Mostly Concerning Food
It’s half-term. I can enjoy a change from the lack of routine that I call my working days and enter the lack of routine that we call our days off. The most significant change is the one from I to we; from my to our. Saturday is a family day; a day for catching up with siblings. We go to Yorkshire where, despite going our separate ways, we end up in the same tea rooms for breakfast. Is this because we are programmed to go to the same places, because the place is just too good to miss or because there is a slender choice if we don’t go there?
Well, we had no intention of meeting up and it isn’t particularly good. Certainly not as good as it would like to be thought. The front of house is meticulously West Yorkshire quality. It promises much in a broad accent. “I don’t think you’ll find much better than this down south” it proclaims. “We have a choice of brown or white toast. Now then. Can you think of anything more exotic?”
The kitchen staff are dancing to a different tune. “I know the eggs are over done. Send ’em out anyway. They’re bloody northerners. They won’t be able to tell.”
I’m not one to send things back. If I were, the eggs Benedict would have failed the test. You don’t actually require much from this dish. Just so long as the sauce is freshly made and the poached eggs are runny. You expect the ham (smoked salmon in this case) to be a decent cut. The sauce wasn’t freshly made, the yokes were hard and the whites still underdone and the salmon came out of the pack marked ‘off-cuts’. Oh, and the muffin was struggling to keep out the water dripped from the slotted spoon. I think you might be working out why I’m not naming the establishment.
It was under a fiver and I was in a good mood and hungry. There is a good rule with these Yorkshire cafés. If the man in charge (it is invariably a man in the ones that don’t manage to pull it off) looks like he’s always wanted to run a restaurant but doesn’t look like he’s spent his life in one; then you are probably going to be disappointed.
The rain came down in stair-rods. I took refuge in the library where the reading room was full of readers. I passed a contented hour polishing off the sixth out of eight Carnegie nominated books. I rate two very highly, two have aimed at markets that have recently proved lucrative and two have been written by tick box. After I’ve made a page or two of notes I wander upstairs to the Art Gallery where I’m delighted to find the local collection. I lived in the town for a number of years and wasn’t aware that there was an art gallery and certainly wasn’t aware that it housed two good Lowrys, and works by Pissarro, Stanley Spencer, Walter Sickert and Atkinson Grimshaw. Only two rooms but plenty to occupy me for the next hour as the glass roof let me know that there was no stopping the rain.
For lunch I find a pub that is happy to serve me a pot of tea and a glass of iced water to go with my steak hoagie and chips. There is little pretension here and no feeling of disappointment.
By the time we got back home neither of us was in need of an evening meal but neither was going to say no to a few little raisin buns (call the Queen’s Cakes if you wish). They took T no time at all to knock out. I can think of no finer accompaniment to a cup of tea. A few sums estimates that we could make around 100 of these fellows for the price of a disappointing Yorkshire Eggs Benedict.
This photograph doesn’t do justice to the scrambled eggs we had for Sunday breakfast. The eggs from Frances and Steven’s chickens are worlds better than anything I’ve bought from a shop in recent years. These are two days old (at most) and laid by very happy, free ranging, happy eating birds. I have a carton of cream in the fridge and don’t stint in the scrambling. Home made bread makes the perfect toast. Simplicity wins once again.
I continue my Carnegie project through the afternoon and miss a shopping trip. T arrives back from Meadowhall with a bag of Marks and Spencer goodies that work superbly for an instant buffet lunch/high tea. The breads are good once re-warmed in the oven. The goats’ cheese and caramelised onion flans are as good as any pastry based product I’ve ever got from a supermarket. Well done M&S!
For pudding some peaches and raspberries which had been marinating in orange juice served with double cream and a couple of yesterday’s raisin buns. I was immensely happy.
Monday breakfast was one of my absolute favourites. Again T takes over the cooking duties and produces a batch of cheese scones to beat the best. You don’t need to serve these with cheese but I’m greedy and can’t resist. What a start to the day. Any day with these for breakfast has already qualified as a magnificent day.
Simple salads fill out much of the rest of the week. Some Wensleydale, some lettuce, some Jersey royal potatoes.
And of course fresh pineapple. The new pineapple cutter comes out of the cupboard and performs its magic again. It takes less than a minute to turn the visual delight of a fresh pineapple into the culinary delight of pineapple rings. To make it a real success; it doesn’t take a great deal of washing up afterwards.
After last week’s bread and butter pudding, T comes up with another classic. Rice pudding has got to be the best of them all if you measure it in terms of how lovely it is compared to how cheap and easy it is to make. Each time we have it we wonder why we don’t have it all the time.
It goes well with just about everything. Which means it goes well with fresh pineapple. I have a feeling that I will have stretched the possibilities of the humble pineapple a long way by the end of the summer. Not least because I’ve already had some fabulous suggestion sent to me by fellow bloggers.
A picture of Stewart watching us eat is included simply because Stewart is a big lovely.
This second rate offering of a breakfast came from a café in Sheffield that I had high hopes for. It will probably be the last time I go there.
Peaches and croissant from Aldi. Serrano Ham fro the Co-op. If cheese goes superbly well with pears then the combination of good ham and peaches is one that will match it. This was a real unlooked for treat.
Another almost perfect breakfast of good bread and fruit and a mug of freshly brewed coffee.
Charlie come round to enjoy the big sporting occasion of the week. By happy coincidence the kick off time for the 100th State of Origin match between New South Wales and Queensland (Rugby League) is at exactly the right time for a cream bun. The final whistle (to a fabulous game of rugby) coincides with time for a good salad lunch.
Thursday sees the grill pan out so I can make tortillas with cheese and chilli sauce. So simple to make and the perfect snack. I thought one was going to be enough. (Each one is 3 tortillas with melted Leerdammer cheese and sweet chilli sauce in between). I make a second. Two is too many but I manage it anyway. The evening’s reading is a very nodding affair.
Friday finds us in Ilkley. Ilkley means Betty’s and we have a go at their breakfast menu. Not a patch on their afternoon teas but a decent attempt if you have the meat option. T has stayed constant to the No Meat in May intention and has the Eggs Florentine on rösti. The problem here is rösti. Newspapers like the Guardian are very fond of including recipes telling you how to cook the perfect rösti. The problem is that, in my opinion, it is an illusion. I’ve had rösti that is supposed to be perfect and it is still starchy and has the unpleasantness associated with raw potato. With apologies to the Swiss, there are very few poor ways of cooking the potato but this is one of them. The rest of the breakfast was rather good. Betty’s would never over cook an egg!
The scrambled eggs on my meat breakfast are almost saffron yellow. the sausage is a proper sausage and the bacon is dry cure. They cannot resist a leaf or two of lamb’s lettuce which doesn’t help. I can never resist eating anything edible on a plate and the salad isn’t a great mix with a cooked breakfast in England. My test for good cooking is the mushroom and whoever was in the kitchen passed with flying colours. £12 may appear a little steep for a breakfast but it was particularly good. I’m happy to pay a little more at Betty’s but even I did a double take at paying £7 for a pot of tea for two.
Yorkshire is going Tour de France mad with over a month to go. Yellow bicycles appear in every hedgerow and every shop display has a French flavour that may surprise anyone who has talked Europe with a Yorkshireman. In a week when we have seen a thoroughly unpleasant, anti-European party gain seats in English elections, it is refreshing to see a continental flavour sweeping through God’s county.