Saturday, February 17, 2007

Thu Club, London

After a few days in London I drove up to my Mum's place in Cheshire. Besides the obvious, there's a few reasons I love to go back to the place of my birth, and not least to get stuck into some good old fashioned British pies. The local butcher Clewlow's in Nantwich, an old market town, makes some astonishing award-winning pies and I always call in here first before doing anything else. I bought about a dozen - a mixture of simple pork, Shropshire (with beef and tomato), Dabbers, and my favourite, the Hunstman's Pie. This has a layer of pork, topped with a layer of chicken, topped with a layer of sage and onion stuffing. It's cross-section is something else. Hardly any of the pies made it past a visit with my old friend, Organic Dave, who makes furniture and grows his own hops. I went straight from the butcher's to Dave's, clearly a big mistake as I'd turned up at lunchtime and despite my keeping my mouth shut, it was almost like he could sense that there were pies on the back seat of the car. The 2 Huntsman's however, were safely wrapped in brown paper and secreted away in the boot. It was these that I was to cart back to London for a TC before I flew out to Asia.

Matthew and Nana had been breeding some junior Thursday Clubbers, and it was a delight to see Oscar in fine fettle.

Matt wanted to cook mackerel with a sort of salsa verde, Olivier had been home to France and had returned with some beef cheeks his mother had made, and together with my Huntsman's pies, and a Reblochon Oli knicked from his Mum's pantry, we had four courses. Nana joined in the fun on this Thursday night too, and was very keen to make sure our glasses were never empty.

The pies were first up. We sliced em thin and we all had a couple of slices each. There is only ONE accompaniment to a good pie, and I had procured a jar of piccalilli, which we dolloped on to our plates and swiped the pie slices through this before dropping them into our mouths. Matt filleted the fish which he grilled with loving attention, and arranged them artfully on plates with the sauce. The mackerel was delicious, the sauce pungent and tasty with capers and olives. A great match up.

Beef cheeks were re-heated (I know we only actually cooked one course, but it was an impromptu affair and I had to up early so minimal fuss was the order of the day) and served with crusty bread. The cheeks are a great cut, low cost and really flavoursome. Madame Leclerc briaed them with carrots, onion, garlic, some herbs and not beef stock but water. She didn't even use salt. How simple could it be. They were super tender with a sheen of sweet fat on them and I was tempted to lick the plate but I remembered I was with company.
The last leg was a Reblochon, a big-gun French cheese with a luscious texture and nutty taste which Olivier presented with Gallic pride. It had been getting up to room temperature on a cutting board, and it had started to slip over the side as all good soft cheeses do.

I loved it, it went very well with a red wine we were drinking which cut through the fat (I can't remember what) but I could only manage two small pieces, it was very rich and I'd just eaten 3 dishes already. I don't know whether it was the cheese, or just that I had eaten and drank too much. I woke up at 6.30am to go to Heathrow with chronic heartburn and there was little I could do to stop the burning. I felt truly rotten. I guess what goes up must come down. Every action has a reaction.

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