Post # 148 Pub Fare

July 29, 2013 at 5:35 PM | Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Post # 148 Pub Fare

Well, here it is, the promised post about Pub Fare.  Pubs, as you know, is short for Public House and is an evolution from misty yesteryears when stage coaches ran between towns.  It was exceedingly dangerous to travel at night so inns and public houses sprang up to give travelers a safer alternative to camping out.  As towns grew around the pubs, they were incorporated into the town structure.  As towns grew larger and more prosperous, more pubs opened, each to serve a specific sector of society.  You can see the same kinds of things happening now, as various restaurants open to cater to specific clientele.

Pubs served as a gathering place for travelers and locals.  In most cases, pubs were family owned and operated.  They were fairly open, but had a homey atmosphere.  Some also offered larger rooms for meetings or councils.  The American Revolution started in a pub and most of the planning was done in pubs.  The old saying “George Washington Slept Here” has its roots in fact since the rebels tried not to meet too often at the same place.  The demeanor and atmosphere of each pub was different from each other depending on the needs of the patrons.  Some were quiet with just the sounds of the fireplace, others were rocking with music from the patrons, and other were raucous with the sounds of darts players, and other games of chance.

The two things that were common to all pubs were food and drink.  The typical drink was ale and beer, with the occasional bottle of wine.  See, way back in the day, water was always suspect.  Drinking it could actually kill you because of the diseases in it, etc.  Alcohol, on the other hand, was self-sterilized and could be drunk with impunity.  The alcohol content in those days was fairly low so intoxication took some doing or some dollars for the good stuff.  Tea and coffee were also safe since the water was boiled before being drunk.  The food, however, was as varied as the pubs.  Food really depended on the season, the area, and what was available.  Breakfast was nearly always bread and porridge.  Lunch was the main meal and would include meat if you were lucky.  Since meat was expensive, ways to stretch it were invented.  Also, a lot of meat was gamey, stringy, and tough.  So ways to cook it that would make it tasty had to be developed.  Long cooked roasts, simmering stews and soups loaded with vegetables, and pies were ubiquitous.  Some pub fare got so common that they became synonymous with pubs.

Bangers and Mash are simply fried or grilled sausages with mashed potatoes and gravy.  The flavor comes from the sausages.  Every butcher had his own recipe for sausages.  Some were mild, and some were so spicy they’d bring tears to your eyes.  The potatoes were usually roasted in the fire embers.  When they were done, the flesh was scooped out and mashed with either a little butter or a little cream.  They were fairly bland until the gravy was sloshed on.  The gravy was usually just a little meat dripping from a beef roast, some flour, some water, and some salt.  But cooked right and served hot, it was cheap, filling, and to a starving traveler, downright tasty.  To be honest, even our homemade bangers and mash are pretty decent.

Irish Stew is basically a simple mutton stew.  Nowadays, it is usually made with lamb which is really the “veal” of the sheep line.  The difference between lamb and mutton is age.  Lamb is less than a year old, mutton is normally older than three.  Mutton takes a longer cooking time to get tender, so stewing it was the only real way to consider cooking it.  Throw in potatoes, carrots, and onions and you’ve got a tasty stew to be proud of.

Another common dish was Potato and Leek Pie.  I only “discovered” leeks recently, like in the last four years.  Partner/Spouse couldn’t believe that I’d never tried them and once I did, I was all about eating leeks.  They’re from the onion family, but have such a mild flavor that they can be eaten either by themselves or incorporated into anything.  I’ve served them grilled and charred and man! are they good.  The Potato and Leek Pie is basically a simple pot pie.  You can make a bottom crust or not, as you choose.  Cut the leeks and potatoes into bite sized chunks and put in a baking dish.  Mix together milk, mustard, a small amount of flour, and some fresh ground pepper and pour over the vegetables.  Top with whatever crust you like: pie dough, bread crumbs, toasted bread slices, phyllo dough pieces.  Bake in a medium oven until the veggies are cooked through and the sauce has thickened.  You can speed it up by partially cooking the vegetable before putting them in the pot.  You can also spice up the dish by adding cooked chicken, fish, or shellfish.

Shepherd’s Pie is basically the same but the top crust is mashed potatoes and the filling is pretty much whatever leftovers you have lying around with a good gravy or milk sauce.  Fisherman’s Pie is the same but with, guess?  Fish!

Bread was usually in good supply, but was seldom the risen bread we’re used to.  It was mostly soda bread because it used ingredients at hand and it was made very quickly.  Sift together 3 2/3 cup flour, 1 tsp salt, and 1 tsp baking soda in a large bowl.  Make a well in the center and add 1 1/2 cups buttermilk.  Work the dough with a solid wooden spoon, the with your hands as it starts coming together.  The dough should be soft but not too wet.  If it’s too dry, add more buttermilk by tablespoons.  If it’s too wet, add more flour by tablespoons.  When the dough is ready, turn it onto a floured surface and gently knead it until it’s smooth and elastic.  Place the dough onto an oiled baking sheet and shape it into a round.  Use a sharp knife and cut a large X onto the surface about a half inch deep.  Bake at 425 for about 25-30 minutes.  It’s done when it sounds hollow when tapped.  Cool for about ten or fifteen minutes and serve warm with lots of butter.  Amazing stuff!

Desserts were plentiful and usually incorporated natural sweetening found in fruits.  Thick crusted apple pies were common.  Small fruit tarts were featured when fruit had ripened.  Pudding from boiled milk and honey were also common.  Bread pudding was everywhere to use up stale bread.  Raisins and rum were added to give it a richness that belied its poor start.

My favorite it called a Syllabub.  A Syllabub is basically just a sweetened whipped cream that has either fruit juice added, or a wine or alcohol.  Use an extra thick and heavy whipping cream and add a little sugar and vanilla.  Whip it until it reaches the soft peak stage.  Add your flavoring by spoonfuls until it reaches a taste pleasant to your palate.  Chill and then serve.  It’s like eating a bowl of cool whip without the sugar high.

Hope you enjoyed this.  Let me know if you have any questions, and as always, if you try something, let me know how it turned out!

Enjoy!

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