That Was The Year That Was!

AS I write the blog, now in its fifth year, has had almost 80,000 views in 2019, well more than double the previous year. The total (check the front page for the latest figure) is over 183,000 since Another Helping first appeared in 2015.

It’s gratifying that so many people like this mix of restaurant reviews, recipes, food history and current news, particularly when the abject failure of the local newspapers to cover the scene properly leaves so many people wanting more.

Is it poor reporting, laziness or being too timid to pick up the phone that leaves them simply rewriting what appears on hotel and restaurant websites?

So when Hassop Hall Hotel suddenly closed, to be bought as a private house, only this blog told the full story of who had bought it. You can join the 11,000 readers who read it here

It was the same story with the closure of another hotel, The Maynard closed at Grindleford. Local papers hardly touched it but you can read about it here and here, at Peter and Rob save the day for Maynard

There were plenty of other scoops, such as the latest exploits of chef Cary Brown, revamping the Hathersage Social Club with businessman Ian Earnshaw.

There was much else. Other top reads (as in previous years) were Derbyshire oatcakes and Sheffield  Fishcake

The biggest volume of traffic, though, had nothing to do with food but everything to do with abject reporting. The big story of the year was how a local pensioner, Tony Foulds, had spent a lifetime tending a memorial to crashed WW2 American airmen in Endcliffe Park.

But did he? And why did nobody see him? And why did his eye witness account contradict the official record of the time? But all it takes is a credulous BBC presenter and local papers such as the Sheffield Star and Yorkshire Post to keep silent on what they knew to be a fantasy to become fake news.

If the BBC and other couldn’t tell the truth this blog had to here and  here

Thanks to this blog, some 22,000 readers know the real story.

So what will 2020 bring? Who knows? But Another Helping will bring it to you first.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sheffield fishcake sighted in Lincs!

IT MAY come as a shock but to some people the very thought of Yorkshire is exotic. That’s if you come from Lincolnshire.

We are at Mantle’s weirdly named Underground fish and chip restaurant, in truth a cellar, in Horncastle where I notice Yorkshire fishcake is on the menu. I wonder if it could be anything like a Sheffield one, a layer of fish sandwiched between two slices of potato , battered and fried?

Or, as they say, batter, tatter, fish, tatter, batter.

It is. Mantle’s, run by the Koslow family, has been selling it since last year. It seems to have caught on with the locals. Mr K, pictured below, must sell three or four a day. I ask if they went to Sheffield and got the idea there or if city customers told them about it?

After all, I have heard there are several outposts in Lincolnshire where you can find this delicacy. I’d be grateful if readers can point me to more.

Neither. Mrs K said she came up with the idea by herself. I am not entirely sure I buy that! But why call it a Yorkshire fishcake and not a Lincoln one?

“Lincolnshire doesn’t sound very special. Yorkshire does.”

So she was telling me Yorkshire sounds exotic? “Yes.”

We like Mantle’s for its quirkiness. It has proper fishknives – not made in Sheffield but you can’t have everything – because that’s tradition, she said. And note the pair of scissors at each table to snip open the sachets of sauce, tomato and tartare, rather than wrestle with them.

There is haddock, cod, plaice and ‘rock’ on offer, the latter presumably being whatever is available, usually dogfish.

It’s haddock in my fishcake which has a very crispy batter. I enjoy it as we do our cod, chips and mushy peas. The food here is pleasant although perhaps not in the super league occupied by the likes of Whitby’s Magpie or Sheffield’s own Market Chippy.

But if you find yourself in Lincs pining for a Sheffield fishcake you’ll know where to come. Mantle’s just need to rename their version.

Mantle’s is at 19 St. Lawrence Street, Horncastle

Pimp my Sheffield fishcake

20180713_132057.jpg

The Stag’s poshed up version of the city’s famous dish

IT’S a bit like seeing your favourite auntie all dressed up for the kill. Normally she’s in her scruffs down at the chippie with perhaps a bag of chips and a tub of mushy peas for company.

And that’s what I’m thinking about the Sheffield fishcake in front of me which has certainly acquired some airs and graces. It’s topped with a tangle of peppery watercress and a softly poached egg and sits, not in a polystyrene tray but in a dish atop of some sweet, crushed, minted garden peas.

The humble Sheffield fishcake has gone up in the world.

The dish, a starter, was devised for the new summer menu at the Stags Head on Psalter Lane, Sheffield, by manager Kurt Woods and the enigmatically named Chef Mike. “Chef Mike is an Oxford lad who found his way to sunnier climates in the Steel City. Unfortunately he is a little shy and would like to keep his identity under wraps,” says Kurt.

Despite being poshed up, it still retains its basic identity of ‘batter, tatter , fish, tatter batter,’ or a slice of haddock sandwiched between two layers of parboiled potato, so soft you could be confused at thinking it is mash. The lot is enclosed in an excellent crisp, dry beer batter and because this is a Thornbridge Brewery house the beer is Thornbridge’s Brother Rabbit Golden Ale.

Now haddock and egg are not strange bedfellows. Think omelette Arnold Bennett or smoked haddock with a poached egg on top. Here the whole thing works wonderfully well and while a fishcake at the chippie (if they do it) will be no more than a couple of quid here it is £6. You can read all about the original version here.

Nor is it the first time the fishcake has gone posh. You can get mini versions as canapes from time to time at the George in Hathersage.

I am not sure if the Sheffield delicacy was new to Chef Mike but it certainly isn’t to Kurt. “I am a Sheffield lad and love nothing more than a good fishcake. My local fish bar is the famous Tony’s at Mosborough so we hold the fishcake in high esteem,” he says.

“Last menu we had a smoked salmon fishcake with buttered spinach and soft poached egg but for this menu we wanted something a little more Northern.”

It may be pimped up but it’s still true to its humble roots. Egg, haddock (not cod because the former is stronger tasting) and potato is one of those foodie marriages made in heaven. They could even eat this in Dore and Totley and not feel a scruff.

*The Stag’s Head is on Psalter Lane, Sheffield S11 8YN. Tel: 0114 255 0584. Web: http://www.mystagshead.co.uk

20180713_131411.jpg

It tastes great on the radio

DZZUiAtX0AAacEi[1]

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Batter, tatter, fish – what’s up for the Sheffield Fishcake?

The Sheffield Fishcake at Seafayre - but is it under threat?

The Sheffield Fishcake at Seafayre – but is it under threat?

“Batter, tatter, fish, tatter, batter,” is the succinct description of the construction of a Sheffield fishcake, seen as a geological diagram. It’s a sort of fish sandwich, a piece of cod or haddock between two slices of potato, swathed in batter and deep fried.

Some insist on calling it a Yorkshire fishcake on account of it also being sold in Halifax or Huddersfield but Sheffield is the only Northern town to give its name to this speciality. Yorkshire has its pudding and mushy peas so let this be Sheffield’s national dish!

I am not sure whether it’s dying out in the area’s chippies or is still holding on. The three or four chip shops nearest me don’t sell it. In Barnsley they think a fishcake is mashed fish and potato with parsley, as does most of the rest of the country.

It’s not hard to see how the Sheffield fishcake came about. A chippie decided this was the best way to make use of fish trimmings. But why is it a strictly regional thing: surely the same thought should have applied in the rest of the country. Perhaps only a Yorkshireman can turn (almost) nowt into owt.

I have always been fascinated by Sheffield fishcakes. I grew up in Derby where my father ran a chippie in complete ignorance of this delicacy some 40 miles north. I’d had a scallop, a slice of potato in batter, but that was less than half way to the real thing.

Nor had Bruce Payne, owner of Seafayre chippie and fish restaurant on Charles Street, Sheffield. He’s from Leicester and had to be shown how to make them when he married into Sheffield’s Pearce dynasty of chippies. The Sheffield fishcake is popular: when on Castle Market he once sold 224 on a Friday lunchtime. “I thought they would be as popular here but it’s a different clientele,” he says.

Bruce doesn’t use a slice of fish but trimmings as he says it would otherwise be difficult to seat the fish and potato together snugly. He has to be careful with his choice of spuds. “When varieties change I thought a baking potato would be suitable but it just goes mushy.” Nor does he parboil the potatoes. And “I always use cod because this is a cod shop,” he adds.

At just £1.45 it’s a particularly tasty and comforting dish and well worth ordering, with or without the chips.

The Sheffield or Yorkshire fishcake is a working man or woman’s snack but there’s no reason why it can’t be poshed up, as it is at the three-star George Hotel in Hathersage. Sous chef Steven Sumpner may come from Basingstoke but “I’ve always known about Yorkshire fishcakes because my father, who is from Leeds, loves them

“I remember my dad showing our local fish and chip shop how to make them so when we had our fish n chips nights he could have a Yorkshire fish cake. It was a big deal to him being a Leeds boy.”

Steven, whose own favourite fishcake from a chippie is from Four Lanes on Leppings Lane, Hillsborough, produced mini fishcakes for a special occasion at the hotel recently but it often goes on the menu because “it’s homely and rustic.”

His method is to parboil the potatoes so it allows for thick slices of spud which can be cooked at the same rate as the fish and batter: if he used them raw the rest would be overcooked. And because it is a hotel he can use tail ends of fillets.

The batter, too, gets special attention. “My recipe always has wine vinegar and bicarbonate of soda. This gives the batter an extra crispy and light texture with a nice punch of vinegar. I season with rock salt and it really gives that feeling you have drenched your fish in vinegar and salt but you still have a crispy batter!”

Steven’s miniature versions are extremely tasty little morsels with extra oomph in the batter. I enjoyed them.

Of course, one man’s fishcake is another man’s fritter, pattie, scallop or rissole so the Sheffield or Yorkshire fishcake might exist somewhere else in the world under another name. I have heard of a double decker fishcake with a layer of peas as well as fish and spuds and there is the famous mushy pea fritter at Two Steps on Sharrowvale Road.

Finally, here’s Yorkshire chef Brian Turner’s version, as seen on YouTube. Go to https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xcj8bp_F9Uk

*Seafayre has now closed but Bruce continues frying (and serving Sheffield fishcakes)  at the Market Chippie on The Moor Market. This is for the benefit of Peterborough FC fans accessing this site via http://www.londonroad.net

 

Steven Sumpner's Sheffield fishcakes

Steven Sumpner’s Sheffield fishcakes

Steven Sumpner in the George's kitchen

Steven Sumpner in the George’s kitchen