When I was a teenager - a terribly earnest, slightly mardy-faced one at that - I spent a brief period as a vegetarian. This was a well thought-out, committed sort of decision, based almost entirely on a general fondness for animals and a desire to wear my Meat is Murder t-shirt without too many pangs of guilt; and obviously, I HAD to wear my Meat is Murder t-shirt, as Morrissey would NEVER notice me if I didn't.
Thankfully, this stint proved to be short-lived, brought to a premature end by the salty wiles of a bacon sandwich and the - eventual - understanding that I probably wasn't really his type anyway. And Mozzer's loss is my gain, for last night saw the return of North Star Deli's monthly Supper Club; a triumphant, flag-waving return that I shall always choose to remember simply as "Pig Night", the night that Percy nobly gave his life so that he could be cooked three ways for a deli-ful of hungry diners. But I get ahead of myself...this is the full rundown of what we had:
Starter: Home-made stout black pudding, served with Yorkshire forced rhubarb, parsnip puree and crisps, air-dried ham & watercress. I must hang my head in shame and confess that for many, many years I eschewed black pudding, claiming that I didn't like it when in reality I had never tried it and just didn't like the thought of it. Then I married a Northerner and found that, actually, black pudding is DELICIOUS. Last night we were spoiled, as the home-made offering was served up alongside more familiar fare from The Real Black Pudding Company for comparative purposes - opinions at table were divided, but I preferred the home-made option with its crumbly texture and delicately fennel-spiced flavour; he's the one on the right in the picture above. I ate them both, mind, just in the interests of being entirely fair to both entrants *noble face*. It must also be noted at this point that one of my dining companions - a normally most pleasant lady - elected to have the vegetarian menu (including veggie black pudding), and I shall therefore say no more about her in the unlikely event I fail to completely mask my disapproval *cat's bum face*.
Main: Porcus Tamworth pig done 3 ways - crispy pork belly with spiced apple, tenderloin and braised home-made faggot, cider fondant potato and red cabbage. Yes, REALLY. As a North Star regular, I think this was my favourite main course to date, with every item on the plate utterly, ludicrously delicious, from the rib-sticking unctiousness of the neat square of pork belly to the warm spiciness of the complementing apple slices and the earthiness of the accompanying roast beetroot and carrot...the only disharmony here came from the undignified competition to be the most irresistible thing on the plate*. And we licked our plates clean with clear consciences, as SJ, the rare breed pig farmer from Porcus in Todmorden who supplied the porcine ingredients for the repast - or "The Pig Lady" as I fear she is often known - was happy to tell us of the wonderful life that Percy had lived, before we all ate him.
And finally, Dessert: Pineapple tart tatin with ginger ice cream, a coconut tuille and pineapple & mint salsa. Lovely, just lovely - a light-yet-chewy pastry disc contrasting beautifully with the sweet warmth of the ice cream and the minty tang of the salsa. And the fact that I have had to type the word "pineapple" twice in naming it suggests a high fruit content; ergo, an extremely healthy end to the meal.
The theme of this month's Supper Club was "Northern Stars" - named after the all-conquering team of SJ, North Star chef Ben and genial foodie Joby who wiped the floor with some upstart pretenders on a recent episode of the BBC2 food quiz ‘A Question of Taste’ - and showcased the very best Northern suppliers and ingredients; a commitment to seasonal local produce that really sums up all that is right and good about this lovely deli. If next month's Cheshire-themed extravaganza is half as impressive as this one, we're all in for a treat - keep an eye on the deli's webpage for further details, as there's no doubt that owner Deanna will come up with another amazing menu.
*The eventual, worthy winner was the joyously hefty faggot, a sturdy shotput of flavour that I could frankly have eaten many more of. I have learned one valuable lesson though - do not, repeat NOT, innocently start off a faggot-related Facebook thread just before you go out, as by the time you come home it will have absolutely RUN RIOT...
- North Star Deli is at 418 Wilbraham Road Manchester, M21 0SD.