Franqois Truffaut pronounced, with imperious chauvinism, that the words English and cinema did not go together. That was some 30 years ago. To which one might in those days have replied: Hammer, Powell, Anderson. He'd have been on surer ground had he made the same observation about English and charcuterie. But, then, he wouldn’t have because he was famously indifferent to food and was, indeed, incredulous at the presumption that the French are necessarily gastronomic.
Today it is easier to list Angliches who can make cinema than those who can make terrine. There weren't that many of the latter in Truffaut's day. Today there is a mere handful who work at a high professional level: Bruce Poole (at Chez Bruce, Wandsworth) and Henry Harris (at Racine opposite Brompton Oratory), obviously and then?
I called Fay Maschler. She mentioned John McClement (in Twickenham); Ian Wood (at The Almeida, Islington); Jeff Galvin (at L'Escargot, Soho). That makes five craftsmen charcutiers working in Greater Londons restaurants. Let us suppose there are a further five who have escaped our attention. Ten, then. That makes one restaurant charcutier for every 700,000 head of population. It's shaming. It's pathetic. It's dispiriting to live in a country, that so declines to value everything but the squeak, that is proud of its squeamishness, its wretched fastidiousness, its profligacy.
Here's an even worse ratio: one shop charcutier to 7 million head of population. This week's column is a hymn to that Lone God Of Retail Entrails, Mr Paul Hughes.
Mr Hughes was born in East Sussex when he was very small. One imagines that the nativity was a bloodbath. He doubtless

either in their traduced industrial versions or in their continental analogues which are evidently very good but different. An English brawn`s flavour is akin to but not the same as a French fromage de tete which is in turn distinct from that of an Italian soppressata.


Mr Hughes uses recipes from all over Europe. Pork sausages flavoured with dill from Sweden. Hot liver sausages from Germany. Cotechino from Italy. Numerous terrines and pates from France. But his true forte are the virtually extinct English dishes I have referred to. I have rarely tasted such delicious black puddings, have never tasted such faggots and haslet. And as for his raised pies! These are baroque in their magnificence. Many of his English recipes come from halfcenturyold Wl booklets listing dishes cooked by farmers' wives. They long predate supermarkets and homogenisation. He is currently enthused by his discovery that the strange lamb pies called petits pates de Pezenas from that small town in the H&rault are made to an originally English recipe: they combine spiced meat with sweet pastry, which suggests great ancientness and a perhaps medieval provenance. They are, incidentally, a feature of the menu at La Garrigue in Edinburgh whose chef comes from the neighbouring St Affrique.



stacks_image_B497CBB9-A305-418A-AA1F-0A68046ED168
stacks_image_AD695E3A-07AA-4441-BBBC-61DD673603BA
stacks_image_B8FFFA0C-58FF-41AF-8626-2F6F5693DAC5
stacks_image_E55D5B44-0310-4DEC-BEEF-974F63CB4AA2
stacks_image_AB450F46-60A6-42B8-8B87-5439AC074C70

parboiled the umbilicus and placenta in a sterilising pan and then grilled them with the obstetrician's lighter: a Ronson Varaflame in one version of the myth, a Colibii in another.
Galvanised by this experience he went to work at the Queens Hotel in Eastbourne. This is very likely the model for the hotel that employed F. X. Enderby's chef friend (speciality: bleeding hares). And in the case of Mr Hughes there is, as ever, life's imitation of art. I can pay him no greater compliment than to suggest that he is a Burgessian character. He is an obsessive craftsman whose material is viscera and he is himself visceral, he enjoys working with blood, duodenum, chitterlings, spleen, mesentery, tripe, lungs and pluck in all its manifold forms. This is a quality seldom encountered in English chefs and food producers.
Fergus Hendersons St John restaurant at Smithfield (there is also a branch at Spitalfields) has acquired a notable reputation for being the only London address to do something that countless places in Madrid, Rome and Paris do that is to serve extremities and innards. For several years Paul Hughes was St Johns inhouse charcutier. This is where I first encountered his work. It was one of the many exemplary features of that exemplary restaurant. Since both branches of St John are perpetually packed why have they not spawned imitators. Lack of demand? Maybe. Lack of personnel is a more pertinent factor.
Our increased affluence has combined with a postProtestant squeamishness to render resourcefulness a culinary irrelevance: we can apparently afford to throw away the "ignoble" parts of an animal. This was not always the case. My mother (b. 1912) was surely not atypical of her thrifty petitbourgeois generation in having a repertoire that included several tripe dishes, recipes for heart, sweetbreads, tongue.
Offal takes time, and of course we don*t have any of that today. It also takes skill. Paul Hughes is an autodidact charcutier because this is a skill that is not taught in Britain. And because it is not taught, such indigenous dishes as brawn, haslet, faggots, Bath chaps. white puddings and so on

are going to disappear. We will know them

Paul Hughes has for the past couple of years worked with the Yorkshire farmers Anne and Tim Wilson of The Ginger Pig in Borough Market. They retain their shop there. I rarely buy meat anywhere else even though that market has at least five other estimable butchers. They have now opened a new highishtech butchery with a spectacular cold room in Moxon Street.


The eagleeyed will recognise that name. The Ginger Pig is a couple of doors from La Fromagerie which I wrote about a few weeks ago. What is going on? The De Walden estate has realised that the way to improve its manor is to attract topend specialist retailers by offering them affordable leases. It's a form of positive discrimination which other enlightened landlords would do well to borrow. The effect on the quality of Marylebone life has been remarkable.

This article was written by Jonathan Meads
December 2003 copyright Times newspapers

MORE TRAVEL
France
Italy
Spain
JAPAN AND TOKYO LINKS
akaoni
japan times
ryokan kurashiki
toyoko inns
itaru
danny choo
jean snow

© 2009 paul hughes Contact Me