I was in the 5th arrondissement of Paris, just over the bridge from the medieval Catholic cathedral of Notre-Dame. The narrow streets were crowded in the Latin Quarter, an area known for its lively student life, and I was about to have an experience that has stayed with me for more than 25 years…
Neon signs beckoned visitors down alleyways. And everywhere, hand-written posters were stuck to the inside of shop windows: ‘Le Grec Sandwich!’
Inside the shops, tall stacks of marinated mutton were being roasted on vertical spits. The shop-keepers shaved the mutton, in juicy chunks, onto a round piece of unleavened bread – a bit like a thick pancake but smeared in deliciously tasty garlic mayonnaise. The meat was topped off with crisp diced lettuce and a golden portion of chips before being rolled into a cone and handed over the counter – for one of the best lunches that I’ve eaten in my lifetime.
I’ve tried to recreate the glory of that Parisian lunch at home and failed miserably. I’ve tried dining out too, but kebabs in Britain just don’t come close… Because good food is not just about taste. It isn’t even about the appearance of a plate or the wrapping that the food comes in. Good food is about atmosphere, it’s about place, and time, and friends, and love! (The name of the shop was Agapi, from the Greek word for divine love).
So when we came to building the new Parade Ring at Kelso, we decided that we needed a piece of ambrosia of our own – a delicious and sustaining meal which could be eaten with one hand, while holding a racecard in the other. We could have tried to replicate the Grec Sandwich, but not the atmosphere that pervades the 5th arrondissement of Paris – so the search was on for something more fitting…
It had to be local. It had to be crispy, but also moist and juicy. It had to be warm, tasty and sustaining on a cold day. And wrapped so that it could be easily eaten, without making a mess, because if you’re about to fall in love at the races it’s important that you don’t have gravy dripping down your chin. And even if you’re not falling in love, the important task of assessing horses for a 3 mile steeplechase is best performed with a clean shirt.
And so we’ve developed the Kelsae Yorkie: tender slices of beef accompanied by caramelised roasted vegetables, wrapped in a crisp Yorkshire pudding and smothered in gravy. The whole wrap then inserted into a gravy-proof cone of recyclable card – easy to hold, delicious to eat and warming on a chilly day in the Scottish Borders.
The Kelsae Yorkie is much healthier than a Mac n Cheese – who might have been our selection for the weekend, in the Bruce Farms Handicap Chase, if the ground had been softer. As it is, the weather’s been dry and bright – so we’re relying on four-time Kelso winner Sudski Star.
Together with Juicy Meat (the local caterers who run the Kelsae Yorkie food-stand near the Parade Ring), we’ve developed additional fillings too. At the last meeting it was roast pork with stuffing; for the Halloween Raceday, this Saturday, there’ll be delicious pulled pork with sweet potato chips and vegetable crisps.
Mmmm! Bon appetite!