Monday, March 22

A Taste of British Food

What my dear sister means when she says "Coleslaw and Yorkshire Pudding was one of the blog names we considered" is that it was one of the names she considered. I wasn't having anything to do with Yorkshire Pudding! However, I must admit that her description of the eggy, stretchy sails (almost panettone-like) made me start thinking about some of the simple pleasures of British cuisine.

Nowadays, in Britain (as in many other countries) the food being cooked daily in the kitchens from London to Edinburgh and Belfast to Cardiff is Italian pasta, Indian chicken curry, Spanish tortilla omelette and Chinese stir fry. But there is a tradition of British cooking that involves more than just fish and chips. I thought I would introduce some of my favourite dishes to our friends across the Pond.

1. Welsh Rarebit - I always have to start off explaining that this does not contain small, furry animals. This is a slice of toasted bread, topped with a smooth mixture of cheese, Worcestershire sauce and mustard (the exact ingredients can vary), all of which is then grilled. The magic is in the contrasts: the smooth, bechamel of the topping vs. the firm, crunchiness of the base; the mustard sharpness of the cheese vs. the rounded wholesomeness of the bread.

2. Steak and Ale Pie - I love English pies! And, for me, nothing beats this one. Come to think of it, it's almost a one-stop roast beef and Yorkshire pudding. Tender cubes of beef with caramelised onions and mushrooms, in a hearty stew, topped with perfect pastry that you can dip into the gravy.

3. Sausages and Mash - British sausages are famous for their low meat content and high everything else content, but it's hard to beat the taste. Try them with buttered mash and a satisfying onion gravy.

4. Treacle Sponge with Custard - Why miss out the amazing desserts? Soft sponge soaked in dark syrupy treacle, and served swimming in hot custard. This is the height of comfort food.

5. Eton Mess - This dessert does look like it sounds (if you saw an Eton private school boy, you'd know what I mean). It's a mashed up mix of meringue, strawberries and cream. (And a dash or two of Campari doesn't hurt for the adults.)

It's not easy to come across good versions of tasty British dishes. But there are a few enterprises that are working to keep the cuisine alive. One of them in London is Canteen, which operates ... wait for it ... a chain of restaurants! (Hey, I'm all for people with good food concepts multiplying them! And they don't all have to be Wendy's, right?)

I'll leave you with a bit of trivia on the name 'Elephant and Castle'. This is an area of London, South of the Thames. There is sometimes confusion about what it could have to do with pachyderms and fortified structures. However, folk legend has it that the name is a corruption of the original name, which was 'Infanta de Castilla', the princess of the Spanish region of Castilla y Leon sent across the seas to marry King Edward the First.




Anonymous said...

I had forgotten about the truffle pasta. My local supermarket sells Iranina truffles (at what seems to me to be a very good price) but I have no idea how to cook them so I will keep an eye on your blog for truffle suggestions.

Cinnamon and Truffle said...


I once bought a nice truffle sauce in Borough Market. The guy I bought it from gave me a quick recipe. It's very simple though, and it didn't quite turn out the way I dream of truffle pasta being! So I've been trying to work out a better recipe. Shall keep you posted.



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