It’s that time of year again when I attempt to give you a fail-safe recipe for the races, one that will impress your friends and family without taking days to prepare. Like the trout à la car engine which is cooked in foil, with a slice of lemon and a sprig of fennel, strapped to the exhaust manifold of your vehicle on your way to the races.
The stakes are high because on both days of the Barbecue Meeting (this Saturday 18th July and Monday 20th July), we shall be presenting prizes for the most stylish picnics or barbecues. As this is Cartmel Racecourse, we won’t be handing out awards for anything that is boring and uniform – we’ll be expecting a twist of added zest, like deckchairs in the colours of your favourite jockeys’ silks or sandwiches cut in the shape of galloping horses.
At Cartmel we like to think that we run races with a bit of a twist – hence the run-in on the steeplechase course, which is almost as long as some flat races. There are very few racecourses where the jockeys get cheered every inch of the way by a crowd which lines the inside of the track, which makes riding at Cartmel a novel experience. That will be one of the attractions for the top female riders attending Saturday’s fixture – that and the £5,000 diamond necklace that the sponsors are giving for the Banks Lyon Jewellers Lady Riders Handicap Hurdle.
The atmosphere here in advance of the races is deceptively quiet. I sometimes liken Cartmel to a piece of popcorn – small and perfectly formed until… POP, the place explodes into life, becoming a multi-textured, tasty, treat for all of the family. Which gives me an idea…
Have you ever tried garlic and parmesan popcorn? Simply cook a few cloves of gently crushed garlic in a couple of spoonfuls of oil, in the bottom of a deep pan, on top of the barbecue; remove the garlic once the oil is well flavoured and add the popcorn. Once the corn has popped, sprinkle liberally with finely grated parmesan cheese. Delicious!
For pudding, take a fresh pan (don’t use the garlic flavoured one) cook some more popcorn in butter and sprinkle with caster sugar mixed with cinnamon. Or you could just cook off a Cartmel Sticky Toffee Pudding (which come in handy metal trays for heating on top of the fire) and add the popcorn to the top of that. Mind your fingers because the metal trays get quite hot – I speak from experience.
And talking of experience - it always helps at a zesty track like Cartmel. Which is why I’m siding with Goldan Jess in Saturday’s big race for this weekend’s selection. Winner of the Totepool Cumbria Crystal Cup last year, Goldan Jess has had the benefit of a recent outing on the flat in preparation for this year’s renewal and connections will be keen to retain the beautiful glass trophy as well as take a share of the £26,000 prize fund.