“Like Me Muvver Used To Make”

Cauliflower Cheese

I was in my local butcher’s ( Walls in High Street)  the other day and was buying some “thick Ludlow sausages” for Sunday breakfast, a real treat. The talk in the shop was all about the up and coming Food Festival which is unbelievably celebrating it’s 25th year. They were discussing the probability of getting a hog roast going opposite the shop, which had been very effective for them in the past. Not only in street sales, but with people then going into the shop to buy their meat. One of the reasons the Festival is so successful is that it show cases the town and it’s wonderful local produce which I can buy any day of the week, but visitors wouldn’t necessarily know about. We are always being asked where we buy our sausages. Let’s hope the visitors do use the shops and not just the castle stalls

Humans have been making sausages for thousands of years, the outcome of efficient butchery. The word itself comes from the Middle English “sausige” which in turn is from the Latin for salt, salsisium. It is obviously a way of preserving the lesser cuts of meat which are ground, blended with “filler” usually bread, and herbs and spices. The Romans are credited with bringing sausages to Britain like so much else they were meant to have introduced and since then various counties have their own way of flavouring them. Lincolnshire uses fresh sage, Cheshire caraway and coriander. Ludlow sausage makers make a variety of different flavourings, from the spicy Red Dragon in honour of the Welsh, to mushrooms and brie. They even produce Gluten free and Slimmer’s World sausages. Though me, I’d rather have a flavoursome sausage or go without. It seems as bizarre as “vegetarian sausages”. Why if you don’t want to eat meat would you want something that looks like meat?

It was in the reign of Charles I that sausages were first made into links. They used to stuff them up chimneys to be mildly cured! They are the ultimate comfort food, a plate of “bangers and mash” with onion gravy and peas. Yum. They got the name “banger” from the second World War because their high water content made them explode in the pan. They were made a sin in the early catholic church because of their association with pagan Roman festivals. So like any prohibition, sausage eating went underground until the ban was lifted. Their combination of hard exterior and soft interior plus the luscious aftertaste make sausages after all as irresistible as any forbidden fruit.

I love Toad in the Hole, that flavoursome combination of Yorkshire Pudding, crisp fried onion and sausages, as do the rest of the family. In the café we serve sausages with cauliflower cheese as a special, and always pride of place on a freshly cooked breakfast, two of our most popular dishes. Try out a “thick Ludlow” sausage by popping into Pea Green.

One of Our Local Breakfast Options
One of Our Breakfast Option

Passing Through

August, the Centre sleepy in the heat. Most classes are sharing the school holidays, and there is a feeling at times of the boarding school child, left in school because their parents live aboard.  Every so often there is a burst of activity as a local group meet in the Teme rooms, or a Speed Awareness course fills the car park with disgruntled participants.

In the café we are experiencing the summer holidays in all their multi-faceted glory. The customers come from a much wider base, as we cater for people who are visiting Shropshire, some staying over in the centre, but many just passing by and wanting a stop that isn’t cooperate.

We are a favourite stopping place for cyclists, as the café building is set back from the road and affords safe harbour for their bikes. As far removed from the bikes we rode as the Wright Brothers from modern jets. I am in awe at the distances they travel, yes, we have had Land’s End to John o Groats riders, but most are cycling 50/60 miles, which information is causally given as drinks are served, water bottles filled, tired limbs rested. I follow the routes (that I know) as they leave, wondering if they get a better sense of the landscape, they travel through than those that go by car. Or if their whole effort and concentration is taken up by staying safely on the machine they’re crouched over.

At the other end of the scale we host Conferences, the last being The Mary Webb Society which I loved being a great fan of her work. In fact we named our company Golden Arrow in homage to her work and inspiration. They filled the centre with a bright burst of book talk and chatter, music and poetry.

We also have just hosted a local Wedding, which took over the centre with music and laughter, good food and dancing for most of one day. How wonderful to be a small part in such an important day for a local couple.

There are Meditation Groups, a clutch of elderly gentlemen who meet once a week for drinks and cake and chat, families in for an ice-cream, local workers, an occasional coach driver seeking peace and calm before the next leg of his journey.

And then there are the regular customers, some of whom have become friends, who drop in to eat and tell us their summer holiday tales, the state of their gardens, the weather, how the town is filling up/ empty (Burwarton Show).

Some bright spark tried to depress us by saying “Oh Shrewsbury Flower Show. That means the nights will be drawing in!” Little did they know that they were talking to Frost Worshippers. Autumn will bring in a whole crop of new and returning customers to enjoy.

And Little Lambs Eat Ivy

May has burst upon us, blue skies. Swifts screaming over the bridges and by the eaves, bluebells coating the floors of budding up woods. The lambs of a few weeks ago, all gangly wobbly wool, have taken on the statue of stocky young things, daring to play follow the leader away from mum.

The green hills which hold Ludlow cupped in their hands are dotted with the white of sheep. Ludlow was founded on its wool trade. Since Neolithic settlers made their homes in the hills sheep have been farmed here, though the Medieval period was when Ludlow and the surrounding area really made serious money from their fleeces. During the 12th century Ludlow developed as a centre for the wool trade and cloth manufacturing, with mills being built all along the Teme. One landowner in particular, Laurence of Ludlow became fabulously wealthy, enabling him to build Stokesay Castle, and travel all over England, visiting also the Low Countries and a fair at Champagne in north-west France. Another beneficiary was Bishop Robert Mascall, the Carmelite Friar, who became King Henry IV’s confessor and founded the priory and other institutions in the town. The church was enlarged and beautified with wool money, as were many of the fine medieval buildings still prominent in the town.

We tend to no longer eat mutton, though I do remember mutton stew as a school dinner, which I thoroughly enjoyed.

A Shropshire hillside

 Lamb on the other hand, especially local reared, grass fed lamb is still a popular spring and early summer treat. Pricked with garlic, and dusted with salt, pepper and rosemary, lamb steaks are one of our favourites, especially with an onion sauce and young carrots. It is a very versatile meat and can be used in Tagines, curries, hot-pots and casseroles. A great celebration dish is a guard of honour, two racks of cutlets, tied side to side with the bones interlacing. They often have frilled white caps on the ends of the cutlets.

As for the old song, “Mares eat oats, and does eat oats and little lambs eat ivy” it turns out to be true!  Apparently, they love it and it is a good tonic for older sheep that are poorly as well. Any good shepherd welcomes it on his grazing land.

The farming of sheep has shaped our uplands for hundreds of years, and the care of flocks and their sale has shaped our town. You could be forgiven for calling lamb, Ludlow on a plate.

“If you come my way”

I always consider March to be a particularly Welsh month, and not just because the 1st of the month is St David’s day. The daffodils are coming into flower, bowed by the wind but still subtle enough to bounce back and smile at us.

Rugby’s six nations champions are battling is out, with the Red Dragon of the Welsh rampant and breathing fire.

Leeks, another Welsh symbol are in season along with shallots and spring onions which all come from the same vegetable family. The edible part of the leek is it’s bundle of leaf sheaths, which we sometimes wrongly call the stem. As well as being versatile and tasty, it contains calcium, iron and other vitamins and minerals. The daffodil is known in Wales as “Peter’s Leek” and is worn on St David’s day, a custom that goes way back to at least Saxon times.
It was said that a Welsh King ordered his soldiers to wear them in their helmets so that they could be identified in an ancient battle that took place in a leek field. Or maybe it was beacuse St David was alleged to have eaten only leeks when fasting.
The Welsh Guards still use a leek as the cap badge of their regiment.

Leeks have a mild onion taste but a smoother texture. The whole of the leaf sheath is edible, though most people discard the tougher outer leaf and the dark green tops. If washed however these make a good addition to stocks and can be tied in a bundle with herbs to make a bouquet garni.

Leeks can be eaten raw in salads, having a mild flavour and a slightly squeaky bite, but they are commonly eaten as part of soups and stews. The welsh soup, Cawl cenin, is celebrated in the poem “If You Come My Way” by Lynette Roberts, who lived in a small village in Wales.

“I will offer you a choice bowl of cawl
Served with a “lover’s” spoon and a chopped spray
Of leeks or savori fach, not used now,”

I like a leek sauce on top of a cooked sausage base, a cheap, easy supper and delicious cold too. Makes a great picnic item. Pop along to your local market or green grocers and pick up some pearly white and soft green leeks.


Launch of new video

Check out our new website video on the homepage of: www.PeaGreenCafe.com

It there to welcome and introduce visitors to the website and the services that Pea Green has to offer.

To watch it click PeaGreenCafe.com

Dumplings

This is the season when a hearty bowl of stew is one of the most welcome of meals, and there is nothing I enjoy more as an accompaniment than a dumpling. Not that I have always been able to cook them, my first attempts being like bullets and one one memorable occasion, so large that they supped up all the liquid in the casserole!

Dumplings originate from China. 1800 years ago in the Han Dynasty, a man named Zhang Zhongjian noticed that all the people in his village were suffering most dreadfully from frostbite, especially around their poor ears. He solved he problem by cooking up mutton, chilli and healing herbs wrapping them in scraps of dough, folding the dumplings to look like ears. He boiled them and handed them out to the villagers, who thought they tasted wonderful.

History does not record wither they cured the frostbite. The experience of eating food such as this, is enhanced for me by knowing that our ancestors enjoyed them too.

The dough of a dumpling can be made from a variety of starch sources, based on bread, flour or potatoes. This is then wrapped around a filling which can be one of meat, fish, cheese or vegetables. There are also sweet dumplings, filled with fruit or sweets.

They can be cooked using different methods such as baking, boiling in stock, simmering or steaming. It is easy to see why dumplings are so popular, they are relatively cheap and (allegedly) easy to make. The traditional British dumpling which some of us remember so fondly from childhood onward, is made by combining twice the weight of self-raising flour to suet, bound by cold water to form a dough seasoned with salt and pepper and if the fancy takes you herbs.

My family hale from Norfolk where the dumpling is made in a slightly different manner. The Norfolk Dumpling, (the food not one of the inhabitants!) is not made with fat but with a raising agent and flour. In the Cotswolds they add breadcrumbs and cheese, sometimes rolling them in breadcrumbs too. Then, oh sinful loveliness, they fry them all golden and crispy.

A vegetarian version of the suet dumpling just uses a vegetable suet rather than the meat based product, and you wouldn’t taste the difference. We use this in our sweet mincemeat so that vegetarians can enjoy it too. In Scotland, dumplings sweetened with fruit and spices are boiled tied inside a cloth in water and are called a “clootie dumplings” after the cloth.

Dumplings in fact, have taken over the world, being made and eaten from the Asian continent to the Americas. A truly international dish.



This Week at Pea Green Cafe

On Tuesday 15th January our special will be available from 12 noon. Freshly cooked and flavoursome our hot lunches are great value, particularly during the colder weather forecast for later in the week. To reserve a table or arrange an evening home delivery our phone number is 07983 941856.

During the week we are delivering buffet lunches to local Ludlow businesses in Corve Street and at The Eco Park, The Cafe will on Thursday be serving lunch for delegates on a NHS run course on dietary awareness for people recently diagnosed with diabetes, if you or anyone you know would be interested in attending one of these in the future details are available at https://tinyurl.com/y9ucv9oe

This Week at Pea Green Cafe

Tuesday this week we have the following specials for you, whether you need a break from Christmas shopping, or are meeting up with friends & family or feel like a good meal out the following is in addition to our regular varied menu. Also available for home delivery, its easy to arrange just phone us on 07983 941856

During the rest of the week we are welcoming several regular customers who have booked our Christmas menu of roasted turkey and all the trimmings. On Thursday we have The Good Grief Cafe’s final meeting of 2018, (next year’s dates to be available soon)

The Mascall Centre closes from Thursday but Pea Green will still be open until Saturday. We are then having our annual holiday and will be re opening at 8 AM on the 8th January. So unless we are able to say it in person to you this week we hope you have a joyful Christmas and a happy New Year.

This week at Pea Green Cafe.

This week at Pea Green Cafe our “special” is displayed for you below. We are offering a choice of delicious savoury pancakes available for lunch in the cafe or for home delivery. To book a table or arrange a delivery phone us on  07983 941856.

During the coming week we are welcoming some local groups for their Christmas celebrations; The Ludlow Foyer, are having lunch, Shropshire Carers trust 4 all are having afternoon tea,  and Busybodies are having their after show party at the Cafe. Also the final meeting of the year for Probus who have meetings (and Pea Green’s refreshments!) twice monthly in the centre.

 

Break-fast

We all know that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. It was certainly dinned into me as a child. Remember, “Go to work on an egg.” Those lucky Ready Brek children with their glowing auras of warmth and smugness?

But that wasn’t always the case. The word comes from the phrase, to “break your fast.” A religious term, denoting the end of night and the beginning of a new day. But up until the 17th century, it was considered an uncouth and unnecessary meal. Only peasants and manual workers needed to eat before lunch. It was thought of as indulging in the sin of gluttony, and people, men especially, were frowned upon for taking it.

It was also a very different meal from today. In antiquity it consisted of flat breads and a sort of porridge.  In the middle ages, copious amounts of beer or wine were helped down with a piece of bread and cheese. No meat was consumed, not until the late 15th century anyway.

The Edwardians gave us the traditional English breakfast, that “golden age” as we view it, when the upper classes had the leisure to indulge in their country life style. They believed that they were continuing the Anglo-Saxon custom of hospitality in offering breakfast. I don’t quite understand this, although the Anglo-Saxons did bake bread, and keep chickens for their eggs and pigs for their meat. So maybe they did eat bacon and eggs for breakfast.

Today the term has taken on a whole new meaning “Break really fast!” Snatching a piece of toast out of the toaster, making a smoothie, or filling a bowl with cereal while downing a cup of tea/coffee. Only on our days off do we still make time for breakfast. Then, we pour ourselves a juice, cook bacon, sausage and egg, maybe accompanied by mushrooms, tomatoes, (insert extras of choice!) butter the toast and spoon on the marmalade. It is still in our family a favourite way to start a day at home.

At Pea Green we do a wide assortment of breakfast foods, from porridge and pancakes to an “any time” complete with local bacon and “thick Ludlow” sausage. Sample our hospitality, pop in and get a great start to your day.