Last week, I interviewed MasterChef’s Gregg Wallace and I can honestly say it doesn’t get much tougher than… listening to his jokes for two hours. He was 100% Wallace, to my Gromit, that’s the dog who sports the slightly startled expression. Yup, in this context, I would rather be a hound than a food hero, talking of which as we passed a Vietnamese restaurant, he said: “I’ve got a Korean cookery book at home. It’s called Wok The Dog.” See what I mean? Seriously, he was a walking, talking encyclopedia of jokes that even Bob Monkhouse wouldn’t have had the temerity to trade. Finally, he said: “I’ve got to go, Susan, I’ve got to get home and play hide the salami with the wife.” I pretended not to hear this as I’d already used up more fake laughter than the entire series of David Jason’s regally bad The Royal Bodyguard… so Gregg repeated it.
Today, he opens Gregg’s Table at the Bermondsey Square Hotel. Bermondsey is in London, by the way. Most people I mention it to look blank – or faintly nervous but Bermondsey Street is a revelation, I urge you to give it a go. The hotel is super friendly, good value and trendy (the late Amy Winehouse’s producer Mark Ronson stayed for six weeks last year). The street is also home to Jay Jopling’s impressive new White Cube art gallery, left, he was the man who helped make Hoxton hip, the Catey gastro-pub of the year The Garrison and Zucca, the hottest new dining venue in London.
Zucca has just been named as one of the best three authentic Italian restaurants in Europe by the experts who select The World’s Top 50 restaurants. Chef Sam Harris is a founder member of the new Slow Food UK Chef Alliance, which champions small-scale producers of quality, sustainable food. Check out its Arc of Taste, which sounds worryingly like Robert de Niro’s Circle of Trust although as far as I know there are no Fockers involved in this organisation. It’s all about bringing back long-forgotten British specialities such as Jersey Black Butter.
Here goes with a recipe for it, although you could just buy some from La Mare Vineyards, Britain’s most southerly vineyard.
JERSEY BLACK BUTTER
14 cwt apples
113 gallons of cider
30 lbs of sugar
Liquorice, cinnamon, and other spices in proportion (who cares about precise proportions, you haven’t got a pot that can hold that much cider anyway)
Drawing pins pins. I’ll explain later
Boil up the cider and leave to simmer. Add the apples and other ingredients in a cauldron (“bachin”) hung over a low fire (eh? we’ve got things called cookers now). Stir continuously for 24 to 30 hours (this is where the pins come in, put them in your shoes and press into your palms to keep yourself awake). Once, the correct ‘jammy’ consistency is achieved and you are thoroughly spent and sobbing quietly, your work is done. I can’t think of a single reason why a traditional recipe such as this might be dying out, can you?? Jersey Black Butter can be served as a spread on bread, as a preserve to go with cold meats or as a crazy condiment for a curry.