The Beggarstaff Man

“Why,” I wondered yesterday as I sat in the hairdressers chair, “do men, once they reach a certain age, suddenly like dark chocolate?”  “My dad loves dark chocolate,” said hairdresser Hattie.

Beggarstaff Brothers Rowntree's Cocoa poster 1895

The Beggarstaffs Poster for Rowntree's Cocoa 1895

The Beggarstaffs were artists William Nicholson and James Pryde. As students they travelled to Paris and were influenced by the posters of Toulouse-Lautrec and Jules Chéret.  In 1894 the pair began calling themselves The Beggarstaff Brothers. They revolutionised poster design in Britain using flat colours, clear outlines, and making collages from coloured paper to produce striking graphic images of everything from Queen Victoria to Rowntrees Cocoa.

In London’s East End the portly well-dressed gentleman with his delicate cup of cocoa must have looked out of place among the slums and the grinding poverty.  Bethnal Green was home to the most notorious London rookery, the Old Nichol.

Map of the Old Nichol district of Bethnal Green

The Old Nichol district of Bethnal Green 1892

The Old Nichol had grown from a few houses in 1680 on a field dug for brick-making, to a shanty-town of hovels built to accommodate the arrival of 25,000 Hugenot refugees,  Jews from Eastern Europe, immigrant weavers from Ireland and the rapidly increasing indigenous population.  By 1880 the Old Nichol covered 15 acres, or just a square quarter mile, but it contained some of the worst constructed house anywhere in Britain,  crammed together in alleys and courts joined together by arteries of narrow lanes.

A Court off Boundary Street 1890

A Court off Boundary Street in the Old Nichol, 1890

Families sometimes of ten people occupied single rooms in dwellings built with half-baked bricks and a mortar made from a waste product of soap manufacture called ‘billysweet’. The mortar never dried-out, and floorboards were laid onto earth. With little or no foundations the walls and floors sagged, and the interiors were permanently damp. In these teeming conditions people scraped a living making matchboxes, smoking fish, catching birds to sell, or just thieving. Anything to keep the rent man at bay on ‘Black Monday’. No running water, no lavatories, and into that stew were added horses, donkeys, pigs, chickens, ducks, dogs and of course rats. Infant mortality was twice the number in the rest of Bethnal Green, and five out of six child deaths were caused by suffocation, their parents or bigger siblings rolling on top of them at night and smothering them. The squalor and depravity was almost indescribable, but Dickens tried. He visited Jacobs Island in Bermondsey, the setting for Fagin’s rookery in ‘Oliver Twist’, the Old Nichol would have been too dangerous.  He was accompanied by two senior policemen and three constables, with a further platoon of officers within a whistles-blow. “Wretched houses with broken windows patched with rags and paper: every room let out to a different family, and in many instances to two or even three … filth everywhere — a gutter before the houses and a drain behind — clothes drying and slops emptying, from the windows; girls of fourteen or fifteen, with matted hair, walking about barefoot, and in white great-coats, almost their only covering; boys of all ages, in coats of all sizes and no coats at all; men and women, in every variety of scanty and dirty apparel, lounging, scolding, drinking, smoking, squabbling, fighting, and swearing.”

Charles Booth's poverty map of Bethnal Green 1889

Charles Booth's Poverty Map from 1889. The black and dark blue denotes the poorest most criminal areas

The Old Nichol was even worse than that, “one painful and monotonous round of vice, filth, and poverty, huddled in dark cellars, ruined garrets, bare and blackened rooms, teeming with disease and death.” As the 19th Century drew to a close two books were influential in awakening the public conscience,  Arthur Morrison’s  “A Child of The Jago” about the Old Nichol, and Jack London’s “The People of The Abyss“.

Arnold Circus bandstand

The bandstand at Arnold Circus, built on a mound of rubble from the Old Nichol rookery. ©Philip Walker www.jewisheastend.com

The newly formed LCC began pulling-down the slums in 1891, and in its place created the Boundary Estate, the first council housing in the world, with gardens built triumphantly on a mound of rubble from the Old Nichol. The Rowntree Cocoa poster appeared at this time, one of the biggest posters the Beggarstaffs ever produced. I imagine it was left hanging on a partly demolished wall, a target for resentful mud-slinging locals. A passing versifier wrote :

                                          “A splotch of mud on the Beggarstaff Man,

                                                        A splotch, that is all.

                                          But it blinds the eye of the Cocoa Man,

                                                  On a Bethnal Green dead wall.”

Aztec woman pouring cocoa from cup to cup to make froth

Aztec woman pouring cocoa from cup to cup to make the sacred froth ca.1553

Cocoa, or cacao beans came from Central and Southern America. Cultivation was first recorded 3,500 years ago, and the beans were sacred to the Mayan and Aztec civilisations. When the Spanish arrived they found the Emperor Moctezuma II would drink it flavoured with spices and whipped into a froth from a gold goblet for dinner.  It was brought to Spain by the conquistador Henri Cortez, but the Spanish found the drink bitter and almost unpalatable. By adding flavours such as cinnamon and pepper, and later of course sugar, chocolate drinking became popular but largely confined to Spain.  When Cromwell’s Navy captured Jamaica from the Spanish, the English found cacao plantations planted by the Spanish.

Bishopsgate, London, 1650

Bishopsgate in London, 1650.

The first advertisement for chocolate in London appeared in 1657,  “In Bishopsgate Street in Queen’s Head Alley, at a Frenchman’s house, is an excellent West Indian drink called chocolate, to be sold, where you may have it ready at any time, and also unmade, at reasonable rates.”

Making chocolate was very labour intensive and along-winded. The cocoa nuts were split and the beans dried in the sun before shipping to England. Then the dried beans were roasted and winnowed to remove the shells leaving ‘nibs’, which were ground on a special stone turning them into a paste which was dried in moulds. Only then could they be transformed into chocolate. You need between 300 and 600 beans to make 1 kg of chocolate.

Cocoa Nut

Cocoa Fruit or Nut, 20cm long!

17th and 18th Century chocolate would be unrecognisable to us today, the drink was thick, cool, and gritty. Bitter and grown-up, especially if it was mixed with wine or port.  I’ve never been a fan of chocolate, too sweet and sticky. Watching the crowds of (mostly) women excitedly gather around the stalls selling chocolate at Borough Market I wonder what it is that makes it so appealing.  Apparently twice as many women as men crave chocolate, and men mostly prefer bitter chocolate.

Keith Floyd and Clarissa Porter cooking in Devon.

Keith Floyd and Clarissa in his kitchen in Devon. The fridge is on the left.

Some years ago I was waiting with Clarissa for Keith Floyd in his Devon kitchen. We waited with M, a free-lance journalist. Keith was in Tuckenhay preparing for the lunchtime service at The Maltsters Arms. M was hungry, and she rifled through his fridge. “Mmm…” she said, “…chocolate.” She turned to us brandishing a large bar of Bourneville. “You’d better not touch that,” warned Clarissa. “Why not? Keith won’t mind, will he?” replied M.  “Yes he’ll mind very much, he’s numbered each piece.” Maria shrugged disbelievingly and scoffed some Bourneville. Keith appeared and he and Clarissa started cooking. I sat watching, and M started banging away at her laptop. M’s obsession was to be given a column on a certain tabloid. “Kelvin is interested in my ideas,” she’d gasp. Nothing else mattered, she’d sit all day bashing-out ideas for her non-existent column, instead of doing what she was supposed to be doing, and recording Keith’s every word. Stopping for coffee Keith went to the fridge, “Who’s touched my chocolate?” He said a mite grumpily. “I didn’t think you’d mind,” said M brightly.  “Well, I do.” And Keith refused to acknowledge her presence for the rest of the day, but at every opportunity dropped into the conversation his observations on trust and honesty, and how some people would stop at nothing in their pursuit of self-gratification. And so on.

Dr-Matthew-Green-Unreal-City-Audio-tours

Dr Matthew Green

If you’d like to find out more about London’s chocolate history, I recommend Dr Matthew Green‘s Chocolate and Coffee Tour. Matthew guides the tour around the sights, sounds, and smells of 18th Century London, complete with actors in period costume, and the chance to taste an authentic 18th Century cocoa. It’ll be a bit different to the usual walking tour, he had the idea when he was writing “The Lost World Of the London Coffeehouse’ which will be published through the Idler Academy in May. Invited to give talks at The Academy, Selfridges and at the upcoming Port Eliot Festival he thought there might be an audience for a real-life experience and assembled a team of actors and musicians to bring to life the streets and coffee houses of 17th Century London.

17th Century Chocolate House

London Chocolate House in the 17th Century

I met Matthew in The Black Lab, he ordered hot chocolate of course and began regaling me with chocolatey anecdotes. “If you could try 17th Century chocolate you’d probably choke!” He said sipping his cocoa. ” It was bitter and gritty and quite sludgy. But it became very popular in the coffee houses, in 1663 there were 82 coffee houses in the City of London, 100 years later there were 3,000 in London, and remember there were no news services. You went to a coffee house, and sat at a big communal table and immediately started a conversation with the person sitting next to you; that was the convention and how you learned the latest gossip and news. ‘What news have you?’ would be the shout as a newcomer entered.”  I glanced across the road at a chain coffee shop and today’s coffee ‘experience’. Lone customers sitting in hushed reverence with their latte, staring at their laptops. Imagine rushing into a smoke-filled Costa sweaty, unwashed, a clay pipe clamped between your blistered lips, clothes layered upon layer and dirty from the street, flopping down next to a perfect stranger and shouting “What news?!”

Map of Deptford and Docks

The Victualling Yard at Deptford, 1813.

Chocolate was more difficult and time-consuming to prepare than coffee or tea.  In Deptford’s Royal Victoria Victualling Yard, cocoa for the Navy was produced. Sailors had chocolate for breakfast, it replaced the unpleasant burgoo, coarse oatmeal and water.

The Cocoa Bean Roasters in Deptford's Victualling Yard

Cocoa Bean Roasters in Deptford's Royal Victoria Victualling Yard 1896

Sailors enjoyed generous daily rations. In 1622 the allowance was 1lb biscuit and 1 gallon beer every day, 2 lb salt beef four days a week, together with 1 lb of bacon or pork, 1 pint of pease. And for the other 3 days a quarter pound of salt fish and quarter pound of butter and a quarter pound of cheese. Additionally the sailors could buy other food from his wages. In the 18thn Century he gallon of beer, long a source of trouble, gave way to chocolate and tea.  Good living was one of the inducements to joining-up. Chocolate, or cocoa, or as sailors called it pussers ki was produced in Deptford from raw beans, more than 800 tonnes a year was made in the Victualling Yard. The ‘ordinary’ at 84% cocoa nibs the most pure chocolate, and the ‘soluble’. The ‘ordinary’ took several hour to prepare starting the night before when the chocolate was grated from 7 lb slabs, stamped with the Admiralty arrow, then locked away under sentry guard till the early hours when it was transferred to the ship’s coppers (boilers) and boiled for 3 or 4 hours, before being served for breakfast, with biscuit when the bugle sounded ‘Cooks of Messes’. The soluble chocolate which was less pure at 64% contained sago flour and could be prepared quickly, therefore more suited to drinking on watch in bad weather. It wasn’t till the advent of the modern drinking cocoa from Rowntree and Cadbury that it was taken up by the mass of the population at the end of the 19th Century.

Rabot Estate Cocoa Growers

Rabot Estates in Borough Market

I went to Borough Market, to Rabot Estate, buying 100% pure cocoa bean shavings, £7.50 for 120g; but you can buy 100% cocoa by Willie’s Cacao in Waitrose, I’d recommend the Venezuelan at about £6 for 180g.

My recipe is for an authentic cocoa drink from the 17th Century. I pushed the boat out and bought a chocolate cup on ebay, a Royal Worcester design by Sir Joshua Reynolds dated 1765, when the artist was founding the Royal Academy.

You can adapt this recipe to your liking by adding or subtracting ingredients. Be prepared for a surprise, there’s nothing whispery about this drink!

Cocoa, recipe for real cocoa hot chocolate 17th Century

17th Century Restoration Cocoa

Restoration Cocoa, or, a Real Hot Chocolate


Serves 4

Preparation time 10 minutes

Ingredients:

Water

Whole milk

1 star anise

1 pimento, or a sweet chili pepper

Half stick of cinnamon

Few scrapes of nutmeg

Pinch of black pepper

Few drops of pure vanilla essence

Few drops of orange flower water

6 heaped tsp of ground almonds

1 tbs honey, or more, to taste. Or sugar the same.

2 tbs pure 100% cocoa

Method:

The amount of water and milk depends on the cup size. I used an authentic chocolate cup which is about the size of a demi-tasse: 100ml. So for 4 cup servings I needed 100ml water, and 300 ml milk. In a small pan bring the water to the boil, and in a separate pan heat the milk gently.

With a pestle and mortar pound the star anise, the pimento or chili pepper, the nutmeg, the cinnamon, and the pepper. Pound till it resembles ground coffee. Add a few drops of pure vanilla essence and orange flower water, and the ground almonds. Combine all these ingredients then drizzle-in the honey so the mixture resembles a grainy paste.

Stir the paste into the boiling water till smooth, then spoon the cocoa into the milk.

Finally add the water to the milk and whisk gently on a low heat till the mixture thickens slightly. Pour warm into your cups to serve.

©2012 David Porter

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Cobblers To The World!

The past is another country and in my case it is my scrapbooks, and Rochester and Chatham where I spent three years at art school.

The Medway at Chatham, from Fort Pitt Hill in Rochester

The Medway and Chatham from Fort Pitt Hill, Rochester.©David Porter

In 1803, in America, the present was another country. Few Americans knew anything about the land west of the Missouri, so President Jefferson sent an expedition of thirty men, led by two young soldiers Lewis and Clark, to explore and map the wilderness.

Commemorative stamp celbrating 150th anniversary of the Lewis and Clark Expedition

U.S.stamp commemorating the 150th anniversary of the Lewis and Clark Expedition

They didn’t know how long they would be away, or how vast was the country that lay ahead. Dinner was uppermost in their minds and much of their time was spent hunting and foraging for food, which they cooked in a type of pot the early settlers had brought with them from England, the Dutch Oven. Two and half years later Lewis and Clark returned, and wagon trains began spreading westwards towards the Pacific. In the mid 19th Century nearly 3,000 Mormon pioneers, many of them religious refugees from England, pulled handcarts 1,300 miles from Iowa to Utah. No covered wagons for these poor people but hanging proudly from their carts was a Dutch oven.

Mormon Handcart Pioneer monument

Mormon Handcart Pioneer Monument in Salt Lake, with Dutch Oven. ©Morris A. Thurston

Americans still celebrate their ancestors reliance on the Dutch oven, holding cook-offs at Dutch Oven Gatherings (DOGs). The DOG season has just started in America, and one favourite dish is the old English ‘pot pie’, also known as a ‘cobbler’. Pot pies are as old as pastry making, and were a regular item on the menus of  grand houses in England and France; the ‘four-and-twenty blackbird’ pie was a pot pie.  Americans really took pot pies, or cobblers, to their hearts. Regional variations come with colourful names: the Grunt in Massachusetts, the Slump in Vermont, the Buckle, the Betty, and the Sonker! The Brown Betty is a bit like a bread pudding, and the Pandowdy is similar to an apple crumble. The ‘Washington Post’ commented that the phrase “as American as apple pie” should really be “as American as a cobbler”.

Maybe the name came about because they resemble cobblestones, or perhaps because small round loaves were called ‘cobs’ in England. Sometimes uncooked biscuits or suet dumplings were scattered on top of the filling, giving the appearance of a ‘cobbled’ road when the pie was cooked. The ‘Oxford Encyclopedia of Food and Drink in America’ says: “Without brick ovens, colonial cooks often made cobblers in pots over an open fire. As cobblers cook, the filling stews and creates its own sauce and gravy, while the pastry puffs up and dries.” English recipes tend to use a scone type of dough, and in America they use a more crisp pastry.

Dutch-oven-fire

Dutch Oven ©The Yurt Farm

The Dutch Oven is perhaps the single most important item of cooking equipment in the history of cooking, a simple cauldron with three legs to raise it above the fire and a flat lid with a raised lip allowing coals to be scattered on top; the lid can be used by itself as a skillet. A wire handle attached to the pot allowed the Dutch Oven to be hung over a fire. We still have these pots but now they’ve lost their legs, the lids are rounded, and we call them ‘casseroles’. The hardware shops of Deptford sell ‘Dutch Pots’ or ‘Dutchies’, aluminium pots in varying sizes but no legs, and if you search the internet you’ll find camping shops selling the real thing, a cast iron Dutch oven with legs.  In the 17th Century saucepans were mostly made from brass and very expensive. They were handed down through generations, George Washington’s mother stipulated in her will that her ‘kitchen iron-work’ should be divided between her grandchildren. Iron pots were cheaper but heavier, more difficult to make and liable to crack.  At school I learned about Abraham Darby and the Industrial Revolution, he was the inventor of the coke-fuelled blast furnace. Darby was manufacturing brass cooking pots in Bristol when in 1704 he travelled to Holland to study a new iron-casting method utilising sand moulds. He brought his skills and some Dutch workers back to England where he carried on experimenting and perfected the iron casting process, making thinner, lighter, and stronger pots.

Coalbrookdale at Night

Abraham Darby's blast furnaces at Coalbrookdale at night, by Philipp James de Loutherbourg

He moved to bigger works in Coalbrookdale and patented his casting method in 1707 monopolising the cast iron cooking pot market in Britain and America for the next 200 years. There’s something reassuringly sturdy and no-nonsense about cast iron cookware. We have quite a collection of frying pans, griddle pans and pots. I like the gritty blackness of them and the way you never really clean them, they just get better and better. ‘Seasoning’ it’s called, which is now a family joke.  Anything I buy or acquire that just sits unused in a corner is described as ‘seasoning’ till the time is right. I’ve a dishwasher seasoning at the moment.

'Man-About-Town'-magazine-January-1961.

'Man About Town' January 1961.

I’ve been taking pictures since I was three, first with my big sister’s box camera which often jammed. Then I’d watch her disappear under the eiderdown to open the camera and free the film.  Then she bought a Brownie 127, and I was given a small camera from Woolworths that took 16 pictures on 127 film. It had a plastic tartan case and a wire viewfinder. I’ve still got it somewhere. When I was eleven I started developing my films in my bedroom, see-sawing the rolls through glass rollers in a shallow tank and total darkness before making contact prints.  I decided I would be a photographer, my sister Christine encouraged me bringing home the latest cutting-edge magazines with shots by the trendy triumvirate of Duffy, Donovan, and Bailey. ‘Man About Town’.  American ‘Esquire’, ‘Queen’, and American ‘Look’ featured inspiring photographs by Irving Penn and William Klein.  Sunday supplements appeared featuring photographers such as Don McCullin and Art Kane.

telegraph-weekend-magazine-March-1967-Don-McCullin-photographs-Liverpool-poets.

Don McCullin photographs the Liverpool 8 poets for the Telegraph Magazine, March 1967.

I saved these magazines, cutting out the pictures and sticking them into scrap books. I still have a serious magazine habit, but now I buy most of my glossies from the stall in Deptford Market on Wednesdays, ‘3 for £4’, and my home is stuffed with hundreds, probably thousands of magazines.

Deptford Market, the cheap magazine stall

Wednesday's Deptford Market, the magazine stall.

My poor mother was dismayed, Christine had been to Wimbledon art school for three years, and her horizons had been broadened. I went to Wimbledon Saturday mornings when I was 10 or 11, but she hoped I’d grow out of it. “Photography is a very expensive hobby,” she said at every opportunity. Followed by a stern, “You needn’t think you’re going to art school.”  But I was quietly single-minded, borrowing all the photography books from the library and staring wistfully into the windows of the local camera shop.

Bill-Brandt-the-snicket-Halifax-Time-Life-The-Art-of-Photography-book.

Bill Brandt's 1937 picture of a snicket in Halifax, from my Time-Life book 'The Art of Photography', laying on some exposed cobbles in Ashby Road, London SE4.

I tended towards contrasty images of urban black and white emptiness, my favourite picture was Bill Brandt’s shot of  a ‘snicket’, a steep ramp of cobbles in Halifax. Christine went to New York for a holiday and came back with “Message From The Interior”, a book of photographs by Walker Evans who became my latest hero.

'Message-From-The-Interior'-by-Walker-Evans-published-by-Eakins-Press-1966.

'Message From The Interior' a collection of photographs © Walker Evans, published by the Eakins Press in New York 1966.

“What was New York like?” I asked her, starry-eyed. “If you don’t look up, it’s just like Tooting,” she said.  Luckily my sister’s campaign to get me into art school didn’t waver, and when I was about 16 she bought me a Leica IIIc with a collapsible lens. I left school and took a job so I could buy a second-hand MPP enlarger with all the dishes, paper, and chemicals. When I’d assembled a few prints Christine organised the college applications and then drove me around the country from interview to interview till I found a place in Rochester. Where I met Clarissa, who in the picture below is walking down Constitution Hill in Swansea modelling an Ossie Clark dress for my college-leaving portfolio.

Constitution-Hill-Swansea-Clarissa-cobbles

Clarissa modelling an Ossie Clark/Radley dress, on Constitution Hill in Swansea.

That picture by Bill Brandt of cobbles fascinated me. The streets around my home were once laid with granite setts, and when the surface breaks-up the cobbles reappear. Some streets and mews are still cobbled, Comet Street off Deptford High Street for instance, and Greenwich Market. Lewisham has its own ‘snicket’, White Post Lane. Not so dramatic as the Halifax street but still evocative of a mysterious bygone era.

White-Post-Lane-Lewisham-London.

White Post Lane

The streets east of White Post Lane were built in an old quarry, their names give it away: Loampit Hill previously known as Lome Pitt Hole,  Sandrock Road, Cliffview, Fossil, Overcliff, and so on. White Post Lane is much older than the houses and used to run along the quarry’s edge from the brick field to Loampit Hill. The cobbled stretch may date from the old quarry workings it seems out of place among the late 19th and early 20th Century houses.

Brickworks and Quarry near Loampit Hill. Courtesy of ideal-homes.org.uk.

Faulkeners Brick Kiln and Quarry near White Post Lane,1810. Image from ideal-homes.org.uk

Fours years after art school and at last I was working for magazines photographing rock royalty and some fashion. One day we’d been on a fashion shoot and gave the model a lift home to Chelsea. She invited us in for a coffee, and introduced us to her bemused boyfriend Terry. I was star-struck, more impressed than I’d been meeting Paul McCartney.

Terry de Havilland, cobbler to the world

Terry de Havilland. Cobbler to The World. Courtesy of matchesfashion.com

Terry de Havilland was the cobbler of the moment, a genius. I had several pairs of platform shoes including a multi-coloured snakeskin pair, a rip-off of Terry’s design. He was very nice and friendly as a proper cockney cobbler should be, and despite his trendy credentials as nice as pie. His shop was on the Kings Road, “Cobblers To The World”, and I’m pleased to say he is still making fantastic shoes.

My recipe is for a Beef Cobbler, real rib-sticking comfort food.  You don’t need  a Dutch oven to cook a cobbler just the modern equivalent, the casserole dish.

beef-cobbler-in-cast-iron-casserole-dutch-oven

Beef Cobbler

Beef Cobbler

Preparation time : 10 – 15 minutes

Cooking times : 90 minutes (but can be started the day before and cooked in two stages)

Ingredients : (makes 3 or 4 portions)

For the filling,

2 or 3 tbs beef dripping

2 tbs plain flour

Rock salt and freshly ground pepper (to season the flour)

975g beef, I used shin of beef, cut into generous cubes

225g banana shallots, sliced (or 2 small onions, but the shallots are sweeter)

300 ml beef stock

300 ml red wine

4 pickled walnuts, quartered, with 125ml of the vinegar from the jar

2 tbs tomato purée

Bouquet garni of thyme, parsley and bay tied together

For the topping,

450g plain flour

1 tsp English mustard powder

5 tsp baking powder

Salt and pepper

110g butter, cubed

50g walnuts, crushed

2 tbs chopped parsley

300ml milk

1 egg, beaten, to glaze

Some fresh sage leaves

Method :

Melt 2 tbs of the dripping in your casserole dish (mine is 23cm diameter and 10cm deep and it is cast iron). Dust the cubed beef in seasoned flour and brown in batches in the melted dripping before removing with a slotted spoon to a plate.

Add the remaining dripping and soften the shallots., then de-glaze the pan, shallots and all, with the wine, the stock, and a wine glass of the vinegar from the pickled walnuts. Stir-in the tomato purée and return the meat to the dish. Add the pickled walnuts and tuck-in the herbs, take care that the meat is covered by the stock, if not add more beef stock or wine. Cover the casserole with the lid and simmer very gently for three-quarters of an hour.

While this happening, prepare the pastry top. Sift the flour and the baking powder into a large mixing bowl and season with pepper, salt and the mustard powder. Rub in the butter till the mixture resembles bread crumbs and then add the chopped parsley and the chopped walnuts, and stir-in the milk. Knead lightly in the bowl, or tip out and knead, whichever suits you, till everything is combined.

Wrap the dough in clingfilm and chill for at least 30 minutes, or until you are ready. Remove the herbs from the casserole. Take the chilled dough and flatten it with your hands so you have a circle roughly the same size as the casserole lid. You could press the lid gently onto the dough to give you a template for the amount you need to make the cobblers.

Cut across the dough in opposite directions and take each square and using your hands roll it into a ball before flattening it slightly and placing on top of the meat in the casserole. When you’ve finished brush the dough with egg-wash and scatter with some fresh sage leaves.

Cover the casserole with the lid and put into your oven pre-heated to 200C for 10 minutes. Then remove the lid and continue to cook for a further 20 – 30 minutes at 190C.

The cobbler will be golden and crisp on top and underneath steamy, sticky, and soft, the dough having wrapped itself around the beef!

©2012 David Porter


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