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Gentleman's Portion: The Cookbook
Gentleman's Portion: The Cookbook
Gentleman's Portion: The Cookbook
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Gentleman's Portion: The Cookbook

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Gentleman’s Portion: The Cookbook contains a full basket of recipes for delicious and mostly vegetarian comfort food, collected into the four seasons so we can more easily follow the farmers’ crop cycle and support locally grown food: A Spring Portion—when the earth awakes from its long winter sleep and we relish really fresh produce again; A Summer Portion—when market gardens and farmers’ fields overflow with bounty that sings of sunshine; An Autumn Portion—when roots and fruits dominate and farmers put their crops aside in cool dark places; and A Winter’s Portion—when we rely on food that stores well through the cold months while flavour intensifies.
Release dateSep 23, 2020
Gentleman's Portion: The Cookbook
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    Gentleman's Portion - Nigel Napier-Andrews

    Gentleman’s Portion: The Cookbook

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    2nd Edition

    Copyright © 2020 Nigel Napier-Andrews

    All rights reserved.

    ISBN: 978-1-71657-923-3

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    Gentleman’s Portion: The Cookbook contains a full basket of delicious recipes, with many vegetarian options It’s mostly what you might call comfort food, collected into the four seasons so we can more easily follow the farmers’ crop cycle and support locally grown food: A Spring Portion—when the earth awakes from its long winter sleep and we relish really fresh produce again; A Summer Portion—when market gardens and farmers’ fields overflow with bounty that sings of sunshine; An Autumn Portion—when roots and fruits dominate and farmers put their crops aside in cool dark places; and A Winter’s Portion—when we rely on food that stores well through the cold months while flavour intensifies.

    ‘The honorable gentleman’s portion’—The phrase was first documented in The New Monthly Magazine, published in London in 1857.

    A ‘gentleman’s portion’ is a free pouring of liquor, usually whisky or brandy, where the server does not use a measure. It may not amount to as much as a double, but it seems generous. The Victorian phrase was only used occasionally in the 20th Century but has been enjoying a resurgence with millennials. Applied to food, it refers to ‘a good helping, but not a greedy one,’ suitable for a gentleman about to engage in some vigorous endeavour and needing the calories. Restaurants sometimes use the descriptor to differentiate a full plate, from the presumably smaller ‘lady’s portion.’ In another context, author Robert McKenna in Bottoms Up!, quantifies how rum was apportioned on board a naval vessel and notes that a ‘sipper’ was a gentleman’s portion.

    It has been several years since Market to Table: The Cookbook (MTT) was published as an eBook, to coincide with the broadcast of my eponymous Canadian television series—episodes of Market to Table and its predecessor Escapes with Nigel can be found on the Internet. Since then, recipes have been piling up on my Gentleman’s Portion blog and remarkably, they seem to have a consistent comfort food theme.

    Collected in this book are the best of those recipes. Each recipe is preceded by a story, mostly as they appeared in the original blog, since readers tell me they like these anecdotes. Whether you are a serious foodie, or just like browsing, I hope you find something amusing, entertaining, informative or all three in the tales I tell and the recipes I develop.

    Most of this book was written while living in Canada, where I have been since the BBC sent me over the pond on an assignment. At the time of my arrival Britain was in an awful state and it seemed smart to stay away. Over the intervening years Canada has been very good to me and I have no regrets, but now that Britain has left the dreadful European Union, it’s time to think about going home, at least for long visits.

    My thanks, again, to my beloved Diane, who suffers through all my experiments and is a splendid advisor, having been editor of the Canadian food and lifestyle magazine Epicure. She is leading me gently into a vegetarian lifestyle, so you will find no red meat dishes in these pages. This is not a truly vegetarian book, so there are recipes with fowl, bacon, fish and eggs, but I have been trying to adopt a healthier lifestyle and apart from occasional yearnings for a steak, I have stopped writing about dishes involving beef or lamb, and apart from bacon, pork.

    NOTE ON ABBREVIATIONS ETC: All recipes are for four servings unless specified otherwise; eggs are large organic free range; EVOO is extra virgin olive oil; salt is sea salt; pepper is freshly ground black pepper; tsp is a level teaspoonful; TBSP is a level tablespoonful; references to other sections and their recipes are in CAPS; V indicates vegetarian recipes (which may include eggs, honey or dairy products); HTEW is How to Eat Well and Stay Single, my first cookbook; EWN is my TV series Escapes with Nigel; MTT is either Market to Table, my TV series, or  Market to Table: The Cookbook, my previous effort, depending on context. All the photographs have been taken in my kitchens or dining rooms in Toronto and Thorpe Salvin, and occasionally in the garden in Toronto. All these recipes have appeared in my blog, at https://gentlemansportion.com/, where an excellent search engine will take you to the original story with many more illustrations.

    As always, I guarantee that if you follow the instructions, you should get a perfect result every time. I promised that in HTEW, which was written for bachelors who had no idea where to start, and it seems to work. There’s nothing complicated or challenging in this book: just simple food, simply made from the freshest available ingredients. Please enjoy.

    Nigel Napier-Andrews

    Toronto, Ontario and Thorpe Salvin, South Yorkshire

    November 2020

    A Spring Portion …

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    … when the earth awakes from its long winter sleep and we relish really fresh produce again


    On a recent visit to the old country, I was re-introduced to pasta for breakfast and discovered deep fried poached eggs. Weird but delicious. Spaghetti carbonara has been a fave breakfast of mine for decades. I remember making it in my Notting Hill Gate flat back in the ’60s when I had some left-over spaghetti from the night before. We’d probably had my go-to big group dish of ‘spag bol’ (spaghetti Bolognese to the uninitiated) and the cold left-over pasta mixed well with bacon and eggs for hung over guests the next morning. There’s a very simple version in my original cookbook HTEW, since it is a perfect bachelor dish. The penne carbonara version later in this section is better.

    Carbonara can take many forms. On the first season of my television series, MTT, Nord Bistro owner/chef Bart Pocock introduced me to homemade pasta and his delicious pappardelle carbonara. If I’d known how easy pasta was to make, I’d have tried it long ago. I asked Santa (or anyone else who was listening) for a pasta maker, but still haven’t received one, so I’m still buying pasta, usually fresh. Pappardelle was a wonderful base for carbonara, where the essence it to get as much sauce to stick to the pasta as possible, but a bit heavy for the morning.

    When we were putting together the second season of the series, Chef Dan Frenette came up with a brilliant gnocchi carbonara, but that’s also a bit heavy for breakfast. Now I’ve cooked penne carbonara, and I think I prefer it to them all.

    Carbonara has a murky history. Some think the word derives from ‘carbon’ and the Italian for charcoal maker, but that doesn’t make much sense. I prefer the explanation that it comes from the central Italy dialect word ‘carbonada,’ meaning bacon. Carbonara with any sort of pasta is a post-war Roman dish, and since Italian cuisine doesn’t include bacon and eggs, it is thought to have been created following the Allied liberation in 1944, after the Tommy and Yankee troops demanded bacon and egg for breakfast. The first mention in an English language cookbook was in the ’50s.

    Original recipes don’t specify a particular type of hard cheese or pasta. Today, the preferred cheese is Pecorino Romano, although Parmigiano Reggiano is often substituted. I’ve found spaghetti is the most common pasta, but I’ve also had fettuccine, rigatoni and linguine. Authentically guanciale (smoked pork cheeks) or pancetta (salt cured pork belly) should be used, but in England it is always thick cut bacon. Another good substitute is French style lardons of smoked bacon. Back bacon doesn’t work. For the first time, I was recently offered penne carbonara and I think this pasta tube holds the sauce better than any of the others.

    There’s been a carbonara debate raging in the media in the UK. Kitchen goddess Nigella Lawson proposed adding wine to her carbonara dish. Scandal! Food writer Stephen Harris admitted in The Daily Telegraph that he liked to scatter chopped parsley on top of his carbonara. Heresy! In Toronto, Chef Kurt Hospedales, who has long ruled over the kitchen at The Hot House in Toronto, adds cream. None of these hew to the authentic carbonara experience, but since this is a modern dish, I don’t see why change and improvements are necessarily bad. Anything that makes the dish tastier should be encouraged. So, I’m going to eschew wine and cream and encourage chopped parsley in my own morning carbonara.

    Penne carbonara

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    Shopping list

    2 cups / 350 g fresh or packaged penne pasta

    100 g guanciale (smoked pork cheeks) or pancetta (salt cured pork belly) or smoked bacon lardons

    4-5 egg yolks

    150 g Pecorino Romano or Parmigiano Reggiano, grated

    Salt and pepper


    Parsley, chopped (optional)

    Preparation and cooking

    Cook the pasta in a large pot of well salted boiling water. Usually about 7-8 mins for dried pasta, half that for fresh, until the tubes are al dente (still chewy). Set aside 2 TBSP of the hot pasta water to add to the egg yolks. Drain and leave it in a colander over the empty pot to keep warm.

    Cut the meat into strips, and fry briskly to reduce the fat, until crisp. Lardons can be boiled in water for 5 mins first, to further reduce the fat.

    Beat the egg yolks in a bowl with up to 2 TBSP pasta water to make a creamy sauce. Add a third of the grated cheese and about 2 TBSP of fat from the frying meat. Whisk to blend all the ingredients.

    Tip the pasta back into the empty but still warm pot. Add the meat, leaving most of the fat behind in the frying pan and stir in well. Add the egg mixture and keep stirring so the egg cooks. Add about half the remaining cheese and a good grind of black pepper and stir until all the pasta is well covered. If the pasta seems too dry, either add more bacon fat, or more pasta water, or mix in another well beaten egg yolk, or all three.

    Serve in warmed bowls and garnish with more grated cheese, another grind of pepper and finely chopped parsley, if you wish.

    OPTION: Nothing to prevent you having this for lunch or dinner!

    Meanwhile, another craze has appeared in England and I’ve been unable to track down its origin. Suffice to say, deep fried poached eggs first made their appearance in about 2015 and have continued to gain popularity. I haven’t heard a squeak about them on the North American side of the pond, so perhaps I’m the first to write about them here. Deep fried Mars bars have proven popular in Scotland. I’ve tasted deep fried pickles and deep-fried mozzarella. Many other foods get deep fried, such as pizza, all of which seems somewhat excessive. But these deep-fried egg offerings are surprisingly good. A little tricky to make until you master the art of poaching and equally good on a bed of spinach, a thick sliced grilled field tomato, asparagus spears or a bed of micro greens, this is a great addition to your breakfast repertoire.

    In my research, I found that Scotch eggs–a soft or hard-boiled egg surrounded by sausage meat, coated in breadcrumbs and deep fried–are claimed as an invention of the famous London food emporium Fortnum and Mason in 1738. But others say they originated in Whitby, Yorkshire, in the 19th century. So perhaps deep-fried poached eggs are a Yorkshire derivation of the Scotch egg. Certainly, my Yorkshire friend, Carol, who used to run the village pub with her chef husband Graham, and now teaches culinary arts to budding cooks, was the first to bring this dish to my attention, and it is her recipe which follows.

    Deep-fried poached eggs – V

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    Shopping list

    1 TBSP white wine vinegar

    6 large eggs

    100 g / 3½ oz plain flour

    100 g / 3½ oz Panko breadcrumbs

    50 g / 1¾ oz grated fresh Parmesan cheese

    Canola oil, for deep frying

    Salt and pepper

    Garnish and accompaniment

    400 g / 14 oz baby spinach leaves, washed, drained and steamed and/or a thick sliced field tomato, grilled or asparagus spears, poached or micro greens

    4 rashers smoked bacon, broiled until crisp and broken up (optional)

    Preparation and cooking

    Bring a wide, shallow pan of water to the boil and add the vinegar. Stir the boiling water to create a vigorous swirl. Take 4 of the eggs and crack each egg into a saucer. Gently slide them into the middle of the boiling water one by one. Bring the water back to the boil and cook the eggs for 2½ mins, just until the white is firm and the yolk runny. Remove the eggs from the water with a slotted spoon and plunge them into a bowl of iced water. Leave to chill.

    While the eggs are chilling prep the bacon. Broil until crisp, cool and break into pieces.

    Put the flour in a small bowl. Beat the 2 remaining eggs in a second bowl. Mix the breadcrumbs and cheese together in a third bowl. Carefully remove each poached egg from the iced water and pat dry with kitchen paper.

    Gently coat each egg in the flour, then the beaten egg and then the cheese and breadcrumb mixture. TIP: Even better if you dip the coated egg back in the beaten egg and back in the breadcrumbs again. Place on a plate and cover with cling film. Put in the fridge for 10 minutes.

    Meanwhile, heat the oil in a deep fat fryer to 180°C/355°F. NOTE: hot oil can be dangerous, please don’t leave the fryer unattended.

    Prep your accompanying vegetables: steam spinach for barely two minutes or grill a fat, ripe, field tomato and slice thickly or steam asparagus spears for 8 mins. Set aside

    Deep fry the eggs for 2-3 minutes, or until brown and crisp. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on thick paper towels.

    To serve, divide the veggies between four warmed plates. Top with the eggs and garnish with crispy bacon and a good grind of black pepper.

    POSTSCRIPT: Watching Great British Menus on BBC, Chef Tommy Heaney produced deep-fried poached duck eggs. He presented them on a rather messy bed of pancetta and beans, bacon foam, and pickled mushrooms, with a side of crispy toasted sourdough and decorated with nasturtium leaves. Of course, he was showing off for the judges and I would never go that far for an egg presentation, but the main idea holds, that eggs prepared in this manner are taking off!


    It’s hard to find good bangers (English breakfast sausages to the uninitiated) in North America so I’ve been crossing England gorging on bangers and mash. One reason we can’t get good bangers on this side of the pond is that the authorities frown on non-meat ingredients in sausages. This stems from many years ago when sausages were frequently adulterated with goodness knows what. I read tales of sawdust being added by unscrupulous butchers, but that surely was back in the Victorian era.

    The English Breakfast Society—yes, there really is one—list several non-meat ingredients in their recipe for traditional English sausages, including mace, nutmeg, sage, onion powder, thyme, ginger and breadcrumbs. They note that the traditional Cumberland sausage has been granted Protected Geographical Indication (PGI) status. The difference from a standard banger is that the meat is chopped rather than ground, there is a preponderance of white and black pepper rather than the herbs favoured by more southern offerings, and the sausage is presented in a long thin coil rather than individual links. It’s delicious and slightly different.

    In the Town House pub in Bawtry, Yorkshire, I’m offered an outstanding example of Cumberland sausage for my lunch. It’s the last in a series of explorations which saw me enjoy excellent farmhouse bangers at The Rose Cottage, Rufford, Nottinghamshire, and The Highway Inn, Burford, Oxfordshire. At Ye Olde Bridge Inn, Oxton, Notts, they now make their own house bangers, which are spot on. Lesser examples, I won’t list.

    All the sausages were consistently excellent and well cooked. Mashed potatoes were equally tasty, although sometimes the modest serving of potatoes was hiding and sometimes there were more than a reasonable person could eat. Common to all offerings was a good rich onion gravy, although occasionally the amount left a little to be desired. Presentation seemed to run to the current trend of stacking food high, with more or less veggies offered, and sometimes water cress or pea shoots as a decoration.

    Fortunately, in Canada, the Loblaws grocery chain offers pork bangers which are almost as good.  They admit to ‘toasted wheat crumbs’ and ‘natural seasonings’ in the mix. In the US, most jurisdictions won’t allow more than two per cent ‘grain,’ which doesn’t get close to the recipe for a genuine banger. I’ve included the recipe for proper English bangers but rather than trying to make them yourself, a difficult procedure without adequate tools, try taking the recipe or ingredients to a friendly independent butcher and getting them to make you a batch.

    Now that we’ve exhausted the discussion about bangers, let’s move onto more exotic offerings. I’m talking about toad-in-the-hole. The best explanation for its odd name is that a piece of meat sticking out of the batter looked somewhat like the resting toad poking his nose out of his burrow. Early 18th century recipes usually called for a piece of beef, but nowhere does any author suggest cooking toads!  Batter puddings, such as the famous Yorkshire pudding, were a popular way to stretch cheap cuts of meat in poorer and rural families.

    Nottinghamshire, where I enjoyed two of my bangers and mash lunches, is named several times as the county where farmhouses often served toad-in-the-hole, usually with beef instead of bangers, which are a more modern innovation. Melton Mowbray is just to the south, home of the eponymous pork pie and thriving dairy and pig farms, so it is not surprising that the area would come up with different ways to serve bangers.

    Not once on my last six-week tour of England was I offered toad-in-the-hole, so I set to in our little Yorkshire galley kitchen to prepare my own feast. I made a lot of gravy and served it with oodles, but as they say in these parts: You can never have too much gravy. The next day, I visited the local Arrow Farm shop, which has a great café attached, and on the menu what should I see? ‘Special for British Food Fortnight: Toad-in-the-hole.’

    Oddly enough, in South Africa and Australia, the name toad-in-the-hole is used to describe an egg placed in a hole in a piece of bread and fried together, not something the English Breakfast Society endorses.

    Since a good Yorkshire pudding is the basis for toad-in-the-hole, I wrote to my lovely friend Lisa, she of the round-the-world-wedding saga, for advice on Yorkshire pudding. Her helpful reply: "Our fail-safe pudding mix is equal parts: 1 cup each of eggs, flour and milk. Beat eggs and flour to smooth paste, loosen with milk then add the rest. Sometimes a

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