“Our local carters working the [Manchester] warehouses seldom took food with them. Public houses, avid for trade, put on some kind of a free snack with their 1½d ‘carters’ pints’. Certain pubs went further and supplied potato pie, cheese and pickles, a pint of beer and a piece of thick twist tobacco — all for 4½d. A carter had to prove his bona fides, though, by bearing a whip in hand or around his neck.”
Robert Roberts, The Classic Slum: Salford life in the first quarter of the century, Penguin, 1971, repr. 1974.
“About what should and should not be eaten with beer I would hesitate to lay down the law so forcibly and finally as do the writers upon wine. The writers on wine say that the correct procedure is the choose the wines first and then to arrange the dinner to accord with them. But here again it seems to me that the these wine connoisseurs move in a rarefied atmosphere which, if it is not unknown to the ordinary Drinker, is at least unfamiliar to him… Beer drinkers are not pernickety and Pecksniffian. They are ready to accept an ampler variety of tastes and customs.”
Our local Wetherspoon’s isn’t a very good one. It rarely has anything other than Doom Bar, Ruddles or Greene King IPA on offer, usually a degree or two too warm, served in an ambience that brings to mind a faux-pub on a cross channel ferry. We pop in from time to time, though, just in case something exciting might be available and, yesterday, we were tempted to stop for a couple of pints from the international beer festival range.
Pacific Pearl, brewed by Good George of New Zealand (Kelly Ryan (PDF link)) was very good indeed though, yes, a bit warm. A sort of a black IPA or citrusy porter, like an oily Terry’s Chocolate Orange melted in a very posh coffee, it was certainly worth £2.15. Fly by Night, brewed by the chap from La Trappe in the Netherlands, on the other hand, was all sweaty socks and cardboard — bad rather than off, we think. Swings and roundabouts, eh?
As we drank, we talked about why, apart from the beer, we didn’t like the pub. Our conclusion: it feels like a fast food restaurant with some pub-like features — very convenient and obviously good value, but naff. Then, coincidentally, last night, we came across this passage in the 1985 CAMRA Good Beer Guide, on the subject of Host Group, Grand Met/Watney’s newly announced pub chain:
‘The Host packaged pub enterprise is as much of a threat to those who love individuality and consumer choice, as the packaged beer phenomenon was in the last two decades,’ says Peter Lerner of CAMRA’s Pub Preservation Group. ‘We cannot let our pubs decline to become chains of look-alike quasi-Happy Eater, Kentucky Fried Chicken bars or motorway service stations.’
A quasi-Happy Eater is a very good description of our local JDW.
We’ve been making our own pizzas for a few years but have never really been happy with the results. We’ve tried pizza stones; posh mozzarella; tomato sauces from both fresh toms and tinned, cooked and uncooked.
Now, at last, we’ve settled on a recipe and an approach, and it’s one that illustrates the Premium Sausage Problem: the trick was using simpler, cheaper ingredients. It makes what we call ‘upmarket takeaway’ pizza — cheesy and salty, but with a crisp crust; think Pizza Express. By popular demand (one person asked), here’s the recipe.
Dough (for two pizzas)
300g plain white flour — we use the cheapest available.
Optional: a pinch of dried basil, oregano or mixed Italian herbs.
180ml of warm water.
Bung all the above in a food processor with a dough hook and knead in the machine for five or so minutes, or until it comes together into a nice, shiny looking ball of dough. If it looks too dry after two minutes, add water a drop at a time. (You can also make the dough by hand, which will be messier and take longer, if you prefer.)
Put a slug of olive oil in a large bowl.
Shape the dough into a neat ball and turn it in the oil then leave the dough in the bowl covered with clingfilm for a couple of hours.
Knock it back when it doubles in size and then leave for another hour or so.
Can/pack of passata (sieved, uncooked tomatoes).
Pack of grated, hard mozzarella. (Not sloppy mozzarella balls.)
Salt, dried basil, black pepper.
Topping 1: anchovies and black olives. (TIP: crush the olives in your hand to help dry them out.)
Topping 2: 10-12 slices from a chorizo ring (per pizza).
Optional: basil leaves.
Putting it together
Get the oven on as hot as it will go.
Divide your dough in two and, on a floured surface, make a ball. Flatten it out with the heel of your hand or a heavily floured rolling pin until it’s a neat circle 20cm across. Flour a non-stick pizza tin (ours cost £4 each) and then press the dough out to the edges. It should end up pretty thin all over. Leave it for 10 minutes.
Take a ladle and spread a very thin layer of passata over each base — thin enough that you can see the dough through it in places — something like four or five tablespoons’ worth. Add salt, pepper and dried basil to taste. Leave for another 1o minutes.
Sprinkle cheese all over, just enough to cover.
Add other toppings in a way which pleases your eye. (But not basil leaves just yet!)
Once the oven is at maximum temperature, put both pizzas in. Our oven cooks them in bang on 11 minutes. In case your oven is better, set a timer for 9-10 and keep an eye on them.
When they’re done (crust beginning to blacken, cheese melted and darkening), take them out.
Add more black pepper and fresh basil leaves, if you’re using them.
Tweaks and customisation
Other toppings that work well are pepper and sweetcorn (further cost-cutting: frozen work well); and small beef meatballs with cayenne and black pepper.
If you find the pizza too crisp this way and like it ‘bendier’, turn the oven down to c.200 degrees C and cook for a few minutes longer.
If you really want to use mozzarella balls, try slicing them and leaving them to drain on a cloth for a while before adding them.
Beer? Oh, yeah, this is a beer blog, isn’t it? Alright then: we find that pizza goes particularly well with Saison Dupont but, actually, pizza works with pretty much any beer you fancy.
Waiter — the ‘Wiener’ Schnitzel on your menu — is that really veal? [Sneering] Or just pork?
Veal, sir. If it was merely in the Viennese style, we would certainly have said so.
We usually eat so many schnitzels on our trips to Germany that, by the time we leave, the mere thought of a buttery fried breadcrumb makes us feel sick.
We ordered and regretted the Käse Schnitzel at Brauerei Fässla in Bamberg — the size of a frisbee and with a kilo of Cheddar melted on top.
We wondered at a restaurant called Schnitzel Time! (in Augsburg, we think) which offered something like fifty variations, including a ‘Hawaiian’. (Yes, that’s right — with tinned pineapple.)
We scheduled our afternoon pauses to coincide with a TV show whose title we never worked out but the gist of which was: “It’s 10 AM and Fritz has arrived at the restaurant to prepare a hundred schnitzels for the lunch and evening service. Meanwhile, across town, staff at Die Goldene Gans are having a crisis — the daily delivery of breadcrumbs hasn’t arrived!”
We bought a schnitzel hammer at the Galeria Kaufhof in Cologne because, somehow, a German meat tenderiser just seemed more appropriate.
Last night, we had Schnitzel Wiener Art for tea. We butterflied and hammered flat pork tenderloin, dipped it first in flour, then in egg, and finally in Panko breadcrumbs, before frying in butter with a splash of sunflower oil. As we ate it, we wished, not for the first time, that a trip to Germany was on the cards in the foreseeable future