The Return Of British Food

It’s off-putting eating a strawberry when you know it’s been flown all the way from Israel to be on your plate. Yesterday I made a tour of my local farmers’ markets to see what was on offer, and was told that a lot of very British food was returning, from samphire, salsify and sorrel to cow heel, parkin and the massive resurgence of pork cuts.

The most popular stall in Borough Market, though, is still Swiss – Raclette, melted crust of cheese over Maris Piper potatoes. Close behind are the oyster & beef pies, Saltmarsh lamb (which tastes different to ordinary lamb) and odder dishes like Stargazey Pie, a Cornish dish of baked pilchards and eggs.

I find cooking therapeutic; there’s nothing like standing in the kitchen plotting a murder while you’re holding a sharp knife and rinsing blood down the sink. Loosening the stranglehold of the supermarkets is still a challenge – but sourcing the ingredients for any Nigella Lawson meal is almost impossible in town without incurring time and great expense. Later this week I’m going to post a free short story here which tackled that very subject.

Meanwhile, the peculiar institution that is the British sunday lunch has returned to popularity so much that it’s now almost impossible to get into pubs that rate highly on the Sunday lunch scale. Having given up in the Hooray-Henry baby-buggy-filled gastro-hell of Islington, we tried The Gunmakers, behind Marylebone High Street, and found – nestled beneath framed portraits of Sir Winston Churchill and cases of bullets – one of London’s best kept secrets; a knockout pub lunch made with meats from The Ginger Pig at a reasonable price in pleasant surroundings, without a toff or a tot in sight.

20 comments on “The Return Of British Food”

  1. Dan Terrell says:

    Yes, a short story would be nice.
    Eel pie with a dozen, but what pray tell is that in the middle of the plate on top of the fresh roast pork? A potato-pancakey swirl with a dollop of gravey?
    Or the first Cinnabun the kitchen ever sent out to a table? (Cinnabuns are not terribly good or good for you in any case.)
    Did you both enjoy the meal?

  2. Dan Terrell says:

    While I intended to spell gravy as I did, it’s not as amusing as I’d hoped. Ah, that’s the trouble with snarky humour. What is the black leaf-like thing? I’m afraid we’ve been separated from traditional British food for too many centuries.

  3. BangBang!! says:

    That is a Yorkshire Pudding Dan. It’s made with eggs,flour and milk and cooked in the oven in a little bit of extremely hot fat or oil. Traditionally everyone say their mum/gran makes the best Yorkshires in the world. They’re all wrong of course because it was actually MY mum! They are delicious when done right. My mate eats them with golden syrup but he’s from Yorkshire so that explains that.

    I’m not sure what the leaf is. A bit of bay or a small piece of cabbage?

  4. Dan Terrell says:

    Thank you, BangBang. I have actually eaten Yorkshire Pudding many times with roast beef and greatly enjoyed it. However, it was made in a totally different shape. It was more like a souffle baked in a round baking dish and spooned out. Is this a fascinating website or what? Every day a new wide-ranging post.

  5. Alison says:

    Being a good Yorkshirewoman, I was brought up eating Yorkshire Puddings both as starters, full of lovely onion gravy (making you fuller and needing less meat as a main course) and also as a sweet treat with jam. I have drummed this joy into my own brood. I therefore going into reverse snobbery of the worst kind when I some some poncy chef ‘championing’ the Yorkshire and making, as it were, a right pig’s ear of it. British food should be championed, and regional food particularly. Having said that, some of it’s ruddy expensive.

  6. Alan Morgan says:

    Sunday lunch is the best meal of the week. Best of British done well, as it were.

    Sadly one of the best of France died over the weekend Jean Giraud (Moebius).

  7. Dan Terrell says:

    Yes, I’ve had Yorkshire Pudding with jam as a kid. Completely forgotten that and how could I have? This is hungrey making.

  8. Alison says:

    Good man, Dan. Off you pop and get that batter whipped up, and that dish smokin’…

  9. Gretta says:

    That has to be one of the most spectacular Yorky Puds I’ve seen. Mmm…Yorky Pud with main AND dessert(with golden syrup). Delish.

    That thing at the top, though, which I’m assuming is stargazey pie? It’s giving me the creeps no end.

  10. Helen Martin says:

    There is a pub called the Stargazey. I discovered that when I read the Martha Grimes of the same name. The pie is the eeriest looking thing ever and must have been invented by a drunken cook or an astronomer. I don’t know if I could bring myself to eat one. My mother always felt she hadn’t mastered the Yorkshire pud, although we often had it. It’s simple but that doesn’t mean simple to make.
    Ian Sansom has a character say of England that it’s all gone gastro. I love goat cheese but there are things it’s not right for.

  11. glasgow1975 says:

    look like a sage leaf to me

  12. glasgow1975 says:

    deep fried ones are trendy

  13. Dan Terrell says:

    Thank you. It must be a sage leaf, looks about right. The Thai places here flash-fry Thai basil leaves and use them in some of their dishes. Delish. I find a good pot of tea laced with fresh sage, thyme, a bit of oregano and lemon makes a great tea to clear out the head when you’re ill. My wife nippers off at speed when she sees a cup coming her way, but it works for me.

  14. Alan G says:

    Confirm – that leaf is sage. I know it intimately since I half-killed myself dividing a sage bush for my herb patch in the Community Garden yesterday.

  15. Dan Terrell says:

    Deadly sage bushes aside, Alan, an herb garden is great for the table and the soul. I’ve grown them where and when I could. Sun on the garden, bees in the thyme, the scent of the plants in the air, and on your hands, and a nice cold beer after an afternoon of work…or before the work; basically whenever the beer arrives.

  16. Alan G says:

    Dan. Unfortunately the beer is not an option – part of our remit is to show kids how to garden (might plant some hops though…)and I suspect some killjoy might complain.

    Planting lots of plants to attract bees since they won’t let me have beehives. Boo hoo.

  17. Alan G says:

    Dan. Unfortunately the beer is not an option – part of our remit is to show kids how to garden (might plant some hops though…)and I suspect some killjoy might complain.

    Planting lots of plants (!) to attract bees since they won’t let me have beehives. Boo hoo.

  18. Dan Terrell says:

    Alan: That’s a shame, about the beer. The hops not such a good idea unless you have a/some tall pole(s) to grow it on. My son is in the do-it-yourself beer and wine retail business – formerly a professional brewer – has hops plants growning up several posts of our deck… and along the railing. They are very long vines! (Related to hemp.) Our cats loved to eat the leaves, but they’re gone now. When I can I harvest the firm cones and give them to my boy, who is too busy to pick, and he brews up a batch of amber or dark that will give you a serious pucker and brush your teeth as well. Almost more than I can manage…all most.

  19. Helen Martin says:

    I remember hops growing wild in the back lanes where I grew up. I never knew what they were but the powdery cones fascinated me. They grew them in the Fraser Valley and the loops of vines were fascinating to watch grow through the season. They’re gone now and a brewer I was talking to a while ago said that getting good hops is becoming difficult. Perhaps you should try expanding that hop growth, Dan. Does anyone go hop picking in Kent any more or is it all mechanised or picked by seasonal workers?

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