George Gently: Northumberland Pan Haggerty Recipe

Year Released: 2007
Directed by: Euros Lyn, Ciaran Donnelly, Daniel O’Hara
Starring: Martin Shaw, Lee Ingelby
(Not Rated, 88 min. per episode)
Mystery and Suspense 

"England and America are two countries separated by a common language." George Bernard Shaw

The green fields, rocky outcroppings, and gentle rivers of Northumberland are now the haunts of former Scotland Yard detective Inspector George Gently, who finds crime in the gentle outbacks just as compelling as it ever was in London. Now, thanks to the wonders of Netflix streaming, I can transport myself to the North of England. So can you.

The year is 1964, a time when the world was “on the cusp of massive social change,” as writer and executive producer Peter Flannery for the BBC One production reminds us. In fact, the setting, especially the time period, becomes almost a character itself, especially unsettling for Gently (Martin Shaw), “who is attractively old-fashioned, not just in his methods and his mindset, but in his values.”

Gently’s Northumberland is a world of moral absolutes slowly fading away, and many of these social issues play a jazzy musical discord in the episodes. There is still death by hanging, looked upon by Continental Europe as both frightening and almost barbaric. One character who proclaims his innocence is willing to plead guilty in his native Germany to forestall the risk of hanging in Britain. The birth control pill is available, but only to married women, and abortion is still illegal, giving just a taste of sexual freedom soon to be ushered in. 

Some of the episodes become a bit preachy here, painting the old morality as unduly prudish and cruel. Yet, one wonders if present Britain, with the highest divorce rate and the highest proportion of single mothers in all of Europe, is any better off now with its new standards than it was with its more restrictive ones. 

The time period also makes old -fashioned policing the norm. Call boxes instead of cell phones, tons of paper files to sort through instead of just a click on the computer. And tracing down leads at the local pub instead of downloading internet profiles. Yes, there are blood types and fingerprints, but not really much more.

The pilot episode – how lucky we are that there are already fifteen of the hour and a half dramas available and more on the way  – opens with the hit and run death of Gently’s beloved wife Isabella. Gently has a stoic face with a stolid square-jawed toughness to it that would fit a lorry (British slang for truck) driver perhaps a bit more than a Scotland Yard detective. As he cradles his dying wife, Gently lets the blow register only in his eyes. That haunted look, later to be coupled with a steely determination, remains for the entire series. 

And it is that solid disposition that sets Gently apart from so many other English detectives remembered for their genius and eccentricity. He is not the fastidious Poirot, obsessed with symmetry, the little grey cells, and his perfect moustache. Nor is he the misanthropic Holmes frenetically sorting through tobacco ashes or down on his hands and knees examining footprints. Gently is much closer to George Simenon’s French Detective Inspector Maigret, who solves his crimes with traditional, painstaking patience.

Gently’s dissonance comes from his bereavement, not any personality peculiarities, unless one can count an absolute intolerance for police corruption as an odd trait. He is also at odds with young detective John Bacchus (Lee Ingelby), who is not only rash and ambitious, but all too apt to take short cuts and wander off the straight and narrow. Bacchus sports a Beatles shaggy cut, drives an MG he can hardly afford, and is rather blandly married to the Chief Constable’s daughter. Yet with all his brash stumbling, Bacchus has some inner grit that makes Gently take him under his wing, doling out lessons in proper police procedure and tough love in equal doses.

In addition to the time warp and rural English setting, you will have to remain alert to understand some of the thick dialects, as well as the English slang. Many are mild oaths whose original religious or sexual connotations have faded away. Here are a few fun examples

Bloody - One of the most useful swear words in English. Mostly used as an exclamation of surprise i.e. "bloody hell" or "bloody nora". Something may be "bloody marvellous" or "bloody awful". It is also used to emphasize almost anything. "You're bloody mad", "not bloody likely" and can also be used in the middle of other words to emphasise them. E.g. "Abso-bloody-lutely!"

Actually, the word is derived from a mild curse, “By our lady.” “Bleeding” or “blooming” are likely alternatives.

Another interesting one is “bugger:”

Bugger - This is another fairly unique word with no real American equivalent. Like bloody it has many uses apart from the obvious dictionary one pertaining to rather unusual sexual habits. My father was always shouting "bugger" when he was working in the garage or garden. Usually when he hit his thumb or dropped a nail or lost something. Today we might use the sh** or the f*** words but bugger is still as common. The fuller version of this would be "bugger it". It can also be used to tell someone to get lost (bugger off), or to admit defeat (we're buggered) or if you were tired or exhausted you would be buggered. You can also call someone a bugger. When I won £10 on the lottery my mate called me a "lucky bugger".

So why not give George Gently a try. Got something better to do? Not bloody likely.

—Kathy Borich

Film-Loving Foodie

Many of those living in George Gently’s newly adopted part of England, Northumberland, are simple folk, farmers and laborers. They would certainly favor this dish that is cheap and cheerful and would satisfy the hungriest of workers. Layers of potatoes are fried with onions and cheese for a delectable dish always served directly from the pan.

This traditional supper dish from the Northumberland region of England gets its name from the French “hachis, meaning to chop or slice.” 

Pan Haggerty is great side dish for just about any main course. One, I’d bet, you could adapt to the barbecue quite easily. And how about a nice pint to wash it down?

Here are a few more great potato recipes from around the world:

Hash Brown Casserole

Hungarian Potato Casserole

Korean Seasoned Potatoes

Ozark Potato Bake

Perfect Mashed Potatoes

Potato Babka

Absolutely Ultimate Potato Soup

Northumberland Pan Haggerty 

  • 3 -4 large potatoes, peeled and sliced thinly
  • butter
  • salt and black pepper
  • 2 medium onions, peeled and sliced
  • 4 -6 ounces grated cheddar cheese or 4 -6 ounces lancashire cheese or 4 -6 ounces cheshire cheese


  1. Thinly slice the potatoes with a mandolin; also slice the onions and cheese as thinly as possible. Add the butter to a large frying pan and melt on low heat. When the butter is just melted, remove the pan from the heat and place alternating layers of potatoes, onions and cheese in the pan (reserving a little cheese for the topping), seasoning between each layer.
  2. Cover and cook gently for about half an hour until the potatoes and onions are cooked through. Add the remaining cheese on top, season and place under a pre-heated grill. Cook until the topping is golden brown and bubbling then serve straight from the pan.
  3. Serve with salad or steamed greens.

Recipe Source: