I’m a blini on a lamp-post on the corner of the plate, in case a certain little salmon comes by…
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Oh me, oh my!
Made popular by George Formby in the 1937 film Feather Your Nest, Leaning On A Lamp-Post soon became one of his best-remembered records. The song was covered in 1966 by Herman’s Hermits, reaching No. 9 in the US Hot 100. It wasn’t until the mid 1980s that Leaning On A Lamp-post became a bona fide show tune when it was included in Stephen Fry’s rewrite of Me And My Girl, a musical that was first performed in 1937 – so at least the show and the song are from the same era!
Cockney Bill Snibbons is (spoiler!) discovered to be the long-lost heir to the aristocratic Hareford family and undergoes a My Fair Lady style training programme to satisfy the terms of his inheritance, which include giving up his “unsuitable” cockney girlfriend, Sally, forcing Bill to choose between love and lifestyle. The 1984 revival was a big hit, starring Robert Lindsay and current teapot Emma Thompson. Lindsay transferred with the show to Broadway in 1986 adding a best actor Tony to his earlier Olivier.
Although the lyrics are perfectly innocent, coming from the music-hall era, by today’s standards, some of them are surprisingly creepy, perhaps more suited to American Psycho:
I’m leaning on a lamp-post at the corner of the street,
In case a certain little lady comes by.
Oh me, oh my, I hope the little lady comes by.
I don’t know if she’ll get away, She doesn’t always get away,
But anyhow I know that she’ll try…
Perhaps the mystery of Jack The Ripper has finally been solved! (Did you know that there actually is a Jack The Ripper musical?!)
At the end of Act I, the Harefords throw a grand party for Bill with the key plot point being how neatly he can eat a smoked salmon blini. Blinis are a Russian savoury buckwheat pancake that use yeast as the raising agent, and are traditionally served with smoked salmon. They are now a favourite canapé the world over.
I didn’t have any buckwheat flour but had some rye flour which worked very well. I mixed this with strong white flour, which will give a better rise due to the higher gluten content, but just use plain (all-purpose) flour if that’s what you have. In fact, you will easily find “easy quick” recipes that use plain flour and bicarb. I included some of my starter dough (see Anything You Can Dough, I Can Ciabatta) more for the added flavour than anything else (the amount used won’t affect the rise).
Mix the dry ingredients. Warm the milk so that it’s hand-hot and whisk in the egg yolks. Whisk this into the dry ingredients and leave it to rest in a warm place for at least an hour (I left mine for two and a half). You won’t get a dramatic rise as you do with bread (it’s only a little yeast). Stir through the melted butter (let it cool a little) and then fold through the egg whites that should be whisked to soft peaks.
Heat a non-stick pan and cook the blini (whatever size you choose!) in batches – they only take a few seconds on each side. Serve, whilst leaning on a lamp-post, with smoked salmon, creme fraiche (or sour cream), lemon juice and black pepper.