Holborn Dining Room: ‘Its pork pie is a bold expression of pig’

If you come here and don’t order a pie, you’ll only have yourself to blame. Don’t let me down, says Jay Rayner

My late mother had no truck with religious observance. She preferred cultural signifiers of her Jewishness like a full fridge, a belief in the utilitarian qualities of cake liberally applied and a hatred of silence at the table. There was, however, one way in which she observed Jewish religious ritual, though she was utterly bewildered when I pointed it out to her. She liked to cook gefilte fish, that sustaining mix of ground white fish, bound with matzo meal and sweetened with sugar. It comes in two forms. There is the boiled, served cold with its own fishy jelly, an abomination I always regarded as the closest food could come to cruel and unusual punishment. And then there is the fried, which is a different matter altogether. It should be crisp and golden outside and light and fluffy inside. Cooking them made the house smell of indulgence. I would watch them being lifted from the oil with a slotted spoon to the rack to cool a little. At which point I would try to take one and would have my hand verbally slapped away. “Not until they’re cold.”

I was baffled. Eventually I became old enough to do a bit of reading and investigation. Gefilte fish is food for the Sabbath, when no work can be done. They are to be cooked in advance, so the family has something ready for after sundown. Hence, by necessity they are served cold. My mother, who saw religious dogma (rightly) as the cause of so much suffering, had carried one small piece of it into her kitchen, from her adored grandmother’s. When I pointed this out, she was horrified. She let me eat one hot. God, it was good: the just-fried shell, yielding beneath my teeth, giving way to gusts of hot, sweet fishy steam and soft white flesh. Oy, and as I believe some people still say, Vey.

In what I recognise may be one of the greatest dietary non-sequiturs of all time, I have long felt the same way about pork pies. I bloody love a pork pie. All culinary traditions have a way of using up bits of animal that might otherwise go to waste, and the pork pie is one of our noblest. I love the interplay of crisp, animal fat-boosted hot water pastry, the dense meaty filling, punched up with white pepper, and then the jelly, reintroduced back to the tight cavities from which it has leaked during cooking. The thing is, I have always wondered how marvellous one would be straight out of the oven.

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Continue this wonderful restaurant review at THE GUARDIAN : Holborn Dining Room: ‘Its pork pie is a bold expression of pig’ – restaurant review | Life and style | The Guardian

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