Now, I realise that for regular readers, it's about the time of the month that I entertain you with tales of testicle-eating and squirrel-bothering at the venerable Mark Addy, whose monthly Gourmet Evenings are as delicious as they are bonkers. What would chef Robert Owen Brown have worked his magic on this month? A well-meaning friend at work kindly suggested perhaps it would be a slug risotto, whilst another simply begins humming the theme to I'm a Celebrity whenever I hove into view. Well, you PHILISTINES - it's not about shock value, it's about cooking with whatever happens to be seasonal, local, available and good; and this month, there's really nothing that anyone could turn their noses up at (unless they were a vegetarian of course; the Gourmet Evening remains solidly unsuitable for non-meat eaters). Here's what we had:
1. Glebeland City Growers Salad with Poached Egg and Bacon. Glebelands, on the banks of the Mersey in Sale, produces organic food for consumption within Greater Manchester; most admirable, of course, although Mr Liz did look a little crestfallen when this first, apparently healthy, course was announced. He needn't have worried of course: this was salad ROB style, i.e. served with a big fat poached egg and a generous amount of salty porcine chunks, and as any fool knows, you can have pretty much anything you want with salad leaves and it's still good for you, FACT*.
*Although I am not technically a qualified nutritionist, I still whole-heartedly believe this to be true.
2. Cider Marinated Cornish Sardines with Scallop and Deep-Fried Herring Roe. This was the most unusual course of the night and it was also the best, the cold, sharp, tangy fish contrasting beautifully with the hot, crunchy, golden puffs of battered roe. I have a photo of it here, but the quality is poor, due to the iphone flash having been crafted by a malicious goblin in the fiery pit of Hades. I'm sorry to let you all down with this, but frankly you should blame Apple, not me, and maybe write a letter or something.
3. Wood Pigeon with Black Pudding and Pea Shoots. Turns out, there are some things that are just MEANT to go together. And lo, tonight at The Addy a new duo was born, with two new names to add to the already illustrious roll call of perfect pairings: Lennon & McCartney, Morrissey & Marr, Morecambe & Wise, Fry & Laurie...and now wood pigeon and black pudding. Tender, gamey morsels of pink pigeon roosting atop a crumbly disc of Bury's finest - a perfect combination of flavours and textures that sadly never stood a chance of lasting even as long as Morrissey & Marr. I even have good photos now, as I have turned off the flash and Mr Liz is suspending himself over the table illuminating the scene with the torch app on his own phone. Never let it be said I am ANYTHING other than a true and dedicated professional.
4. Mutton with Cream and Capers. By ROB's reckoning, all that salad to start meant that our arteries were now as clean as a whistle and could thereby justify THIS, a heavenly yet sturdy dish of slow-cooked mutton (which to my mind has a much better flavour than lamb if you cook it right) in a rich sauce cut through with the salty freshness of caper berries. As I swiped up the last of the cream sauce on my finger I couldn't help thinking it was a mighty fine job I had eaten all my pea shoots as well as my salad, or I might have been guilty of over-indulgence here.
5. Gooseberry Fool. As a child of the 70s and 80s, I remember gooseberry fool as a pretty formative part of those early years, served up to great enthusiasm and acclaim even from a bunch of picky kids who all had wildly differing food tastes. My mum makes a GREAT gooseberry fool. Now, as she doesn't read this blog, I can say* that it turns out that ROB's fool is EVEN BETTER than my mum's - so good, in fact, I had two. I am most ashamed of myself, and can promise that it will not happen again**.
*I am however going to say it very quietly, in case my sister is reading this and tells my mum - I can simply claim she misheard.
**It very probably WILL happen again.
6. Shropshire Blue Cheese. I had offered to forgo my cheese course in return for extra dessert, and meant it: there was a very worrying possibility that I might burst during this part of the evening. However, I eschewed the crackers and only nibbled the end sections of cheese, thereby scotching in one deft stroke any rumours you may have heard about me being a big fat greed-face.
So, a great night, and adventurous as I am, I must admit this was my favourite menu yet - pretty much all things I would have chosen anyway, particularly the fish course. I can't help worrying though, that with all this month's restraint there's going to be something REALLY terrifying next month...
- The Mark Addy is on Stanley St in Salford, M3 5EJ; tel. 0161 832 4080.