It’s not every day that I attend a horse race however last night’s was special. It was the final of the AGA Total Control Ladies Point to Point Race at Cheltenham Racecourse. I was there in attendance and what a great night of Hospitality AGA provided. Congratulations to the winners and how lucky Claire Hart is to have won an AGA Total Control cooker. After 10 years of working for AGA I now know the dilemma she faces. What colour? Well there are 13 of them!
Standing on the hallowed turf last night reminded me of an outdoor competition I competed in exactly half of my life ago when I was just 16. The Mullahead and District Ploughing Match. Did I enjoy it? No! Why did I do it? I don’t know! Well I do actually. It was because my late father told me to! Weeks of practice every Saturday learning to plough. Well actually it all started with learning to drive a tractor. A red Massey Ferguson. Ask me about AGA cookers, cake mixers or whisks and I can harp on for hours. Tractors? Not so much. Actually, it all got a little extreme last week. My friends and I were around the table for dinner and the TV was on. I caught just a glimpse of an AGA on TV and I informed them that it was a pre 1974 model in Jade Green and of the oil variety! It’s my thing! My car is black, you understand how I think?
So back to the ploughing malarkey. Dad had me out on the tractor in the field in front of the farm for weeks learning how to drive the thing. I was not interested. Then he attached a plough and so I learnt to plough. To everyone’s surprise I did it very well indeed. Mind you I hated it! I used to just look at a stick in the far hedge and drive slowly towards it. My ploughing was perfect and I won a cup for the Youngest Ploughman. Do I mention it with my global TV and cookbook awards? No! I also won a barrel of oil. I was not impressed but Dad considered it cost savings, vegetable oil or British Rape Seed oil would have been better for me!
So back to Cheltenham. As I was standing there last night watching the race, I was reminded about my dad and how he taught me about farming. At the Ploughing match each year it was always customary to have a break in the middle of the match (not a competition, but a match) and have tea and sandwiches. They were always made with Nutty Krust Bread from Irwin’s Bakery in Portadown. Ask any Northern Irish expat to name two foods from home they miss
and they would be Tayto Cheese and Onion Crisps and Irwin’s Nutty Krust Bread. Tayto crisps coming form Tayto Castle in Tandragee, and Nutty Krust from Portadown. Two towns five miles apart that I still call home. The famous dish is a Tayto Cheese and Onion Nutty Krust sandwich. The food of home. Irwin’s Bakery has given me many fond memories in my life. My first ever job was on the evening shift in their factory in Portadown slicing Nutty Krust Loafs. It’s been a family company since 1912 and last week HRH Prince Charles and the Dutchess of Cambridge paid a visit. Nutty Krust was developed in 1961, the year my Grandfather won his ploughing competition at Mullahead. My dad won one too, thats 3 generations of McIntosh chomping on our “Ulster Ploughmans” lunch.
Another simple favourite of mine is posh cheese on toast on Nutty Krust:
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
A dash of Worcestershire sauce
2 eggs, separated
50g Cheddar cheese, grated
25g Parmesan cheese, grated
4 slices Irwin’s Nutty Krust
Salt and pepper
First melt the butter in a pan, stir in the flour and cook for a minute or two before adding the milk bit by bit, stirring all the time. Cook the flour mix for 2 minutes, take the pan off the heat. Stir in the mustard, Worcestershire sauce a little salt and freshly ground pepper.
Stir beaten egg yolks into the sauce and leave it on one side to cool for a minute.
Now toast the bread on both sides. Then fold the grated cheeses into the sauce mixture. Whisk the egg whites until stiff and, using a metal spoon, carefully fold them into the cheese mixture. (AGA Toast is the best in the world – ask any AGA owner).
Cover one side of the toast liberally with the cheese mixture. Pop the slices under a medium grill and when the tops are golden brown, light and puffy, serve at once. A slice of fresh tomato complements the dish perfectly.