Thinking about what on earth I was going to write about for today's post, I opened my storecupboard to be greeted by a jar of salted capers winking up at me cheekily. It occurred to me that I didn't really know what capers were- okay, we all buy them in little tubs, or salted and in glass jars, but I bet many people out there couldn't say where they come from.
So, I did some research. The caper (Capparis spinosa L.) is a perennial spiny shrub that bears rounded, fleshy leaves and big white to pinkish-white flowers. The capers that we buy in the shops are the pickled bud of this plant. The bush is native to the Mediterranean region, growing wild on walls or in rocky coastal areas.
A classic British dish is "Mutton with Caper Sauce". My dear ol' grandma used to eat mutton. It disappeared from the shops in the '70's, when lamb took off. Remember all those ads for New Zealand lamb? But a properly cooked mutton is a noble thing, indeed.
To make caper sauce, start off with a white sauce in the usual way- (cook a roux of butter and flour, add milk, chicken or vegetable stock, and season with salt and pepper.) Add a handful of capers, and adjust the seasoning. Check that the flour is cooked properly, and serve with the mutton.