Although I have borrowed the odd recipe for this blog I do prefer to invent my own – modifying someone else’s recipe feels a bit of a cheat even though I always acknowledge the source. Sometimes though my mind goes blank and a wander round the shops can help, at some point I need to segue into a recipe but given that we are going to start with a stroll around Oakham, this might be tenuous!
Considering that it is the county town of Rutland, Oakham is very small – albeit perfectly formed. This diminutive stature applies in particular to Oakham Castle. Actually a fortified and moated house, only the Great Hall remains. This beautiful building is one of the finest examples of late 12th century domestic architecture in England.
What makes it particularly interesting is the fine collection of commemorative Horseshoes which Peers of the Realm were required to offer the Lord of the Manor when they visited Oakham. Traditionally placed upside down, in Rutland this does not bring bad luck, but prevents the Devil from resting inside the shoe!
Oakham School seems to occupy most of the town, particularly in the summer when we have many students visiting from abroad. The 1000 students represent 10% of the town population! The school was established in 1584 and the original building (below) was the sole classroom for over 300 years. The school motto is Et quasi cursores vitai lampada tradunt (And, like runners, they pass on the torch of life). This building is inscribed Schola Latina – Graeca – Hebraica A° 1584 – reflecting the three languages taught; Latin, Greek and Hebrew.
The mediaeval Butter Cross market is one of many such market crosses in England where milk, eggs and butter were sold. Behind this octagonal grade 1 listed building can be seen the 14th Century All Saints’ Church.
So, talking of butter, it is of course, the main ingredient in puff pastry and it’s equally tasty but much easier to make cousin – rough puff (I did say the link would be tenuous!). I hope you enjoyed the wander around Oakham with me – it did help. The rather vague butter link apart I found a beautiful bulb of Florence fennel – one of my favourite vegetables. I thought this would be wonderful cooked étuvée and then combined with torn roast chicken and roasted tomatoes.
A pithivier is a lovely way to present a pie. Eponymously named after the town in France, they can be sweet or savoury. Either way they are characteristically marked with a series of spiral knife marks through a deep egg glaze. Rough puff is ridiculously easy to make and freezes very well. It’s worth making a big batch. Chicken legs are best for this dish, so much more flavour, and do crisp the skin up – it is shredded into the mix as well for that intense roast chicken taste.
I hope you will be tempted to try this recipe – as my lovely partner Karen pointed out, it’s just a posh pasty really – and perhaps visit Oakham too! I’d like to say that Oakham is twinned with Pithiviers - that would be a very neat link – but it isn’t. Pithiviers is twinned with Ashby de la Zouch which at less than 40 miles away is pretty close!
Oakham is in fact twinned with Barmstedt in Germany, which is also the name of my street and I have lots of fun spelling it out to confused people. I’m not sure Pithiviers would be any easier though and I’m just grateful that my road isn’t named after the second town Oakham is twinned with – Dodgeville in the USA. Dodgeville Drive? Mmm, I think I’ll stick with Barmstedt!