Wednesday, July 29, 2009

England: Where in the World Wednesday!

Nathalie's Raspberry Mess - Yum!

The FIRST Where in the World Wednesday brings us across the pond (or at least across the pond for me) to England. Today, we're featuring two lovely ex-pats who both reside in England's capital city of London. Both were kind enough to be the first features and definitely offered me some insight into the food side of London and England generally. I hope that you enjoy our first of many weekly trips... Enjoy!

Brief background on both ladies:

Elaine has lived in London now for over three years and previously lived in both Maryland and New York. After living in New York and growing up surrounded by the food industry, she's no stranger to good eating! Now she offers me weekly (if not daily :)) insights into all the food London has to offer (not to mention the delicious cookies and chocolates she brings me when she comes to visit).

Nathalie, although living in London now, has lived all over the place including Israel, Belgium, Florida, Paris, Toronto, and Frankfurt. She shares my love for food and cooking and welcomes any cooking challenge (feel free to send her a recipe or two and she'll show you how it turns out on her blog! ... I'm working on picking out the right recipe for the challenge!). She also makes beautiful jewelry, which is actually how we first met.

Now, for your brief tour of British eats (on a sidenote, quite interesting to get two points of view... every week will be slightly different, so some weeks we'll have more input and some less):

Are there any dishes that you think are traditionally British? Do you have a favorite (include a recipe if you'd like!)

Elaine: There are tons of traditionally British dishes: Fish and Chips, Bangers and Mash, Steak and Ale Pie, and let's not forget the yummy desserts - Trifle, Sticky Toffee Pudding, Bakewell Tart, Bread Pudding, Mince Pie.

Oh there quite a few: fish and chips, Lancashire Hotpot, Yorkshire puddings, bangers and mash, Shepherds' Pie, and of course the typical full English breakfast. As meat features rather heavily in these meals and as I don't eat meat I never got to sample most of them.

I do have a sweet tooth so I like most of the local desserts (or pudding as they call them) such as shortbread, treacle tart and even the Christmas pudding. One of my favorites desserts is this version of the Eton mess (see above!) -it's really easy to make and if you suck in the kitchen or in a rush you can buy ready made ingredients and just assemble it. (I stole the recipe from Ruth Watson).

250g mascarpone
600g fresh raspberries
350g creme fraiche

For the meringues
3 large egg whites
175g sugar

For the custard
425ml full fat milk
1 vanilla pod, split lengthways
6 large egg yolks
115g caster sugar
1 tbsp cornflour

In the easy version (where you buy ready made ingredients) you just mix ready-made custard and mascarpone, then layer the ingredients in wine glasses in the following order:

1. 50g raspberries
2. 3 tbsp custard & mascarpone mix
3. crumbled meringue
4. 1 tbsp of creme fraiche
5. 50g raspberries
6. 2 tbsp custard & mascarpone mix
7. crumbled meringue
8. 1 tbsp of creme fraiche
9. A few raspberries for decoration

If you're doing it the hard way:
1. Preheat oven at 100C
2. make custard: heat milk and vanilla pod in a saucepan until just below simmering point.
3. Meantime whiz egg yolks, sugar and cornflour in food processor until thick and creamy
4. Take milk off heat and let it infuse 15-20 minutes.
5. Remove vanilla pod and add it to the egg mixture - blend but not too much
6. Rinse pan and pour the mixture back in. Return saucepan to a medium-high heat and bring to the boil whisking continuously
7. Still whisking, reduce heat and simmer for one minute.
8. Remove pan from heat and plunge the base of the pan in ice cold water
9. Continue whisking 2-3 minutes until the custard cools a little, then leave to chill stirring occasionally.

1. Whisk egg white until you get glossy peaks that don't fall when you turn the bowl upside down. 2. Whisk a large spoon of sugar then fold in the rest - about a fifth at the time.
3. With a tablespoon dab small evenly sized mounds of meringue on a baking sheet
4. place baking sheet in the oven for 90 minutes then turn off the heat and leave in the oven for another hour.
5. Remove from oven and leave it to cool completely.

1. Just mix custard and mascarpone, crumble the meringue and assemble as described above.

If you were putting together a food gift basket representative of your country for a friend that was visiting you from overseas, what would you include in it?

Elaine: Tiptree Strawberry and Champagne Conserve (this is my favorite jam but the other flavors they make are excellent), Fortnum & Mason Chocolate and Macadamia Biscuits, a selection of Cadbury Chocolates, McVities Caramel Digestive Biscuits (don't be put off by the word "digestive, these are basically cookies covered in caramel and chocolate), English Scones, and Scotch Eggs (a shelled hard-boiled egg, wrapped in a sausage meat mixture, coated in breadcrumbs, and deep-fried).

Elaine later shared with me that she wanted to add a few things that would likely go bad in a gift basket, but if she COULD include them, they would be strawberries and cream or yorkshire pudding (um, yum!).

Nathalie: Let's just make one thing clear here *looks severely a Jackie* England is NOT my country - it's just where I live right now :). And I'm ashamed to say I take perverse pleasure in making fun of their 'cuisine'.

But I do do the 'gift' basket whenever I go abroad (to horrify my friends more often than not...) (For more information on Nathalie's gift basket, check out her blog! She provides more details about each of these items...)

It usually includes the following:
Marmite (yeast extract),
Mint Kit-Kat (yes, they dared)
Twiglets (snack that tastes like Marmite),
Cheese and onion chips (or crisps as they call them here)
Jaffa cakes (orange chocolate cookie)
Hobnobs (a type of cookie - very dry!)
Roses (a type of Cadbury chocolate)
Terry's orange (very cool chocolate in shape of an orange)
PG tips (tea)

Do you find that the food in the UK has been greatly influenced by certain ethnicities? If so, which ones?

Elaine: The UK is certainly influenced by the Commonwealth countries, most notably India. You can get some amazing Indian food here.

Yes, it most definitely has (and it's a good thing otherwise I would starve....). I think the biggest influence is probably Indian/Pakistani and curry regularly feature on the list of the most popular British foods (and some years it even tops the list). Where I live there is a big concentration of Poles so there are quite a few Polish groceries stores. Supermarkets in general are quite good in stocking food from different countries. In my local supermarket I can find anything from Jamaican to Vietnamese food.

What is your favorite “local” restaurant and why?

Elaine: Sakura, is this little Japanese restaurant near Oxford Circus that serves really authentic food at very reasonable prices. It's always busy, usually packed with Japanese people which is always a good sign! The sushi is particularly good plus they have a lot of items on the menu that you wouldn't normally see, ie. Nasu Dengaku (Japanese grilled eggplant with sweet miso paste and sesame).

Nathalie: It's probably my local noodle place - I like Thai food and this restaurant is conveniently close and relatively cheap. They also have a good selection of vegetarian dishes.

Where was your last amazing meal in the UK and what was in it?

Elaine: Gordon Ramsay's at Claridges for my boyfriend's birthday. For my starter I had the Sautéed chicken livers, soft-boiled quail’s eggs, frisée and smoked bacon. My main course was the Cornish lemon sole, English asparagus, wild mushroom fricassée, citrus beurre blanc. The meal ended with a Valrhona chocolate fondant, mint ice cream and raspberries. YUM! (My commentary: Oh that Gordon... how I heart him as well).

Nathalie: Mmmmm.... let me think.... I don't go out very often.... And the places I go to offer good food but it's by no means amazing.

Where could you get a good meal and a drink for 15 pounds (or approximately $25) and what would you get? (Given the current economic times!)

Elaine: Aside from Sakura which definitely fits the bill, I'd say Waterloo Brasserie. In addition to their a la carte menu they also have fixed price menus for £12.95 (2 courses) and £16.95 (3 courses). There's also a website here called Toptable which has tons of restaurant deals like 50% off or cheap fixed price menus which change often and are well worth taking advantage of.

Nathalie: Wagamama would be a good place if you're an Asian food fan like me. For this amount you could get a main, a drink and either a dessert or a starter.

(My commentary: I LOVE Wagamama as well! The Wagamama in London was the first one I went to, and they're supposed to open one here in DC soon... here's hoping!)

Thank you so much to both of these lovely ladies for participating in the first "Where in the World Wednesday" ... stay tuned for next week which will jet us to a different part of the world. As always, if you'd like to take part, please leave me a comment letting me know! (On an aside, I'm quite happy to include other U.S. foodies on this, particularly because there are so many places I've yet to visit...).



Snowbell said...

Elaine is so much nicer than me - she sends her friends good English stuff whereas I concentrate on the weird and horrid! Bad girl!!!

Thank you for featuring me! It's a really cool idea!

Casey said...

What a fascinating post! I loved reading all the answers, esp. that bit about Claridges. I'd like to eat there just once, to see what it's like. :)

I love Nathalie's dirty trick gift basket. I could think of a few recipient's for that! ;)

Can't wait for the next installment!

Elaine said...

Thank you for featuring me! I had a lot of fun answering the questions.

Although I've realized I forgot to mention some things I love like Eton Mess - such a great British summer dessert!

Nathalie, the recipe looks great, I'll definitely have to try it.

cute lil' onion said...

Great feature! It makes me want to visit London again (last time I was only there for a day). I love the diversity reflected in British food (which I think you're interviewees captured quite well!)