Wednesday, 20 February 2013

Who are your food heroes? Meet Peter Lane - more than just pork pies



What is a ‘food hero’? There are of course the Hughs, the Jamies of this world, not only cooking great food but using their status to highlight issues such as school dinners, hospital food, the catastrophe that is the fishing industry. I think this is fantastic work, and these high profile individuals are worthy of the title ‘food hero’.  However, for me, there is another category of ‘food hero’ - those who get on with the business of producing and promoting great, honest food. 


I was introduced to Peter Lane through his pork pies:



 Pies to dream about: meaty, well-seasoned, amazing pastry:
 



They form part of the Hampshire Tapas that I wrote about a few months ago.


 

 Peter falls fairly and squarely into my ‘food hero’ box: he’s all about fantastic food, honestly made, whether he’s filling a freezer for a busy family or preparing curry for 80. His business is ‘I Cook - You Eat’ - I think the name sums up what he does impeccably. 





In cooking so his clients can indeed eat, he is fuelled by the desire to cook fantastic food using locally sourced ingredients. 


I believe in good hearty, wholesome food.  Food that is not simply there to feed you, but engages, nourishes and brings family and friends together around a table.  Food that encourages and then satisfies your hunger.


Chicken & Tarragon Pie - I can smell it from here...

He grew up eating his mother’s good but traditional food. What really sparked his interest was his father returning from travelling to places like Italy and China, bringing back new and interesting flavours and dishes. Despite “playing hard and eating hard” (his words!) while he was growing up, and cooking from an early age, Peter’s journey to making a living from food has been an interesting and unusual one via music college, the organ at St Giles Cripplegate in London, Oddbins and the Civil Service. Already running I Cook You Eat on a part time basis, he took voluntary redundancy from the Civil Service in 2011 to concentrate on food full time. The influences of the food his father introduced to the family is much evident in the food he offers. As comfortable with the exotic as he is with the traditional: from freezer filling for busy families, to preparing canapés or dinner parties, he draws on global food inspiration, revisiting dishes to recreate them with top quality ingredients sourced as locally as possible to his north west Hampshire home: veg from the garden, local meat. He’s planning chickens and pigs of his own, but until then, most of his meat comes from a local farm:


I get to drive a few miles to a beautiful farm in a stunning area where I can see the pigs, chickens and beef steers that will all go into my cooking. Everything is properly hung…I use very simple ingredients to make really fantastic food  


Not that it’s easy running a food business from home: “I have to be really organised, and sometimes I just have to get out of the kitchen. It can be madness preparing 5 dishes, or cooking dinner for the children at the same time as some baba ganoush”, but he clearly practises what he preaches at home as well as in his business.


At my son’s first birthday party, we had 24 people sat at a big long table in the garden. We ate broad beans and chorizo, home shot pigeon breast salad, courgette souffles and our own home made pizzas. All the ingredients came from the garden or nearby. … The children love hearty tasty food – Mediterranean based or traditional English food. Of course they have fish fingers, but often we’ll cook them something like smoked mackerel kedgeree, pasta they love, cottage pie, spag bol. Recently they surprised me by eating a sardine and leek gratin. We’ll have a fry up on a Sunday – but the children don’t consider it to be a proper fry up unless there’s black pudding involved.



Clients of ‘I Cook You Eat’ can expect fantastically tasty home cooked food which Peter can provide fresh or frozen. He marks his meals with a ‘made on’ date and takes a pragmatic approach, in conjunction with the environmental health officer, to food safety. Take his pies 

The whole point is to preserve the meat, and a properly made pie should last 10-14 days. There’s not much advice on the internet, but a big pie is simply too large to cool down in a fridge. I explained to the EHO that I left the big pies to cool out in the kitchen, and she agreed with the common sense approach I was taking.” 


It seems that his clients agree with this approach. “I often get very effusive feedback, but occasionally I won’t hear from a client, and I will worry if that happens, but then very often, a few weeks or months later, they will get back in touch to arrange a repeat order. There have been no complaints yet.” 


In these days of food confusion, where we are reeling from what feels like daily revelations about the gruesome nature of our food industry, it is reassuring to meet people like Peter who are prepared to quite literally put their money where their mouth is, using local, traceable produce from producers he trusts. In terms of a food manifesto (if it could be called that) Peter suggests that if we all took a little more time – may be half an hour a week to look for a local producer, to go to one place and buy one thing, we could all feel better about the food we eat. Personally, I know I don't always get the chance - or make the time - to do this, but I definitely agree with him, and it's my aim to be better at doing this. And who knows where that could lead to?


Peter’s website, I Cook You Eat has more details about the food he cooks and the service he can provide. He provides private catering, but can also be found at the food markets in the North West Hampshire area. You can find him in the twittersphere at @petesporkpies and on Facebook .



Important blog disclaimer thing: Just so we're clear, although Peter agreed to talk to me about his business, and let me use his photos, I wasn't paid to write this post; you'll understand that when a girl gets to eat a pork pie that good, she has to shout about it - that's all!

3 comments:

  1. I'm seriously thinking of moving to within a 5 mile radius of Fyfield...

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    Replies
    1. Yes. It's tempting to go and camp on his doorstep, isn't it!

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