Tuesday, 20 December 2011

The ploughman's.

Ploughman's Lunch 101
For anyone not in the know, check out the definition HERE

Lord do I love a good ploughman's lunch. Maybe its got something to do with being British, but you really just can't beat it. Screw the season, the time of day, the situation; it's always welcome in my stomach. 

I was wondering today what makes the ploughman's so special for me, and stumbled upon something of a revelation which I just had to share.

Apart from incorporating two of my most favourite edible items ever (bread and cheese), it always reminds me of a certain passage from Johanna Spyri's Heidi, when Heidi's grandfather gives Peter a large piece of bread and slab of cheese which, understandably, makes his eyes bulge and his mouth salivate uncontrollably. I remember reading it when I was about five or six, and thinking wow, that is the life. In fact, I'm pretty sure I went as far as to reason that if I were ever to run away from home, that's what would be in my knapsack. (I was later deterred when I realised that the quantities of bread and cheese necessary to sustain me would be impossible for my six year old self to carry. My parents were so proud.)

Anecdotes aside, the ploughman's lunch is, as far as I'm concerned, as close to a perfect meal as has ever been invented. It's something about the rustic look and feel of the huge hunks of bread and cheese, coupled with the mouthwatering variety of accompaniments like chutneys, salads, apples, or even pates, which ensures that my constantly wandering eyes are firmly cemented to my plate and my fussy tongue is sufficiently stimulated. 

I've found two succulent offerings up in Durham, so delectable that I have to do my part to eternalise them. The first is from the effortlessly chic Claypath Delicatessen (pictured above), a deli known for taking classic dishes and elevating them with the freshest and finset ingredients. True to form, they take the humble ploughman's lunch to dizzying new heights, adding succulently smoked chicken, a creamy Somerset Brie, decadently rich chicken liver pate and an apple chutney subtly spiced with cinnamon, which, I am told, is made from apples grown and donated by locals (how sweet). The owners definitely want to promote the status of this age-old workman's grub (check out that sleeker-than-sleek black slate serving board), and I say good on them - it's about time this classic dish got the recognition it deserves. 

However, my ultimate favourite has to be from a beautifully homely little gastropub tucked away in Neville's Cross called The Duke of Wellington, whose spread (featured below), whilst admittedly less ambitious than Claypath Deli's flirtation with top of the range ingredients, is so wonderfully, classically wholesome it'll have you smiling uncontrollably and fighting the urge to ring your gran and tell her you how much you love her. What could be more perfect than a mature cheddar, a crunchy red apple, a chunk of warm and crusty baguette, a succulent plum chutney, fresh salad and a huge wedge of gutsy pork pie? The answer: nothing. Eating this thing is pure bliss, I can assure you. In fact, I might just catch the next train to Durham now...

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