Gentleman's Portion

A good helping of life, love and whisky


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DEAR PATIENT FRIENDS

We’re working hard to migrate all our old friends and followers to our new website so you don’t miss any of the good stories, travel adventures and recipes posted on nigelnapierandrews.com. It’s not quite as easy as we thought.

In the meantime, we’d hate to have you out of the loop, so the simplest way to keep in touch is to use the link above and go to the new website, which has all the old content, plus a new blog at least every week. Once there, look for the opt in box in the right hand column, where you simply add your email address and click on the follow button, just as you did before.

Sorry to have to ask you to do this chore when it should all be easy to automate, but sometimes the technology gets in the way. Thanks for being patient, and we’d love to hear from you on the new site.

Nigel


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WE’RE MOVING

Nigel Napier-Andrews can now be found at www.nigelnapierandrews.com

Nigel Napier-Andrews can now be found at http://www.nigelnapierandrews.com

Friends, followers, bloggers and all the rest who have so graciously been reading my prose since I started this website in December 2012, we have an exciting development. After 80 stories posted under the Gentleman’s Portion heading, we’re off to a new site, effective with this post. My web expert will ensure that all my past posts migrate to the new site, but if you find anything doesn’t work, please let us know right away, and we’ll fix it.

Thanks to the 8,378 people who viewed the site, the 1,018 who viewed it on my best day ever and the 71 people who liked it enough to click the follow button. We’ll migrate my followers to the new site (I hope, but there will be a new button to click, if we don’t).

Gentleman’s Portion has served its purpose and now I am going to write under my own name. Yes, I’m no longer hiding behind the anonymity of a pseudonym. I’m going to be me! When this idea was first broached a few weeks ago, I was very concerned. To blog under my own name seemed, I don’t know, somehow too boastful, too egotistical. But I was reminded that my name appeared on the books I’ve written, the articles I’ve published, and on the credits of the television shows I’ve written, produced and directed, so here we are. Gentlemansportion will continue to live on Trip Advisor as my pseudonym there, where I am a “Top Contributor” with reviews of 45 restaurants, 15 hotels and 11 attractions and have been seen by 12,294 readers, who have kindly given me 35 helpful votes. Of my readers there, 48 per cent come from the United States, 30 per cent from the United Kingdom, 13 per cent from Canada and 9 per cent from other countries. My travel and culinary adventures will continue on Trip Advisor and on my own website.

Please go to www.nigelnapierandrews.com for my next story and all the future ones.

Also, thanks to Taylor David, graphic artist supreme, who designed my Gentleman’s Portion banner. Thanks to Word Press who hosted my website for the past nine months (and we’re still using their excellent software to populate the new site). Thanks to Karen, my new web expert, for her attention to all the details as we make the transition, and the new design.

Nigel Napier-Andrews


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OUR NEIGHBOURHOOD

Charming Annex style houses abound

Charming Annex style houses abound

If we live in a city, we all live in neighbourhoods. We are each in our own neighbourhood as soon as we step outside our front door. We seem to know organically where our neighbourhood ends and the next one starts, although some of our neighbours will always disagree if they perceive that our neighbourhood is better than theirs.

So it is in the Annex, where we live. Those to the west of our Bathurst Street boundary like to think of themselves as living in the West Annex, clearly annexing our neighbourhood’s name to gentrify their own. We think of them as living in Seaton Village or Koreatown, if we think of them at all, that is. Dupont Street is our northern boundary, Avenue Road to the east and Bloor Street to the south, making a nice convenient square.

Shortly after the city annexed the village of Yorkville in 1883, a developer subdivided the land to the west and named his new suburb the Toronto Annex, which itself was gobbled up by the city in 1887. Then and now it’s a place where people want to live.

When we walk along the Annex’s quiet leafy streets, we admire the gardens that flourish and the individuality of them all. Many residents have annexed the grassy verge in front of their homes and converted them into vibrant flower gardens. Diane was the first to plant in front of our row of townhouses and now the former strip of ratty grass is alive with flowers and bushes as neighbours have emulated her effort up and down the street.

Madison Avenue Pub

Madison Avenue Pub

We can tell immediately which buildings have student housing by the weed-filled gardens, or the multitude of bicycles chained to the railings. We abhor the lack of discipline and tidiness in student housing and fraternity houses, while admitting that it is inevitable with the vast University of Toronto campus sprawling to the south of Bloor Street. The only benefit is that there are lots of young people in the neighbourhood and fewer cars. The Madison Avenue Pub is famous as a hang-out for this younger generation. The pub is a pseudo-Brit affair, started in one house at the lower end of Madison Avenue in the 80s, and expanded to fill three of the traditional old Victorian houses.

Further up Madison, at number 37 to be exact, is the house that started it all a century before the Madison pub. In the late 1880s the prominent Toronto architect E.J. Lennox (he of Old City Hall and Casa Loma fame) designed a home in a style that would be copied and emulated for many years. The houses have two distinctive style elements, which can be seen all over the Annex. They usually have large Romanesque arches above doors and windows and often have fanciful turrets. They are typically red brick buildings, with the addition of some reddish Credit River sandstone decorative touches.

The splendid York Club typifies Annex architecture

The splendid York Club typifies Annex architecture

On several streets rows of these houses survive, though apartment buildings and condos have cut through the neighbourhood destroying fine examples of these lovely old homes. The wretched politicians and planners at City Hall are allowing monster buildings to nibble as the edges of the Annex. One of the worst examples of the desecration of this fine building stock can be seen where St. George Street meets Bloor Street West. On the north east corner sits the lovely and elegant York Club building, awash in Romanesque detail and carved stone cornices, turrets anchoring the warm red edifice to the earth. Next door is the hideous Royal Canadian Yacht Club building, a concrete and brick hulk of a bunker, where only parts of the original garden wall survive. It’s populated by very nice yachtsmen and women, but what were they thinking when they approved the plans, one wonders.

Can the turret hide a damsel in distress?

Can the turret hide a damsel in distress?

Three of our favourite Toronto restaurants are in the Annex. Bar Mercurio is on Bloor Street, not far from the corner of St. George. Joe Mercurio is the welcoming owner and host, where we often drop by for one of their specialty thin crust pizzas. Another Italian offering is Cantine, on Avenue Road nestled between the flower markets, where another Joe, Bersani in this case, has been a presence for many years. In the past few months, Cantine has undergone a splendid renovation, undertaken by the prestigious design firm of Powell and Bonnell, whose offices are just around the corner. I’m giving them a plug because they now manufacture and market Diane’s beautiful line of mirrors and mirrored furniture (see my blog THE ART OF REFLECTION April 13, 2013), examples of which can be seen in their showroom window on Davenport Road.

A different sort of renovation is underway at Le Paradis, on Bedford Road, a block west. Here French bistro owner David Currie has been ambling through a months-long refit. The place has been repainted and some of the older bits and pieces removed to update the place. Refurbished and upholstered bar stools and chairs have just arrived, much to the relief of our bottoms. Tables and floors have been refinished in such a subtle manner that most patrons haven’t noticed the changes. The menu has stayed much the same, to our relief. The hideous mural, which we have disliked for 25 years, has survived, though I wouldn’t be surprised if some guerilla staff or customers don’t paint it over when David isn’t looking. In spite of it all, we love the place, and the bartender pours a gentleman’s portion of scotch. The other night we spot Canadian author and icon Margaret Atwood dining there. She lives just round the corner.

Many other celebrated Canadians live or have lived in the Annex. One of the most curious was my late friend the eccentric explorer and horseman Norman Elder, whom I met through riding. He later appeared as a regular guest on several of my television shows. I helped him edit some film footage of one of his Amazon explorations, which showed him tussling with a massive anaconda. His home on Bedford was stuffed with curiosities, including several stuffed animals, a live 100-year-old tortoise and two very large pythons. Norman died in 2003. His house was renovated and sadly no trace remains of the decorative railings he rescued from the polar bear enclosure at the old Riverdale Zoo.

Another strange acquaintance from my early days in Toronto lived on Brunswick Avenue. William Ronald was even more eccentric, an artist in the abstract field, and we met when I was asked to direct a pilot for a television series he had dreamed up. It was weird and did not get picked up for production, but we had a lot of fun making the show. I have one of his colourful works hanging in the living room and one of his ugly nudes tucked away in a storage room. Bill liked to hold court in his massive bed, while his long-suffering wife Helen produced food for a crowd of admirers and acolytes. I lost touch with Bill when he moved to Montreal. He died in 1998 still painting and lived long enough to title his final work ‘Heart Attack.’

Diane entertains the movie SWAT team

Diane entertains the movie SWAT team

Noted urban activist Jane Jacobs lived in the Annex for 37 years until her death in 2006, and former television host and Governor General Adrienne Clarkson still lives in the neighbourhood.

Movie folk love the Annex, and there are very few days when a base camp of equipment trucks and star-filled mobile dressing rooms aren’t to be found parked somewhere in the vicinity. Our own row of townhouses doubled for Washington brownstones in the USA Network series, ‘Covert Affairs,’ filmed in Toronto and around the world. Our house exterior was cast as the home of a passport forger who comes to a sticky end. Diane couldn’t believe how long each scene took to shoot, but as a veteran of the biz, I wasn’t at all surprised when they finally wrapped at midnight.

That’s our neighbourhood, where we actually know and speak to our neighbours, and know the restaurateurs and shopkeepers by name. It’s an old-fashioned world and we like it that way.


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HADDON HALL, BETTER THAN A MOVIE SET

The lower courtyard

The lower courtyard

Having watched Game of Thrones on television, I’ve finally bought the first book in the series, a great read while travelling. There’re a lot of characters, whose stories we follow, and castles and strongholds all over the mythical map. I’ve been a staunch fan of the series on HBO, filmed in Ireland, Malta, Iceland and Croatia, although it really is all just fantasy fun, sex and gore. The show has too much violence for Diane to watch, but to me it’s all wonderfully wicked, and I’m already looking forward to the season four launch in 2014.

When we climb up to the medieval entrance of Haddon Hall in Derbyshire, it is so marvellously old, and odd, that for a moment I feel like a character in the Game of Thrones. This could easily be a location for the series. As we enter the lower courtyard, we can see why so many film makers have chosen this as a location. It was Humperdinck’s Castle 25 years ago in The Princess Bride, and more recently appeared in The Other Boleyn Girl.

Brilliant tapestries

Brilliant tapestries

It’s supposed to be the finest example of a fortified medieval manor house still in existence in England and we are eager to explore on a warm summer day.

We peek into the chapel, recently restored, where there are pews for the nobility and where the serfs stood. There’s a spookily realistic marble statue of a deceased young son lying atop his coffin. Recent restorations have removed ancient whitewash and revealed pre-Reformation frescoes. It’s cramped and there are too many tourists for comfort so we’re quickly off to the main building. Of course we visit the kitchens, now disused and well restored. Down a dim corridor, stone flags worn by generations of serving wenches carrying trenchers of food up to their lords in the great hall, we discover the bare facts of ancient cooking. The kitchens were added in 1370. Very up to date for their day: there’s a chimney, roasting racks beside an open fire, bread ovens and nothing modern at all. Each function has its own small space, from bakery to butchery. I’m not sure if that was primitive hygiene or old fashioned jurisdictional separation below stairs.

The Long Hall

The Long Gallery

Above stairs it’s a different story. Spacious galleries with portraits of long-dead ancestors, really old furniture, brilliant tapestries, almost no chairs – I suppose everyone stood except the lord and lady. The long gallery was designed for winter walking exercise. The ceiling is a brilliant maze of plasterwork. We visit bedrooms, dressing rooms, little nooks and crannies and the family dining room. It seems we are not seeing the whole house and suddenly all becomes clear. The family is still living here. We are just visiting the bits of the house they’ve opened to the public.

The occupant is Lord Edward Manners, brother of the current and 11th Duke of Rutland. The family acquired the manor house as part of a 13th Century marriage settlement and has hung onto it ever since. Parts of the building date back to the 11th Century, when it was built by an illegitimate son of William the Conqueror, but most was added between the 13th and 17th Centuries. Whenever it was added, it all seems really, genuinely old. In 1703 the incumbent Duke moved to another of his castles and Haddon Hall was essentially abandoned. That’s what has preserved it so wonderfully. For 200 years it was ignored until the 9th Duke and Duchess took up residence and started restoration in the 1920s.

The upper terrace

The upper terrace

The house is fun, but it is in the gardens that the reconstruction really shines. Terraces tumble down the slope to the river, packed with perennials in herbaceous borders. A medieval knot garden has been started, along with wild flower borders to attract bees and butterflies. On the way out there’s a little gift shop and café in the old stable block. Beside it is a topiary garden with family heraldic devices of a boar’s head and a peacock. I had to read that in the guide book. I thought the fanciful clipped hedges showed a rabbit and a chicken.

We’ve had a good pub meal on the way to the Hall, stopping at Froggatt Edge in the Peak District National Park, where scenes from The Princess Bride were also filmed. Lunch at The Chequers Inn was excellent. I’m stuffed on whitebait and really outstanding bangers and mash with shredded veggies, so we pass on a hike along the top of this stunning escarpment. Fortunately we can get to the top by road, where the views over the heathered heath are magnificent, back-dropped by crags of gritstone. Cutting millstones was a major endeavour in these parts and broken ones can be seen at the bottom of the cliffs if you look carefully.

The mighty Corsa

The mighty Corsa

The mighty Corsa, which has taken us all around England on this visit, enjoys the run to the Peak District and back to our little village in Yorkshire. The next day, our last in England, it expires while I’m backing it out of the driveway. While we’re back in Canada, our friendly local mechanic tows it to his garage and resets the computer. Now it runs fine and is waiting for adventures on our next trip.


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IN SEARCH OF EGGS BENNY

Peccavi leaves the island behind

Peccavi leaves Toronto behind

If every crisis overcome deserves a reward, then we have earned one on this trip. We planned to sail across Lake Ontario from Toronto to Port Dalhousie, which should have been a pleasant 25 mile cruise. The wind was light and fluky at the beginning and then died to nothing. The 35-year-old eight horsepower single-cylinder diesel is a noisy beast, which I normally use only for getting on and off the dock and out of harbour. Determined to make our destination, there was no alternative but to motor across the lake. However, a slight engine coolant problem led to us pumping water into the boat’s bilges when the engine ran. Drifting in the middle of the lake, out of sight of land and even the omnipresent CN Tower, there was no alternative but to get the engine cover off and delve into the engine’s bowels. A mechanic I’m not, but with encouragement from club Fleet Captain Matt on the VHF, the fault was isolated and fixed and so began a long motor into safe harbour. A dinner with a pirate theme awaited us and we had a very pleasant visit with the folks at the Dalhousie Yacht Club.

Rozie's serves a perfect eggs benny

Rozie’s serves a perfect eggs Florentine

The reward came the next morning in the shape of my favourite breakfast – eggs Benedict. One of DYC’s very kind members drove seven of us over to Rozie’s Breakfast Café on Main Street. A companionable meal followed and the eggs Benedict were perfect, with perhaps the best and freshest Hollandaise sauce I’ve tasted in a while, tangy and lemony flavoured, along with really good home fries, tasty and not at all greasy. Complimenting our young lady server, it turns out most of the staff are related, and there really is a Rozie, back there in the kitchen churning out superb breakfasts between 0630 and 1400 hours seven days a week. Our splendid meal set us up for a long motor back to Toronto, with a glassy lake and not a breath of air. Well, if one goes cruising, one has to expect the motoring part of the experience, unless one has the luxury of waiting for beneficial winds.

Preparing eggs benny under sail near St. Maarten

Preparing eggs benny under sail near St. Maarten

I’ve enjoyed many splendid eggs benny brunch experiences. On our first ever Sunday brunch date, Diane and I enjoyed a superb version at Le Select Bistro in Toronto. Œufs Bénédicte, as they spell it on their resolutely French bistro menu, comes with two poached eggs on a croissant, Hollandaise with ham and asparagus. The eggs are from free range Mennonite raised chickens. You can taste the difference and we enjoy knowing the hens are happy birds, not confined in battery cages, but running around in the outdoors.

Joy Bistro is another of our favourite brunch spots in Toronto. They offer several unique takes on the traditional dish, including Hogtown with a cheddar mornay sauce replacing the Hollandaise and smoked cheddar and a jalapeño biscuit as a base for the eggs and ham. Their Leslieville version has peameal bacon, sautéed spinach, Yukon gold rösti potatoes and lemon Hollandaise. My favourite is what they used to call Norwentine and have now simplified to Norwegian: a traditional and delicious offering with both smoked salmon and spinach.

Further afield we enjoy simply scrumptious eggs benny in the Oak Long Bar at the Fairmont Copley Plaza in Boston. I’m not entirely sure of the renovations to this classic hotel dining room, but it was packed with the local crowd for cocktails and dinner. At breakfast it’s a casual affair, served at the lounges down the side of the room. My notes from the trip record “an outstanding eggs benny with shaved ham and tiny roasted tomatoes.” We offer our comments to the 72-year-old waiter, who promises to pass our praises to the chef. Their more unusual offering is styled Jonah Crab Benedict with poached eggs, local Jonah crab cake, mustard aioli and lemon hollandaise.

L to R: Eggs Royale, Benedict and Florentine

L to R: Eggs Royale, Benedict and Florentine

On the subject of sailing, I’ve also prepared eggs benny while at sea, cruising in the Caribbean. This is more difficult than it sounds as wave action can play havoc down below with a pan of boiling water. Usually, I ask one of the crew to shout “wave” when a big one is sighted, so I can lift the pan off the burners and avoid slopping boiling water and half-poached eggs on the floor. Boat stoves, you see, are gimballed from side to side, but not for fore and aft action. My culinary trick is to smuggle a pack of English muffins in my luggage (as they are simply not available down south), along with a good quality instant Hollandaise mix. Whatever comes out of the kitchen is usually consumed voraciously as sailors at sea seem to be continuously hungry. It’s something to do with all that fresh salty air.

For an easy Hollandaise recipe see my blog (THE SUBLIME EGGS BENEDICT on January 7, 2013) with my versions of eggs Florentine (spinach) and eggs royale (smoked salmon or gravlax).


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PEACH PIE REDUX

Peach pie reduxThis week’s peach lattice pie recipe was my most popular article in three months with readers, so without any further apologies, here’s another peach pie story and recipe.

We had a wonderful day out in Niagara-on-the-Lake earlier this week and discovered a new restaurant that could quickly become a favourite. Treadwell is the brainchild of fellow Brit, Stephen Treadwell, the former Executive Chef from the town’s Queen’s Landing Hotel. We remember it fondly from sailing trips to Port Dalhousie, where coincidentally we will be cruising again this weekend. At the beginning of the summer Treadwell re-opened in NOTL on the Queen Street restaurant and tourist strip. We are greeted by his friendly son James, co-owner and sommelier. James offers us a complimentary glass of Bubblehead sparkling rosé from John Howard’s local Megalomaniac winery.

It is perfect. Crisp and dry on the palate, with a hint of something to come in the effervescence.

Treadwell - tucked away behind Starbucks - needs better signage

Treadwell – tucked away behind Starbucks – needs better signage

But I crave a martini and ask James if his bartender would understand if I ordered a Gentleman’s Portion. Indeed she would, he claims, and Jamie the bartender delivers. My vodka martini on the rocks, in a rocks glass, with a twist of lemon, very dry and of sufficient size to quench my thirst, is exactly what I want. It’s well after the lunch hour when we eat, having been looking at houses all morning, so we share a nice green salad and both order fish and chips. All the food at Treadwell is locally sourced. Our fish is delicious and we follow with a spectacular and refreshing peach Melba (one portion, two spoons).

Good comfort food, as we sit on the patio and watch the passing parade of mostly obese American tourists. The way we’re eating, we might be joining them. I know the biggest lady we see is American. She’s got the American eagle and a stars and stripes flag tattooed right across her ample chest and bosom. I hate to think what else she has pictured, hidden away among the dimples of cellulite and rolls of fat.

Fortunately we are not driving but walking about town, having dropped the car off at our helpful real estate agent’s house earlier in our exploration. Patient Glenn from Sotheby’s nearly finds us a house, in what is billed as Ontario’s prettiest town. The cottage is cute beyond belief, but for various reasons we can’t close a deal. Back at his lakeside house, his charming wife Nancy pours Diane another glass of Bubblehead. Nancy’s an even hotter real estate agent than Glenn. We’ll be back, we tell them, as we head off to the highway and town, thanking them for their hospitality.

Treadwell's peach Melba

Treadwell’s peach Melba

With memories of peach Melba fresh in our heads, we pick up a ripe basket of very fresh Niagara peaches. Tonight they become the basis for another peach pie.

First, let’s talk about Peach Melba. It’s named after Australian soprano Dame Nellie Melba and is shamelessly colourful. She was performing in an opera in London in the late 1890s and the Savoy Hotel’s French chef Auguste Escoffier created this dish to honour her. The blend of poached peaches, raspberry coulis and vanilla ice cream creates a transcendent taste sensation.

Peach Melba
Serves 4
Preparation time 20 min

Ingredients
4 ripe peaches
1 cup simple syrup (dissolve 1 cup of sugar in 1 cup of boiling water)
1 cup raspberry coulis (see my blog URGENT MESSAGE FROM THE DUCHESS on December 18, 2012 for the complete recipe)
Thin wafers or cookies of your choice
Vanilla ice cream

Preparation and cooking
1. Plunge the ripe peaches into boiling water for 30 secs, remove with a slotted spoon, then cool in icy water. The skins should slip off easily.
2. Cut the peaches in half, remove stones, and poach in a cup of boiling simple syrup for about 5 min. Remove from the syrup with a slotted spoon and set aside on a rack to cool. Once cooled, slice into eighths.
3. To serve, spoon the peach slices into a bowl or parfait glass (see photo for Treadwell’s take), cover with a good dollop of raspberry coulis, top with two scoops of vanilla ice cream and inset a triangular wafer into the ice cream. Finish with more raspberry coulis. Treadwell added crisp  chocolate cookies which were delicious, but made the whole thing a bit sweet. I prefer the traditional wafer, but it’s your choice. Anything crispy will suffice.

Peach Pie Redux
(See my blog ROADS LESS TRAVELLED on August 11, 2013 for my original recipe)
Following my effort earlier in the week and with some follow-up research, I’ve made some small changes to the recipe, which I offer here. See if you prefer the difference.
Some cooks feel the bottom pie shell should not be blind baked if a top is to be added, even a lattice. So this time, I roll out the pastry as before, but after pushing it well into the corners of a lightly greased pie dish, simply add the juicy sliced peach pie filling. One difference is that I don’t trim the pie yet.
Second change: after filling, I roll out the second half of my pie pastry recipe, moisten the edge of the bottom pie with milk, and lay on the top. After trimming all the way round with a sharp small knife, the pie top is crimped onto the bottom with a fork, to make a decorative edge. The left over pastry is rolled up and rolled out. Using the sharp knife, I cut out five small decorative peach leaves, score them to make a leaf pattern, moisten their backs with milk, and press them gently into the centre of the pie. Between the leaves, I cut slits to allow the steam to escape.
Third change: then I brush the whole pie with a thin layer of milk.
First, the pie goes into the oven for 20 min at 425°F (220°C). Since the edges are browning more quickly than the rest of the pie, it’s advisable to cover the whole edge of the pie with thin strips of foil.
Reduce the oven to 375°F (190°C) and cook for a further 30 min.
Remove and cool on a rack for a minimum of 3 hr before serving. It really does make a difference to the thickness of the sauce inside the pie.
Store lightly covered in the fridge and enjoy with vanilla ice cream.


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ROADS LESS TRAVELLED

Overlooking the Niagara River

Overlooking the Niagara River

We are driving around in the Jag, top down, having a spectacular day getting lost in the Niagara region and finding ourselves, quite by mistake, atop the Niagara Escarpment. There’s a spectacular view over orchards and vineyards with Lake Ontario stretching into a blue haze in the distance.

On a little country road, we almost run over a chicken crossing in front of us. It wants to get to the other side. We pull into a driveway and a bronzed farmer and two very cute blonde children come out of the house to see who has arrived. The farmer has a strong Manchester accent. Diane, who is from the North can tell immediately. She asks him how come he’s here and he tells about emigrating to a better place for his family and starting a farm. The chickens are completely free range, he says, confirming the obvious. His eldest sub-teen daughter collects the eggs every morning, diligently washes them, and gets the revenue from egg sales as pocket money. We buy a dozen rich brown eggs from her, all different sizes, but very clean.

He’s also got baskets of ripe peaches for sale and we buy two of those as well. We put them in the tiny trunk of the car, which is lined with a hand-made Persian carpet, as are the foot wells in front. The former Lancastrian finds it hard to believe that a Yorkshire lass can do so well as to have luxury carpets for mats in the car. He says so, but we are oblivious to the irony and are off out of his gravel driveway, tires spinning and a throaty growl from the exhaust, back on our journey to Niagara-on-the-Lake. We descend the Escarpment on a windy road and end up in the flat alluvial plain that leads down to the water.

We’re thinking of selling our Toronto townhouse and moving to this quaint small place. We meet with a real estate agent and look at properties. Nothing quite suits today, but perhaps something will be perfect on our next visit.

Home again, I look at the peaches, pick out eight perfectly ripe ones, squeeze them and smell their fragrance. These puppies are just right for a peach pie, I decide. And so to work. The classic peach pie needs only peaches and sugar. I add a very small measure of cinnamon and nutmeg to enhance the flavour, but nothing more.

PEACH LATTICE PIE

Peach lattice pie

Peach lattice pie

Serves 6
Preparation time 30 min
Cooking time 40 min
Cooling down time 3 hr

Ingredients
5 cups (1.25 L) or about 8 medium ripe peaches, peeled and sliced
¼ cup granulated sugar
¼ cup light brown sugar
(NOTE: for a sweeter pie increase sugars to 1/3 cup each)
1/8 tsp ground cinnamon
Pinch ground nutmeg
1/8 tsp salt
3 tbsp cornstarch
1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
9 in double crust pastry recipe (see my blog of January 25, 2013 – THE LIFE OF PIE) or use frozen pastry

Pastry toolPreparation and cooking
1. I’ve written before about making perfect pie pastry, so I will skip this stage, except for one hint. I have quite warm hands, which makes pastry blending difficult, so I have discovered a perfect tool for mixing in the butter (illustrated). It has made life much easier, without a sticky mess adhering to my hands.
2. Once you have the bottom layer of pastry pressed into the 9 in baking dish, preheat the oven to 450°F (230°C). Prick the bottom of the pie with a fork to allow air to escape and blind bake for no more than 10 min, or until the shell is a light brown. Cool shell completely before adding filling.
3. While that is going on, bring a large pot of water to a boil. Dunk the ripe peaches into the boiling water and remove after a minute with a slotted spoon. The skins should slip right off. If they don’t, allow the peaches to cool and then peel with a small sharp knife. The problem is probably that the peaches were not quite ripe and you may want to add more sugar to your mixture to compensate. Slice the peaches into quarters to make pit removal easy and then slice again into thinner portions.
4. Put the sliced, skinless peaches into a large bowl, add the lemon juice, and toss to coat.
5. In a small bowl or measuring jug, mix the two sugars (you can increase the quantity for a sweeter pie), cinnamon, nutmeg, salt and cornstarch well. Pour over the peaches a little at a time and toss gently so the peaches are well covered.
6. Pour the peach filling into the cooled pastry shell. Then roll out the rest of the pastry and cut into strips about ¾ inch wide. Arrange the strips in one direction, then fold every other strip back on itself. Lay the longest remaining strip down at 90 degrees and cover with the folded strips. Repeat until the lattice is complete. Now crimp the strips to the edge of the pie and if necessary glue them down with a little water.
7. Sprinkle some sugar on top for effect and bake in a 425°F (220°C ) oven until the crust is set and beginning to brown, about 20 min. Reduce the heat to 375°F (190°C) until the filling is bubbling, about 30 to 40 min. If the edge starts to brown too quickly, cover with little strips of aluminum foil.
8. Cool your pie for at least 3 hr before serving. The longer you leave it the better it will taste and the filling will set nice and thick. Store, lightly covered at room temperature or in the fridge.

Serving suggestion
Enjoy with whipped cream, or ice cream.