal into two quarts of water, let it steep a day and a night then pour off the clear water through a fine sieve and boil it down until it is as thick as hasty pudding. Put in sugar to taste and a spoonful of orange flowerwater. Put in a shallow dish to set for your use.”

And that is what I did although I scaled quantities down to two tablespoons of porridge oats, not oatmeal, in 450ml (one pint) of cold water and left it in the fridge for over two days as I quite forgot about it.

I boiled the clear liquid down by two thirds. It didn’t taste of much, just faintly oaty, but perked up with the juice of an orange, seeds from two green cardamom pods and a dessert spoonful or two of sugar.

It’s not bad, reminding me of blancmange. All the oats do, of course, is provide a setting agent. The flavourings are up to you. I have seen recipes where cream and eggs are added but that would up the calory count.

Flummery is known by many other names. A ‘Wash Brew’ from 1623 was made the same way, adding honey for flavour. Hartley herself suggests boiling with butter and milk, after steeping and straining, until it reaches the consistency of double cream.

“Continue to cook it slowly and rest a little on a cold plate, and when it ‘sets’ pour it into shallow bowls. It is a pleasant, roughish brown cream like junket and makes a cool summer breakfast cereal – with cream and sugar.”

I am going to keep on experimenting with this. The quantities I used only make enough for one dish. But it strikes me there must be a restaurant kitchen out there which can see the possibilities. And just think of the mark-up for a handful of oats.

I almost hate to say this but it is one dessert which can be totally vegan.

Give it a try. It hardly takes much effort. Then tell me what you think. And, please, no flummery about this flummery if you don’t like it.

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It sets like blancmange

I’m a chap for a roast pig’s cheek

                            Roast pig’s cheek from Waterall  Brothers

I WAS standing in line at Waterall Brothers, those Princes of Pork on Sheffield’s  Moor Market, hoping to buy a roast pork hock for Sunday tea when I realised they had run out. But they did have some roast pig’s cheeks at a bargain £1.80 each.

And as customers ahead of me ordered their sliced ham, haslet and pork chops I must have fallen into a kind of reverie because I asked for a Bath Chap.

The assistant looked at me with incomprehension. I rapidly said “pig’s cheek” for a Bath chap is not something you will find around here these days but in the Seventies  you could buy them in Sainsbury’s, although I was living Down South at the time.

It’s the same bit of the pig, its lower face or cheek, just treated in a different way.

A Bath chap is the cheek boned, brined for a couple of weeks, soaked then boiled until tender, skinned and rolled in breadcrumbs. You ate it sliced like ham for tea or fried like bacon. I haven’t  seen it for years although it still is a speciality in Bath and surrounding  Wiltshire.

More of that in a minute. I took my half a snout back home and as it still retained its jawbone and teeth my wife absented herself from the kitchen while I removed the skin, ideal as crackling although it may need a turn in the frying pan, and sliced the meat.

There was a fair bit of fat, which tasted sweet, and a decent amount of pink meat. It’s perhaps not the best tasting portion of a pig but it was all the better for a dressing of honey and mustard, served alongside boiled new potatoes.

I would love to make a Bath Chap (chap is the older word for chops, or cheek) but my only attempt at butchering a pig’s face ended in disaster. I was planning to make guanciale, the Italian cured pig’s cheek, and bought a half pig’s head from the market for a quid. My wife temporarily left home on that occasion.

To be honest I made a pig’s ear out of that pig’s face and, after curing, I found I had gone horribly wrong. Perhaps next time I will pay them to butcher it for me.

Guanciale is an altogether different product to the Bath Chap after it has been cured (allspice and thyme  are two of the aromatics) then hung. It tastes like bacon plus plus plus. It can be fried and incorporated into dishes and sauces or thinly sliced and served with a plate of charcuterie.

And that got me into another reverie. How good would it be to see a plate of English, or even Yorkshire charcuterie? Honey roast ham, haslet, black pudding, white pudding (both of which can be eaten without frying), Polony sausage, savoury ducks, corned beef . . .

Can’t see that catching on, can you?

                              The meat and skin sliced off the bone




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Spam, Spam, Spam, Spam!

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Spam on the menu at Ladybower

ON the last leg (and my last legs) of a five and a half mile hike I was dying for refreshment. It was getting too late for a pub lunch but there ahead in the Birchin Clough layby was the Ladybower Café.

And when I read the menu it reminded me of Monty Python. For sandwiches I could have Spam; Spam and Egg; Spam Egg  and Cheese Slice; Spam Bacon and Sausage; Spam and Sausage; and Spam and Bacon.

But I had bacon and egg instead!

I hadn’t really noticed the cafe, more a mobile catering van but with tables and chairs in good weather, before although I must have driven past many times on the A57 in the last 15 years it has been there, according to Julie, who served me.

To be honest, I was a little exhausted or would have asked a little more about this splendid throwback overlooking the Ladybower Reservoir. Judging by its Facebook page it has a host of admirers and regulars.

And I got talking to a whisky salesman whom, he said, had been made homeless and was living out of his car. I saw later that he had posted grateful thanks to Julie, who runs it with a bloke called Geoff, for giving him a free lunch.

The Ladybower Cafe (not to be confused with the Ladybower Inn up the road) is apparently very popular with bikers. Among them are Si and Dave, aka the Hairy Bikers, who dropped in for Spam and egg while filming for their TV series.

Sandwiches come in a breadcake, only white, because there is no call for brown or wholemeal, according to Julie.

My sandwich was great and she didn’t demur when I didn’t want tea because I had some left in my flask.

Next time, though, I’ll have Spam.

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