I recently made to visit to my friends in their 18th century house in Mallerstang, Cumbria and have been meaning to bring the ingredients up with me to make this dish. It’s one of those lamb, onion and potato based meals you find in the North of England such as Lancashire Hot Pot and Lobscouse, or indeed Irish stew and Scotch broth. It mysteriously appears in the Meat Pies & Puddings section of the Meat, Poultry & Game Chapter.
It’s always nice to add an extra species of animal or plant to my list of foods I have eaten. Halibut is reasonably pricey so I have typically avoided them in the fishmonger’s shop. They are also beasts – the largest flatfish to be found in European waters. Check out this one caught off the west coast of Iceland in 2010:
It weighed an impressive 34 stones (that’s 476 pounds, or 220 kilos)!
This recipe is from the Polish novelist Joseph Conrad’s wife. She was and Englishwoman called Jessie George, who obviously had a flair for cookery. She wrote a book called A Handbook of Cookery for a Small House, and I assume (for Grigson doesn’t say) that it is this volume from which the recipe comes.
The recipe includes an unusual ingredient – Patum Peperium, otherwise known as Gentleman’s Relish. It is a highly spiced potted anchovy spread, and was a Victorian invention – click here for a link to the other blog for more information on this delicious savory.
This will serve 3 or 4 people, depending upon the size of your piece of halibut, which should weigh between 1 and 1 ½ pounds. Try and get hold of a steak, if you can only get fillets buy two pieces and sit them on top of each other. Make the spiced butter by mashing together 4 ounces of softened butter and a very generous heaped teaspoon of Patum Peperium and smear it over the halibut, including the underside. Sprinkle over 6 tablespoons of white breadcrumbs and bake in the oven for 30 minutes at 190⁰C (375⁰F) until the breadcrumbs have browned.
In the meantime make the tomato sauce that accompanies the fish. Peel 8 ounces of tomatoes by cutting through the skins in a cross shape on their undersides. Place in a jug and pour over boiling water. After 1 or 2 minutes, remove the tomatoes and the skin should be easy to peel away. Chop the tomatoes and cook them in a saucepan with a good sized knob of butter. Gently cook until the juices are reduced to just 3 or 4 tablespoons. Season with a teaspoon of Worcester sauce and some salt, pepper and sugar.
Remove the fish from the oven and place on a serving dish, pour the buttery juices into the sauce and spoon it around the fish. Finally, add 6 split anchovy fillets and place on top of the fish in a criss-cross pattern.
Jane suggests serving with matchstick potatoes. She does not let us know how to make them, but luckily I knew anyway: peel some potatoes and cut into 2 or 3 millimetre matchsticks – julienne as the French say – use a food processor or Chinese mandolin to do this (if you don’t have one, then don’t even bother and boil some potatoes in their skins instead). Plunge the potatoes into a roomy bowl of water so you can rinse away the start. Then drain them in a sieve.
Heat up some cooking oil such as sunflower or groundnut. When a piece of bread goes nice and brown in about 30 seconds, it is hot enough to add the potatoes in batches. Fry for 2 or 3 minutes until golden brown, around 180⁰C if you have an electric deep fat fryer or cooking thermometer, then drain on kitchen towels. Salt and serve.
#342 Halibut with Anchovies. What a delicious dish! The fish was firm, flaky and moist and the butter was seasoned with just the right amount of the Patum Peperium. The tomato sauce was rich yet fresh; a great meal for a summer’s evening. 8.5/10.
Nobody really eats dulse, or any other seaweed, in England these days, though they used to. It is a pity because I do like the stuff. It seems to be popular still in Ireland though; my friend Evelyn often brings back a bag of it whenever she visits home and I like to steal a few pieces.
The dulse industry has obviously died a bit of a death in England and the rest of the UK and Ireland compared to days of yore. Charles Dickens, writing in 1858, reminisces about childhood holidays in Aberdeen where there were often over a dozen ‘dulse-wives’ selling dulse:
After returning from my little trip back to England and Ireland, I wanted to cook something that evoked some memories of it whilst all was still fresh in my mind. There are no Irish recipes in English Food, but there are a couple of Manx recipes (if you are from the Isle of Man, you are Manx). When Hugh and I flew the short distance from Belfast to Liverpool, we looked out the window and he told me about the bits of coastline and other features, and of course the Isle of Man was pointed out, looking surprisingly small. I’ve never managed to go to the Isle of Man, but it looked very pretty from the air.
This is apparently a traditional Manx cured meat dish, but I did a quick internet search and could find any references to it at all, so I can’t give you any background information I’m afraid, Grigsoners. The cure is very simple to do; you simply have to pack coarse sea salt inside and outside of a duck 24-hours before you want to cook it. I assume in the days when this was done for actual preservation of meat, rather than for flavour, the duck could have been cured for several days or weeks. When you are ready to cook it, brush off the salt, rinsing off any tricky to remove bits and place in a pot with enough water to barely cover it.
Cover, bring to a simmer and let it happily gurgle away for between an hour and ninety minutes, depending on the size. I am always worried about doing the boiled meat recipes in the book, I always think they are going to come out insipid and boring, especially in this case as there was no call for any stock vegetables or seasoning with spices. I invited my friends Danny and Eric around to sample the delights – hoping it would taste okay…
If you like, you can cure your duck in brine instead – check out the recipe and instructions on brining meat here.
While the duck is simmering away gently, you can be getting on with the accompaniments: an onion sauce and colcannon (an Irish invention of potatoes and either cabbage or kale mashed together).
For the onion sauce, chop four large onions and add them to a pan with just enough water to cover them, season, cover with a lid, and allow them to simmer for fifteen minutes. Drain them over a bowl, so that the cooking liquor is saved. Add half a pint of milk and just under a pint of the liquor to the pan along with half an ounce of butter and bring to a simmer. Measure two level tablespoons of cornflour and slake it with a little more cold milk and whisk it into the hot sauce; it will thicken instantly. Simmer for a few more minutes so that the cornflour can cook out. Add the onions back to the pan and season with plenty of salt and pepper – very important here to season it very well – plus the grated rind of a lemon. Add more liquor or milk if it becomes too thick. This sauce can be (and was!) made in advance – make sure you keep it covered with a lid or some cling film to prevent a skin from forming if you do.
For the colcannon, boil equal amounts of potato and kale or cabbage together in a pan. Drain, and mash with butter and salt and pepper. If you are feeling extravagant, add a little blob of cream.
When the duck is cooked, make sure you let it rest for about twenty minutes before you carve it.
#292 Isle of Man Salt Duck. I must admit, when the duck was taken out of pan to rest, it did not look that appetizing with its podgy fat and no hint of colour. I’m used to eating roast duck. However, when I cut inside, there was the most tender duck meat within. It was salty, but not overpoweringly. It also had very subtle flavour too, as did the onion sauce, which I expected to be terribly strong. Instead, it was light and very good for a spring or summer meal. The colcannon was a great accompaniment too. This kind of good, but bland food, really requires heavy seasoning, otherwise it is in danger of becoming tasteless pap. This was not tasteless pap however: 7/10.
‘This dish gets right away from the high-tea image and shows how delicious bloaters can be at the beginning of a dinner party’ says Griggers. I wasn’t aware they had that image. These days, I suppose, they have no image at all seeing as they are rarely eaten. Indeed, these had to be ordered, like many of the fish in this book, online at The Fish Society. This is a simple dish and actually probably more suitable as a buffet item… With this recipe, I managed to use up all the fish in my freezer before the move to Houston. Indeed, any recipe after this one will have been done in America. I wonder how successful I will be!?
First prepare three bloaters by removing the skin and removing the fillets. Bloaters are already cooked, but if removing them from the bone is a problem, immerse them in boiling water and leave for a few minutes. Flake the fish or cut it up and put in the centre of a serving dish. Cut up a pound of boiled, waxy potatoes and mix in a vinaigrette. Griggers suggests this one: 5 tablespoons olive oil to one of lemon juice, plus salt, pepper, sugar and a heaped tablespoon of chopped chives. Reserve a tablespoon of it to pour over the fish. Now arrange the potatoes around the fish in an artistic manner and serve.
#252 Bloater and Potato Salad. Not the most exciting meal. The bloaters were very nice, as were the lemony potatoes, but it didn’t feel like a complete course. It would have been much nicer with additional dishes too I think. Could do better, Lady Jane: 5/10
Contrary to what you may think; I am not a big meat eater – I’m just not picky! However, I’ve been having a hankering for meat recently, not sure why. Anyways, at the butcher, I spotted some venison sausages that looked very fine indeed so I bought them. They turned out to be from Lyme Park not too far away from me in the Peak District, so the old food miles were happily reduced. Venison sausages are available pretty much anywhere, but a word of warning people – venison from supermarkets probably won’t be British. Supermarket venison usually comes from big deer farms in New Zealand. It’s not bad meat; it’s just flown a long way! Buy yours from your local butcher to get local venison.
This is what the Lady Grigson says to do with your venison sausages:
Fry them in lard or oil very quickly so that they develop nice dark stripes and arrange them closely in a shallow oven dish. Pour in enough red wine to come half-way up the sausages and season them. Bake in a hot oven – 200°C – for 15 minutes. Serve them with mashed potato and some seasonal greens – she says Brussels sprouts and chestnuts, but as it’s Maytime, I plumped for green beans. Pour a little of seasoned wine over the sausages if you like.
#148 Venison Sausages – 7/10. A great way to cook special sausages of any kind I reckon. I’m not giving an excellent score because the venison sausages were good, but not the best ones I’ve ever had. However, the red wine did improve the flavour a lot. The most important thing was that it scratched my red meat itch. The best thing about the whole thing was the fried mashed potato sandwiches I made the morning after. You must try it – fry patties of left-over mash in lard until a crispy crust develops, turn them over and put them in a buttie with brown sauce.
After the creamy and rich oyster loaves last night, I thought I’d go for something a little bit more fresh-tasting and the Welsh Supper Herrings seemed to fit the bill. I chose herring because, like oysters, I’d never knowingly tried them except, of course, in the form of kippers. Herring are quite cheap as are most of the other ingredients so it didn’t break the bank. The odd ingredient here is the Bramley apple, but apparently it’s a traditional thing, herring and apple. First I’d heard.
Gut, clean, descale, behead and fillet a pound of herring – ask your fishmonger to do this, I tried to fillet them myself and was reasonably successful but was a bit of a ballache. Now mix an ounce of softened butter with a tablespoon of mustard made up from mustard powder (Why? Because Griggers says so, that’s why). Spread the butter over the cut side of the fish fillets and roll them up.
Next get to work on peeling and then finely slicing a pound and a half of firm potatoes – Jane recommends using a mandolin for this. Please, please, please be very careful here – I managed to slice a piece of my thumb off doing this last night so watch out. You have been warned. Don’t go suing me if you open a vein… Plunge the potatoes into boiling salted water for a minute she says – though I would do them for 2 or maybe even three (see below). Then slice a large onion and two Bramley (or other cooking) apples that have been peeled and cored. No need for the mandolin for those. Use a little more softened butter to grease a pie dish and make a layer using half the potatoes, then half the apples and half the onions, seasoning as you go with salt and pepper. Next, the rolled up herring fillets and sprinkle them with half a teaspoon of dried sage (Why not fresh? Because Griggers says so, that’s why). Then add the remaining apple, onion and potato, adding a brief painting on of melted butter to the last layer of spuds. Pour boiling water so it comes around half way up the dish. Bake for around half an hour until the potatoes are cooked.
#133 Welsh Supper Herrings – 3.5/10. Not sure if this was a bad dish or a bad recipe for a good dish. The potatoes, apples and onions were very nice – the apples especially lifted it, but the potatoes were not cooked after half an hour even though I blanched them in the boiling water. They were done after an hour, but unfortunately this meant that the herrings had cooked down into a mush not unlike cat food. So pretty disappointing seeing as I almost sacrificed a digit for it. Hey-ho, such is the nature of this undertaking…
The Roast Pheasant was obviously the star of the meal – not just because it is a meat we don’t eat enough of, but also from my point of view because to tick it off I had to do lots of accompanying dishes, so some organisation was required. If you want to have a go, you can have as many of the elements as you wish, though try to do as many as possible as they do go so very well together as a dish. The trickiest part was getting hold of pheasant giblets – however, the nice game butcher at the Farmers’ Market got me them when I asked. Make a point of ordering them as they are routinely thrown away. So, the roast pheasant is made up of five individual parts:
2. The game chips
3. The giblet gravy
4. The browned crumbs
5. The bread sauce (dealt with separately as #123).
Most of this can be made in advance and reheated, that which is not, is easy and quick to prepare and will not keep you from your guests for very long.
To prepare the brace of pheasants, begin by removing the giblets and setting them aside for later on. Stuff each bird with 2 ounces of butter, plus the liver (make sure you remove the green bitter gall bladder) and a good seasoning with salt and pepper, then lay a thin sheet of back pork fat over them that is large enough to cover the beasts and legs. Secure the back fat by tying string around the pheasants. Place them in a roasting tin and set aside for when you want to roast them – they should be roasted at 190°C for 20 minutes per pound plus an extra 10 minutes. You calculate this for the heaviest bird; in my case 2 pounds, so 50 minutes in all. For the final 10 minutes of cooking, remove the back fat and dust the breasts lightly with seasoned flour. Remove from the oven and allow to rest. I did this just before the guests arrived so that the birds could rest as the leek tarts were cooking. To serve it, I removed the legs, then sliced the breast meat and placed on a bed of watercress.
So that there was a bit of green, also served some peas and green peas, but also Bread Sauce (as instructed) and (#124) Creamed Celery – Grigson says that either celery or mushrooms should be eaten with roast pheasant.
#122 Roast Pheasant – 9.5/10. What a brilliant meal! It was well worth the effort, I cannot fault it in any way really, and will definitely make it again, though maybe not with all the required elements. The pheasant was juicy and just-cooked, the gravy was beautifully rich and luscious, the breadcrumbs provided a nice crunchy texture and the game chips were tasty, some crunchy and some soggy in the gravy and bread sauce. For me, pheasant is the king of the game birds, and after this, it is going to be very difficult to knock it off the top spot.
FYI: to be a bit thrifty, I made soup from the carcasses and left over veg and trimmed celery etc and it was lovely – I’ll put a recipe up for it. I am never chucking out a carcass again!
Last week I took the afternoon off work to go shopping with Butters to Cheshire Oaks to spend money I don’t have. One of the main reasons I wanted to go was Butters had been told that there was a Le Crueset shop there. I love Le Crueset stuff but it is tres expensive, so I had a total geek boner about going to the factory outlet shop.
After about an hour of decision-making, I went for a large round casserole and a big mixing jug. With the casserole I knew exactly how I was going to christen it – with a Lancashire Hotpot. I’ve had hotpots before, but in the form of ready meals, which, if I remember, had tomato in it. Real Lancashire hotpot is very simple – one of those dishes involving lots of sliced potatoes and onions that seem to come in an amazing variety. It’s also rather like an Irish stew.
It looked nicer in real…
FYI: Lancashire Hotpots were traditionally made in large, deep dark glazed brown pots that were given to the baker to put in his oven whilst people went to work so they collect on their way back.
FYI2: Although hotpot usually contains potato, onion, lamb and kidneys, people have put in black pudding, sweetbreads, mushrooms and oysters. So if you have any of those to hand pop them in.
This is enough for 6 people:
Start off by thinly slicing a pound of onions and 2 pounds of peeled potatoes. Next trim any large bits of fat from best end of neck lamb chops; you’ll need between 8 and 12 depending upon thickness. When at the butches try to get about 6 lamb’s kidneys. Depending on your butcher, they may or may not be prepared – make sure the tough outer membrane has been peeled away, and slice in half lengthways and cut out their central tough, white centres. Layer up the potatoes, then onions, then meat and offal, seasoning as you go. Make sure you leave enough spuds so you can arrange them nicely on the top. Pour enough water to reach halfway up the pot and then brush the potatoes with some melted butter. Place the lid on the casserole and bake at 200-240ºC for 30 minutes, and then turn the oven down to 140ºC for about 2-2 ½ hours. Take the lid of for the final 30-45 minutes so that the top can crisp up. Serve with boiled or pickled red cabbage.
#115 Lancashire Hotpot – 6.5/10. Very nice and hearty grub that is simple yet effective. Not used to cooking with lamb, but am loving how simple this is. Also I’d forgotten how nice kidneys are – I’ve not had them in years. It’s definitely something I’d make again, but it would have to contain something more than just lamb. Plus it’s very cheap – the meat came to £6 at the butchers in the Arndale Centre. Bargain!