TV Times 24th January 1987

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It’s another fine comedy cook-up

TV Times coverDuring their 22-year partnership, comedians Tommy Cannon and Bobby Ball, who have their own series on ITV on Saturday, have often eaten together. And the meals they scoffed while they were on the road to their next engagement were very often of the double-act variety: eggs and chips, sausage and mash, liver and bacon… typical landlady and restaurant fere of the time.

Given the choice, however, the pair prefer the traditional Lancashire dishes of their childhood. ‘You only needed one meal a day on the sort of food we were fetched up on,’ explains Bobby Ball. ‘It was filling, substantial and sustaining.’

Tommy Cannon recalls that ‘we all ate Desperate Dan pies and shirt-lap pudding. This is an amazing suet roll, filled with minced beef and onions,’ he recalls. ‘It was wrapped in the end of a tail of a worn-out shirt and then steamed for about three hours.’

We were poor in our house,’ jokes Bobby. ‘Our mother used to just show us a picture of roast chicken for Sunday lunch!’

These days, people don’t make enough of cheap food, though there’s plenty of it about,’ claims Tommy,

Once a fortnight we used to have stuffed cow’s heart. It’s huge, and after long slow cooking, it cuts like veal and tastes like game. Some say it’s like goose. All I know is that it was delicious. But suggest that to people these days and they go “errrrhhhh”.’

Bobby has a terrible sweet tooth,’ says Tommy Cannon. ‘He’ll demolish a box of liqueur chocolates in 15 minutes – I’ve timed him. I’m not so keen on sweet things but, curiously, I sometimes eat two or three bars of chocolate in a row! And Bobby’s wife, Yvonne, makes a sensational lime-flavoured trifle which is irresistible,

‘It’s amazing how much food has changed since we were kids. All the additives and preservatives these days…’ he says. ‘We used to eat steaming black pudding, smothered in mustard, off a stall in the market, burning our fingers and tongues. It was magic. You can’t do it now, though!’

But in spite of the vagaries of modern-day diets, the two men remain slim and wiry. This is partly due to their energetic working life, but basically because they like plain food.

Yvonne and Margaret, Bobby’s and Tommy’s wives, are both enthusiastic cooks. Yvonne cooks Bobby’s favourite – lobster in a cream sauce for special treats – and Margaret’s speciality is roasts.

In fact, both Cannon and Ball are traditionalists at heart as far as food’s concerned and enjoy nothing more than the Sunday roast with all the trimmings. And considering they spend on average only six weeks at home each year – it’s a welcome homecoming!


Meat Pie Cannon

Cheap, filling and tasty pie with a layer of sliced potatoes in the middle.
Serves 4

1 large onion, peeled and sliced
4 carrots, peeled and diced
4 sticks celery, chopped
1 turnip, peeled and diced
3tbsp oil
1 1/2lb/700g stewing steak, trimmed and cubed
1/2 pint/300ml beef stock
1 bay leaf
salt and pepper
1lb/450g potatoes, peeled, thickly sliced, and boiled
13oz/375g packet puff pastry
1 egg, beaten

Fry onions, carrots, celery and turnip in oil for a few minutes. Add meat and fry until browned. Pour over stock, add bay leaf, salt and pepper. Bring to the boil and simmer for two hours, stirring occasionally. Allow to cool. Place half the meat mixture in a pie dish. Add a layer of potatoes. Pour remaining mixture on top. Roll out pastry on a lightly floured top. Cut strip of pastry to cover rim of dish and dampen. Lay pastry on top, seal and trim, Pinch edges together. Pierce pastry top with three holes, using a skewer. Glaze with beaten egg. Cook at Gas 6, 400�F, 200�C for 30 min or until well risen and golden brown.

Potted Shrimps

Traditionally from Morecambe, this is a quick and easy appetiser or first course.
Serves 4

4oz/100g unsalted butter
8oz/225g peeled shrimps
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp freshly grated nutmeg

Melt butter in a saucepan over a low heat. Reserve about 2tbsp of melted butter and add shnmps and spices to remainder. Stir until shrimps are coated. Do not overcook. Add salt to taste. Pour into small pots and chill until set. Pour remaining butter over top and chill again until firm. Serve with crusty bread and lettuce.

Tripe ond Onions

A nourishing Northern cheapie which is cooked long and slow.
Serves 4-6

2lb/900g tripe
3lb/1.4kg onions, peeled and finely sliced
1 pint/600ml milk
1/2 pint/300ml water
1 bay leaf
freshly grated nutmeg
salt and freshly ground black pepper
1oz/25g butter
1oz/25g floor

Wash tripe and cut into large chunks. Place in a large pan and cover with cold water. Bring to boil. Cook 15 min and drain. Add onions, milk, water, bay leaf, nutmeg, seasoning. Cover with lid. Simmer 2-3 hrs, or until tender. Melt butter in a pan. Add flour and cook 2 min. Stir in a little stock from the tripe mixture until smooth. Add to tripe. Simmer 15 min until sauce thickens. Test for seasoning, and serve hot.

Bobby’s Lobby

A tasty meat and potato hash from Bobby’s home village.
Serves 4

1 onion, peeled and chopped
1loz/25g butter
1 1/2 lb/700g minced beef
1 1/2 lb/700g potatoes, peeled and diced
dash of Worcestershire sauce
salt and pepper

Fry onion in butter until soft. Add mince and fry until browned. Add potatoes, sauce, salt and pepper. Cook for 30 min, stirring occasionally.

Lancashire Hot Pot

Traditional dish from Lancashire with tender lamb topped with golden potato slices.
Serves 6

3lb/1.4kg best end of neck lamb chops, trimmed of fat
1 tsp salt
freshly ground black pepper
1lb/450g onions, peeled and thinly sliced
2lb/900g potatoes, peeled and thickly sliced
1 pint/600ml beef stock
1oz/25g butter

Place chops in a layer in the bottom of an ovenproof dish. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Add a layer of onions, potatoes and season again. Repeat until lamb, onions and potatoes have all been used, ending with a layer of potatoes. Pour over stock and dot top with butter. Cover and cook at Gas 3, 325F, 160C for about 2 hrs. Remove lid and cook until potato browns.

Shirt-lap Pudding

So-called because the tails of worn-out shirts were used to wrap this up for steaming! Use foil today.
Serves 6

1 onion, peeled and chopped
1oz/25g butter
1lb/450g minced beef
1/2tsp oregano
salt and freshly ground black pepper
8oz/225g self-raising flour
4oz/100g suet
large pinch salt
1 tbsp fresh chopped parsley
8 tbsp water
watercress for garnish

Fry onion in butter until soft. Add mince and fry until browned. Add oregano and seasoning and gently fry 20 min more. Cool. Put flour, suet, salt and parsley in a bowl and mix to a soft dough with water. Roll out on a lightly floured surface to a 12in/30cm square. Brush edges with water. Spread filling over pastry, leaving a lin/2cm border. Loosely roll up pastry like a Swiss roll. Seal edges. Wrap loosely in foil and screw the ends tightly. Lower into boiling water and boil gently for 2 1/2 hrs, topping up water as necessary. Unwrap carefully. Serve garnished with watercress.

Use only one set of measures. Do not mix metric and Imperial.

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