The Humble Pancake

With Pancake Day nearly upon us, here at The Passage House Inn we thought we’d take a bit of time to pay homage to this most simple, yet delicious, of foods. As nearly everyone knows, legend has it that pancakes were invented as a way to use up leftover ingredients in the house ahead of a period of fasting. However, it has recently been proposed that those in the Stone Ages may have made some form of pancake using flour ground from ferns and cattails. Regardless of which of these is true, flour, eggs and milk are the staples of many a kitchen and their combination provides a versatile food, ready for any topping or customisation imaginable. But the humble pancake has come a long way from it’s thrifty, waste-prevention days.

These days, pancakes have become a positively luxurious food choice, found in even Michelin star establishments. From the fluffy, fat American version served with crispy bacon and maple syrup to the European delicate, almost transparent crepes, offered with tantalising combinations of sweet and savoury foods, there is a pancake to suit everyone. In France they make a wish before flipping their pancakes, in Australia they tend to be served cold with jam and cream (bit of a take on our cream tea perhaps?), in Sweden it is called Fettisdagen (Fat Tuesday) where they fill a round bun with marzipan and whipped cream and in Newfoundland (Canada) they bake objects with symbolic value into the pancakes. And here in England? It’ll come as no surprise to hear that we fully embrace this most scrumptious of days by using around 52 million eggs on Shrove Tuesday every year (an increase from 22 million on any other day)!

And here at The Passage House Inn you can be sure that we’ll be joining in tomorrow as we mix, cook and flip all day long! We’ll be offering a range of tantalising toppings for those of you that fancy a pancake or two but don’t have the resources to do it at home, or fancy pairing it with a cheeky pint! And don’t worry, if the savoury options don’t take your fancy, you can always choose what is arguably the nation’s favourite topping of lemon and sugar! So why not join us at The Passage House Inn in this centuries old tradition tomorrow as we mark the start of Lent in a most delicious way? Happy Pancake Day everyone!

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Steik!

Of all the themed nights that we have hosted here at The Passage House Inn, our Steak Night continues to be consistently our most popular. Steak and chips is one of those classic meals that is loved by so many of us. From rump, sirloin, t-bone or even tuna, with chips, new potatoes, rice or salad, with garlic mushrooms, grilled tomatoes or even mushy peas, there is a delicious variation of this beloved meal available for everyone. Such a simple concept but sometimes simplicity is the key!

One of the most unique things about steak is the recent tendency of many of us to eat it rare. According to a food history site, ‘the word “rare”, counterbalancing “done” describing the doneness of meat, descends from the word “rear”, meaning imperfectly cooked or underdone.’ An investigation into our love of rare steaks in The Independent agrees that historically, Britons thought that beef should be cooked entirely through until ‘well done’. The recent trend of rare meat has only occurred over the last 30 years and according to the founder of London steakhouse, Hawksmoor, it is due to ‘the more general shift from food as fuel to food for pleasure.’ That certainly makes sense, I think most of us would agree that a steak with some degree of pinkness running through it is much tastier than a tough bit of meat cooked until it resembles leather! Ironically though, according to legend, the word ‘steak’ is derived from a Norse or Saxon word ‘steik’ which means meat on stick and I imagine the Vikings wouldn’t have been too fussy about the colour of the meat they were consuming!

Luckily, we have long since moved on from serving our slabs of meat on sticks and now offer them with a range of delicious accompaniments. Here at The Passage House Inn in Topsham, we have recently updated our Steak Night to make it a more attractive, flexible option for everyone. Now, every Wednesday night we are offering a succulent 8oz rump steak served with chips, tomato, mushroom, peas and onion rings for an amazing £8.95! Steak upgrades are available and each week we’ll have a special offer bottle of wine for £10 to accompany your meal. Sounds irrestible right?! So why not join us next Wednesday and enjoy a delicious steak, cooked to perfection with good friends and a glass of red, down by the river in beautiful Topsham! To book a table, just give us a call on 01392 873 653!

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Beating the New Year Blues

As of today, December is upon us and the countdown to Christmas can finally begin. For many, this is the best month of the year, filled with parties, presents and a variety of delicious drinks. The festive period brings warmth and cheer to an otherwise fairly depressing season, one that would be characterised chiefly by it’s unfavourable weather. Here at The Passage House Inn, we are delighted to be fully booked for Christmas Day itself and are very much looking forward to seeing lots of groups joining us over the coming weeks for their work parties and family gatherings. It truly is a season for thanksgiving, merriment and good times with the people you love.

However, whilst we love Christmas, we are also aware of the gloom that can fall upon us in January and February, once the decorations are packed away and everyone has gone back to work. This seasonal slump is well acknowledged by many to the point where a mathematical formula has been used to calculate ‘Blue Monday: the most depressing day of the year’ (it’s the third Monday in January if you’re interested). It makes complete sense really, all the excitement of Christmas and New Year’s Eve has fizzled out, the presents have been given, there’s no reason to go out and the weather is usually at the peak of its dreariness. I don’t blame anyone for feeling a bit glum in light of all this.

However, we’ve come up with a solution to try and bounce back after Christmas and beat the New Year blues! This year, at The Passage House Inn, we’ll be giving everyone who dines with us in December, a very special Christmas present. Think coffee shop loyalty card but with a much better rate of return! Every diner will receive a festive discount card with 8 fantastic vouchers that will be redeemable when you come back to eat and drink with us again in January and February. From a free pint of Fosters, Thatchers or Tribute when you order a main meal to a free dessert when you buy a main meal, we are offering a variety of treats that we’re excited about giving out in the New Year. So now you can fully enjoy the advent period and Christmas holidays, safe in the knowledge that you’ve got something special to look forward to even after the tree is back in the attic and the mince pies are all gone! From all of us here at The Passage House Inn, we would like to wish you Merry Christmas and a very Happy New Year!

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Eat, Drink and Be Merry

Here at The Passage House Inn, we’ve recently finished putting together our Christmas menu and even if we do say so ourselves, it’s looking pretty delicious! During the process of doing so, we got to thinking about the history of traditional festive foods and so I thought I’d explore a few of them here today. Turkey, mince pies, brussel sprouts, chestnuts, figgy pudding…the list of foods synonymous with Christmas is endless. For some, food is the highlight of this winter holiday and with so many tasty things on offer, it’s easy to see why! But why are these foods particularly associated Christmas? What are the stories and reasons behind them?

I think it would be amiss if we didn’t start by looking at the most festive of pies, the beloved mince pie. Originally, mincemeat was a little different to that which we know today as dried fruits, sugar and spices were mixed with chopped meat, a way to use up leftovers and make meat go a little further. I don’t know about you but I’m very glad that we have them in their current state, I’m not sure the brandy cream would go so well with beef in the mix!

The other food that instantly comes to mind when I think of Christmas is roast turkey. Love it or hate it, it’s considered an unmissable staple by many. Why has this funny looking bird become a permanent feature of our Christmas table? Well it wasn’t always our first choice. Traditionally, people chose to eat geese at Christmas. They didn’t want to use their cows for beef as they provided milk throughout the year and chickens were expensive as well as producing eggs. As geese only lay eggs for part of the year, they were the obvious choice to be fattened up and eaten at Christmas.

But what are you to do if you love the end result of a festive feast but can’t face the idea of slaving away in your kitchen for hours whilst everyone else gets tipsy on eggnog and sherry? The answer is simple! Our Christmas Party menu has just been printed so why not book a table and join us for an amazing meal here at The Passage House Inn in Topsham over the festive period this year! Give us a call on 01392 873653 or pop in to reserve your table and guarantee yourself a truly fabulous festive dining experience!

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Celebrating 25 years

We were so delighted earlier this year when we got the news that 2016 marks 25 years since Children’s Hospice South West was founded. We have been fundraising for this incredible charity for the last three years with a running total donated so far of over £6,200. We have loved being able to support such a worthwhile charity and have seen it go from strength to strength over the years. This year, under the slogan ‘celebrating the past…looking to the future’, they have been holding special events to celebrate this special anniversary and have been encouraging their supporters to hold ‘silver’ parties to mark the occasion. Additionally, they are also one of the chosen charities for this year’s Great West Run in Exeter. As part of this partnership, they have some running spaces available…check out http://www.chsw.org.uk/gwr if you’re interested in finding out more. 

In case you’ve not heard of them though, we’ll fill you in with a little bit on what they do. Children’s Hospice South West provides hospice care for children with life-limiting or life-threatening conditions and their whole family across the South West region. This care is based in three hospices across the area and ranges from respite and short breaks to emergency and end of life care. They make an incredible difference in the lives of hundreds of families and help to provide support and to make memories for some very poorly children and their loved ones. It was founded in 1991 by Eddie and Jill Farwell  ‘after they experienced for themselves the urgent need for hospice care for children in the South West’ as they had to travel over four hours from their home to the country’s only children’s hospice at the time with their two eldest children. The first hospice, Little Bridge House, opened in 1995, followed by Charlton Farm in 2007 and finally Little Harbour in 2011.
Here at the Passage House Inn, we feel privileged to be in a position where we can regularly organise events and fundraising efforts for such an amazing charity. This October, we hope to continue in doing so with a Halloween spectacular fundraising event and hope that the people of Topsham will once again dig deep to help support the work that Children’s Hospice South West does. We are so incredibly grateful for the people who have helped us in these efforts in the past few years and to those that have got involved and donated, we couldn’t do it without them! So why not head over to their website (www.chsw.org.uk) and have a bit more of a look at the work they do and at the fundraising events that are happening over the next few months. And here’s to the next 25 years! 

Celebrating Topsham

I know you might think us something of a broken record but we can’t help but love and shout about what an amazing community exists in our humble town of Topsham. All year long there are events for the residents to get involved in; carol concerts, the Ferryman’s swim, beautiful gardens opened to the public, musical nights galore and much more. And whilst we sadly saw the final Topsham Carnival last year, this summer we have something new and very exciting for the whole community to get involved with. On the 27th August we will be celebrating Topsham’s inaugral Town Charter Day! Dreamt up in the wake of the carnival, the folk on the town committee recognised the need and desire of residents to still be able to celebrate Topsham once a year. And thus, they decided to start an annual community gathering to celebrate the awarding of our town charter.

Topsham was granted its town charter on 22nd August 1300 by King Edward I. Now I don’t know about you, but I didn’t know much about what this signified for the town at the time. A little bit of research though tells me that it was a pretty big deal. In medieval England, there weren’t that many towns in existence. In fact in the Domesday Book of 1087 only six towns were included. Most people lived in villages and just travelled to towns for trade. Having a charter though, ‘gave people in a town certain rights that were clearly stated in the charter that town had.’ (1) Common rights granted included the right to collect their own taxes and the establishment of their own law courts. So Topsham being awarded its own town charter would have been very important at the time, especially given its relatively modest size.

So why not come down and mark the occasion on the 27th August with us all? It looks set to be a brilliant day with a peal of bells, the Honourable Lord Mayor of Exeter in attendance, hawk displays, storytellers, jugglers, medieval stocks and much more. The day will culminate with a celidh before a firework display at 9pm. The first annual Town Charter Day certainly seems like it’s going to go with a bang! Here at The Passage House Inn, we’ll be open as usual, serving ice cold drinks and delicious homecooked food, offering a refuge for those needing a quick sit down and a breather before heading out again to experience the best that medieval Topsham has to offer! 

Swimming with the Ferryman

There is one event that we look forward to more than any other here at the Passage House Inn, and it is the annual Topsham to Turf Ferryman’s Swim. Not surprising really given our long standing friendship with the ferrymen of Topsham. Every August, Mike is joined by a growing number of intrepid swimmers who take to the water and swim from just outside our doors, down the River Exe, to Turf Locks. As well as the adrenaline rush gained from a spot of wild swimming, they do so in order to raise money for the Estuary League of Friends, a very worthy local charity.

Wild swimming is an activity that is on the rise in the UK and with very good reason. It’s a great way of getting outside and getting active. According to wildswimming.co.uk it ‘soothes muscle aches, relieves depression and boosts the immune system’ as well as having a whole host of long-term benefits such as lowered blood pressure and cholesterol, reduced fat disposition and increased fertility. It’s also a brilliant way to explore the countryside around us as you hunt out the best spots for a dip. Be it lake, river or sea, it is the opinion of a growing number that you just can’t beat a spot of wild swimming.

The Ferryman’s Swim is a great starter event if you’re new to the activity as the swim itself isn’t too long, you’ve got a fair bit of current assistance and everyone involved is friendly and guaranteed to make you feel welcome. You also have the added benefit of knowing that you are helping to raise money for a most excellent cause. On top of that, once finished, it’s easy enough to jump onto the ferry back to Topsham to warm up with some hot food and tell us all about your achievement!

This year, the swim is taking place on Saturday 13th August at 14:30, all details on how to get involved can be found here. So why not be brave and dip your toe (pun definitely intended) into the world of wild swimming with the Topsham to Turf Ferryman’s Swim? But if you can’t quite bring yourself to strip off and get into the Exe, never fear…you can still be part of it. Sponsor one of the competitors and then come and join us at The Passage House Inn as we cheer from the starting line before settling down with some good food and a pint by the river to watch them as they race downstream, led by our very own ferryman of Topsham, Mike Stevens.

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