Ploughman's Lunch

Makes 1 platter

a third of a loaf of crusty French bread
a good chunk of butter (2 Tablespoons)
an enormous slab (¼ to ½ lb) of cheddar, the sharper the better
2 oz pickled onions
one hard-cooked egg
a wedge of tomato or lettuce for garnish

for each of two jars of pickled onions

14 small white onions
½ cup salt
3 cups vinegar (cider or malt)
8 Tablespoons sugar
4 cloves
1 oz mustard seed
10 peppercorns


What's to say? Assemble ingredients on a platter and serve it forth.

To make the pickled onions, blanch the onions in boiling water to soften them. Remove the skins, rub with the salt, and let them sit overnight.

Rinse and dry the onions. Mix the vinegar, sugar and spices in a large pot. Add the onions and any water necessary to cover. Bring to a boil and simmer gently for about 10 minutes or until the onions are half cooked. Pack them into clean, hot jars, pour in the vinegar mixture and seal. Store at least two weeks before serving.


The quintessential pub-grub, the ploughman's lunch is so-called because that's what the farmer would have for his midday meal (along with a pint or two...or more). A huge hunk of bread, thick with creamery butter, a massive wedge of cheese, some crisp onions...

Unfortunately, it's all a modern conceit. No farmer could survive on so meager a meal; his midday repast (dinner, never lunch) is the largest of the day. A Ploughman's Lunch would never do. Nonetheless, the deception persists, and the dish is now standard pub-grub all across Britain. Saw the video

If you're particularly resourceful, you might find pickled onions on this side of the water, but only at a shop that specializes in British (or German) fare. Beware jars of plain boiled onions or those teeny pickled onions intended for use in cocktails. German Kräuter Zweibeln tend to include dill; British pickled onions do not.


Novice pubkeepers take note: when the meals come to be served, very few guests will opt for the vegetarian platter over the carnivorous fare. Given 150 people, eating their meals over three days, only fifteen servings of Ploughman's lunch were requested. You need very few vegetarian serving on hand (about 3% per meal) to satisfy the Inn's patrons.

First served: Beltane 1993
Go back to the Menu
Last modified: © May 2001