Tom brings us the delights of the best of English food in an entertaining and tempting new book: Full English: A Journey through the British and their Food by Tom Parker Bowles. His chapter on London food is fabulous.
A richly enjoyable defence of the world’s most unfairly derided cuisine
– Christopher Hirst, The Independent
Boris admirer and food travel writer Tom Parker Bowles, delighted his audience recently at the Windsor Literary Festival with his lively, down to earth introduction to his new book. Full English published this year by Ebury Press, is not just a list of recipes; it is a descriptive tour of England from West Country cider brewers to Yorkshire tripe dressers sampling all the while the very best of real English food: Bury black pudding, home-cured Wiltshire bacon and the planet’s finest cheddar. As well as recipes for the traditional Apple and Rhubarb Crumble and Lancashire Hotpot you will find Battered Tripe and Eel Pie. His chapter on London describes the Capital as a “great ethnic and cultural stew, that has been cosmopolitan ever since the Romans decided to set up shop”. Tom is pioneering in his quest is to delve beneath the surface to unearth the real story behind our eating habits and what the food of today says about us: organic heaven or mass-produced hell? His favourite recipes are listed to follow: potted shrimps and devilled kidneys.
I recommend the book to any lover of all things British. As Tom himself says: ” Good English food is undoubtedly criminally underrated, not least because so few visitors have actually eaten it.”
The brown shrimp, Crangon crangon, is one of the finest crustaceans
in the world, small but intensely sweet. They used to
be found in their millions in Morecambe Bay in Lancashire.
Potted in good butter, they make one of the finest of all
English dishes. Either serve cold with bread and butter, or hot,
melted on toast. I still believe Mr Baxter makes the best of all.
This is my approximation of his recipe.
170 g (5½ oz) unsalted butter
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
½ tsp ground mace
½ tsp cayenne pepper
1 small bay leaf
450 g (1 lb) brown shrimps, peeled weight
brown bread, to serve
3 lemons, cut into wedges
In a saucepan melt the butter, then add the black pepper,
mace, cayenne pepper and bay leaf. Allow the mixture to cool
until it is just warm. Remove the bay leaf and discard.
Divide the shrimps between 6 ramekins. Cover with the
spiced butter and a little salt. Put the mixture into the fridge
and chill until set.
When ready to serve, toast the brown bread on a griddle
and serve warm with the potted shrimps and a wedge of lemon.
There’s nothing evil about devilled kidneys, a classic Victorian
and Edwardian breakfast dish, from a time where men
were men and breakfasted on bounteous feasts of meat,
fish, potatoes and eggs. No ghastly arriviste cereals here,
thank you very much.
The word ‘devilled’ refers to the spicy kick of the dish,
which was originally produced by cayenne pepper and mustard
powder. I’ve added a few shakes of Tabasco, that most glorious
of sauces. This dish can be breakfast, lunch, a snack, dinner
or a savoury. You could substitute veal kidneys too.
3 tbsp plain flour
2 tsp cayenne pepper
12 tsp Colman’s English mustard powder
salt and freshly ground black pepper
10 lamb’s kidneys, slit in half and cored
splash chicken stock
Worcestershire sauce, to taste
2 pieces toast
handful flat-leaved parsley, chopped
Mix together the flour, cayenne, mustard powder, salt and
pepper. Then heat a pan until hot and throw in the butter.
Toss the kidneys in the flour mixture and shake to remove
excess. Cook for 2 minutes each side, adding the stock,
Tabasco and Worcestershire sauce. Then remove the kidneys
from the pan and place on the toast. Taste and reduce the
sauce and pour over the kidneys. Squeeze over lemon juice
and sprinkle with parsley. Devour with gusto.