My utterly useless Droid Global Dumbphone and I have returned from the UK.
I’d planned to bring back some exciting recipes but I find that what makes the British dining experience so exciting, is due in part to the variety and quality of the wonderful ingredients that I enjoyed over there; many of which aren’t available in the US. And then there’s the multi-ethnic cuisine which is world class.
Before you shriek in protest that British grub = warm beer and unappetizing stodge, let me tell you that even GOURMET food magazine ( an American publication) rates London the restaurant capital of the world, so there. Take my word for it – British food is superb. And if you don’t believe me, I bet it’s because you haven’t visited the UK for 15 years or more.
So – I’ve returned home temporarily about 5lbs chunkier because everything tasted more intensely, more exactly as it should taste and I ate more than usual.
For instance, English strawberries are more strawberry-y and sweeter, as are the cherries. Eggs are eggier and the fresh wild Scottish salmon makes the wild Alaskan stuff you get here taste like cat food.
Then there are the cheeses; Waitrose, UK’s national supermarket chain makes Wholefoods seem almost desperate by comparison.
The range of classic French and regional English cheeses is beyond compare and overall, food shopping is a culinary thrill.
In fact, what average high street supermarket over here sells powdered edible 24ct gold leaf to sprinkle on your desserts? Or offers a selection of non-alcoholic cordials made from elderflower blossoms, gooseberries or rose-petals – (brilliant additions to vodka and gin-based cocktails or plain sparkling water). Or fresh gooseberries? Blackcurrants? Pickled walnuts? Spices from every conceivable cuisine corner of the planet for the adventurous chef – and a personal favorite, broad beans/fava beans, all year round?
That aside, you can’t get baby Jersey Royal potatoes over here either; some are no bigger than a fat cashew nut and with their fine papery skin, they’re sweeter than any potato you’ve ever tasted. And samphire…it grows in saltwater marshes and along the British coast and resembles dainty, emerald-green fairies’ fingers – absolutely divine with a succulent fillet of delicately poached bass perched on top, surrounded by tiny steamed Jersey Royals.
That particular dish was courtesy of Gordon Ramsey’s restaurant ‘Plane Food’ in Terminal 5, Heathrow Airport. Luckily I had 2 hours to kill before my flight and I can’t recommend it highly enough if you’re ever passing through. They have an excellent wine selection as well.
One of the nicest salads I scarfed down in the UK had crispy little rings of ‘black pudding’, pancetta and a soft poached egg, nicely balanced on top of frisee. No, I’m not going to translate because European dining incorporates animal parts that most people won’t eat over here. Sorry that you’re missing out!
On the other hand, I did make a kale salad for my hosts which was initially viewed with some suspicion but was voted ‘really good’. And so it was but then the ingredients were all local and totally fresh.
If all that deliciousness weren’t enough to tempt me to move back across the pond, the weather during the first week was spectacular; just as well as we spent several days boating up and down the Thames dressed to the nine’s, guzzling champagne and Pimm’s; all while enjoying the Henley Regatta. It’s so gratifying to sit, drink, pose, cruise and watch other people rowing their hearts out. Tiring though!
But now I hear that the UK has weather-from-hell once more while I’m back in beautiful Colorado. The Aspen farmer’s market was wonderful this weekend and I purchased my favorite addiction; a soft fresh goat’s cheese infused with lemon zest, honey and white truffle… made locally by the Avalanche Cheese Co.
So all in all, that balances things out nicely and I’m very happy to be back.
Finally, I recently read that figs had been voted America’s least favorite fruit. I just don’t get it – they’re succulent and sexy, so look out for a couple of easy recipes as I plan to adjust your fig-thinking very soon as well!