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Recipe Number Sixteen May 2004

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It was at Christmas a friend of mine gave me,  for a joke, a wooden box painted white with the words soap box written on one side. I had forgotten all about it until a few days ago, when I thought I would stand on it and have a go. So in the true Speaker's Corner tradition: I hope that you are sitting comfortably as I would like to tell you a story. Many many years ago when teddy boys wore drainpipes, and before Rodney was being told by Dell boy that he was a plonker, there were places that one could go and have a nice drink with your friends.  These places were known as pubs and if you felt inclined, after a few pints of Red Barrel, you could enjoy a light meal. You would have had the pleasure of being offered a menu of any thing that could have been served in a basket. The delights of chicken, sausages and scampi served with chips would have been the ones most often served, tomato soup was tried but never caught on and as far as pub grub went, that was it. Then some clever dick invented the boil in the bag. This gave the pubs a new and exciting menu to present to the unwary customer. Pubs that were within fifty yards of the sea, were at last able to offer a menu that had at least two fish dishes, one being fillets of sole filled with crab meat and maybe the other one may have been that dainty dish of, wait for it, sea food platter. "Sorry to keep you waiting, sir. Chef is preparing your sole Bretone. As you may recall, sir,  it is described on our menu as slowly cooked in white wine glaze, with mushroom stalks and four kinds of fresh herbs, topped with a good knob of butter and laced with a delightful light Bretonne sauce. Chef said he is very sorry but he has a small problem. He seems to have mislaid the key to the deepfreeze."
A few days ago I came across a good food guide and it made very interesting reading. The editor wrote, under a heading ' The Case for Real Food in England' and I quote " The extent to which the processed food industry has taken control of what we eat in pubs and restaurants is underestimated; it corrupts the trade and crafts that come into contact."  With that. he goes on to tell of many restaurants that had great problems with butchers that were selling meat that was not being allowed to hang properly. This was from a top good food guide of 1984, twenty years ago would you believe.  I ask myself if this was the start of the rot?  Of course this was in the days that dear old Egon Roney, bless his cotton socks, tried his very best to keep up the standards of English food.  Many chefs respected him and his guides, but alas was it all in vain? I was invited to visit a food show from a company that I must stress only supplies Rushmore's restaurant with dry goods, cheeses, butter, etc, but a very large part of the companies trade is in the form of supplying pubs and restaurants with frozen foods all ready to place into the magic mikey machine, set the timer and before you can say how's your father, out pops English fare, dare I say it, at its best an Egon Roney nightmare. All served up with a nice selection of freshly defrosted and over cooked vegetables. It's no wonder that many of our eating places in this country are letting the side down. While I wandered around the food hall at this so called food show I was over come by the large range of mouth-watering delights that were on show and ready for me to taste. Sales persons dressed in spotless white coats offered me the chance to indulge myself with any of their fine products. Sadly at that point I had a momentary lapse and with out thinking straight I picked up something  described on a little white card that was beside them as spicy fishcakes. What the sales person must have thought of the expression on my face was up to him but my instant thought was maybe some thing sweet would take the taste away. So swiftly moving on to the range of desserts that was being offered, and what a treat I had in store, I was unaware that a spotless white coat had crept up behind me, "How about a nice slice of luscious suzy sir? Or maybe a slice of lovers leap. No, no I know what sir would enjoy. What a bout a mouth-watering experience with an exotic little tart called lumpy bumpy. I for one had never seen a tart called lumpy bumpy and had no desire to meet one. So with my mind made up I wandered around the last few stalls with a plate of luscious suzy. Not so bad you might say, until you see an old friend. "What the devil, Rushmore, have you got there?"  "Oh er, it's Luscious Suzy. Er, what's on your plate, Fred? Sorry I could not quite hear that." Then he whispered in my ear revealing his choice, mud pie. The last stall displaying its gourmet delights was a glass fronted freezer, containing all manner of frozen vegetables that one could buy for half the price from the veg man. Then I almost dropped Luscious Suzy as my eye was drawn to a frozen product that has certainly helped in the down fall of many a good Sunday lunch in pubs through out the land. Made from a real Yorkshire recipe and named after someone's auntie. All I can say is try one frozen. They taste better that way and still remain nice and crispy.
What was written in 1984 has come home to roost. People in this country eat out more than they ever have done in the past. It's becoming part of our life style. So why do so many pubs and restaurants feel happy to offer a menu made up from a frozen list of meals. France still has the answer to any cafe, restaurant or bistro that is not prepared to use fresh ingredients. Its called Madam Gilloutine. It's no wonder the French see our food in the way they do and of course there's also the old French saying that in England we still have only one sauce, its called HP. Norfolk I am pleased to say has many very good eating places, chefs that have learnt their trade and offer the diner an experience of food cooked as it should be. Places like Gasches in Weyborne Norfolk. They opened their restaurant well before the start of the second world war. It was recommended in all the food guides. Sadly I have to say that after all those years the restaurant closed last year, but I will bet my bottom dollar they never used frozen foods. For those that have never tried, it is hard going standing on a soap box with a lap top balanced in one hand and trying to type with the other. My weight and me trying to keep my balance must have had an affect on the structure of the box, as there was a almighty crack as the box split in two revealing the inside. Slowly I bent over and picked up the lid. There clearly stamped were the words ' Cod Frozen at Sea.' 

For a real food experience try

Fresh cod, with welsh rabbit and basil tomato sauce

In the village we have still got a good fishmonger, so pop down and ask for a nice cut of fresh cod. Use around 8ozs per person. Put a smear of butter on the base of a baking dish and place the cod, skin side down, into the dish. Next grate a hand full of cheddar cheese into a small mixing bowl, add a teaspoon of Colman's English mustard to the cheese. Into this you will require one egg yolk and a pinch of salt and white pepper, a drop of beer can be added if required then all you need to do is mix well with a fork to make the topping of welsh rabbit. This mixture is placed on top of the cod. Please note the rabbit should be like a paste.
Place the cod into a medium hot oven for around 15 minutes. You can check to see if its cooked by using a knife. To make the sauce you may cheat a little and open up a small tin of chopped tomatoes. Put the contents, including any juice, into a little saucepan, add a knob of butter and a twist of black pepper and bring to the boil and then turn down the heat and just keep warm. Next add to the sauce a sprig or two of fresh basil that has been loosely chopped. To plate up your real food experience remove the cod and gently lift it and place it in the centre of a plate. The cod should still be firm but cooked with a rich golden crust of melted welsh rabbit sitting on the top. Only then should you spoon a little of the tomato and basil sauce around the cod. The flavours of ingredients that go well together; cheese, tomatoes and basil served with fresh cod.
Got to go now Mrs R is getting a pizza out of the freezer for tea.
Colin Rushmore

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