I love a good Ploughman’s lunch. I don’t mind a good tasting platter either. What I don’t like is ordering a Ploughmans lunch, and getting served a League of Nations tasting platter.
The ploughmans lunch doesn’t date back century’s as you may imagine.The origin of the Ploughmans is much more recent, dating back only to the 1960s. It was conjured up as a British pub meal to promote the English cheese industry.
Traditionally a Ploughmans consists of good English style cheese – usually a cheddar, preferably cloth wrapped, but if cloth wrapped isn’t available, then at least a strong flavoured waxed cheddar will do. Then add a good chunk of English Stilton. Add some thick slices, or a small loaf of quality bread (think sour dough, or rye). Next, you’ll need some pickles – pickled onions, gherkins, piccalilli, or a good relish or chutney (add at least two). And don’t forget some salad ingredients, perhaps some crisp celery and cucumber, and some nice red slices of tomatoes. Crisp apple slices are good too.
Added optional extras can be a slice of cold pork pie made with a shortcrust pastry, (definitely not puff pastry), thin slices of cold meat, a scotch egg, or even hard boiled egg halves. Tradionally the whole meal is served cold, with either beer or cider.
Many moons ago I was a cook at a small boutique hotel in Perth. One of our lunch time signature meals at the time was a Ploughman’s lunch. It was a simple meal of rye bread, cheddar, Stilton, pickled onions, piccalilli and salad. It was very popular.
It’s a meal Paul and I love, and one we often ordered for lunch during a recent lengthy stay in England. The meals we received there didn’t stray far from their origins, and never failed to please. The best we ever had was at the Wensleydale Creamery in the Yorkshire Dales. My tastebuds are doing a song and dance just thinking about that Ploughman’s – the cheese, the bread, the pickles, the salad – it was sooooo good!
Today we tried a Ploughmans at Woody Nook Winery. The meal we received had cheddar, and a chunk of bread on the board – and that’s where the similarity to a Ploughman’s ended. Although to be fair, the cold cuts of cured meat would have been acceptable too. There were olives – but no pickled onions, or chutneys or relish. There was a small bowl of lettuce topped with feta cheese. There was another piece of cheese (I think it was some sort of Italian cheese).There was a small piece of watermelon. And there was a small hot pot pie with a puff pastry lid (not shortcrust), and a fried chicken wing. There were also some sweet style home made biscuits, I think they may have been Anzacs. It was a League of Nations tasting platter, but from what I’ve come to expect a Ploughman’s lunch to be – it didn’t come close. I was disappointed.
The Ploughman’s is an English meal. If it’s listed on a menu in Australia, I wish chefs would at least try to stick reasonably close to what the meal is supposed to be. In its true form, and with quality fresh ingredients, it’s good honest food, and full of flavour. If chefs want to put their signature on the dish, make some good piccalilli to go on the side, ensure good sized wedges of cheese are served, and add some quality bread. What could be better!