Tuesday, 25 September 2012

Peaks and Troughs.

It's not really my intention to turn this into a travel blog and for (the) loyal Brummie reader(s) I apologise for my brief flirtation with another county.

The Peak District.
So, a few weeks ago we decided to take a short break in Derbyshire, notably the Peak District. Despite the odd shower, the rolling heather moors, craggy ridges and steep peaks never looked better. As the summer crowds fade away and the rich atumnal colours seep in to the landscape, there isn't a better time to visit.

After a walk around the beautiful Monsal Dale, lunch was long overdue. The Monsal Head Hotel occupies an enviable position over the Dale itself with panoramic views and behind the Hotel is a more rustic bar serving hiker friendly portions of food (including the largest jacket potato I have ever seen, approximately the size of an american football. I can only presume the neighbouring village hosted a giant vegetable growing competition and we were eating one of the competitors).

I was also delighted to find Buxton Brewery's 'Moor Top' ale being served. Buxton are certainly one of the finest breweries around and chronically under represented in Birmingham. Having previously tried 'Axe Edge IPA' and 'American Rye', 'Moor Top' is yet another fine edition to the range. Pouring a pale gold colour, the aroma is packed with citrus. On the palate it's light with a hint of sweetness before being replaced with more lip smacking citrus fruit and plenty of bitterness. Considering the low 3.6% ABV, this beer punches well above its weight in terms of flavour.
Don't get me wrong, I'm all in favour of big, experimental beers, but full flavour, low ABV 'session' ales have always been a strength of British brewers and in recent years they've been taken to the next level. Darkstar's 'Hophead' and Brewdog's 'Dead Pony Club' are but a few examples of modern interpretations of this style.

Not only is autumn best for scenery, it's also best, arguably, for produce. A visit to the Chatsworth Estate farm shop was a delight. Seasonal highlights included game, pumpkins and root veg, cheeses and hedgerow fruits. Don't mention it to anyone from Leicestershire, but the pork pies here are stunning. The meat is coarse and full of flavour and the pastry crisp with just the right amount of jelly in between the two.
We also picked up a bottle of Henderson's Relish. Labelled as 'The Spicy Yorkshire Sauce', we knew that Jarvis Cocker was a fan of this hard to find condiment. So on a whim, and on the recommendation of Jarvis, we purchased a bottle (see recipe below!).

For our evening meals, we wandered a few minutes down the road to the Packhorse Inn. The menu was simple, the products local and of top quality. The wine list was also well chosen and ales were provided by Thornbridge (the local brewer!). Even in the off season, midweek, this place was packed. Many people view the state of the British pub industry to be in deep trouble. Any pub struggling could do a lot worse than follow the Packhorse model.

And finally as a tribute to Henderson's Relish, here's a recipe for Welsh Rarebit using Henderson's instead of Worcester sauce. The cheese and beer were purchased from Anderson and Hill and the bread from Stirchley Stores (via Loaf).

Henderson's Welsh Rarebit.


(Serves 2)

25g flour.
25g butter.
125ml beer (I used a pale ale, as I find hoppier beers go better with cheese, but it's up to you).
60g Cheddar (Montgomery's, grated).
60g Comte (or any other good melting cheese, grated).
1 tbsp Henderson's Relish.
1 tsp English mustard.
generous pinch of smoked paprika.
generous pinch of pepper.
2 slices of sourdough bread.


Melt the butter in a saucepan and add the flour to form a roux. Cook the roux on a medium heat for a few minutes, stirring often.
Add the beer gradually until a thick, smooth sauce is formed. Add the grated cheese, stir until melted through and thick.
Add the Henderson's, mustard, smoked paprika and pepper.
Lightly toast the bread and generously cover with the mixture, finish under the grill until golden and bubbling.

Welsh Rarebit made with Henderson's Relish.



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