It was minus 5 centigrade outside when I arrived at Ivan Day’s cottage in Shap for the Slow Food Christmas dinner. Inside it was deliciously warm; I was welcomed by an open log fire in an old cooking range, in front of which a whole leg of lamb was roasting on a rotating spit. Ivan Day is the country’s foremost authority on the history of cooking and he and his friend Gill had generously agreed to cook a Christmas meal as it might have been enjoyed in Cumbria 150 years ago. Here is the menu:
Plumb Potage with Havercake
Roast Herdwick Mutton stuck with anchovies
Chestnut Ice cream with candied fruit
Charles Elme Francatelli’s Christmas Pudding
Ivan told us how each dish was made and the history of the dish. The first video tells the story of the “bottle jack” roasting spit, which dates from the 1780’s and operates with a clockwork turning mechanism; the origin of the potato pie, which is a typical northern dish of the 18th century; the Westmorland way of cooking havercake; clap cake hand syndrome; the havercake maiden; the Christmas potage (also known as plumb potage) and much more.