Memories of Panacali….

Another firm favourite in my culinary memory bank of my parents food was their wonderful panacali. My wife, who hails from the north east (sounds like she blew in on a storm! Which she kind of did in a way…cue ‘Dylan’s ‘Shelter from the Storm’) calls it panacalti and there are various regional variations, such as pan haggerty, but ours was simply thin slices of potato and onion, built up layer upon layer until it filled the frying pan, then fried. There was either lard or beef dripping melted in the bottom of the pan first. It was cooked until it almost stuck to the bottom of the pan. It was set like a sort of fried potato cake. Fantastic with brown sauce. Monday evenings we usually had bubble and squeak; a fry up of left over meat, cabbage and spuds from the Sunday roast. If you have never eaten it you have not lived! Puddings were always home made. Apple pies, crumbles – apple, blackberry or gooseberry- and steamed jam sponges in little metal pots. I have still to this day never tasted any crumble to rival my mum’s. I don’t know what she did but it was much more crumblier than any versions I have eaten since. Jam roly poly was also a regular on our table as was spotted dick; a sponge with currants. One thing that has always stayed with me is that everything was fresh. Mum shopped each Saturday for the week. We used green grocers, fish mongers and butchers. There were no supermarkets then. Mum used the fridge but we also had a walk in larder. I remember them getting a chest freezer in the mid seventies. Even then my parents would buy a half lamb from the butchers jointed for the freezer. Nothing came pre packed. That desire to buy things fresh is something I try to do all the time. I am not a fan of the freezer or the micro wave. Oddly, my folks bought a Microwave before I did. They went through a phase of cooking lots of things in it, teasing me for being behind the times! I resisted for a long time. Good for boiling milk quickly and making porridge (my wife makes very good porridge, excellent with golden syrup and a handful of blueberries)) but I don’t really like using it except to defrost things if I’m desperate. The first supermarkets to appear near us in Sale (just bigger shops really) were an establishment called Mac Fisheries and then a Mace grocers. The first, what I would call something like the modern day supermarket, was the Co-op. I can just about remember that they had a sort of saver scheme with stamps. We would go also into Manchester and shop at a grand store called Lewis’s…and with any luck we would end up in the food department – of chief interest to me was the, wait for it, broken biscuit counter! We always ended up with a pound of mixed broken bikkies. Tremendous! And then there was a cafeteria that sold coke floats or knickerbocker glories, a kind of milkshake with ice cream, whipped cream and a raspberry topping. Ah…happy days! Like Nigel Slater in his wonderful book, ‘Toast’, there were many regulars at the table such as battenburg cake, cheese and pineapple on sticks at parties, home made sausage rolls, Walls sausages, toad in the hole, Yorkshire pudding with onion gravy (as a savoury dish) Yorkshire pud with sugar (for a sweet dish),trifle (I have to admit, I hated the thick skin on the custard in my Mum’s trifle, and, thinking of that, there was my mum’s very tasty home made rice pud, but again, I could not abide the skin that set on the top – my brother and dad fortunately loved it) my Aunty Mavis’ home made brandy snaps, Edam everywhere, serious lamb chops called Barnsley chops, taken from right across the loin which comes as a double-sided chop and incredibly tasty. They are also known as double loin chops or saddle chops. Then there was tinned fruit cocktail…I hated the pineapple chunks…always woody! I loved condensed milk, my dad even had it in his tea at work. A very sweet tea! There was sago, just like wallpaper paste, and Tapioca which just looked like tadpole spawn to me…yuk…still sends shivers down me timbers!

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