All posts tagged: British

Ploughman’s Sandwich: The best of Britain in every bite

From humble ingredients come the best soul feeding, tummy filling feasts. It is often the case that hard working peasants and farmers who have made it possible for civilizations to thrive live hard lives, working from dawn to dusk their dedication and efforts have indeed contributed to shape our diets. But what do they eat?  what has their culinary heritage been, and how has their food made it to become cultural gastronomic staples? Britain’s evangelistic passion for sandwiches tells the story of its own culinary evolution and to illustrate this let’s explore the history of the ploughman’s sandwich. First things first, a ploughman is just another name for farmer, especially those who plough the earth to prepare the fields to be planted. It’s easy to imagine they have: little time to eat, need to refuel good and can’t spare the time to do complicated lunch prep. A ploughman’s lunch is a simple picnic consisting largely of: bread, cheese, cucumber, tomato, lettuce and a sharp and either sweet or savoury of pickled vegetables, this humble meal …

The Hairy Bikers’ Asian Adventure Book

We are constantly bombarded with programs of glossy celebrity chefs or hyper-sensual cooks who perform unspeakable acts of soft food porn (nothing wrong with that) but there is a pair of big hairy northern blokes who just simply love food, cooking and hanging out on their motorbikes, this unexpectedly brilliant cooks are The Hairy Bikers.  Si (Simon) King and Dave Mayers have worked in tv and film production and professional makeup and prosthetics respectively. They met during the filming of a tv show and their mutual passion for food brought them together and put them on the other side of the cameras. They have released nearly a dozen tv shows and published the same amount of companion books with their recipes. What’s great about these boys is that they’re both highly likable, authentic and funny and never ashamed of their adorable geordiness (that’s a slang for referring to people from the north east of England). They’re not Michelin chefs but they don’t try to be one either!, many of their recipes come from their trips, …

Peyton and Byrne. British Baking

These days there’s hardly any famous restaurant, bistro or bakery that doesn’t have their own book. Im not sure if it comes from a genuine desire to share the recipes and their take on whatever food they make or if these days is just another entry on the marketing to do-list for every food business. Some books only come through as nice coffee table props, glossy pictures and expensive paper. Others apart from being pretty, actually feel genuine and tell a story. The latter is the case of this book. Posh and sophisticated, the Peyton and Byrne group doesn’t really strike as the story of a cozy cottage industry but just because a business takes off and becomes an emporium that doesn’t mean it’s less authentic. I have enjoyed reading and baking recipes from this book because they have a real feeling about them, it almost feels like baking from hand written manuscripts that had been passed down by an old aunt or grandma herself. Yes, they’re traditional British tea-time favourites with no attempt to …

Weeknight Roast and the Chickens that came from China

A few days ago an article on the Smithsonian Magazine got me thinking about the domestication of chickens and how often we take this docile birds for granted when we really ought to place them on a high pedestal since they’ve fueled an alimentary empire. Although chicken was widely eaten in ancient Greece, there’s evidence that shows traces of its domestication in China circa 5400 BC -but- other sources claim it happened around 8000 BC, be as it may chicken turns out to be the very first domesticated bird ever. We can find references to both hens and cocks in many religious rituals -in may of them like the Jewish Kaparot the poor birds don’t live to tell it. Here in Britain a domestic ritual celebrating togetherness and meat as an everlasting symbol of triumph over life’s vicissitudesis is: the Roast. Cooked in one of the most ancient ways by roasting and garnishing with simple vegetables. Roasts are typically made with lamb, beef or chicken. We know I’m neither British nor I eat meat but …

Bake your pie and eat it

For the unaware visitor, Pie & Mash is a picturesque, stereotypical, generic British dish, however it is neither generic not ubiquitous. But Pie & Mash are indeed a most beloved institution in east London where this working-class staple was both a weeknight meal and also a weekend treat. In victorian London, eels and other river animals were fished for food, many ended in pies served with a generous portion of “mash” that is mashed potatoes with a pool of either beef gravy or green sauce called liquor, made with parsley and the flavoured with eel stock.  Other classic fillings include minced beef or pork. Pie & Mash shops became a social hub where friends and families would meet and socialise over a pint of ale and a hearty and affordable meal. Then again fried chicken, kebabs and pizza shops have displaced many “Chippies” (Fish & chips shops) and Pie & Mash shops, but there are still some that are very much alive but will only continue to do so as long as they’re still relevant …

Lavender Shortbread

Who doesn’t love a good crumbly shortbread with a nice cup of coffee in the afternoon? Like most great pleasures in life, shortbread is very simple, flour, butter, sugar and salt. This tiny biscuit has been delighting us since medieval times when it was also known as “biscuit bread”. Why is it “short”? Short is referred to a crumbly yet compact texture, opposite to that of bread which is the product of kneaded dough that has developed elastic gluten. Shortbread is a type of “Biscuit” which means twice cooked, however nowadays we only bake it twice at a low heat to dry and cook the flour without burning it. In Victorian times shortbread regained a status as a luxury product, fancy clay moulds became fashionable to shape big and small pieces for special occasions such as Christmas presents and weddings. Legend says that Mary, Queen of Scots had a sweet spot for crisp and buttery shortbread spiced with caraway seeds. Although most people prefer the classic recipe, there are many ways to spice up shortbread …