Matt and Cat\'s Isle of Wight Eating Out Guide
Hands up all of you who gave up something for Lent? Well done you. Having gorged yourselves witless on pancake day, the pious amongst...

Hands up all of you who gave up something for Lent? Well done you. Having gorged yourselves witless on pancake day, the pious amongst you can feel smug in your self-denial. Although how much prayer, penitence and alms-giving you undertook during the same period is between you and your consciences. And, to quote Charlotte Hofton, “giving up biscuits does not make you good”.

Simnel cake

Matt and Cat didn’t have pancakes nor did they give up anything for Lent. After all, if they were to deny themselves the luxury of eating out for the prescribed forty days, you lot would be left twiddling your thumbs with nothing new to read on this blog for the duration. However, cherry-picking from this country’s springtime religious festival, they broke their non-existent fast with pie, cake, eggs and chocolate – all produced on the Isle of Wight.

Chicken and vegetable pie

Matt is a regular customer of Ricky Attrill, a mobile grocer who parks his peripatetic wagon in Brading’s town car park every Wednesday and Saturday. He sells an excellent range of local produce, including vegetables, jams and chutneys, cheese from the Isle of Wight Cheese Company and Brownrigg eggs. On their way back from Ventnor on Easter Saturday, Matt and Cat swerved off Brading High Street – at a law-abiding 20 mph – into the car park, having spotted that Ricky’s truck was still there. He usually packs up his wares at 5.30pm, fact fans.

Easter egg

Cat doesn’t often get the chance to sniff around Ricky’s mobile grocery store and she scampered up the ramp to see what was to be had while Matt jawed with the proprietor about ploughing. Cat headed straight for the chiller cabinet and bagged herself a roundel of Isle of Wight blue cheese; it’s really very good and cheaper here than anywhere on the Island. She paid up and, while waiting for Matt to lever himself away from Ricky, she fell into conversation with the two canny ladies running the shop. They were either very persuasive salespeople or Cat is a sucker for local produce for, about ten minutes later, Cat had quadrupled her purchases. She and Matt left clutching half a dozen Brownrigg eggs, a home-made chicken and vegetable pie and a dainty Simnel cake, as well as the cheese.

That evening, Cat cooked up the pie with a pile of Ricky’s vegetables cut into chunky wedges, and roasted with herbs, garlic cloves and a sprig of rosemary from a pot on her balcony. Served with a pile of peas, this was a handsome dish. The pie was chock full o’ chicken pieces and recognisable pieces of leek and carrot, all smothered in a creamy sauce. The pastry was very tasty, just like Matt’s mother used to make, and its crust was glazed with free-range egg.

On Easter morning, Matt and Cat started the day with more egg – this time a chocolate one, created for them especially by Lesley at Ryde’s Straw Bonnet. You see, Matthew likes white chocolate and The Cat likes hers plain so each year Lesley accommodatingly constructs an egg to satisfy both ‘Jack Spratt’ and his girlfriend. The pretty egg was tied with a ribbon and, on unbinding it, Matt and Cat were presented with its chocolatey cargo; six white and six plain chocolates, sat in little paper cases and with delightful truffley fillings.

And still the day of Easter promise continued. Having built up an appetite tramping through Shanklin’s America Wood, M and C came home to a light lunch of poached Brownrigg egg and a slice or two of Simnel cake and a nice cup of tea. The home-made Simnel cake was a treat. Its eleven marzipan apostles sat jauntily atop the moist fruit cake with its skinny marzipan centre – an Easter treat.

Matt and Cat had eaten well; home-made fare without Cat having to don her polka-dot pinny and fondle pastry like the flirtatious Sohie Dahl, or Matt cursing over his Parkinson Cowan like the implausibly craggy Gordon Ramsay. Let others cook for us, say the reviewing duo.

Right-o, what’s for dinner?

  • Yvonne Durrant says:

    Glad you enjoyed my simnel Cake. Others travelled to Bembridge.
    My Coventry background suggests that the layer of marzipan in the middle of the cake represents Jesus and because the cake is traditionally made on Good Friday and judas has already betrayed Jesus he is omitted from the top. So eleven disciples. When the cake is cut on Easter sunday this represents his resurection from the tomb.

  • Oo-er: Mark’s and Spencer’s Simnel Cake had 12 marzipan apostles on the top. So who’s right?

    M & C respond: oddly enough we had this very debate with an elderly clergyman and his wife today. We none of us could agree, but upon looking for references found that either 11 or 12 is traditional, depending on whether you count Judas or indeed Jesus; and other variations exist too. We agreed therefore that variation is a good thing, and the last thing we wanted was a Simnel-police enforcement of uniform apostolic number.

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