Ye Olde Pub Grub
by Robin Benzle
If you’ve never stopped in a village pub in the English countryside for a pint of ale and a bite to eat - it’s just as you would imagine it to be.....
You’re driving on the narrowest of roads, so narrow that the lavender wildflowers brush up against both sides of the car at the same time. The hills are green and rolling and freckled with grazing sheep. Around the bend, an ancient church steeple comes into view, framed by its congregation of tiny stone houses and friendly shops. A carved wooden sign reading Ye Old Cat & Fiddle hangs above the half-timbered, slightly crooked village tavern. As dusk falls you tether your imaginary horse to a post and duck under the doorway. There’s a slate floor, smooth from ancient conversations; pewter mugs hanging from hooks above the thick, wooden bar; a row of porcelain plates with scenes of castles and former kings; an oil painting of a horse, cracked like an eggshell from age; rough-stuccoed walls holding up hand-hewn beams; a handful of child-sized wooden tables and chairs; a fireplace glowing in the corner. And of course, a seasoned bartender who actually says, “Draw you an ale, can I?”.
You order up a pint and some hearty meat and potatoes...and feel the exact same cozy, comforting feeling you did as a child when you crawled into your fort made of old blankets draped over the dining room table.
FINGER LAMB CHOPS
with English Mint Sauce
12 rib lamb chops, trimmed of fat
Salt and pepper to taste
2/3 cup malt vinegar
1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
1/4 cup freshly chopped mint leaves
Heat oven to broil. Arrange chops in roasting pan. Brush both sides lightly with oil and season with salt and pepper. Broil 15 - 20 minutes, turning once. Meat should be slightly pink inside. Meanwhile, in a small skillet, heat vinegar until simmering. Add sugar and mint leaves and simmer 5 minutes. Spoon over grilled chops and eat with your hands. Serves 4.
STUFFED WITH MUSHROOMS IN STOUT
4 large baking potatoes, pierced with a fork
2 tablespoons each butter and olive oil
1 large onion, coarsely chopped
1 1/2 lbs. white mushrooms, sliced
2 tablespoons flour
2 1/2 cups English stout, room temperature
1 beef bouillon cube
1/2 teaspoon each salt, pepper and dried tarragon
2 teaspoons brown sugar
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Bake potatoes directly on upper rack 45 minutes or until tender.
Meanwhile, in a large skillet, heat butter and oil. Sauté onion until softened. Add mushrooms and cook over high heat 10 minutes, or until liquid has cooked down. Sprinkle flour over and cook, stirring, 1 minute. Add stout and bouillon cube and bring to a boil. Add remaining spices and cook over medium-high heat 15 minutes, uncovered. Sauce should be slightly reduced and thickened.
Slice open baked potatoes and spread apart slightly. Spoon mushroom-stout sauce over. Serves 4. Cheerio!