I spent last weekend in Leeds with the Wunderkind. Great city, loved it. Lively and yet down-to-earth, with a fantastic industrial heritage. It was quite disappointing not to be able to cook – we were staying in the Travelodge in Vicar Lane, just up the road from the food market. Would have been great to trundle into the market with a tartan trolley-bag and load up with all their magnificent fruit and veg and fish and meat and bread. But hey, you can’t always have it all.
I arrived in Leeds before my laddie, on Friday, and found a great lunch in Pieminister – a chain which hasn’t yet reached Scotland. Below is a picture of my Kate and Sidney (steak and kidney) – hearty and wholesome, and a bit nostalgic – we don’t often get kidney nowadays. The sausage-looking things on the skewer and fork are actually deep-fried courgettes, nice touch. As you all know, I’m a pie aficionado and have considered the merits of starting up a pie business. But I think Pieminister has done everything I’d want to do in a pie shop.
We had to go back the next day as WK was jealous of my pie (I’d texted him a photo) – this time, his was called Deer and Beer – rich and gamey. Great pastry. For myself, I’m sorry to say I couldn’t manage a pie two days running – I must be getting old – I had a Caesar Salad with chicken and ham and astonished myself by not being able to finish it. Not finish a salad? Was I ill or something? No, it was just a very substantial salad. Who’d have thunk it?
Pieminister, according to my waitress, originated in Bristol, and has a number of branches round the country. It has a brick-and-steel, industrial kind of interior but manages to be warm and cheery. Or maybe that was just the couple at the next table who were happy to exchange pie reminiscences. Theyre’s a cookbook – ‘A Pie for All Seasons’ – and I had to buy it and am glad I did because it’s full of brilliant recipes including a good number of vegetarian wonders. The waitress came back with my change and a free gift of a jar of Pieminister ‘pie chutney’, very kind. Will share my own Pieminister pie efforts in due course.
Lovely dry, bright afternoon in Edinburgh with my friend Joanne, finding out about the way Mrs Grant would have done her shopping in 1810. Edinburgh is a lovely city and surprisingly still very lively, even this late in the season; we had to skirt around lots of other acts to keep up with Mrs Grant – or otherwise, social historian Jackie Lee – and hear her tale.
Joanne spotted this event in the brochure of the National Library of Scotland – there’s an exhibition on now, until 8th November, entitled ‘Lifting the Lid: 400 years of food and drink in Scotland’. I haven’t seen it yet but will make sure I do, and report back. Our Food Heritage Trail accompanies the exhibition and took place up and down the Royal Mile and Canongate. Our fictional Mrs Grant lived in the New Town, which was built to relieve the overcrowding, poor sanitation and general degeneration of the Old Town – but (some things never change) the planners forgot to allow for food markets in the New Town so she had to cross to the Old Town for her provisions. A massive statue of David Hume, the Enlightenment philosopher, occupies a commanding site near the old Fleshmarket – unusually for men at that time (less so now?) he was a keen cook, and would entertain his Enlightenment buddies with home-cooked broths, barley and mutton.
We learned lots of interesting things (e.g. in the 19th century they scoffed oysters with their glass of wine in much the same way as we would now down a packet of crisps); but one of the most surprising was that back in the early 19th century, there was a line of of tenements in the middle of the street opposite St Giles Cathedral – pretty narrow – with the ground floor made up of stalls with wooden shutters which were locked up at night. These were called the Luckenbooth – meaning ‘locked stalls’. The stallholders simply put the shutters back up at night and then retired upstairs. Today, there was a fiddler on a tightrope strutting his stuff where the Luckenbooth would have stood. Wouldn’t like to have been in his shoes.
We visited the Fishmarket, the entrance to the Fleshmarket, Sugarhouse Close (now student accommodation), and a bakery place. Apparently Edinburgh was famous back then for the quality of its cakes. The architecture is very well preserved and very atmospheric; and we finished off in a peaceful little community garden sown near the Holyrood end, dating from the 17th century, planted up with fruits and herbs for the use of local residents.
‘Mrs Grant’ was a fund of information and I definitely recommend her tour – still a few opportunities before the season ends. This tour is part of the offering from Jackie Lee’s company Artemis – see the website for further info. And go if you can. I thought I knew Edinburgh quite well, but hey – there’s always another angle to explore.
Well that was exciting, wasn’t it? Tears all round, on the box and off. What a brilliant, talented, original, determined and inspirational all-rounder. And I love what Nadiya represents. Her words at the end will linger a long time: ‘Never again will I say I can’t .. I can … and I will!’
I had planned a little Bake-Off Final party but in the middle of the afternoon it became clear that I was going to have to work late … so sadly had to cancel – finished the job at 8.20 and watched the recorded version, 20 mins behind the rest of the world. Sorry friends for calling off. Better luck next year.
Wednesday nights just won’t be the same …
Here’s a useful bit of info I heard the other day from Professor Mary Marshall, speaking at a Faith in Older People event, relating to Vitamin D. This is the Vitamin that helps us absorb calcium into our bodies; so for all of us as we age, with thinning bones a likelihood, Vitamin D is pretty essential.
Ten minutes outside every day, with your arms and legs exposed to the sun, between the months of April and October, gives you as much Vitamin D as you would get if you ate (daily)
- 1.5 kg liver or beef
- 39 sardines
- 19 egg yolks
- 170g salmon
‘Every day … exposed to the sun’ isn’t so easy in these northern climes, but last week’s gorgeous Indian Summer might not be over … living hopefully … so get out there! Roll up your sleeves and your trouser legs! And as you frolic along the beach, just be glad you don’t need to eat 1.5kg of liver to get the same effect. For those days when the sun don’t shine … take supplements! Above is a picture of Jack the Ratter on the beach at Tentsmuir, wallowing in his daily dose.
Saturday is the only day I get to lie in; and perversely, I always wake up at the crack of dawn. So I get up, put on a load of washing so that it’ll be dry and ready for ironing later, and go back to bed with a good book and a cup of Redbush. Then I get up when I’ve wakened up again, hang out my washing and have a ‘proper’ breakfast. This is today’s. It couldn’t be better if I were staying in a five-star hotel. Lucky me. Generous slices of cooked ham and musky fresh figs. Definitely makes up for the other six days’ early rush.
One of the joys of my day job is buying meat at the butcher’s, and getting to know him and be able to ask for specials. All my cooking life I’ve read books advising you to ‘get to know your butcher’, but since my day jobs never included cooking till the last year or so, and I was busy busy busy (nothing changes), I never had that opportunity.
So here’s a big thank you to Derek O’Neill of Johnston’s the Butcher at Abbeyview. His is part of a small chain and he can tell me which farm his hens come from and all the other details this inquisitive shopper wants to know. Ours is perhaps a pie-and-sausage neighbourhood rather than your Fillet Valley, and proud of it; Derek serves both admirably (he provided me with this trotter and bones for my recent raised pie endeavours). I’ll be picking his brains soon, when I start on my Intermediate Food Hygiene certificate – butchers are probably in the front running when it comes to food hygiene, with the highest risk products. He was telling me that soon there’ll be a USB stick for his oven which will tell inspectors how long his meat was cooked for, and then cooled. He has to learn how to do the IT, and says, ‘Computers? It’s all new to me. I just chop up coos!’
And now it’s breadmaking time … ah, Saturdays! The ironing can wait.