Tuesday 12 October 2010

Wilfrid wouldn't know the place

What? No gales? The temperate weather of late is distracting me. It should be windy, raining, cold and dark. Instead there is a pleasant breeze, the sun is shining beautifully and I keep seeing people eating ice creams. This is distinctly strange for October. How am I meant to provide recipes for comfort food when the weather keeps suggesting you have not quite missed the last alfresco opportunity?

Anyhow, St. Wilfrid comes up on the calender today. He does not get a feast, or even an optional memorial as far as I can make out. He just gets a mention. He was born c.634 in Northumbria and educated in Lindisfarne. After a visit to Rome he became a promoter of Roman customs, which he successfully championed at the Synod of Whitby. It is the mention of all these Northern coasts that makes me think this is a day for fresh scampi. No, not frozen. No, not like you get in a dodgy inland pub. Proper scampi prepared in your kitchen, with proper chips cut from potatoes with a knife and proper mushy peas, freshly made with a sprig of mint from the garden. The lack of a gale force wind and biting temperatures though makes me wonder if I am going to have to wait.

Good old Wilfrid seems to have got into a bit of trouble later in life. He became archbishop of York, but when his diocese was divided without reference to him, he appealed to the Pope (the first English bishop to do so) and on his way to Rome spent a year preaching the Gospel in the Low Countries. On his return from Rome he went as a missionary to Sussex and the Isle of Wight. Although he had been reinstated in York, he then fell out again with the king and the other bishops, and had to exercise his ministry in the East Midlands and finally at Hexham, dying in 709, possibly at Oundle in Northamptonshire. He is remembered for his forceful personality and his apostolic spirit, as a founder of churches and monasteries, and as a patron of the arts. What a traveler. Maybe that is how fish and chips became a national favourite from Whitby to the Isle of Wight? By the way, if you think 'scampi' is too 'chav' for your dinner table, called it breaded langoustine tails and have done? Its the same thing. Want to give it an Irish twist? Breaded Dublin Bay Prawns - again, same thing. Just make sure they are as fresh as you can possibly possibly get them.

250g scampi/langoustine/Dublin bay prawn tails (depending on how posh you would like to sound - remember though, they are all the same thing!)
seasoned flour
2 eggs beaten
150g fresh breadcrumbs
hot oil for frying

Pat dry the scampi tails on some kitchen towel and roll them in the seasoned flour to coat. Heat the oil to 180C. When the oil is hot dip the coated scampi into the beaten egg and coat them in the breadcrumbs. Fry them for about 4-6 minutes until golden brown. serve immediately.

If you are serving with your own homemade chips, it is best to do these first. Heat the oil in a big pan to about 180C. Chop your potatoes into fat chip shapes, skins on! When the oil is hot place your potatoes in the pan and fry until golden brown and yummy looking, about 10 minutes. Rescue the chips with a slotted spoon and drain them on kitchen towel. These will be okay waiting while you do the scampi, but don't take too long!

Proper mushy peas only take a second. In a salted, boiling pan of water pour in your yummy frozen peas (this is winter, I am taking it there are none in your garden). Boil them for just a minute or two. Drain and place in a bowl, add a sprig of mint from the garden and season to taste. Use a hand held blender for a second to make mushy. Yum.

Serve all of the above with fresh salad leaves and tartare sauce. Comfort food.

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