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Most red-blooded Englishmen head to one place on a Sunday afternoon – their local.

Now, the English pub (inn, tavern, boozer or whatever you want to call it) is world-famous for supplying punters with traditional beers and pub food, as well as a healthy dose of English humour and a good helping of quirks and eccentricities; and let’s not forget the football on a big screen.

The pub, however, has had a bit of a renaissance of late, with landlords turning to the appeal of better food for their customers, rather than the old mainstays of scampi and chips or chicken in a basket.

My local, The Duke’s Head in Hatfield Broad Oak in the beautiful county of Essex, is quite high up the gastro-pub tree, and is pretty good at tempting A-to-C-list celebrities out of the wealthy Essex/London borders.

The big difference in pubs all over the country these days is a focus on great, usually local ingredients. Because a dish is only as good as the stuff you put in it – and sometimes good ingredients don’t need a lot of work. With that in mind, that I have requested a dish from that fits snugly into the “retro classic” category: a ploughman’s lunch.

A ploughman’s, so called for fairly obvious reasons that it was the farm worker’s lunch of choice, is traditionally made up of a lump of cheese, a hunk of bread and an apple. Over the years fancy additions such as cooked meat and pickles have been added, but I’ve asked for a fairly uncomplicated one. However, the ingredients are going to be of the highest quality.

perfect-Ploughman's-portrait

First the cheese: bought from a lovely new deli called Earley’s in Little Canfield, a young start-up that we wish all the luck to, I went for a Cashel Blue, a creamy and not too pungent wedge and a lightly-smoked Dorset Red – brightly coloured but subtle with a really interesting tang.

For the bread, two hunks of locally baked beauties – an unusual green-coloured, spinach & fennel one, and a white seeded. Picking the bread can be as complicated as you like, and I’m all for matching it to the cheeses. Creamy blue and a crusty white loaf? Yes please. And it doesn’t hurt that it goes brilliantly with sweet apple too.

Scotch egg

But the landlord Justin wouldn’t let me stop there; he embellished with a scotch egg (have a look at Jamie’s recipe for wee Scotch eggs from his Great Britain book) and a lovely slice of Essex smoked ham.

So what’s the one thing still missing? A pint, of course. I went for a very untraditional Pilsner Urquell rather than my usual tipple of Adnams Ghost Ship, but it was a hot, thirsty summer lunchtime. If you’re after inspiration, check out the Craft Beer Boys as they talk about the best lagers in the world – that’s me in the hat by the way, and the Camden USA Hells isn’t half bad with a strong Cheddar.

So I can’t offer you much in the way of a recipe, but just picture yourself in the sunshine, the dog basking in the warmth at your feet in a traditional English pub beer garden with a cold pint and a plate of good-quality local food. England in a nutshell… and, on that note, COME ON ENGLAND!!!!!


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  • Ross Baker

    Nothing ‘traditional’ about the ploughmans, it was made up in the 1950s by the Cheese Bureau to help cheese sales. Apple was never part of it.

  • M Woody

    It became tradition after they came up it to help cheese sales? It’s now an English tradition with added additional aspects as apple, ham, grapes even, basically anything you want, as long as it has Crusty bread, cheese and pickles it’s a ploughmans lunch.