Day 85: Lincolnshire Poacher Custard with Sourdough
inspired by Roots
As you might expect I’ve had a lot of conversations about food recently.
And the sentence I hear uttered time and time again is…
“I miss restaurants!!!”
For one reason or another we are all starting to crave eating out, rather than eating in.
“I’m just so fed up with cooking!”
I hear that a lot too. Normally as an explanation as to why people are missing restaurants so much.
I realise that I am not the majority here. Not everyone has embraced cooking during lockdown quite as whole heartedly as I have. I think about food, read about food, write about food and cook a lot of food. I even dream about food. Last night I had a dream about writing about food.
I admit it. Hi, I’m Libby, and I am completely and utterly obsessed with food.
That doesn’t mean to say I’m whipping up restaurant quality food all the time (once a day is more than enough!). There have been plenty of times that I’ve relished fishing out some soup or bolognese from the freezer to defrost for dinner.
I’ve sat here writing my blog in the morning with leftover takeaway pizza for my breakfast on more than one occasion.
But if takeaways can solve moments when we just can’t be bothered to cook, then surely there must be more to why we miss restaurants so much.
This first is obvious. The washing up. Even a takeaway could well involve some washing up, even if it’s just a couple of forks.
This, sadly, is a barrier for some people when we talk about DIY restaurant kits that are now appearing from more and more eateries.
As an alternative to hot food delivered within a small radius of a restaurant, these kits have done most the prep for you, but will need a small amount of cooking (mainly reheating, don’t panic) to finish the dinner. As every thing arrives cold, and tightly packaged, it means that restaurants can deliver their food to a much wider geographical area.
They’ve gone nationwide.
“It won’t be like a restaurant if I have to wash up after!”
True, it won’t be the same as a restaurant. Someone will still have to be chef. You will either have to wash up or spend the time at the dinner table arguing why you shouldn’t be the one to do the dishes.
There will be no bustle of diners and staff. You are responsible for creating the perfect ambience with music and mood lighting. You will have to go and get another glass of wine yourself.
It’s safe to say that a home restaurant kit will not even come close to a proper restaurant experience.
But look on the bright side. At least there won’t be a bill after. You will have already paid for you food in advance. The wine you pour yourself (or any tipple of choice) can cost as much or as little as you can afford.
You can also sit at your table as long as you like. No rushing dessert to be out within your allotted time slot. No trying to avoid the glaring eyes of a queue of hungry diners as you consider whether you have time for a coffee.
You can set the music to play something you actually like, at a volume of your choice too.
And no dithering over a menu, unable to choose. Again, you’ve already done that.
The most obvious reason to order these kits is to support restaurants at this difficult time. Some might think with restaurants opening on the horizon that the worst is over. That the country is “up and running again”.
How I hate that phrase.
The truth is this is where the real battles begin. Yes they might soon be open, but it will be months before they can be full again. Landlords will expect rent, bills will need paying, staff will desperately want shifts and therefore wages.
Many think that if the two metre rule eventually gets relaxed down to one metre, restaurants and pubs should be fine….. right?
Tony Rodd, chef-owner of Copper and Ink in Blackheath, wrote on Twitter
“At 2m, we can fit in 50% of our tables and chairs, however based on average table size, will operate at 32% of our normal turnover
At 1m, we can fit in 80% of our tables and chairs, however based on our average table size, will operate at 54% of our normal turnover”Tony Rodd, Copper & Ink Restaurant
There is a reason that restaurants keep tables close together and fit as many people in as possible.
No it is not to create an amusing obstacle course for the waiting staff. It’s because it’s the only way they can be profitable.
So until we are through with social distancing restaurants will still need support. And they will need other revenue streams.
Sure they can do hot food to takeaway. Locals can come and collect. But as soon as you try and deliver through a company like UberEats or Deliveroo, you lose such a large cut that, financially, it’s barely worth it.
But DIY kits, distributed using couriers rather than food delivery drivers, mean restaurants can keep more of the profits to try and make ends meet.
So I urge you when you next think about a takeaway. When you next can’t be bothered to cook (much) or have something to celebrate. Have a look at restaurants you love, or restaurants you’ve always meant to try.
See if they deliver.
One plus side of restaurants delivering nationwide is that you don’t just have to support places on your doorstep.
Take Roots in York for example.
I’ve been wanted to go to this restaurant for ages. Owned by Tommy Banks, it centres around three seasonal menus. There is the Hunger Gap, The Preservation Season and Time Of Abundance. All linked to what is seasonal and ready to eat from their farm and local suppliers.
If I was going to this restaurant normally I would be booking months in advance (this place is popular), organising train tickets, sorting out a hotel room for the night. This would have to be a special occasion.
But now you can have the food delivered to your home. Through Tommy Banks’ website you can order his “Made in Oldstead” food boxes (he has another restaurant called The Black Swan there too). Three course dinners delivered to your door. With only minimal cooking involved.
Well, in theory you can. If you remember to get straight onto the website when they get released every Saturday. If, like me, you forget then you may miss out. They sell out fast.
In fact it’s probably harder to get your hands on a food box than it is to get a table in his restaurant.
But it’s good news. It means lots of people out there are supporting restaurants. It means theres a market for this kind of eating.
To keep your options open you can always check out Restaurant Kits. This website is still very new but over the next few weeks more and more kits from different restaurants will get added to the site. It will help support food businesses across the UK and they deliver nationwide.
Back to Roots. If I can’t get it delivered them I’m making it myself.
There is one thing on this menu that I have wanted to eat since the moment I heard about this restaurant. It’s the first thing a waiter will bring you to eat.
“Lincolnshire Poacher Custard”
That’s right. Cheese custard. I have died and gone to heaven just thinking about this.
Lincolnshire Poacher is a hard cheese made in the same way as a traditional cheddar. I’ve eaten it time and time again on cheese boards in restaurants. But this is the first time I have some in my fridge.
Most of the recipes for cheese custard you can find online are for a set, baked custard. Sort of like a quiche without the pastry.
But from the looks of Tommy Banks’ custard that doesn’t look baked to me.
That looks like a regular type of custard that’s been piped into a bowl.
Then sprinkled with something…. maybe nutmeg?
Served with sourdough, seed crackers (that I can’t be bothered to try and make) and butter.
With a bit of digging I find a recipe for Baron Bigod (a British brie-like cheese) custard from Will Lockwood, who just so happens to be the Head Chef at The Black Swan. The other restaurant owned by Tommy Banks.
So I’m following this recipe, and swapping the cheeses.
It’s really easy to make. The recipe says it serves two as a starter (with the custard being one element of a much more complicated dish) so I’m making the full amount.
100ml of cream (I’m using double cream) goes into a pan and set on a low heat to come to the boil. Meanwhile I beat two egg yolks with half a teaspoon of Dijon mustard. When the cream is almost boiling I slowly pour it into the egg mix, whisking constantly. Then it all goes back in the pan and on a low heat and in goes 70g of cheese to melt.
As I stand there whisking away until the cheese has melted and the custard is smooth, I realise there is another huge benefit to restaurant cooked food.
When a restaurant serves you a plate of something delicious you eat it and think, wow, how do they make it taste this good? That chef is amazing!
The answer for a lot of restaurant food is simple. It’s butter. Or cream. Or both.
There may not be any butter in this custard, but looking at my mix of cream and cheese slowly melting together doesn’t half make me think about just how unhealthy this is.
It’s why I don’t make ice cream at home. I could. I have an ice cream machine (somewhere…). But once you see just how much cream and sugar goes into making it, there just isn’t the same enjoyment in the eating.
Once the custard is thick and silky smooth I pour it into two ramekins and it goes into the fridge to chill for an hour.
It tastes amazing. Of course it would. You would have to be a pretty terrible cook to mix egg yolk, cream and cheese together and end up with something horrible.
Between us we eat one ramekin (so a portion for one person) with some homemade sourdough. And that is more than enough. We don’t even serve it with butter.
The other ramekin is staying in the fridge for a day or two until I’ve forgotten exactly what went into it. Then I will devour it, happily, all on my own. With butter.
Sometimes it’s better not to know what goes into a dish. Just trust a chef to cook it for you.
Especially now they deliver.