Mathew Bose

Hulme Hotpot..

For The Mother and her sisters growing up in poverty and lack of facilities of a kind unimaginable to anyone these days, there was an attitude towards food that became ingrained in their minds and has never really left them. Born during, or at the tail end of, the war they were ruled by rationing for many years (till as late as 1954 for some products) and they grew up feasting on a single egg a week and a handful of sweets. Subsequently they evolved an attitude to meat that is very different than that today. A commodity so scarce and so expensive meant working around the lack and still filling hungry tummies. You took what you could get and ruddy well enjoyed it. The girls did rather draw the line at whale meat and, although it was touted as the answer to all their hunger prayers, it went into the cat.

When I asked The Aunt about food memories she remembered this dish that they had as youngsters and continued making into married life. The Aunt said, ‘something we did have in Hulme which I doubt it was given a name then (so I, Mathew, have dubbed it ‘Hulme Hotpot’), but I saw a very similar recipe in a magazine some years after my marriage and it was called Colcannon. Generally, a mixture of potatoes, cabbage and meat. Mum used to boil potatoes – I can’t now remember whether they were sliced first – and cabbage (in separate pans), then the cabbage was laid in an ovenproof dish (we had the now-old fashioned enamel ones in brown or white) covered with the potatoes, a little salt and pepper added, then some bacon, having been fried in the meantime, these rashers were cut up and sprinkled in with the cabbage/potato, and the fat of the bacon poured on. We had decent bacon then too, not in plastic wrappers with water! This was then put in a hot oven just till the top had browned. It was comparatively cheap to make and a tasty satisfying meal.’ Yum, with bacon fat poured over it?!? So wrong it’s almost right…

Incidentally, Colcannon is technically just kale (Savoy cabbage at pinch) shredded and mixed into creamy mashed potatoes with seasoning and a few chopped spring onions.

Anyhoo, I’m updating the recipe (such as this is!) to this version to suit my tastes but hopefully hang on to some of the original feeling:

However, taking only a handful of ingredients and not adding heaps of seasonings or faffing about with them seems to be an idea I’m uncomfortable with. Dunno what that says about me really but I definitely feel there is an edge of nerves about making this simple dish and the outcome. So, at risk of being all life-coach-y, I stop and ask myself what I’m feeling and why. I’ll be honest (it’s best when therapising…the truth will set you free) and say I feel that the dish might be bland and I don’t trust that the ingredients will be enough by themselves.  I keep using the fact that I’m doing this as an experiment, as an excuse for the potentially boring outcome. This in turn resonates back to The Mother and The Aunt’s upbringing, implying I feel pricked with issues of guilt and sadness that they had an uninteresting and impoverished nutritional childhood…okay, I said I would NOT dive into a vat of self-therapy, didn’t I? SO…brushing all the ‘feelings’ aside (not a very good therapy result) I press on….

Slice the potatoes and par-boil them. Slice the onion and because, as ever, I’m conscious of adding unnecessary unhealthy elements, I just sautéed the onion slices in a non-stick frying pan and I trim the bacon fat off too! I’m feeling lazy this day so I microwave the bacon…

…I know that sounds odd but placing it between some greaseproof paper (I use kitchen towel as I’ve never got any greaseproof paper!) and nuking it for a good three or four minutes produces a lovely crispy bacon.

Assemble the ingredients in a deep sided oven proof dish. I break the onions up and put them in first. Crumble the bacon over this. Press a good few handfuls of the chopped greens (I’m using kale as it’s seasonal, inexpensive and packs one hell of a nutritional punch) onto this but be aware it will cook down (so add more), and then cover this with the rounds of par-boiled potatoes.

Add the stock by drizzling it over the potatoes. The amount you add depends completely on what texture you want to end up with. A scant perfunctory addition will lead to a drier final product (it evaporates quite quickly in the oven), so I added about a mug full but not so much that it covered the potatoes. This meant the potatoes steamed but browned beautifully and yet the mixture below was wonderfully moist. I chucked it in the oven (Aga actually) at about 200 degrees and cooked it till the potatoes went crispy brown. The basting of the stock at the start is enough to do this. No need to brush with oil or butter etc. –  just let the magic happen.

And it is magical. Delicious. It shows that over seasoned, too salty or generally over complicated dishes are making me forget that a few basic and simple flavours, each allowed to shine, makes for a most delicious dinner…

I tried a ‘Sunday roast’ version of this where I put, in this case, the remains of a roast chicken in the base of a casserole dish then layered all the remnants of the vegetables (broccoli, carrots, parsnips) and then topped this off with sliced roast potatoes and covered the lot in the last of the gravy. Slung it in the oven till it reached the ubiquitous ‘piping hot’ and it was good I can tell you! So now I always do a few extra of everything…!

Nutritionally speaking Kale is a super food. Less popular than some of it’s leafy cruciferous brothers and sisters, it is still relatively cheap and, as its seasonal availability is autumn and winter, it provides a wonderful opportunity to get a good amount of vitamin C through the colder months. It’s also packed with system cleansing fibre and sulphur, calcium (more than milk!), vitamin K for your bones and blood, vitamin A for your sight and skin, heaps of iron and powerhouse antioxidants. It has anti-inflammatory properties (omega-3 fatty acids to fight asthma, arthritis and auto-immune disorders) and gives good cardiovascular support! Hell’s teeth what more could you ask for?!?

Onions are high in phytochemicals/phytonutrients (non-nutritive plant compounds that aren’t used for sustaining life but rather for other aspects like protecting the plant, fighting diseases and also colour and scent). The one often mentioned is quercetin, which is thought to sweep through the body removing harmful free radicals whilst simultaneously supporting the cardiovascular system, the immune system, bone health and assisting with congestion and fighting mild allergies! Phew! Red onions (especially the outer layers) are packed with this and many other wonder compounds too. So get involved!

Potatoes are an often vilified item but it doesn’t take a nutritionist to work out that anything deep fried or whipped with cream and butter is going to get a (deserved) bad dietary rap! The humble potato, the staple of millions of tables has a fair bit to offer though so rethink your opinion and, more importantly, your cooking methods. First, don’t believe everything you read about GI indexes and all that because, in truth, the results vary hugely depending on considerations like type, origin, the method of cooking, even the temperature they’re eaten at – all play a part in how it breaks down in your body. Complex carbs keep you fuller longer and release more slowly so you have sustained energy and feel fuller longer. Potatoes have vitamins, minerals, fibre and a handful of those handy phytochemicals we love. So keep potatoes in the mix and ditch the preparations and toppings that ruin its reputation!

Mathew Bose


These days you can get every type of pesto imaginable and made with things that take the name literally. Pesto is a contraction of the past participle of a Genovese word to pound or crush (get me). So tomatoes, bell peppers, rocket (the Americans love this version made with ‘arugula’), almonds, cashews etc. You name it and it has been pesto-ed to satisfy our seemingly insatiable desire for the stuff…

…but it’s the Pesto Genovese that I’m on about. The others I eschew…I’m so rock and roll. It’s the original idea with the simple combination of basil, cheese and oil. However, I am also not a traditionalist as I never include garlic or salt in my pesto. Over time I’ve come to realise that I like a combination of parmesan and pecorino, I like very lightly toasted pine nuts (hardly coloured just heated enough to release the flavour) and Italian extra virgin olive oil (this is more a thematic choice I suspect). Garlic overpowers for my tastes and, hello, the cheeses are salty enough people!

I know you’ll just be bitter if I don’t give a recipe of sorts or the amounts so I’m going to add some here for a guideline only! You have to adjust to your taste that’s the whole excellence of having your own mind and tongue. So maybe about 200/250g of basil, about 50/75g of cheese, 30/50g of pine nuts and whatever amount of extra virgin olive oil you need to get the consistency you’d like…perhaps 250ml (I just made that figure up but it’s a good ballpark!)

I believe the proper recipe types would tell you to separate the basil leaves from the stalks and only use the leaves but I  use it all. Unless you’re cooking a soup or bolognese at the same time, and want to sling the chopped stalks into that, then what are you going to do with them? Oh…right throw them away…?!? Perfectly good food that cost hard earned cash…?!? I don’t think so Lady Jane…

I use a mini processor (comes with the hand blender thingie) as I only like to make a little at a time even though it’ll keep in the fridge, with some oil on the top, for ages.

Get everything ready first, yes like they do on the telly, because this is an additions game and subtractions are not possible. The main thing is the cheese prep…hold on we need to talk consistency here. As you’ll know by now, I’m a stickler for you not only knowing your own mind but, exercising your right to live it too! So give a thought to how you’d like the pesto to be at the end – I mean how big the ‘lumps’ of it might be. A smooth paste or a chunky crumble? Obviously this is controlled by the pulsing of the processor. If you’re a little gun-ho and tend to over pulse then you’ll be heading toward a pistou/paste. SO…cheese prep. If you want your pesto smoother then grate it first, if not then just break it into smallish pieces with your fingers.

Lightly toast the pine nuts in a hot, dry non-stick pan. Whether you just warm them through to encourage them to release their flavour or you want them to be toasted and brown is, of course, personal taste. Experiment and see! If you are planning to make pesto regularly (why buy it when you can have one tailored to your taste in minutes?!) then once you find a way you like your nuts toasted (that is not a euphemism), then toast more at a time for future use. Once they’re done the way you like, then transfer them to a plate, say, and allow to cool completely (another advantage of doing this ahead is not having to wait at this point…although it’s a great opportunity to pour a glass of wine and read your book for half an hour or so…yes! Even at eleven in the morning…sheesh…

Right, put the book down (and that bottle,  naughty!) and tear the basil into the processors bowl. Now as, or if, it is the first time you are making this, add a majority of each the other ingredients…not all. The reason I’m saying this is because it allows for adjustment at the end to your personal taste. Hoorah. Pulse this till it looks like it’s a couple of whizzes away from your desired texture. Taste. If you go all gooey inside then chuck the rest in and pulse a couple of whizzes for luck and hey pesto! If you think eeew and want less creamy nutty taste, or whatever, then chuck everything in but the pine nuts etc. and hey pesto! And so on…I think you get the picture…

Pour this into a jar and add a thin layer of oil on the top to seal it as-it-were and it’ll keep in the fridge for ages. I’d be disappointed if it lasted a week without being eaten (or added to other dishes) though! What’s that? Oh…you haven’t got a clean, sterile jar ready and prepped for your pesto?!? Jamie, always has…well…you’ll just have to chuck out the end of that novelty marmalade you bought two Christmases ago and use that jar. Or do what I do, cos I’ve never gorra jar either, and put it in a bowl with cling film. No one’s filming my fridge after all…

Basil is full of great stuff. It’s crammed with vitamin A, iron and beta-carotene and many other little darlings that will mop up those evil free radicals and help battle bacterial issues, inflammation and cancer.

Pecorino is a sheep’s milk hard cheese that, like many cheeses, has to be carefully considered in a diet where health and minimising weight gain are the main desires. It does contain fat and salt and yet does have a few happy pluses like calcium and some B vitamins as well as vitamin D. Properly grazed and reared sheep’s milk has a high level of an Omega-6 fatty acid in it which is very useful to us, but this fatty acid is not present in forced and modified product. So, as ever, read the labels!

Pine nuts are an excellent source of B-complex and vitamin E. Yes, they have a high calorie count (counting calories is pointless compared with eating correctly) and they do have ‘fat’ in them but it’s mono-unsaturated fatty acids we are talking about which are very good news, especially if you’re having any issues with cholesterol. These nuts also have a whole heap of other nutrients and essential minerals.

Extra virgin olive oil might also be making you recoil but again we are talking an abundance of mono-unsaturated fatty acids (outweighing the saturated fats and making it healthier than many other oils) and it is a very good source of vitamins E and K. Additionally , if you like that more pungent and woodier taste the extra virgin olive oil has, then it’s that compound that is a very powerful antioxidant. Result.