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My Family's Other Recipes: I Didn't Wanna Do It

My Family's Other Recipes: I Didn't Wanna Do It

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My Family's Other Recipes: I Didn't Wanna Do It

435 Seiten
6 Stunden
Dec 1, 2011


Bullied by his second daughter into putting the family's favourite recipes into book form, this subject became a sub-theme in what turned out to be an autobiography, but one written about an ordinary life although with an ability to find the humorous side of most events. For serious foodies this book may be a little thin on content but there are some interesting pieces of food history and it is very much a personal view of the last sixty years. The book is set out in four sections, based loosely on four periods of the author's life, and given titles based on a four course meal of hors d'oeuvres, fish, meat and dessert entitled "horses doovers, fishy tales, butcher's meat and just desserts".
If you want a relaxing read on an inconsequential life which may make you smile, buy this book. If you want a serious cookery book or autobiography of someone famous or important, then you will have to look elsewhere.
What does come through is here is a book written by a guy with a love of life, a beard more appropriate to a mad badger and a slightly quirky sense of humour who writes for his own enjoyment but with a warmth others may find undemanding.
Dec 1, 2011

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My Family's Other Recipes - Ian Nunn


First Course

The Horse’s Doovers

The Horse’s Doovers

Reduced to simple terms which are undoubtedly those preferred by this particular bear of very little brain (acknowledgement to A A Milne) this is a sort of autobiography, interrupted with recipes of my family’s favourite food. Now you have an idea what it is all about, you can decide whether to read on to paragraph two, or put the whole thing back on the remaindered 50p shelf and sidle out of the Bargain Basement Books pretending you could not find that philosophical work you have been searching for ever since the failed porn prosecution of its author.

It all started when Ken came over to accept a copy of A Bridge Too Far… . or whatever the third episode in my French trilogy was called. At the time I was getting outside a rather nice Merlot from Languedoc at a flow rate which would have included me in the binge drinking class if I had been at the pub. As I poured her a glass of something, I vaguely mentioned that I now had time to enjoy my leisure as I did not have a project on the go and that I intended spending most of next summer converting the back garden from the jungle film set it had become into something less annoying for the neighbours and also to rid myself of several examples of that arboreal thug, cypress leylandii, or Leyland cypress trees. I therefore had the late summer ahead of me by which time I expected to have brought the garden under control. The cost of doing so would prevent my visiting France that year. Of course, with each word of this plan I was digging a pit for myself and Ken responded with the comment that I undeniably enjoyed my food so why not write a recipe book containing all our favourite dishes, both family favourites and maybe the occasional classic. When I put forward objections, she waved them aside saying that no one could claim copyright on a Shepherd’s Pie recipe, even if you tried to disguise it as Mince and Mash Pie.

I had already planned to take three weeks off work during September to set the garden up for winter and take advantage of what I hoped would be an Indian summer. Of course, neither occurred and I spent the time planning (Yes, I did) and shuffling the pack to show the book in its best light, as long as that light was not these pages going up in flames. So this would be the hors d’oeuvres, covering bits of family background, and as I took you through the varying stages of my life, recipes would spring up to remind me of periods or events or individuals. I would then see where it took us.

It was by then the work of an instant to collar Tanny, Ken and Mensababe (for new readers, these are my three daughters, Tanya, Kirsty and Lucy-Anne) to let me have their favourite recipes and dishes which reminded them of their past. After all, if it was to be my family’s recipes, they could damn well make a contribution to the text. I was sure they had their favourites but it was, like trying to extract blood from a stone to get much. I don’t know, said Tanny. What do I like? The answer is seconds which does not help. Tanny scoops up calories in abundance and then proudly buggers off to her room to catch up on her unrelenting diet of soap operas. It is nevertheless a comfort to know she is in the house and, thanks to the number of times our beloved Manchester United or England appear on the gogglebox, terrestrial or satemellite, I get to see her for at least two hours a week. It would also be unfair to describe Tanny as a binge drinker—an average of two-thirds of a bottle of wine a day is evidence of consistent swilling, not binge drinking and she is sensible enough to know not to drink and drive because experience has taught her that you spill too much if you do.

Ken’s main contribution, apart from holding a gun at my back until I finished, was curried mushroom bhajis as prepared by me and Mensababe went for my Christmas garlic mushrooms with added artery-hardening butter sauce. I also decided to go back to my days as a married man to compare what we then ate with what I now shovel in and the meals prepared before Ruth and I were rent asunder by my love of my job and her becoming rightly bored. Today, we get on very well and far better than when we were manacled together and she rules the roost in Wales, living off feta cheese salads, the result of a series of holidays to various impoverished and benighted Greek islands. She still has the ability to master portion control to the point where a 1.5 kg roast chicken would provide meals for more than Our Lord was able to scrape together when the 5000 turned up unexpectedly and the catering camel train had the hump. Thanks to a remarkably cheap Farmers’ Meat Shop in Romford, Essex, we always ate meat to excess on Sundays and our stay in the Falkland Islands in the early to mid-1980s is worth a chapter of its own, even though there is a limit to the number of ways one can cook mutton.

I am part of an ageing family and apart from my children and grandson Samuel-James, I am the last of the line to bear the handle ‘Nunn’. Because my Mum was in her mid-forties before I was adopted, all of her brothers and sisters had completed their families before I came on the scene. This means that my maternal cousins are contemporaries of my step-brother Mike, who is 19 years older than me. My paternal grandmother’s side of the family is a closed book to me and I might go as far as to say it is one which has never been opened. Dad had one brother, Arthur, who married Annie (usually called Doll although God knows why—there was nothing doll-like about her) and they died without issue. I was the plug-in add-on to the wedded but childless bliss of Arthur’s brother Cecil and Dolce. That is not to say that mum and dad did not try for a baby but my mother suffered a couple of miscarriages forcing them to seek alternative sources for a brat. Mike, for reasons now best known only to himself, refused to change his name to Nunn or be adopted by my Dad and is now one of the last of the Garwoods.

Mike has no children. Although he married in 1967, he was tragically widowed when Gladys died of meningitis two years later. He wore a black tie for the next ten years and never re-married, although I believe he came close on one occasion to a woman called Hazel but she ended the affair. Mike never confided in me, even when I was grown-up, not that I suppose I showed much interest in what he was doing but it never ceases to surprise me what you can pick up about your family in casual conversation with relatives.

By the time I had been attending school for a couple of years, my first cousins were starting to get married although this did give me the advantage of years over my second cousins as they began to appear, but most of them have stayed resolutely in the background and refused to do more than make the occasional vague cameo appearance into my life. I mean to say, when you have the great advantage of experience in the life school, a six-or seven-year old second cousinly hanger-on is a pain in the arse, to be blunt. So I fell in between two generations which made it difficult to cope with my peers, especially girls, and I suppose a psychologist (maybe Mensababe, one day) may decide that this had much to do with the way my relationships with women have turned out, having no basic education to draw upon. Sex education in my case involved a very embarrassing listen to my equally embarrassed mother (why her?) attempting to explain something about chickens before leaving me to dig out a secret copy of Health & Efficiency to try in vain to make the connection between the female form and poultry. Some of what she said must have got through because it was some time before I regained my love of fried eggs!

During my mid-teens most of my friends, male and female, tended to be older than me and attending a boys-only Grammar School was another obstacle in my case to learning about relationships and most of the girls I knew did not count as potential girlfriends. I needed a skill which would make me more than a hanger-on so I learned to play the guitar—not pop music, but I developed an interest in folk music which has remained with me to this day. At that time, this genre was experiencing a revival, especially across the pond where Joan Baez, Julie Felix, Pete Seeger, Bob Dylan et al were leading the protest movement against the establishment. It is not far removed from the truth when it is claimed that in the USA anything more than 25 years old is antique and in terms of music, this makes Baez et al singers of traditional music. Over here, we had the anodyne performances of the likes of the Spinners and the collections of Cecil Sharp who had wandered the countryside at the turn of the twentieth century noting down traditional English songs and dances.

As I said, the US singers, protesting mainly about the war in Vietnam, were more exciting originally; they provided music I enjoyed but I was ignorant of the politics and once again I slipped into that ‘in between’ gap between not understanding the cause while enjoying the effect What I mean to say is the Suez crisis did not seem to have the same effect on the young in Britain as the Vietnam war would later have on the US youth, probably because in 1956 we already had conscription here in the form of National Service. Mike’s friend, Sid, certainly did not burn his call-up papers in protest at the possibility of serving in the Middle East. The British, post 1945 were, I suppose war weary, although not war-wary. This was the era of Korea, Cyprus, Suez, Burma, the Mau-Mau uprising in Kenya and the beginning of the end of the Empire, be it peacefully or not. The pink bits on the map were rapidly contracting and changing their names and National Service provided us with a large standing army of cannon fodder, despite the increasingly technical Royal Air Force and having a stubbornly large Royal Navy to police the seas, which they continued to believe they ruled, refusing to accept their days were numbered. Ironically, at the time of writing, the Royal Navy now has more Admirals than ships!

I became part of a folk group which was established at church and made up of choir members who were generally five or six years older than me and at work—a big gap both in age and assetwise when you are only 15, but I was readily accepted, having the ability to play a mobile musical instrument (other than a harmonica). We even auditioned for Opportunity Knocks but did not get past the second audition. One of the other hopefuls was the eventually successful Don Partridge, a one-man band who had a chart success with a number called Rosie. There is more about my folk music activities elsewhere.

Returning to the age gaps in my family, my first cousins tended to live or work at the other end of the world—in the case of Uncle Bill’s children this was especially true as they enjoyed the colonial life in Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) and South Africa. Elsewhere, the family infested places in Suffolk, Stoke and Guildford and so on, moving even further away upon marriage to places including California, India and Wales, or remain resolutely within their small communities in East Suffolk, only to reappear at weddings and funerals with completed families whose children were strangers to me.

To introduce the food element to this book, let me make my position clear and say from the outset that I enjoy food and I also enjoy shopping for it, even though most of the time you will see me scouring Tesco’s shelves for quality bargains as I bumble round with my trolley. But take note—I am mean enough to shop elsewhere to save 2p. For me, shopping is a social experience and I enjoy a good market—I don’t mean one of those awful everything for the home for under £1 types with the plastic products of the Far East and the one and only fruit and veg stall which sells second class produce at supermarket prices. And as for buying a decent sausage, forget it. The French do these places so well, however, mixing food, drink and household items but the quality of goods is generally first class, fresh fish, superb displays of fresh fruit and veg and so on. But at least I have the delights of the Leeds Central Market not too far away.

There again, I have been known to visit my local Morrison’s on a Sunday morning purely for their fried breakfast whilst reading in the Non League Paper how my beloved AFC Wimbledon have got on. I think ‘sad’ may be the word you are groping for.

I am also a sucker for a good Farmers’ Market or any outlet which sells decent quality produce at a fair price but even I can spot an agricultural scam on the public as when a local greengrocer or market stall holder once advertised free-range cabbage! It must have been April 1st.

However, I have paid the penalty. Eating red meat and drinking real ale when in my twenties and thirties was balanced by a delight in taking robust and regular exercise by playing rugby and squash. Sadly, anno domini caught up with me and together with a nicotine habit of about 20 a day, the injuries took longer to heal and the pre-season torture was just that. Oh, yes, incredulous reader that you are—I did do pre-season training, especially in the days when I turned out for Romford and Ilford RFC. So I gave up the pleasures of eating mud and cancelled my season ticket to the local Accident and Emergency Department, concluding also that squash on its own would likely find me one day all limp, lifeless and blue in the corner of a court if I did not respect what my body was telling me. Apart from that, Tanny began to beat me regularly!

So having foresworn violent exercise and relegated it to a spectator sport, I adopted a new maxim that whenever I felt the urge to exercise, I should lie down until it passed. Consequently, I ceased to burn up calories to the point where all I did was to warm them up a little. Meanwhile, the calorie intake remained at the level of an international weightlifter while steadily I became the weight I was lifting—I still ate red meat and drank lots of real ale. I moved to Yorkshire to be near the family when my job was transferred to Manchester but this made no difference. Saturday nights would also find Geoff and I in the Red Rooster at Brighouse where together we would sample the delights of a wide range of real ales from mild, through bitter to porters, stouts and premium brews. I developed a taste for porter and stout and was in danger of becoming a beer bore.

Then, like a bloody idiot, I went and broke and dislocated my ankle in an unwinnable argument with a parking meter which necessitated several weeks as an in-patient at the tender mercies of the wonderful nursing staff at the Manchester Royal Infirmary. It would have been less lengthy but for some reason, the swelling around the injury took a while to disperse, something necessary before surgery to pin and screw together the various odd bits of bone floating about my ankle. Not being ill and only suffering from reduced mobility, I was on a ward with a dozen or so similarly challenged souls, some even as young as I was. Now, hospital food at the MRI was an enigma. The normal menu of gruel, slop and lumpy mashed potato was enough to keep body and soul together, although requiring perilous quantities of salt to give it some flavour. On the other side of the coin, and in a spirit which today we call diversity, there was the ethnic menu. Oh, the joy of Port Royal pork chops from the Caribbean, the proper, flavoursome but not digestively embarrassing curries, which we suspected were brought in wholesale from the Star of India or the Shahjahan Tandoori in Rusholme, the adventure of Thai fish cakes and stir-fries from China brought a zest to our meals and I found myself not being able to exercise to shake off the effects of that good food. I also won the sweepstake for predicting the number of cups of tea produced from one tea bag during evening visiting. I can’t remember my winning score and I do not want to upset the nursing staff, but it was in double figures. With a couple of budget cuts since I was there, I suspect the menus may now be less exciting.

My convalescence lasted a few weeks as I was unable to drive, although the physioterrorist back at Dewsbury Hospital had me going for the King of the Mountains jersey in the Tour de France on the exercise bike. You need to build your muscle density back up, she ordered. Your legs have wasted away to matchsticks! she smiled as she increased the resistance level on my go-nowhere steed. Physiotherapy coincided with a televised series of programmes about Indian cooking by Madhur Jaffray—a series which began whilst I was still in hospital. I rather fancied the idea of producing a curry which owed nothing to jars of sauce, so I bought the book which accompanied the series and I was away down to the local Asian supermarket topping up on the necessary spices and herbs and things required to make, serve and decorate Indian dishes. My favourite is lamb curry with fennel and yoghurt, made special by the use of leg of lamb rather than the fattier shoulder or rib. Oh—that does remind me. Tanny does have one food hell, she cannot stand coriander leaves either in her food or as a garnish.

This enforced inactivity prompted the cook in me and also provided a sort of competitive streak whereby I tried to outdo Geoff the Chef, but without letting him know he was in a competition. I will concede, however, that nothing matched his home made soups. They really were and are his ‘signature dishes’. So I grew fat. There—I have admitted it. And hard upon the heels of fat, or rather running in tandem with it was a sluggardly inactivity which would make a sloth seem an Olympic athlete in the peak of condition. Added to the smoking, it was no real surprise that I succumbed to diabetes. So I gave up smoking, felt a lot better for it, although surprisingly no richer, and surrendered my future to a small daily selection of pills, probably all that were left over after my type 1 diabetic brother took his first faltering steps down the path towards immortality. Since having been diagnosed as a diabetic (background wailing, gnashing of teeth, ringing of bells, cries of run away, run away—oh, no, sorry, that’s leprosy) I have had to take greater care over the ingredients and methods of preparation and cooking of food than before. I have also invested in some smaller dinner plates to replace the dustbin lids upon which Sunday roasts and other irresponsible piles of calories, saturated fats, carbohydrates etc were served up. And sugary things are right out except for the occasional chocolate item due to need for endorfins in my daily round. I now read food labelling with a much closer and more jaundiced eye than I used to and I have found that notwithstanding certain improvements in labelling, there is still the fact that too much crap finds its way into the daily bread disguised as ‘harmless’ additives, or trace elements. Descriptions can still be downright confusing with ‘fresh’ an example.

Then there are the items which come without a label and you are reduced to using your own skill and experience before you buy fruit, vegetables, fish or meat, ignoring the second class from the premium or less ropey. identifying the fact that our so-called friends from Spain, France and Holland, having bled their own fish stocks dry, now steal our quotas in our traditional waters with their 15-denier nets—so small not even plankton can escape. They hoover up the contents of the sea bottom, take the fry and mash it into cattle food, leaving the seas around our coast a piscatorial desert. But it is partly our own fault. For many years fresh fish was about as popular in English kitchens as salmonella and ironically much of what the English fisherman caught he sold to Spain, France, Italy and beyond where with the careful addition of various heathen substances—olive oil, garlic, fresh lime juice etc, delicious dishes were created. We English, as tourists, were prepared to dine off them as exotic dishes and we did not know that they were made from Cornwall caught crab, or pilchards or mackerel, all of which commanded good prices when given the continental treatment and served on a continental plate. For so long we missed out, only being interested in battered haddock, cod or huss as something to go with our chips, and there really was a time when the height of sophistication at a dinner party was prawn cocktail. For many, many years after the War, there was a tremendous mistrust of foreign food (or ‘that greasy foreign muck’ as it was often disdainfully and ignorantly described by gourmet Brits with their ‘you cannot drink the water’ attitude and tomato sauce sandwiches) and it took the excellent Elizabeth David to stir our interest in Mediterranean food. After all, a large proportion of the British population, into the 1960s, believed spaghetti grew on trees after an April Fool item appeared on the much respected Panorama TV programme, with the venerable Richard Dimbleby showing spaghetti hanging in fronds from unidentified small trees—probably olives, where they allegedly awaited the spaghetti harvest.

As far as catching things at sea, Norway seems to be an OK country, if it were not for their policy on whaling, but the Icelanders are very possessive of their fish—you would think anyone running the risk of fishing in their dangerous waters was worthy of his catch, but in the 1960s, the gunboats were out and we lost. So the fish on Tesco’s slab is often now of a species unknown to the housewife of even twenty years ago—Vietnamese river cobbler, Pollack, other North West Atlantic species with ugly faces, spines and huge eyes from living in the deep, and all the other fish introduced to us by Rick Stein or Hugh Furry-Milkingstool or whatever be his name.

Then there is milk. Oh, such a simple thing, we would all like to think, those mechanically extracted secretions from the hanger-downer glands of the common Daisy or Buttercup, aka the cow, which are then pasteurised, squirted into plastic bottles and sold in the supermarket. Until the end of the 19th century milk was sold as produced, with all the potential hazards that encompassed. It was a purely organic product in the sense that it was not fiddled with before it was brought to the customer. Various bits of legislation have produced the bland, relatively tasteless tea whitener we know today. I mean to say, how many of you would drink a pint of semi or skimmed milk as a health food? Today’s cows milk is defined by its fat content, the three main ‘varieties’ sold in the UK being skimmed, semi-skimmed and ‘whole’ milk. These make up 17%, 58% and 25% of the market respectively. Until 1 January 2008, milk with a butterfat content outside the ranges defined by our so-wise and sensible—and not in the least self-serving—lawmakers in the European Parliament could not legally be sold as milk and therefore missed out on all those generous subsidies. Lobbying by Britain has since allowed certain other percentage products to be labelled and sold as milk and since the change in the EU regulations, Sainsbury’s has launched a 1% variety, identified by its orange bottle top.

I remember, with a slight shudder, school milk, having been a pre-Thatcherite pupil. For those who never knew or cannot now remember, it was the Iron Lady who, as Education Secretary, abolished the provision of the free 1/3rd pint bottle of milk to schoolchildren between the ages of 7 and 11 and earned herself the first of many soubriquets, Margaret Thatcher, Milk Snatcher. I remember those bottles of whole milk—they were only really drinkable in mildly chilly weather because of the propensity for schools to store them outside at the mercy of the elements from the time of delivery until being distributed just before morning playtime. This period was always just long enough to allow the milk to freeze in winter and produce a white column by breaktime which pushed off the bottle top, or, in spring and summer to warm the milk to a disgusting state but keeping it marginally liquid and just short of turning into butter, cheese or soured cream—or even, sour milk.

Yes, milk used to be delivered in glass bottles but the increase in domestic refrigeration, plastic bottles and cardboard cartons have all but seen the disappearance of the glass pint and half-pint bottles. As recently as 1996, 2.5 billion litres of milk were delivered by milkmen on their daily rounds, ten years later, there were 9500 milkmen delivering only 637 million litres, reducing to the point where in 2010, the number of milkmen had reduced to 6000 with 94% of milk sold in shops. The colour of the tinfoil cap on top of the bottle disclosed the milk type:

-   gold for Channel Islands

-   silver for whole milk

-   green for semi-skimmed

-   red for skimmed

And we used to collect these tops, wash them and send them off to Blue Peter to support their latest good cause because these tops could be sold on and recycled. However, I don’t know how enthusiastic we, as a generation, would have been if we had been aware that it took about 22 million bottle tops to train a guide dog!

Today it is not just cow’s milk which finds its way into our shops—goat’s milk, sheep’s milk, soya milk substitute and even buffalo milk are all quite easy to find and I am sure there are ethnic food stores and so-called health food shops which also sell milk and milk products from other more exotic creatures—I mean to say, if the finest fresh coffee comes from ground beans which have previously passed their way through the digestive system of a weasel, how long will it be before Starbucks start selling a weasel-shit cappuccino with hippopotamus milk and chocolate sprinkles obtained from cocoa beans regurgitated by specially-trained meerkats. And what would be the best milk to add to the daily dish of amalgamated grit, sawdust and birdseed once so beloved by the middle classes, muesli?

Remember, food is something to be enjoyed not endured.

One word of caution is appropriate before we go much further. The recipes in this book almost all contain something which once had a face or a pulse. If you seek only vegetarian options, you can bugger off and buy another book. Keep well away from vegans, vegetarians and other food wierdos who would offer you immortality in return for adopting a lifestyle of abstinence. How long could you bear the intimate company of a gang of various geeks, pustules and other excrescences whose main diet was Brussels sprouts, baked beans and various pulses? I have no objection to a salad, as long as there is a point to it and not just an excuse to eat a piece of fancy cut tomato wrapped up in a lettuce leaf.

I hope that by this time it has become obvious that this is going to be no ordinary recipe book. The book itself is autobiographical from which the recipes try to escape from the text and chunks of family history. Occasionally, you will find the inclusion of some food history and I hope tou find it interesting. I do also hope that by the time you have struggled to the last page, and not just leaped to the end to find out whodunit, you will sit back with a small smile on your face at the goings on of an anything but exceptional family, complete with hot sex, sentimental bits and a few ravings to balance the few attempts at humour. At the end of the day, we all have to eat to stay alive and even though thirst will kill you off quicker than hunger, food could still be defined as anything ingested which doesn’t actually kill you or make you ill. The body has its own wonderful defence systems as anyone who has had a doner kebab after ten pints of lager will testify.

Over the centuries as a species we have not always done our best to protect these systems. For example, there used to be an old maxim from the days of the Grand Tour of Europe when the wealthy in the 18th and 19th centuries used to send their offspring off to Europe to improve their appreciation of the arts and beauty and to collect some foreign culture. This prophesied, See Naples and die, based upon the type of culture one could collect from the insanitary surroundings i.e. one which could frequently be found on a laboratory dish. There is another old saying that we each have to eat a peck o’ dirt before we die, with the implication that the human immune system is a very robust feature of nature. By the way, the word ‘peck’ was not meant in the ‘chicken and corn’ sense but its use as a measurement. A peck is equal to 9.09218376 litres, or almost 2 gallons, so I think we must be talking about a metaphorical or allegorical peck here, not a voluminous one. Two gallons of water will weigh about 20 lbs (9 kg for you modernists), but this does not literally mean you would eat 20lbs of dirt in a lifetime—some of it will be substituted by doner kebabs and turkey twizzlers.

As a younger lad I had a great belief in the old brewers’ claim that beer was a food, based upon the natural ingredients which went to make up a pint. If that was true, I never came close to starvation and on the odd occasion I may even have over-indulged that food they call ‘Guinness’; especially Triple X or Dublin bottled Extra Stout.

On the subject of beer, I have an alleged family history on my mother’s side of the tragic consequences of over-indulgence. My

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