Category Archives: British foods

Toad in the Hole

Toad in the hole is a very traditional English dish. A quick explanation if you haven’t come across it before – it is sausages baked into Yorkshire pudding batter and yes, I know it’s confusing that it’s called pudding. Yorkshire pudding is a baked batter that’s similar to popovers. It is often served with gravy. I ate Toad in the Hole growing up as it was a regular feature of our school dinners but it wasn’t something that appeared often on the menu at home, and I’m not sure if I have ever made it myself.

As you may have noticed, I haven’t had much opportunity to cook recently, but I was inspired by the Bluescreek sausages left over from our camping breakfast at the Flying J Farm and I had a friend coming over for dinner. It’s a simple dish, so I had all the ingredients and I liked the fact that I could make this traditional British food using my local Ohio eggs, milk, mustard and meat.

1 tbsp cooking oil
12 good quality pork sausages
3 tbsp mustard or 4 tbsp ketchup
2 small eggs
100g all purpose flour
100ml milk
salt and pepper
3tbsp bacon fat

Preheat the oven to 425ºF

Heat the oil in the frying pan over a medium heat and fry the sausages until browned all over. Drain on a paper towel and then smear generously with ketchup or mustard.

Put the eggs in a mixing bowl and whisk until thick. Add a little flour and a little milk and keep alternating until you have added all of them. Season, then mix in 75ml water and leave to rest for 15 minutes.

Take a roasting pan that can accommodate all of the sausages in a single layer. Put the bacon fat in the pan and put it in the oven until the fat is smoking.

Pour in the batter all in one go, and immediately arrange the sausages into it. Put the dish into the center of the oven and bake for about 30 minutes until it is puffed, crispy and a rich golden brown.

[Recipe is taken from the appropriately named ‘A Wolf in the Kitchen‘ by Lindsey Bareham]


Filed under British foods, recipes

Spring Quiche

It’s been a long time since I made a quiche, and I’m not sure what first inspired this one, but it seemed to be a good use for the various spring vegetables that have been collecting in the fridge. I did some searching through cookbooks and online to check on the proportions of cream to egg, and found that many of the quiche recipes seemed unnecessarily complicated, and that opinions varied about blind baking the crust. When I found this simple Jane Grigson parsley quiche recipe (via Nigel Slater) it seemed the perfect starting point, and I was happy to err on the side of simplicity.

I preheated the oven to 350ºF but increased the temp to 375ºF during cooking as it didn’t seem hot enough. For the pastry I was using a larger flan dish so I increased the quantity. I used 160g of all purpose flour, 75g salted butter, 1tsp powdered sugar, 1 small egg, a pinch of salt and 1tbsp of water. I rolled it out into a thin sheet and placed in into the removable based greased flan dish.

I substituted the chopped onions in Jane Grigson’s recipe with a mixture of Wayward Seed baby leeks (125g) and foraged ramps (200g) and sauteed them until soft. Raw ramps have a very potent flavor, but cooked they have a mild but distinctive leeky-garlicky flavor. I spread this mixture into the unbaked pastry shell.

Then I made the rest of the filling(again increasing the quantity but keeping the proportions) 375ml of Snowville Creamery heavy cream; 3 beautiful 2Silos eggs, salt and pepper, 3 tbsp of finely chopped parsley and 2tbsp of finely chopped chives from the garden, some grated lemon zest, salt and pepper. I poured this mixture over the leek and ramp base.

On top I placed some Anderson’s asparagus, which I had blanched for 1-2 minutes. I cut the fatter spears in half lengthwise and left the skinny ones whole. Then I dotted Lake Erie Creamery chevre between the asparagus spokes and  baked the quiche for 40 minutes, until it was set in the middle.

The pasty was light and crisp without being crumbly and didn’t suffer for not being baked blind. A basic quiche recipe is extremely versatile with different fillings and served with a salad or two makes a perfect al fresco lunch. I served it with lettuce mix from Combs Herbs a homemade balsamic dressing.

Sources for most of the ingredients were the Greener Grocer, the North Market Farmers Market and Curds and Whey. You can get a preview of Jane Grigson’s Good Things, and read her introduction on google. I highly recommend any of the books written by her, or by her daughter Sophie Grigson.


Filed under British foods, Food Writing, North Market, recipes, Vegetarian

Marmite Mother Lode

Apologies for the lack of new posts. I have been in England for the last couple of weeks and in between all trains, friends, reunions and babies there wasn’t time to sit down at a computer for anything more than keeping my email under control. Of course, I fit in a trip to Wagamama, branched out with lunch at Leon, drank so much tea that my teeth were noticeably stained and ate copious quantities of toast and hot cross buns. I also drank pear cider and apple soft brew and ate far too many crisps.

My mother had been stocking up on marmite products in anticipation of my visit. In addition to the breadsticks, crisps, rice cakes and cereal bars, there were also some marmite cashews which didn’t make the picture and a jar of the new special edition extra strong marmite XO. The cereal bars were the only marmite brand food that I hadn’t tasted before and I tentatively tried one of them this morning. Initially the savoriness is a little unnerving because we are so conditioned to cereal bars being overly sweet.  The marmite flavor is distinctive but not overpowering. I liked them and would buy them again.

I have a couple of other posts I want to write about my trip but in the mean time, here’s my paparazzi picture of the Queen outside Tescos.


Filed under British foods, Travel

Cauliflower Cheese

Cauliflower cheese is a very British comfort food. When I get a craving for a cheesy sauce it is to cauliflower and not macaroni that I turn. My most recent incarnation of the dish uses smoked bacon and smoked 5 year old cheddar from Thurn’s. I made it for lunch last week and it was so delicious that I decided to make it for the Restaurant Widow pot luck last night. When I tasted the sauce I was tempted to stay at home and eat it all myself.

3 lbs cauliflower
8 tbsp butter
10 tbsp all purpose flour
4 cups of milk (I used Snowville 2%)
salt, pepper,
1/2 tsp freshly grated nutmeg to taste
10 strips of Thurn’s smoked bacon
1lb Thurns smoked 5 year cheddar cheese, grated

Break the cauliflower into florets. Boil/steam it for 10-15 minutes in salted water until tender, drain well and set aside and keep warm.

Cook the bacon on a baking sheet in the oven (15-20 minutes at 400°F), finely chop and set aside. If you want to increase the bacon flavor you could use a tablespoon or of bacon grease in place of 1tbsp of the butter.

Make a bechamel sauce: melt some butter in a pan over a moderate heat and then stir in flour a spoonful at a time until you have a thick paste (a roux). Cook the roux for a couple of minutes, stirring all the time and watch it expand. Slowly add milk and keep stirring all the time until you have a smooth, thick sauce. You may want to switch to using a whisk. Season to taste. Gradually stir in 2/3 of the grated cheese. Save the rest to sprinkle on top. Mix the bacon into the sauce.

I usually make white sauce with cold milk, but I tried Delia Smith’s method of heating the milk first with onion, bayleaf and peppercorns. Given the strength of the cheese flavor, I didn’t think it made enough difference to make up for the increased washing up. It might be worth it if you were just making a plain bechamel.

Put the cauliflower into a 9×13 inch baking dish and then pour the sauce over it. Then sprinkle the remaining cheese on top. You can also add some breadcrumbs if you want more of a gratin.

If you are serving it straightaway, put it under the broiler for a few minutes until the cheese is golden brown and the sauce is bubbling. If you are preparing it further ahead you can reheat/brown it in a hot oven (probably 400°F for 25-30 minutes).

Some similar good dishes: Nigel Slater’s baked onions with cream and parmesan. Roland’s bacon and cheese pierogis, roasted cauliflowercorn chowder and leek and bacon stuffed baked potatoes.


Filed under British foods, recipes

Garibaldi Biscuits

Popular history has it that the Garibaldi biscuit was invented by Peek Freans in 1861 and was named after the Italian revolutionary of the same name. Why they thought that this particular biscuit, otherwise known as a squashed fly biscuit, was an appropriate tribute is not reported.

The Garibaldi, a cookie to my American friends, is a thin, sweet biscuit with currants sandwiched between two layers. The surface is shiny and they are not crumbly. The currants give the biscuits some chewiness. I don’t know how popular they are these days, but they are a very traditional and well known biscuit. Each packet contains several sheets of the biscuits and each sheet is perforated to be broken apart into individual rectangular biscuits. In the packet they are pretty durable.

One of my Columbus friends recently mentioned that they are reputed to be a descendent of Garibaldi and when I laughed and told them that I associated Garibaldi with a biscuit, they said that they had heard of the biscuits but had never tried one. That needed to be rectified and I asked my Mother if she could send me a pack from England. Instead she sent me a recipe and suggested that I could make them myself. It never occurred to me to make home-made Garibaldi’s, I have only ever had the supermarket version before, but of course another project was born.

The recipe only had five ingredients and I was pleased to see that I would be able to use up some of my surplus ice-cream-making egg whites. (Quick translation: Icing sugar is confectioners sugar, plain flour is all purpose). I bought currants and set to work. The recipe was simple, but counter intuitive being somewhat between a batter and a dough and it involved a lot of waiting. The currants are mixed into the dough rather than being a filling.

My skepticism and the fact that I was waiting around prompted me to see whether I could compare this batter to any other Garibaldi recipes. There was one recipe that seemed to be repeated on several different recipes sites. I had more currants, so what the hell. I made version two while the first batch was chilling in the fridge.

This was more of a pastry dough with chopped up currants spread between the layers of dough and then rolled again. Chopping currants is messy and spreading them on soft dough is harder than it sounds. .

The first recipe definitely takes longer, although most of the time is waiting time. On the other hand the method is easier – with no rolling and no chopping.

I served the finished biscuits to several guinea pigs. Unfortunately none of them had ever had the bought version so they could only compare them to each other. Both were popular but the whole currants in the mixture version won overall on taste. It also had the shininess and chewiness of a bought garibaldi but without the density. The sandwich version was too crunchy and not shiny enough but it was more authentically a sandwich. I knew that neither was quite right, but its been a while since I ate the original and homemade baked goods usually are different to factory produced ones. I might need a research trip to Jungle Jim’s in order to perfect the home-made garibaldi.

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Filed under British foods

Scotch Quail Eggs

One of the other dishes that we made for Burn’s Night was Scotch eggs. I’m not sure how they got the name Scotch eggs because everything I found online says that they were invented at Fortnum & Mason, a very up market grocery/department store in London in 1738. Scotch eggs are a popular picnic or snack food in England, served cold and are commonly found in supermarkets. The consist of an egg, wrapped in seasoned sausage meat, which is then coated in breadcrumbs and deep fried.

Because we were planning to serve them as an appetizer we decided to make miniature Scotch eggs using quails eggs. You can find quails eggs at North Market Poultry and Game (currently $3 for 10). Quail eggs are about an inch tall and I love the fact that their markings vary so much. They make adorable fried eggs and are perfect to use for hors d’oeuvres as they are bite size. They are however fiddly to peel so it’s better to buy more than you need. AD did most of the work for the Scotch eggs and I definitely heard some swearing during the peeling phase.

We followed Heston Blumenthall’s recipe, which had a lot of useful tips. The only thing it didn’t tell us was the cooking temperature. We found that the eggs took longer to hard boil than he said and also longer to fully cook at the end. The eggs are boiled and peeled and cooled, then encased in sausage meat. The sausage meat could/should have been thinner but it was hard to work with. Then they are dipped in flour, egg and bread crumbs. I made bread crumbs from a white sandwich loaf and then dried them in the oven.

We started with 30 quails eggs and 2 lbs of sausage meat and ended up with 22 scotch eggs. Here they are pre-frying.

And here they are having been deep fried and then baked in the oven to make sure that the sausage meat was cooked all the way through.

Other food at the Burns Night Supper was Cock-a-leekie soup, eel pie, Scottish salmon served with oat cakes, haggis, neeps and tatties (mashed potato and mashed rutabaga) and for dessert shortbread and whisky and honey ice cream.

The soup was topped with prunes, which are apparently traditional to cock-a-leekie soup. I was a little skeptical but they were a wonderful addition.


Filed under British foods, dinners with friends, North Market

Haggis – From Scratch – Step by Step

A couple of years ago, around this time of year, I went to my local butchers Blues Creek Farm Meats at the North Market and asked if they sold haggis or if they knew anywhere I could buy it. I didn’t realize that imports of haggis were banned. They didn’t and suggested that I make my own. I laughed and dismissed the idea. I then discovered the Barley’s annual Burns Night Supper and for two years I satisfied my haggis cravings there.  But, this year emboldened by the pig’s head project, I decided that if I could boil pig’s heads, I could damn well make my own haggis.

For the uninitiated, haggis is a Scottish delicacy. It is made of sheep’s offal, oatmeal, suet, onion and seasonings and is boiled and served with ‘neeps and tatties’ (mashed rutabaga and mashed potatoes) and liberal quantities of whisky. It is traditionally served at Burn’s Night Suppers on January 25th because Robert Burns, the bard of Scotland and a fan of the dish, wrote the poem ‘Address to a Haggis‘ calling it ‘great chieftan o’ the pudding-race!’ It is fairly similar to the Cincinnati speciality goetta but with more liver flavor.

Making your own haggis in the US is quite an endeavor. Traditional haggis recipes call for a sheep’s stomach and a sheep’s pluck (heart, lungs, windpipe and liver).  Unfortunately it is impossible to buy a sheep’s stomach or lungs. Blues Creek were happy to supply me with the liver and heart but that was all they could offer. I did a lot of research, comparing recipes and looking for substitutions. Alton Brown used a tongue instead of the lungs, others used lamb shoulder. There was nothing conclusive. I decided to use a mixture of lamb trimmings for flavor and beef tripe, which seemed like it might be the closest in texture and not too strong in flavor. I was able to get tripe from La Plaza Tapatia (a large Mexican grocery store) where they had three different types on display.

The casing was still a problem. Many recipes suggested using ox bung (cow intestine) instead of a sheep’s stomach (even in the UK it seems sheep’s stomaches are hard to find), but Blues Creek couldn’t provide that either and for a while I planned to use some sort of fabric bag. One blog I read debated using a t shirt and then settled on haggis tamales, but despite my love of taco trucks this seemed too non-traditional for me. Fabric didn’t seem ideal as it is much more porous than a traditional casing,  but the alternative, steaming it in a basin wasn’t great either. I heard rumors of pigs stomaches at an Asian grocery. But it was then that Albert from Thurn’s came to my rescue and supplied me with a beef bung cap to use as my casing. It’s amazing that one can get that excited about a cow intestine but really, I was.

The most useful resource I found was Tim Hayward’s step by step guide to making a haggis. I also used a BBC recipe and another step by step slideshow. In addition I consulted many other sources for advice on seasoning, cooking time and proportions. The main problem is that ‘plucks’ come in many different sizes and although recipes acknowledge this, they don’t give you any sense of proportion. Michael Ruhlman, where are you with a ratio when I really need you? For example, the BBC recipe told me to use between 1/2lb and 2lbs of oatmeal, without any guidance on how to decide how much. While I have eaten haggis many times, I have never seen the consistency of the mixture before it is stuffed.

With those caveats in mind here is my own step to step haggis making experience:

The day before you make the haggis, you need to boil the meat until all parts are tender and then leave them over night in their cooking liquid. Luckily there was room for my dutch oven in the fridge. Opinions seem to vary as to whether the water should be salted or not. I went with unsalted but next time would salt the water. The liver and heart were tender before the tripe, so I gave that extra time.

The next day you drain the meat and save the cooking liquid (which was quite gelatinous). I removed the hardened fat from the top of the pan as well. The tripe, trimmings and heart were minced along with 4 onions. We did a coarse grind to start and then put it all through again with the fine disc.

The liver and 1/2 lb suet (which also came from Blues Creek) are grated and then added to the rest of the meat.

The oats used are steel cut or pinhead oats and they are toasted in the oven until thoroughly dried out but not browned. I followed the BBC recipe 10 minutes at 350°F. I ended up using the whole bag which was 1 lb 8oz.

Then for the seasoning: Haggis is usually quite peppery in flavor so I added what seemed like a lot of salt and freshly ground pepper. Many of the recipes just called for a small quantity of dried herbs and traditional herbs seems to include marjoram, savory, sage, pennyroyal and thyme, but my research showed that spices are traditional as well and include mace, allspice and nutmeg. I also saw some recipes that called for cayenne and paprika, although I doubt that they are traditional. I didn’t have savory or pennyroyal but used everything else mentioned and a little rosemary.

The final step is adding some of the cooking liquid. Most recipes called for 1 pint even though they varied the amount of oats, so it was guesswork to decide whether to add more. I wasn’t sure what consistency I was aiming for. Despite my research and the number of recipes I had consulted the proportions of seasoning, oatmeal and liquid were still all guesswork.

Albert at Thurn’s had advised me to soak the cap in lukewarm water for about 10 minutes before I used it. The cap is sealed at one end with an opening at the other. It looks like a very large but slightly irregular condom, but with veins. When I looked at the stuffing it was hard to imagine that it would all fit inside but the casing wasn’t fragile and had a lot of give. Stuffing it was surprisingly easy and I have to admit to giggling to myself.

At this stage, I was pretty curious how much this monster haggis weighed. I tried it on the kitchen scales and they flashed the overload warning, so I placed the bowl on the bathroom scales. Approximately 10lbs! Everything I had read, said to fill the casing half full, so having established that all the stuffing would fit, I spread it out so that there was room for the oatmeal to expand. The recipes make you fearful of the casing bursting during cooking. I squeezed out as much air as I could and tied the open end up with kitchen string.

It was a good two feet long! Lucky I had borrowed a huge pig head sized pot to cook it in. I definitely could have made it into more than one haggis.

Albert had told me to keep the water at 170°F to help prevent bursting, so I heated up a few gallons of water and used my candy thermometer to keep a check on the temperature. I pierced the haggis twice with a skewer as advised, also I hoped to help prevent bursting. As soon as you put the haggis into the hot water the casing contracts and tightens around the filling. It’s quite amazing. I thought it would expand as the oatmeal cooked but that wasn’t really noticeable and I didn’t see any air bubbles. Phew, no burst haggis.

When one recipe tells you to cook it for 3 hours and the other an hour and a half, but neither tell you how to tell when it is cooked, there is a lot of head scratching involved. I used a thermometer to try and check the internal temperature but otherwise erred on the side of cooking it longer and then ended up keeping it warm for a while before we ate. I read that cooking time is based on diameter not mass, but without knowing how long for what diameter that didn’t really help.

And so the finished product: When you cut into the haggis the casing retracts, although not as dramatically as I had hoped.

So how was it? Overall, I was pleased with how it turned out. The filling wasn’t as dark in color as haggis’s I’ve had before and I can’t account for why, unless some people add blood, because I don’t think the lungs would make it a lot darker. It was tasty but a little under seasoned – I should have added more salt and pepper and also salted the water. I also think it was a little moister than some haggis I have had in the past and I’m not sure if this is because I added some extra liquid or because it was cooked for longer.

We made a pretty good dent in it, but there is plenty left over and so this morning I did some googling for leftover haggis recipes. There was a wealth of ideas ranging from deep fried haggis balls to tzatziki haggis wraps and haggis lasagne. It seems in Scotland they use it in burgers, macaroni and cheese and salads. It can also be used as a stuffing, in omelettes and something called Scottish tacos!

I added salt and pepper, formed some haggis into a patty and fried it up like goetta. Wow! It was so good – better than goetta. Crispy oatmeal popping in the pan, a crunchy crust and the still moist meaty center.

Maybe next year I’ll be able to buy my haggis, or maybe I’ll make it again with the lessons learned, but for now I’m enjoying the leftovers. Here’s to ‘Rabbie Burns’!


Filed under British foods