All posts filed under: Stories From The Table

Tater ‘Ash

It’s hard to write about the meaning of a dish you’ve never grown up with. Write in any sort of meaningful way, I mean, without feeling a fraud. Especially when it’s the sort of recipe that’s so undeniably lived in – the kind that isn’t written down by its owner or even memorised, but internalised as intuitively as a child learns to walk. A dish cooked with such regularity and love that it becomes as much a part of the furniture as the kitchen table itself. So it is, with tater ‘ash. The dish, in its many guises, is one that we’ve all known in some form. After all, its elements – beef, potatoes and onions – are almost identical to countless other British stews. Yet, tater ‘ash is not scouse, nor is it lobby, and it’s definitely not casserole. To the people of Cheshire and Lancashire it is simply tater ‘ash. And nothing could be better. For my boyfriend Dom, tater ‘ash carries with it memories of childhood, and when I asked three generations of his Read More

Polenta: A History

Every cuisine is built on a staple food – a starchy backdrop to the main event. It might be potatoes, rice, bread, or, if you’re from the north of Italy, polenta. Cheap, rib-sticking, and innately comforting, it is – as tradition dictates – the perfect starchy staple. Yet, ever since Elizabeth David introduced the UK to the idea of polenta in the 1950s (described as a “finely ground Indian corn meal”), it has failed to escape the middle class cupboard; lost in the shade of pasta and pizza. Even in some corners of Italy, this cheap grain has taken on chic status. An irony considering it’s rather desperate past.  Polenta first found its way onto the Italian plate two thousand years ago. Known as polemtum, the simple millet porridge was a staple for the Roman foot soldier, who would have to pound and boil a daily ration of grain. As centuries past and empires fell, polenta remained. With the introduction of buckwheat to Italy at the end of the fifteenth century it experienced a slight facelift, Read More

To the table: bread and butter pudding

Food memories – the good and the bad – are the most enduring. It’s not just the taste, but the things that accompany it: memories of the kitchen table in a childhood home or of the person standing by the stove; nostalgia for a smell, a sound, a place or a time. I quite often find myself thinking about these dishes of my childhood. The ones that I’d take on my desert island, the meals that taste like home. But out of all the contenders, bread and butter pudding probably comes out on top. I remember the first time I tried it, at the end of a Sunday roast. The crisp top giving into the quivering, buttery pudding underneath. No other pudding has as many cousins. On the one side of the spectrum you have the devilishly rich, like Nigella’s caramel croissant pudding – a far cry from bread and butter pudding’s 12th century peasant origins. Then there’s the all-American bread pudding (I’m thinking of the Louisiana kind, doused in bourbon). I even remember making a doughnut variety in Read More