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  • Diane Lawton

How to love Geordie food

Updated: Sep 9, 2020


I love food markets anywhere in the world. Today I am enjoying every delicious moment of being in Newcastle Upon Tyne with my lover. Especially the Grainger Food Market.

It is 10:30 in the morning. The hunt is on to discover local delicacies and street food. He introduced me to The Grainger Food Market, a hop, skip and jump from the railway station. Now Where’s me scran, I’m clamming? Which, as I have learned, is Geordie slang for "I’m starving."

I am staring at a savoury rounded loaf, with a dent in its middle. The lable says Stottie Cake. The vendor handed me a taste and told me it's history. ‘The leftover dough at the bakery used to be layed on the bottom of coal fired ovens. It would cook slow in the residual heat overneet ’.

I was enjoying this mini culinary history lesson and nibbled on its crusty, chewy texture. It is more savory than sweet. I wanted to dunk it in some hot garlic butter. ‘They used to be sliced in alf across the middle like’ the assistant informed me ‘… an made into a sandwich with wedges of 'am and pease puddin’. Before I could get my head around pease pudding in a sandwich, she went on ‘… or bacon, eggs and sausage if ye could afford it like.’

Why aye. It sounded like a meal fit for a hungry cast of actors from the set of Auf Wiedersen Pet. Stottie Cakes have a huge local following and a long cultural history.

The modern stottie cake is a lighter version of its ancestor, with the same shape. Some bakeries still make traditional stottie cakes or use the loaf to make a giant sandwich and stuff it with a variety of fillings. They are cut into triangles and sold by the wedge. Stottie cakes can sometimes be bought in supermarkets in the North of England. They make an occasional appearance in other supermarkets of the UK, like an ageing celebrity.

Next, my lover went all Charles Dickens on me and gave me a mini history of his home town. Newcastle coal miners and ship building labourers would take thick wedges of filled stottie cakes to work with them to stave off their hunger until the evening meal he explained. After the collapse of these industries, I pictured ragged families, sat around coal fires by the light of a mean candle, tearing chunks of bread and dipping it into the pease pudding for the evening meal.

We wandered the market and I took photographs. I chatted to the friendly vendors in this Grade 1 listed building, with over 100 shops. At the seafood stall, I learned about it’s many specialities, including Craster smoked Kippers. The town of Craster has a 130 year old tradition, in the Robson family, over four generations, of smoking fish. It is worthy of a blog post in its own right. I have been promised Craster smoked kippers and a visit to the town with its small fishing village on the Northumbrian coast, on another trip.

I shared a gi-normous Lebanese feast with my lover at Falafel Al Hana. The street market restaurant had only been opened for 3 months. We held hands under the table, knees touching, making-up after a tiff. The meal was served with a basket of melt-in-the mouth, light-as-air, Lebanese mountain bread and served with hot mint tea. The total cost for two was an air kissing £9.

Over our delicious brunch I was informed that Pease Pudding is a sandwich filling and not a desert. I read on Wikepedia that is made from yellow dried, split peas and not green mushy peas, as I had imagined. Mushy peas or sprouts always conjure up intestinal gases in my mind and I avoid them at all costs. Anyway, if Pease Pudding is good enough for Gordon Ramsey to prepare in 10 minutes, its good enough for me to experiment with at home. Besides which, the pudding is savoury and reminds me of Indian Dhal curry.

When I asked my lover what Singin Hinnies were. I put my hands up at my total lack of local culinary knowledge. He took my left hand sweetly and stared into my eyes, I wondered whether he was going to propose. I held my breath. ‘Well darling…’ he continued to gaze …. ‘… they are not a local street-band, but a scone-like desert cooked on a hot griddle.

The word singin is the sound of sizzling on the grill... And ... technically a hinnie is a wife or partner...’ We both held each others gaze a little longer, then the moment was gone and we quickly busied ourselves preparing to pay the bill and leave.

Holding hands and walking around the market again, he pointed out Pan Haggerty. ‘It’s not a character in a Harry Potter novel..." he grinned, "... but a finger lickin, savoury, potato dish made with cheese". A bit like potatoes Dauphanes I said, thinking of the French dish I love. He nodded licking his lips in that wicked way. Was it was food or something else on his mind? I kissed him anyway

"Have you ever had #Panaculty.... ", he said, whilst I sniggered at the name. I had read about it in a Geordie Cook book. It sounded more like a Geordie swear word, but it is a Monday meal, made from Sunday roast left-overs.

We chatted to the vendor of the bhel puri house, the Indian street food stall or snack wallah. It had a tasty menu of inexpensive vegan nibbles and dishes. Tables and chairs were scattered around the stall.

I learned that everything is cooked fresh by 3 friendly staff, passionate about their food and its presentation. A delicious samosa plate could be shared for £2.50 and the Maharaja's Banquet would only make a small dent in your pocket at £4.50. The delicious traditionally made, mango lassie, which is basically a yogurt based mango smoothie is £3.

You haven’t tasted ‘Saveloy Dip’ he said, as we walked away, raising his brows suggestively, his Geordie accent getting stronger,’… which is a sausage sandwich of calorific proportions and no good for your waist line’. I kissed him for his Tyneside Tales, and his concern for my figure. I winked and said ‘Why Aye Man.’ I felt humbled at his knowledge.

Leaving the market with a satisfied stash of culinary ideas and new words. I thought who needs to pay a fortune at the Michelin starred restaurant a couple of streets away, when you can eat like a Maharaja at Grainger Street Market for less than a tenner?

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