It tastes great on the radio


Sheffield fishcake – as seen on BBC radio!

WOULD I, asked the BBC chappie down the phone, like to come on air to talk about the Sheffield fishcake? It is a local speciality I have long championed although I have never made one myself. Eaten them, yes.

 There was just one catch. Could I be in the studio by 7.10am? They’d have a fishcake ready. It was one they’d had made earlier.

 Bleary-eyed I was ushered into the studio to greet bequiffed and fresh-as-a-daisy presenter Owain Wyn Evans, usually Look North’s weatherman but standing in for Radio Sheffield’s regular on the morning show, Toby Foster.

 He had the fishcake in his hand. “It’s big,” he said. “No, that’s the breadcake (bun, roll, bap, buttie or stottie to people not from Sheffield), the fishcake is inside,” I said gently.

 Owain is Welsh. You can tell that from his name. I am a quarter Welsh on my mother’s side but we didn’t get time for any yaki da’s. He nibbled it, cold, and liked it. I couldn’t do that on the radio.

 I’d also brought along some oatcakes, my homemade Sheffield Relish and a snappy soundbite. Owain chewed on an oatcake. He liked that, too. Then he sprinkled a little Relish on his palm, licked it and said “That’s lovely!” Really? ”Yes.” I very nearly gave him the bottle but didn’t. But he’d had a free breakfast and he could keep the oatcakes.

 “That was great,” said a BBC chappie as I was ushered out of the studio. They always say you were wonderful but I never got to use my soundbite.

 The next day I got a call from Ailsa, producer of Georgey Spanswick’s evening radio show, broadcast across all the BBC’s local  stations.  She’d heard the bit about fishcakes and of course it sounded wonderful. So could I talk to Georgey over the phone? I realise I am suddenly the go-to man for Sheffield fishcakes. I suppose there are worse things to be known for.

 It goes well. I rabbit on about fishcakes, then Derbyshire oatcakes, tomato dip and polony sausage, slip in a joke or two and a few free plugs and namechecks. Georgey lets me talk and it must be slowly dawning on the nation, or at least that part of it which listens to local radio, that there is more to Sheffield than steel and an insane council cutting down the city’s trees.

That’s right, an insane bloke going “batter, tatter, fish, tatter, batter.”

 “That was great,” said a BBC chappie ringing off. And I forgot the soundbite.










English as it is eaten


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?

Oats so simple


Just because I can I like to have something different for breakfast every morning of the week. And it’s got to be homemade.

So as I often bake my own bread and always make my own jams and marmalades that takes care of a couple of days. Bacon sandwich? It’s no problem turning a kilo of pork belly into bacon. It’s easy-peasy. And I’ve plenty of homemade brown sauce and Sheffield (Better Than Hendo’s) Relish.

But my secret weapon is oats. This grain is at the heart of three different breakfasts and with oats at £2 a kilo at Down To Earth on Sharrowvale Road I’d be daft not to. There’s porridge for a start but for a change try soaking the oats in water overnight. You get a softer result, a bit like congee (rice porridge) and need to use less milk.

Whizz some of those oats up in a blender and you’ve got oat flour, ideal to use in breads or to make Derbyshire oatcakes which always go down well, either with a fry-up or griddled, spread with butter and jam and rolled up and eaten like a pancake.

Bake ‘em and you’ve got granola. You can’t miss it any farmers’ market, where there are umpteen stalls selling it. Now it’s obviously better than the shop-bought stuff but why would anyone want to buy it when you can make it so easily for yourself?

There are recipes galore. Mine is from the Daily Telegraph of a few years back which works well although I doubt if the writer had ever tried it because she puts dried fruit in from the start. Anyone who has made granola knows the fruit bakes hard and horrible. Add it afterwards if you want although I prefer to use whatever fresh fruit is going that morning.

I stick more or less to this recipe but it is so adjustable: four tablespoons each of butter, brown sugar and honey are melted gently in a pan, to which you add 9oz (250g) of porridge oats and about 4oz (110g) of nuts and seeds. It’s best to crush them first. Last time I made this I used peanuts, walnuts, flaked almonds and roast hazelnuts, some sunflower seeds and dried and roasted butternut squash seeds I save in a jar.

Sprinkle in a little salt if you’re not worried about the sodium police, some cinnamon, mixed spice or nutmeg. Once I absentmindedly added ground pepper and was pleasantly surprised at the taste.

Make sure it is all mixed together then scrape into a baking tray and cook in a medium (160C) oven for about 15 minutes until brown but not too much. Stir up the oats halfway through to ensure even browning. Don’t be worried if it’s not crisp when removed from the oven. It will be when it cools.

There is one extra ingredient you might want to add and it really does make the world of difference: an ounce or two of desiccated coconut. Stick it in a posh jar and it will look good as well as taste good.

Now what’s for breakfast tomorrow?

Granola baking in the pan

Granola baking in the pan