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December 9 2013 Latest news:
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Zut alors! England's iconic pie and peas has been given a posh French makeover in Wetherby. Chris Titley investigates
In his Wetherby kitchen chef Lionel Strub is putting the finishing touches to a signature dish. With a flourish and a flick of the wrist he adds a swirl of rich port sauce to the edge of the white plate. voil - another culinary masterpiece is complete. But wait a minute. Isn't that . . . a pork pie? And aren't those mushy peas?
Well, yes and no. Lionel's creation is certainly inspired by a pork pie. However, if you lift the pastry lid and peep inside you'll find no pork, but duck comfit, truffle and foie gras. As for those veg, well these are no ordinary mushy peas, as the Marks & Spencer ad might go, but lightly buttered mushy peas with the merest hint of mint sauce. This, ladies and gentlemen, is Posh Pie and Peas.
The 5.95 dish has gone down a storm at Fennel, Lionel's restaurant in Victoria Court, Wetherby. He dropped it from the summer menu but it's back this autumn by popular demand, to the evident relief of some diners who have been ringing regularly to check on its ETA. Delicious though Posh Pie and Peas undoubtedly are, the sight of a Frenchman messing with the pork pie, the crusty crown of hearty English fare, verges on the heretic.
But if anyone can get away with it, Lionel Strub can. He spent 22 years in his French homeland and has now completed 22 years in England.
His menu is filled with examples of fine Yorkshire ingredients and dishes given a Gallic makeover.
French black pudding with pea and ham broth and a wholegrain mustard dumpling, for example, or Sherburn-in-Elmet raised venison with horseradish potato rosti and game jus. The Posh Pie just went that one stage further.
Lionel got the idea while helping out his supplier, the Yorkshire Meat Company, in their pre-Christmas rush. Preparing 75 turkeys for sale was mind-numbing work, but then his brain began ticking over as he watched the butchers crafting the perfect pork pie with hot water paste and a clever manual crust-fitting machine.
For payment, Lionel asked to come back and be given a crash course in perfect pie production. Then the stroke of genius hit him - combine the robust English exterior with the delicate flavours of France within. Le Posh Pie est arriv!