Relegation-threatened Manchester United travel to Carrow Road this weekend to take on a Norwich City side currently sitting second-bottom in the Premier League and who have an equally poor recent record as their illustrious visitors.
The Canaries, of course, have culinary queen Delia Smith as their majority shareholder so it seems fitting to pay tribute to the woman who turned making cheese-on-toast into an art form by looking at five of her signature dishes that best describe the current Manchester United squad.
IRISH STEW WITH CRUSTED DUMPLINGS
We kick-off with an autumn favourite and something with which United supporters will easily identify.
There’s no denying that right at the heart of this recipe are some real tasty elements to get the taste buds tingling, but just like an afternoon at Old Trafford watching Ole Gunnar Solskjær’s men scrapping around to save a point, you have to suffer the sight of a pair of crusted dumplings slipping and sliding around the plate, upsetting the balance and which quickly need to be eaten. Or, alternatively, substituted for a more convincing accompaniment.
Delia recommends trimming off any excess fat from around the lamb fillets on preparation. Ole Gunnar’s excess, unfortunately, is setting the club back around a million quid a week in wages.
PHEASANT ROASTED IN BUTTER MUSLIN
Christmas is fast approaching and Delia likes to add a little twist to the traditional festive menu by roasting pheasant in butter muslin (no idea what that is). Our culinary goddess recommends that anyone trying out this dish be very careful as it is easy to damage the birds during preparation. Just like in the treatment room at Old Trafford which is getting fuller by the week, you need to trim bits of loose skin from the birds before wiping clean with kitchen towel.
When the pheasant goes into the oven, Delia suggests giving it the “Martial treatment” by piercing the thigh’s with a skewer to let the juices run free. She recommends using a brace of pheasants for this one – how United fans would love to see anyone in a red shirt grabbing a brace these days.
CHEATS’ CRÈME CARAMEL
In 2008, Delia published her “How to Cheat at Cooking” book, a sort of fast-tracked way to achieve success in the kitchen without having to bother putting in the groundwork.
The author tells us that finding some of the ingredients listed may be difficult and that you will need patience to find the shops which stock certain elements of the recipes. Just like a Jose Mourinho guide to winning trophies, then – forget investing for the future if your friends want instant results and forget the idea of starting this recipe from scratch by sifting out ingredients from your local Tesco.
Head instead to hipster country, to an artisan food market and pay a king’s ransom for things like Vahine caramel sauce and Ndali Fairtrade vanilla extract, then tell your dinner party guests that you’ve discovered the secret behind a staple dessert of any South London dinner party, before leaving an expensive looking line-up in the kitchen cabinets for the rest of the year.
FLAKY FISH PIE
Easter – a time for getting together with the family a more recently, the time in the football season when Manchester United have resigned themselves to winning nothing. It’s also a time when fish will be on most people’s holiday menus and Delia is no exception as she wades in with a lovely looking Flaky Fish Pie.
At the centre of this recipe is some tasty white fish such as haddock, cod or whiting (what a front three they were!) but to get to it, you have to go through a delicate exterior that is liable to crumble and leave your place mat covered in pastry.
There are a couple of hard boiled eggs in there to try to cement things together but quite frankly, they are made to suffer alongside more fragile ingredients such as gherkin and capers, which taste good at first before fading into obscurity with every mouthful.
As a final throw of the dice, this dish is garnished with fresh parsley, salt and pepper to try to give it that extra kick but after half an hour in baking heat, it seems like too little too late.
POACHED EGGS WITH SOUFFLÉD WELSH RAREBIT
Delia claims that, “Although this may sound like a snack, it is actually very substantial and just the thing for an impromptu supper for two.”
Norwich’s most famous cook has long since stopped making the pre-match grub at Carrow Road, preferring to leave it to agency staff who earn around eight quid an hour, but if she was still at the helm in the kitchen, then this fancy poached egg dish would surely be a popular choice.
Many United fans questioned the wisdom of Solskjær when he made a summer move for Daniel James, but the speedy Welsh winger has been one of the success stories of a desperate campaign so far this term. It’s fitting that coming from the city that gave us mustard, Delia slaps in half a tablespoon of the stuff in this one to add zing to the palate and in some ways, James’ inclusion in a United starting XI gives supporters some added zip as they stuff their faces with meat and potato pies on the Old Trafford concourses before kick-off.
Poach the eggs then put them on toast; there’s many a Premier League defender that James has done exactly that to this season.