Row­ley Leigh’s taste of home

An idyl­lic child­hood in a large house amid fields in North­ern Ire­land, and his mother’s un­con­ven­tional meals, make up

The Guardian - Cook - - To Finish -

grew up all over. I was born in Manch­ester but we lived in Bed­ford­shire, Glouces­ter­shire, North­ern Ire­land – there were many child­hood homes. The idyl­lic one was the last of these, a large house on a 10-acre plot of land, eight miles north of Belfast. I was four when we moved in and we stayed there for five years.

It was an odd house – it looked much smaller from the drive than it ac­tu­ally was. It wasn’t a man­sion or a stately home, but it was a gen­tle­man’s res­i­dence, and to me it seemed huge.

II had three sib­lings, two of whom were older than me. We were rea­son­ably close, but I was fairly soli­tary. I liked read­ing, and col­lect­ing things. I re­mem­ber our rum­pus room: it had been the kitchen, with large flag­stones and a boiler, but oth­er­wise was quite empty. We spent a lot of time play­ing in there, but mostly we played out­side. The gar­den was huge, there were streams and fields. We never went on hol­i­day. We just played.

My fa­ther ex­pected a proper meal three times a day. My mother was an en­thu­si­as­tic, some­what un­con­ven­tional cook. She never tried to do the usual English things, but she did make fairly straight­for­ward meals: scrag end of mut­ton with pearl bar­ley, lamb’s liver, her­rings in oat­meal … We prob­a­bly had fish on Fri­days, a hang­over from my mother’s Catholic up­bring­ing.

Her fish pie was a fam­ily favourite. She used a mix­ture of fresh and smoked fish – not smoked salmon, be­cause that was rather spe­cial, but cod, or had­dock, which was al­ways bright yel­low in those days. She al­ways put hard­boiled eggs in it, and

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