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New Manchester Dish Discovered

Jonathan Schofield finds a book and issues a challenge to chefs

Written by . Published on November 2nd 2011.

New Manchester Dish Discovered

LIFE is interesting.

You walk in Starbucks on Deansgate for cup of coffee and there’s a book exchange shelf. A book attracts your attention. You pick it up. And hey it's old and lovely to touch, with a mountain range of indentations. The contents are fascinating.

“Can I borrow this?” I asked the barista née coffee shop assistant.

“You can buy it for a charitable donation,” she said.

Three pounds lighter, and a wholemilk cappuccino walk to the office later, I’m enthralled.

And in one of the dish descriptions I find it. A dish named for our city, a dish for Manchester. ‘Sole Manchester Style’ and one of the simplest in the book: ‘boiled sole covered with shallot sauce’. 

Hering’s Dictionary of Classical and Modern Cookery is a gift that keeps on giving, it’s not only physically beautiful but full of ideas and intelligence. I think I’m in love, this could be the perfect relationship.

First published 100 years ago, it turns out I’ve picked up an edition that’s got monetary value. This is one of the top-end editions in more or less perfect nick - values swing between £15 and £150 for the book on dealer websites. I should have put more in the charity box.  

But value – pah! I’m not letting go of this thing. The true worth is revealed when you open the pages.

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Designed for the hotel and restaurant trade it not only has glossaries of food, wine and cocktails but also dish descriptions to make you weep with gluttony.

The chaos of preparations is dizzying: 27 for tripe, 35 for gooseliver, 67 for calf’s brains, 83 for eel, 173 for beef tenderloin, 394 for sole. There are even three recipes for beaver. Overall there are 16,000 preparations covering anything edible on the planet.

These are lush things.

I open the book at random and find ‘Gooseliver en cocotte: stuffed with truffles, wrapped in thin slices of fat bacon, seasoned, lightly sautéed in butter, deglaced white wine and veal gravy, placed in a fireproof earthen or china casserole, the stock strained over, closed hermetically with plain dough of flour and water, cooked in oven; Madeira sauce served separately.’

Yum. It really isn’t a book for vegetarians or vegans.

And in one of the dish descriptions I find it. A dish named for our city, a dish for Manchester. ‘Sole Manchester Style’ and one of the simplest in the book: ‘boiled sole covered with shallot sauce’. Still it sounds better than Manchester Tart. 

That there's a Manchester dish that makes sense.

The French - The MidlandThe French - The MidlandThe book was originally written by Richard Hering in 1904, the top chef at the Hotel Metropole in Vienna. But it was Walter Bickel, a German who took it on and made the book - right up to the 1980s - an automatic kitchen point of reference. Research Bickel and in the 1920s you find him as a young man, working in the kitchens of Manchester’s Midland Hotel at The French.

The wheel comes full circle.

No doubt it was at the Midland where he got the idea for the Manchester Sole. A quarter of a mile away and 90 years later, I casually bump into him again in a Starbucks on Deansgate.

Life is interesting. And Bickel is back.

Now here's the chef challenge. Below in the photographs or some of the more elaborate dishes. We'd like a Manchester chef to have a go at one or two of them. Contact me if you think you can, and Gordo and I will taste it, judge it and take pictures of it. Maybe start with the simple 'Sole Manchester Style'. 

You can follow Jonathan Schofield on Twitter here @JonathSchofield

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9 comments so far, continue the conversation, write a comment.

craigNovember 2nd 2011.

brilliant, a real find Jonathan

G LiverNovember 3rd 2011.

Books, lovely books. Yes someone cook that lovely lovely gooseliver dish please. And the Manchester one.

Jonathan SchofieldNovember 3rd 2011.

I forgot to mention that the glossary of wines is very entertaining too and reveals how tastes have changed. Meanwhile it should be noted that there are no seabass recipes. Did they evolve recently those seabass things?

Swiss JamesNovember 3rd 2011.

These chefs had too much time on their hands back then- "Rich Style" in particular sounds far too fussy.

BaggioNovember 3rd 2011.

starbucks are selling coffee now? last time i went in there all they could offer was a hot milkshake with a hint of coffee flavouring.

Ruth AllanNovember 3rd 2011.

And there i was thinking that the only dish with Manchester in was the Manchester Egg.

Mrs HenNovember 3rd 2011.

The Manchester Egg is the babe of all the world. Nothing could be so good.

AnonymousNovember 3rd 2011.

Far too much time on their hands - they should keep their hands off beaver in the kitchen is what I say

BeaverNovember 3rd 2011.

I only ever like my beaver in the kitchen quickly. I find get the tail early and the rest can be enjoyed slowly.

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