Pastéis de bacalhau (salt fish croquettes)

This classic Portuguese dish traditionally uses salt cod, which is pretty hard to get hold of in the UK. Generic ‘salt fish’ makes an acceptable substitute, and I’ve added a coating of panko breadcrumbs for maximum crispiness. You can make these any size you like – bigger for a main meal or smaller for tapas-style snacks. Either way, they’ll be light and fluffy inside.
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Five spice peanuts

I got the idea for this from the Wheatsheaf in Combe Hay, which is one of the last remaining country pubs within walking distance of my house. It probably isn’t in any danger of closing, as it’s the only pub I’ve ever been to where customers arrive via helicopter and brag shamelessly about what a down-to-earth chap Eric is (“Clapton, yah, lovely fellow”). The food is tremendously posh, the beer surprisingly cheap, and although it’s packed with restaurant tables inside, you can sit outside and enjoy the view from their lovely garden while getting buffeted by some rich bugger’s chopper.

A couple of weeks ago they had a bowl of peanuts like these on the bar and I was most impressed.
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Spicy pickled eggs in cider vinegar

Pickled eggs are a British institution. You’ll find them behind the bar of every decent pub, but how many people do you know who actually buy them? I imagine those catering-size jars must sit around for decades, their rusty lids prised off once in a blue moon as the landlord’s gnarled yellow fingers fish out an ancient rubbery orb for the amusement of drunkards on a dare.

I used to be a little bit afraid of them. The name alone is a deeply unappetising, and in the gloom of their natural habitat they bring to mind the formaldehyde-floating horrors of the biology lab.

Such thoughts, however, are entirely unwarranted. Served in the traditional manner – shaken vigorously inside a bag of cheese and onion crisps – pickled eggs are the perfect accompaniment to a pint. British tapas. Here’s how you can make some that will surpass even the finest vintage specimens from your local hostelry.
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Halloumi and broad bean pitta pizza

In the style of the Bell’s marvellous pizzas and this sausage-toting breakfast beast I made a while back, here’s another lovely thing to put on pitta or whatever other kind of flatbread you can lay your hands on. It’s quick, it’s easy, and because halloumi cheese is the world’s densest edible substance, these little snacks are deceptively satisfying.
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Vegetarian shepherd’s pie with butternut squash and celeriac mash

A rich mushroomy sauce, studded with chunks of sweet butternut squash and smothered in a creamy celeriac mash, make this the equal of any meaty shepherd’s pie. The mash would be excellent on its own, if you don’t fancy making the whole pie, and proper vegetarians probably won’t need me to tell them to replace the parmesan cheese with something else.
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All Day Breakfast pizza

If the Bell can do it with nachos, what else could make an unexpectedly excellent pizza topping? This is Sarah’s suggestion, which I cooked up last night and, well… it’s actually pretty good.

It has all the major food groups – sausages, beans, cheese, eggs and bread – so I can assure you that despite appearances to the contrary it’s totally healthy and nutritious. What more could you want?
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The Bell’s unconventional pizzas

Having had a bit of a moan about poor pub food, it’s only right I should mention what is, as far as I’m concerned, the best pub food in Bath.

The Bell on Walcot Street serves four different flatbread pizzas. Two of them are pretty much what you’d expect – the Spanish one has artichoke hearts, the Italian one has olives, and while they’re both very good, you’ve probably had similar elsewhere.

The other two are out of this world. The Turkish one is a cheeseless concoction of tapenade and houmous, served warm, and the Mexican is topped with refried beans and guacamole. Pizza meets nachos. I love it!
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