Tastes of Britain
Carol Wilson takes a culinary trip around Britain
Every region of Britain has its own distinctive and much loved recipes, which evolved in the days when transportation of perishable foods was difficult and people relied on local produce. Regional recipes, with their flavours of times past, are enjoying a well deserved revival, and thankfully, good wholesome British foods with real flavour are back in fashion again.London particular pea soupSummer peas were dried to use during winter, and among their many uses was this thick tasty soup. The dense properties of the soup were later used to describe the impenetrable winter fogs once common in London, known as pea soupers.900g split dried peas50g butter50g streaky bacon, rind removed and chopped1 onion, chopped1 carrot, chopped1 litre ham or vegetable stocksalt and pepperSoak the peas in cold water for at least 2–3 hours. Melt the butter in a large saucepan. Add the bacon, onion and carrot and cook for 10-15 minutes until beginning to soften. Stir in the peas and stock and bring to the boil. Cover and simmer for about 1 hour or until the peas are soft. Cool slightly, then purée in a blender or press through a sieve until smooth. Return to the pan, season to taste and reheat until piping hot. Teviotdale pieScotland produces superbly flavoursome, succulent beef – perhaps the best known is the famous Aberdeen Angus. This tasty satisfying recipe hails from the Borders region in Scotland. The minced beef filling has a satisfying topping that’s a cross between a Yorkshire pudding and a suet crust.1 tablespoon oil450g lean minced lamb1 onion, chopped2 tablespoons dark Muscovado sugar300ml lamb or vegetable stocksalt and pepper225g self-raising flour25g cornflour75g shredded suet300ml milkHeat the oil in a pan and cook the minced meat for a few minutes until beginning to brown. Add the onion and continue to cook for another 5 minutes until soft. Stir in the sugar and stock. Season to taste and simmer for 20 minutes. Spoon into a 1.1 litre pie dish. Put the flour, cornflour and suet in a mixing bowl and gradually beat in the milk to form a thick batter. Season well with salt and pepper. Spoon the batter over the meat mixture and cook for 30–35 minutes Gas 4/180ºC until risen and golden.Jugged Dorset venisonVenison dinners were a popular feature of Stuart social life and Samuel Pepys mentioned them regularly in his famous diary. Jugged venison is traditionally thickened with animal blood. You could ask your butcher for 150ml blood (venison, beef or pork) and add this to the stew 15 minutes before serving.1.3kg venison, cubed110g bacon, diced1 tablespoon oil3 tablespoons plain flour 2 onions, chopped1/4 teaspoon ground cloves1/2 teaspoon mixed herbs1/2 teaspoon ground mace2 bay leaves 1 litre game stock1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley150ml dry red winesalt and pepperparsley to garnishHeat the oil in a large flameproof and ovenproof casserole, add the bacon and cook for 3–5 minutes, until the bacon is golden brown. Remove the bacon with a slotted spoon. Season the flour with salt and pepper. Dust the venison with the flour, patting off any excess. Brown the venison in the bacon dripping. This should be done in batches of about 8–10 cubes. When all the meat has been sealed, remove from the dish. Add the onion to the casserole and cook over a moderate heat for 5 minutes or until light golden brown. Return the venison and bacon to the casserole. Add the spices and mixed herbs and mix thoroughly so all meat is coated with the onion and spice mixture. Add the wine and bring to the boil. Add the stock and bay leaves and bring to the boil again. Cover the casserole and cook for 2–21/2 hours, Gas 2/150ºC, until the meat is tender. Serve garnished with parsley.Wardens (pears) in ciderThis dish originated in the West Country in the days when pears were called wardons – possibly from the Bedfordshire town of Wardon or perhaps named after Wardon Abby where pears were cultivated by the Cistercian monks.4 large firm pears1 tablespoon blanched almonds, halved50g golden caster sugar300ml cider2 cloves1 cinnamon stick, broken in halfPeel the pears leaving the stalks intact. Stud the pears with the almond halves. Place the sugar, cider, cloves and halved cinnamon stick in a saucepan just large enough to hold the pears and heat gently until the sugar has dissolved. Add the pears, standing them upright and cover the pan. Simmer gently for about 20 minutes until the pears are tender (the exact time depends on the ripeness of the pears) basting from time to time with the liquid. Remove the pears to a serving dish using a slotted spoon. Boil the remaining liquid in the pan until thick and syrupy. Remove the cloves and cinnamon and pour the liquid over the pears. Serve warm or cold with whipped cream.Bath bunsBath buns, still made in Bath today, are slightly flat and bumpy with a sticky glaze and crushed sugar toping. Genuine Bath buns are made from very rich plain dough, with no fruit added. Their origin is unknown but they’re thought to have first appeared in the 18th century when they were topped with caraway seeds and sugar nibs. The first reference to Bath buns was by Jane Austen in January 1801 when she wrote of disordering my stomach with Bath bunns. This recipe is similar to the original which was similar to brioche.450g plain flour15g fresh yeast225g butter300ml lukewarm milk1 teaspoon salt2 tablespoons sugarextra milk and sugar for glazing2 tablespoons roughly crushed sugar cubes or sugar crystalsPlace the milk and yeast in a small cup and leave until frothy. Sieve the flour, salt and sugar into a warmed bowl and rub in the butter. Stir in the yeast mixture and mix to a light dough with the remaining milk. Cover the bowl and leave in a warm place for about 11/2 hours until the dough has risen and is light and puffy. Place tablespoons of the dough on to buttered floured baking trays, smoothing the top of each bun with a knife. Cover the buns with a clean tea towel and leave for about 15 minutes. Bake the buns in a preheated oven Gas 5/190ºC for 15-20 minutes until puffed up and almost joined together. Heat the milk and sugar until boiling and use to brush the tops of the buns. Immediately sprinkle with crushed sugar.Eccles cakesThe old meaning of the word ‘eccles’ was church and it’s likely that these fruity buttery cakes from the Lancashire town of Eccles had a religious significance. Why the cakes are particularly associated with the town is obscure, but the cakes have a long association with the fairs or ‘wakes’ in the area. Home made Eccles cakes packed with currants and candied peel and fragrant with spices are much nicer than the dry pre-packed commercial versions.225g good puff pastry (made with butter if possible)Filling: 50g unsalted butter110g currants50g candied peel, finely chopped1 teaspoon ground mixed spice25g sugarmilk and sugar to glazePlace all the ingredients for the filling into a small pan and heat gently until the sugar has dissolved and the butter has melted. Mix well and leave to cool. Roll out the pastry thinly and cut into 10cm rounds. Put a large teaspoonful of the mixture in the centre of each round and fold in the edges to enclose the mixture. Turn the pastry rounds over and press gently with a rolling pin to flatten them. Cut 3 slits in the top of each cake and place on a greased baking tray. Brush with milk and sprinkle with sugar. Bake for about 15 minutes Gas 7/230ºC until golden. The currants will bulge through the pastry. Best eaten fresh and warm.Richmond maids of honourAccording to legend, these tempting little cheesecakes were first made in the kitchens of Richmond Palace or Hampton Court and served to Henry VIII. One story has it that he named them after Anne Boleyn. Another story relates that the recipe was locked away in an iron box until it was rediscovered by Henry VIII who presented it to Anne Boleyn. A third version of the story says that Henry came across Anne and her maids of honour eating the cakes from a silver dish and, after tasting them, was so delighted that he named them after the maids of honour and the recipe was kept secret. 225g shortcrust or puff pastry110g curd cheese75g butter1 egg1 tablespoon rosewater or brandy75g golden caster sugar50g ground almondsfinely grated zest of 1 lemonRoll out the pastry and line 10-12 deep tartlet or bun tins. Beat the cheese and butter together until smooth. Beat in the egg and brandy, followed by the sugar, almonds and lemon zest. Spoon into the pastry cases to half fill them. Bake for 20-25 minutes Gas 6/200ºC until risen and golden. Remove from the oven and place on a wire rack to cool. The tarts will sink a little as they cool.Dundee cakeAuthentic Dundee cake should be not too heavily fruited, lighter and more crumbly than traditional fruit cake, and must have the characteristic topping of whole or split almonds, without which it’s not a genuine Dundee cake. 225g butter225g caster sugar5 medium eggs225g self-raising flour1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg75g glacé cherries, rinsed, dried and quarteredgrated rind of 1 orange175g currants175g sultanas50g candied peel, chopped75g ground almonds75g whole blanched almondsCream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time with a teaspoon of the flour, beating well after each addition. Sift the remaining flour with the nutmeg and fold into the butter mixture. Fold in the fruits and peel and mix well. Gently fold in the ground almonds. Spoon into a greased 25cm round cake tin and slightly hollow the center with the back of a spoon. Bake for 11/2 hours Gas 3/160ºC. Remove from the oven and arrange the whole almonds on the top in circles. Return to the oven and cook for another hour. Cool in the tin for 10 minutes, and then turn out onto a wire rack to finish cooling.
This article is from the October 2006 issue of Country Smallholding magazine. << To order back issues click the link to the left.