My six of the best Lincolnshire dishes

Cod and Black Pudding
Cod and Black Pudding

We play ‘Desert Island Dinners’ in our family. It’s a bit like its Radio 4 namesake, but rather than being hypothetically marooned on a desert island with a gramophone and your nine favourite discs, we choose our favourite dishes (writes James Waller-Davies).

It’s not as easy as it sounds. You might think everyone dashes for the lobster, foie gras, fillet steak, young August grouse, suckling pig and caviar heaped to outrageously decadent heights, we don’t – food, just like music, is very much a fancy of mood, place and time. Sometimes a bag of hot salted and vinegared chips eaten in the teeth of the North Sea wind is the best thing in the world.

Samphire Linguini

Samphire Linguini

Which brings me to Lincolnshire. When it comes to home cooking, if you had to be washed up anywhere, then this is the best food count. Underpinning it all are the farmers, producing the freshest vegetables in the country and some of the best beef and pork too. Then there’s the markets, the family-run butchers, bakers, fishmongers, delicatessens, farm shops and even roadside stalls, there is simply nowhere better.

Then add in the huge variety of wild game and wildfowl, the foraging opportunities out in the countryside, and soils and climate that make for successful gardening even for the novice, and Lincolnshire pulls even further away. We have, quite literally, got it all on a plate.

But all good meals come to an end and this is my last column. I have eaten and written my way through four years and 100 recipes. I’ve tried to be true to the local ingredients and followed the seasons but have also acknowledged some of the wider influences on British cooking. Over ten per cent of the recipes featured game, which is testament to Lincolnshire’s unique shooting heritage.

I’ve had one last go at my Lincolnshire ‘desert island dinners’, selecting my ‘6 of the best’ from the last four years. Choosing took a while, but in the end these are what I will remember most of my Lincolnshire table.

Partridge and Bacon Cream

Partridge and Bacon Cream

Cod with black pudding

Ingredients (Serves 4)

200g cod portion per person

100g black pudding

Pigeon and Prunes

Pigeon and Prunes

200ml dry cider

2 teaspoons capers

1 teaspoon chopped sage

50g butter

Rhurbarb Fool

Rhurbarb Fool

Method

Rub the cod lightly with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Break the black

pudding into rough one inch lumps and place on an oiled baking tray with the cod.

Bake in a pre-heated oven at 200°C for about 12 minutes. Adjust cooking according

to thickness of your cod. Rest the cod for 3 minutes before serving.

In a wide-bottomed pan, reduce the cider until it is a quarter of its original volume,

Blackberry and Apple Pie

Blackberry and Apple Pie

then add the butter and stir to a smooth sauce. Add the capers and sage, season

and bring to a light bubble.

Tip: If you like fish skin crackling – and cod skin crackling is especially good – cut the

skin into strips, dry in a warm oven for 10 minutes. This can be done in advance. To

finish the crackling, drop skin into hot corn oil and deep fry for about 10 seconds. It

will puff up and be deliciously crunchy.

Samphire linguini

Ingredients (serves 4)

Large bunch of fresh samphire

80-100g linguini per person

200g cooked cockles (cooked weight)

6 mussels per person

4 cloves garlic, chopped

50g butter

30ml olive oil

½ lemon

Method

Rinse the samphire well in cold water, then steam or boil for 3 minutes. When cool

enough to handle, gently remove the tough inner ‘skeleton’, leaving the rest of the

samphire intact. Set aside.

In a large pan of salted boiling water, cook the linguini as you like it – ‘al dente’ if you

like it slightly underdone, or softer as you prefer. Drain when ready.

Whilst the pasta is boiling, pop the mussels on top for a minute to cook. When they

are opened, they are ready. Remove and set aside, leaving them in their shells.

In a large, wide pan (a wok is perfect), soften the butter in the olive oil and gentle

soften the garlic. Add a good twist of black pepper.

Add the linguini, turning over in the flavoured oil and butter. Then add the samphire,

cockles and mussels, and turn gently. Squeeze the lemon over the pasta, add

seasoning, and give one last turn. Serve.

Partridge in bacon and mushroom cream

Ingredients (serves 4)

4 partridge

4 rashers streaky bacon

150g mushrooms

300ml double cream

1 glass dry white wine

Pinch of chopped sage

Method

Pre-heat oven to 200C. Stretch the bacon with the back of a knife and cut each in

half. Place a knob of seasoned butter in the cavity of each bird and cover with the

bacon. Roast for 10 minutes, then remove the bacon to the side, baste the birds and

return to the oven for a further 8 minutes. Remove and allow to rest.

While the birds are resting, fry the chopped mushrooms in the meat juices until soft,

add the chopped bacon, the sage and the wine. Reduce wine by half and then add

the cream. Season and cook for 2 minutes.

Carve the birds, sauce and serve.

Pigeon with prunes

Ingredients (serves 4)

4 wood pigeon

200g smoked bacon bits

40 prunes

450ml game stock

200ml red wine

1 onion

2 carrots

2 cloves garlic

Bay leaf

Method

Soak the prunes for 30 minutes in 600ml water. Keep the prune water.

Fry the pigeons all over to add colour and set aside. Finely chop the onion, grate the

garlic, dice the carrots and fry all together with the bacon bits until slightly coloured

and soft.

Place the pigeon in a heavy bottom casserole, add the onion, bacon, garlic and

carrots, along with the prunes. Pour over the stock, prune water and red wine.

Season and add bay leaf.

Cook, with lid on, in the oven at 170C for 2 hours. Pigeon breast should be tender

and beginning to fall off the bone. Cook for longer if needed. Thicken with a beurre

manié and check seasoning. Serve with season vegetables.

Rhubarb fool

Ingredients (serves 4 – 6)

500g chopped rhubarb

400ml double cream

5 tablespoons sugar

1 teaspoon ginger powder

Vodka

Method

Put the chopped rhubarb in a pan with the sugar and the ginger. Add a couple of

tablespoons of water and cook with a lid on until soften. Give a good mix with a

wooden spoon to puree. Leave to cool.

Whip the cream to a stiff peak. Place an inch of the cold rhubarb mixture in the

bottom of a glass or serving dish and add a dash of vodka – or other alcohol.

Carefully and quickly fold the remainder of the rhubarb into the cream until well

mixed.

Chill in the fridge for an hour and serve immediately. Serve on its own, with nothing

more than the expectation of a long, hot summer.

Blackberry and apple pie

Tips for a perfect pie:

Use your picked blackberries as soon as possible. As a wild berry, they carry a

variety of natural yeasts and fungi – all totally harmless – but they do cause

blackberries to mould very quickly, even if kept in the fridge.

Use Bramley apples. This classic English apple is over 200 years old. Its flavour is

fantastic and its cooked texture is perfect for pies, though it does have an underlying

sourness. Much better to balance the sourness to your taste with more sugar, than to

use a dessert apple with less flavour.

Use butter for your pastry. A 250g pack of quality unsalted butter costs about £1.50,

which is more than enough for a 12” pie. This is not so extravagant and your pie will

taste something special.

Egg wash your pie three times. Give a first glaze before baking, then add a further

two after it starts to brown at 15 minute intervals. With the final glaze, sprinkle the top

with granulated sugar. Your pastry with be golden, with a perfect crispness.

Use a slightly deeper dish than you might initially think. Your pie will sink a little as it

cooks. If you want a really fruit-filled pie, use a deep flan dish.

Always put pastry top and bottom. A pie with just a top is only half a pie! One of the

real joys of a good pie is the different textures of the soft, gooey underside and the

crisp top.