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.

Ingredients:
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]

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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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