Here’s a recipe – or, rather an entry with advice – from English Food that I thought I would never get to cook for two reasons. The first was that I suspected that Jane was having a little joke at our expense and that her entry on red herrings was actually a red herring in itself! Having only ever used the expression and never laying eyes on the food, the penny did not drop for a good while that the saying must have come from somewhere. So, after looking in a few other books I decided red herrings were, in fact, real.
Before I tackle any recipes, I’d better tell you what a red herring actually is.
Choose those that are large and moist.
Cut them open, and pour over them some boiling small beer.
Let them soak half an hour, then drain and dry them.
Make them just hot through before the fire, and rub them over with cold butter.
Serve with egg sauce or buttered eggs; mashed potatoes should also be sent up with them.
After the reasonable success of the crumpets, I thought I should carry on the bread theme and use up some more of the yeast. I didn’t even have to look through; I knew straight away that I wanted muffins – the second best breakfast carb after the crumpet… Don’t be confused between these muffins and American muffins – they are two very different beasts. I suppose in America our muffins are called English muffins, non?
Muffins are halfway between crumpets and bread – they are made with soft dough using strong flour and are cooked gently on the hob, rather than in the oven. They’re easy to do, but do require a bit of time and energy to knead them properly… It is worth putting in a bit of effort as it make the dough nice and elastic and therefore fluffier when cooked.
This recipe makes 12 muffins:
Start off by creaming ½ an ounce of yeast in 4 tablespoons of warm water, then warm ½ pint of whole milk and an ounce of butter in a pan until they reach blood heat. Meanwhile crack an egg into a bowl and give it a brief whisk, and pour in the warm milk into it, whisking thoroughly.
Weigh out a pound of strong plain white flour and empty it into a warm bowl (or better, warm the flour and bowl together on a low heat in the oven). Make a well in the centre and pour in the yeast and the milk-egg mixture, along with a teaspoon of salt. Mix together thoroughly, adding more flour or water if required. You want a soft dough, but not one that is sticky. Knead the dough for 5 to 10 minutes, place it, cover it and allow the dough to rise to at least double it’s volume.
Roll out the dough to ½ inch thickness and cut out rounds with large pastry cutters or whatever (I used crumpet rings). Knead the trimmings together and roll them out too, so you get as many muffins as possible from the mixture. Let them rise a little.
Put a heavy-based pan on a low heat and brush it lightly with lard or oil and fry them gently. Griggers says they should expand into something like a “puffball fungus”, and if you leave them to rise slightly they will. Turn them over after around 7 minutes and cook the other side.
Apparently, you should toast muffins whole – they should never be cut, but torn, adding butters as you go. Either way, eat them with lots of salted butter.
Charlotte and myself when to the bustling metropolis that is Stockport at the weekend to buy boots (Charlotte) and to take back a plane to B&Q (me). This is the exciting life we lead. Be jealous. One great thing about Stockport is its market. It’s very old and very good; the market hall has been restored and refurbished and it looks very nice. I wanted to go for one particular reason: sweets. There’s brilliant stall that sells all the sweets from your childhood: cough cops, pineapple cubes, midget gems, and pear drops. You name it; they got it. We bought enough to induce a diabetic coma. On the way back Charlotte pointed out the fishmongers, where we saw some lovely kippers. We’d not had kippers for breakfast for ages so we thought we’d get a couple.
There are three ways to cook your breakfast kippers according to Grigson:
1. Poach in shallow water for a couple of minutes, serve with knob of butter
2. Fry in butter, a couple of minutes each side
3. Grill a couple of minutes each side. Skin side first, then turn over and add a knob of butter.
I went for number three, as it’s my favourite way. Whichever way you do them, make sure there’s freshly ground pepper on them and brown bread and butter on the side.
FYI: kippers are the most recent of the cured fishes – the kipper cure was created for salmon, but was then later applied to herring, where it was obviously much nicer.