One of my all-time favourites of yours has always been your recipe for toad in the hole. I think it was the subtle addition of a little whole-grain mustard that swung it for me. So I was intrigued to find a vegetarian offering of the famous 'Toad' in your new book : 'Onion and Mushroom Toad in the Hole' (pg 307).The Caerphilly was a little harder to come by than I expected but worth the effort as it adds a note of piquancy, and, together with the caramelised shallots and the mustard make for sturdy tastes that don't shriek 'vegetarian option'.
Tom did ask me whether I could sneak a couple of sausages into the corner for him but I refused. It wouldn't look too good to have a couple of renegade sausages peeping out from the corner of the photo. And, when it came down to it, even he had to agree that it was a lovely meal in itself and didn't need the addition of a little meat. Do your guests always make such demands? Anyway, as I told him, he wasn't my sole guest tonight. Tonight I am bringing Yorkshire Pudding to a true Yorkshire man so I had better get this right.
Using the water from the rehydrated porcini to make a gravy, with a heavy dash of Marsala, is good economy as well as being a delicious accompaniment to the toad. I'm also rather taken by your alternative version with aubergine and feta, and am planning to make that next week. All in all, I'm rather pleased to discover another item to add to that rather select list of recipes of family staples - the sort of recipes that get made week after week after week.
Tom and I made the great long trek today that reaches to the out-of-town shopping merry go round hovering on the outskirts of Manchester. We went prepared to invest the entire day in one shop only kitting him out in his first real suit for imminent University interviews. Standing in the huge car park of Marks and Spencer's it wasn't hard to spot Archie towering away above the sleek low-slung saloons and the line of waxed and polished cars. Landrovers - at least old ones like Archie- only really respond to a jet spray to detach the cake of mud clinging from their folding steps.
Once inside, dressed in our ordinary casual wear we still feel conspicuous. No one really notices what you wear out in the country and you can get away with just about anything if you put your mind to it. Very liberating when you can wear that holey jumper without a second thought as to what someone else may think. There is often an inversely proportional equation to dress, which is unwritten and accepted, that the richest farmers and landowners of all are often to be found in the sort of clothes you might use to line a dog's basket with. This pays dividends when deciding you want to dress down today - unless, of course, you are heading up to town, in which case you invariably forget until it is too late.
Here in the shop we feel on display as much as the merchandise. I am aware of fashions that seem to have passed me by. There is a woman in trainers with wedge heels and I remark to Tom that I've never seen the like stomping around our neck of the woods. Perhaps it really is a different world.
We spend the afternoon kitting him out, and when, eventually, he emerges from the changing rooms in the final ensemble I find I am looking proudly at a young man emerging from the grunge of college life (if only temporarily).
'First time?' a lady offers. I nod and we exchange a look. The shop assistants look pleased that they have managed to tame this gangly youth into shape. He even stands on two legs for once and smiles that big enormous grin of his that takes in all the world. It has been a successful trip. We limp home exhausted and depleted. There is talk of a haircut, of Samson and Delilah proportions, that will chop off his Rubenesque curls. I am impressed that he is taking his future so seriously. On the way back we talk of throwing out his old converse trainers - the ones with several holes in them - but when I look later I find he has sneaked them into his bag again to take with him back to college, and I know that next time when I pick him up they will be sitting on the end of his feet again.