Friday, 12 October 2018

Another favourite sandwich

I discovered one of my favourite sandwiches in a little shop in Crouch End. I worked nearby, throughout the summer of 1992. I had an enlightened boss called Julian Santos, who told us that he expected all hands to the pump when there was work to be done: but when there wasn’t, we did not have to pretend to be busy; instead, we were welcome to do anything we wanted: making personal telephone calls; using the computers. I learned to touch type that summer. There was always plenty of time for lunch. The sandwich I discovered had four ingredients: white bread, mayonnaise, just fried bacon and ripe avocado. A sublime combination.

Wednesday, 3 October 2018

Lawyers who lunch

At last one of my recipes has made it into print, in SA Law's Food for Thought (Volume 4). My recipe is to be found on page 8 and will be familiar to readers of this blog who recall my bacon casserole with flageolets. What is more, there is even a Wine Suggestion next to my recipe - apparently "the velvety fruity notes of a syrah ... including Chateauneuf du Pape" would go well with it. And there are a number of other appealing recipes to be found in the book, including Turkish Eggs, Cod Loin with Creamed Leeks, Tomato and Brown Shrimp Butter and Cinnamon Ice Cream...

Tuesday, 2 October 2018

Greasy spoon

I am lucky enough to live a few seconds walk from what deserves the title of best greasy spoon in London: the Regency CafĂ©. It is curious that the term “greasy spoon” is no insult but a term of endearment, indeed high compliment. It makes it plain that the place in question is unpretentious, sensibly priced and, above all, offers a tasty breakfast. Indeed, you can guarantee salty food, not bland food.

So what is it about the Regency that makes even it stand out? Well, it has featured in a film for a start. Pride, the one about the unlikely alliance between the miners and gay and lesbian activists during the miners’ strike. (Not such an unlikely alliance in fact, as the film draws out: minorities under pressure from the establishment.)

But cinematic fame aside. Gingham curtains. Ceramic tiles. Brown chairs. Plain formica tables. A large sugar shaker, salt, pepper, brown sauce, ketchup, vinegar and mustard on each. None of those silly packets that are so difficult to tear. A queue often extending through the doorway. Signs  warning you not to sit down until you have ordered your food. Framed photographs and pictures on the wall.

Then there is The Voice. Behind the counter most days is a charming, gentle-faced woman who takes your order quietly. But when it is ready, it is as though she is replaced. A stentorian “Ham egg and chips coming up” is bellowed, prompting the relevant customer to return to the counter to collect it. You can hear her from my bedroom.

Wednesday, 26 September 2018

Sweet William

I associate this with coming down in the morning after a dinner party the night before: a dinner party to which my brother and I were not invited. But the great thing about dinner parties was: the leftovers. And one of my mother’s signature dishes in the nineteen seventies was a pudding she called Sweet William. Chocolate chip cookies, each dipped in sherry, and then sandwiched to another with whipped cream, gradually forming a creamy circle around the edge of the serving plate.

Saturday, 15 September 2018

North Pole pudding

They had fur in the soup on Tuesday, underboiled fish on Wednesday, and on Thursday the most unpleasant pudding Charlotte had ever eaten - North Pole pudding, it was called - a kind of jelly made of cornmeal, grey like porridge, shiny like glue and flecked with little pieces of meal like the flaws in glass.

From Charlotte Sometimes, by Penelope Makepeace

Wednesday, 12 September 2018

Lunch and Dinner

I was once a pupil at a school for such a short time that I never really felt I belonged. I was not even allowed to join the school library. On the other hand, knitting lessons were inflicted on me. They happened to take place in the library and I recall being tantalised by a copy of one of the few Enid Blyton Books I Had Not Read sitting on one of the shelves, which I was not allowed to borrow, as I sulkily attempted and failed to knit. My parents told me that if I had to fail at anything, knitting was probably not a bad activity at which to fail...

Cedar School it was called, in Exhall. They had a definition of “lunch” which I have never seen anywhere else. “Lunch” was a parent-purchased school-provided snack: I only had “Lunch” on my first day, possibly as a treat to mark the occasion. Mine consisted of a bag of square salt and vinegar crisps with a name I cannot recall, although I do remember earnestly discussing what I had been given for my “Lunch” with another pupil: “I’ve got ...”

But this was not our only meal of the day. Our midday meal was “Dinner”. It took place in the dining hall which is where we also met for Assembly and chanted at the headmistress: “Good morning Mrs Bentley. Good morning everyone.” I remember little about the food we received. Yeasty bread rolls and stew, possibly with dumplings. Not only was the school the educational establishment where I spent the least time; it also had the least memorable food.

Tuesday, 11 September 2018

Meaty soup

It was a cold Sunday evening in Kenilworth and there was a long drive to London ahead of us. We, the family, were hungry. We surveyed the contents of Granny’s fridge, gloomily. There was little enough within, because she and my grandfather had gone on holiday. A few vegetables left behind. And the remains of a beef casserole which would have served one. But it was enough for my mother who clearly regarded it as a challenge. “I could quickly turn this into a lovely meaty soup”, she announced. There was approval from us all and she set to work. Thus casserole for one and a few vegetables became rich soup for four, which we ate in the kitchen around the yellow Formica table.