If you’re ever on holiday in Devon, in the southwest of England, you absolutely have to have a Devonshire cream tea! You get a pot of hot tea (English Breakfast, Earl Grey, whatever kind you want) along with freshly baked scones, jam (usually strawberry but sometimes raspberry and blackcurrant are also offered) and clotted cream. There is nothing else on Earth quite like authentic Devon scones, and for good reason too. These tasty, crumbly scones are not too sweet and not too savoury. They are topped with rich, thick clotted cream and then sweet strawberry jam. Hot tea goes perfectly with them.
Perhaps you’re reading this thinking ‘wait a minute, clotted cream is Cornish, isn’t it? What’s the difference between Devon cream tea and Cornish cream tea?’ Well if you ask someone from Devon or Cornwall they will have very strong opinions that their method is correct! However, the scones and tea are the same – it’s just about how they are prepared, either cream first and then jam, or jam first and then cream. It is much disputed there!
In Devon it’s cream first and then jam because the cream spreads easier on the scones than on the jam. In Cornwall it’s never, ever cream first – the cream goes on top! I suggest you make these scones and try both ways to see which you like best. Eat these scones the day you make them or freeze then thaw for a few hours and refresh them for 10 minutes in a warm oven. Continue reading
We all know that French onion soup is something that probably can’t be beaten or improved on. So you have the beef stock, the onions, white wine, Gruyere, croutons… doesn’t it make your mouth water just to think about it? However, what you might not know is that the Brits have their own version of French onion soup – an onion soup made with cider instead of white wine and which is white or off-white in colour. In the UK cider is always alcoholic, what the Americans call hard cider. If it’s non-alcoholic they simply say apple juice. British cider is flat or sparkling. Any type is fine for making this recipe.
In addition to the cider we are using butter, leeks, onions, apples, potatoes, stock and herbs. Thyme and bay leaves are used to flavour the soup but they are discarded before serving. We like to add Gruyere cheese, thyme and sometimes a little ground nutmeg for garnish. The Gruyere and thyme are ingredients ‘borrowed’ from the typical French onion soup recipe but they go so well with the onions, so be generous with them here!
This soup would be nice for lunch or dinner, or you could serve half-sized portions as a starter recipe. A lot of the alcohol will be ‘cooked off’ but if you really don’t want to use it then simply sub the hard cider for regular cider or apple juice. The recipe will still taste nice. Served with some crusty white bread, this makes a great meal and there is something so satisfying about the combination of flavours. Try it for yourself and see! Continue reading
If you’re looking for hearty peasant food rather than something elegant, consider this tasty Scottish recipe. Small fish such as herring or sardines are perfect for making this dish, or you could even try mackerel, croakers, dabs or similar. If you make friends with your local fishmonger, perhaps he will remove the bones for you. If you have to do it yourself, cut along the underside and hit the backbone a few times. Next, pull the backbone out along with as many of the bones as you can. Now scrape the scales off using a knife, and discard the heads and tails. It’s easy to fillet herrings, I promise you!
The flavour is really nice, and you will find the mustard cuts through the richness of the fish. The oats make me think of cosy autumn or winter. The traditional Scottish way of serving oat-crusted herring is mashed or boiled potatoes or thick slices of bread and butter, although modern cookbooks featuring this recipe suggest lemon and parsley, or even crispy bacon (yum, we like that idea!)
My family loves creamy mashed potatoes on the side, and plenty of them, but sometimes bread and butter is good too. You don’t need many ingredients for this tasty Scottish recipe so you can rustle it up quickly when you want something hot and tasty to eat for lunch or dinner. The herring fillets are covered in salt then soaked in a creamy mustard mixture. They are then coated in oats and pan-fried until crispy. Herring and oats are both Scottish staples, so it makes sense to combine them and make this wonderful rustic dish. Give it a try and see how it compares to your family’s usual crispy fish dinner. I bet you’re going to love it! This recipe serves 2 people but it’s easy to make more if you’re feeding a crowd. Continue reading
A gammon joint is always good at Christmas or, in fact, any festive occasion. In the UK you can get gammon steaks (single slices of gammon which you can pan fry) or a gammon ‘joint’, which is the British term for gammon roast. Christmas and Thanksgiving are big holidays in the US for ham, as we call it, and a sizeable ham is a great choice for my family, especially since the boys are growing up so fast and so are their appetites – grab a nice, big juicy gammon joint and you will find it keeps for up to 5 days, making lots of salads and sandwiches for everyone! This meat is just as good served chilled as it is hot, so it is pretty versatile.
Gammon is not just for the big occasions either. You can serve it during picnic season or enjoy it for a birthday or even New Year’s Eve. If you are wondering what exactly a ‘gammon joint’ is, the main description is gammon is similar to ham but it is raw while ham is ready-to-eat. Also, gammon has been cured like bacon (ham is either cooked or dry-cured). So yes, cooked gammon is technically… ham! Talk about two nations separated by a common language.
My parents and grandparents would have soaked the gammon in water first, to get rid of the excess salt, but these days gammon joints are usually pre- soaked – go ahead and ask the butcher or check the label to make sure. Last time I made this recipe, I saved the liquid I cooked the meat in, and I found it made a great base for soup. I used it for pea and ham soup or you could choose something nice and meaty like that – just label and freeze the liquid if you are not ready to start making soup just yet. Continue reading
Macaroni cheese, also known as macaroni and cheese in the UK, or mac ‘n cheese in some parts, is a combination of macaroni pasta and a cheese sauce. Although it is often served as a side dish across the Pond, in the UK it is almost always served as a main dish. If you want to tweak the recipe, consider adding carrots, sweetcorn or broccoli to the pasta pot a few minutes before it is fully cooked. Some cooked sliced leeks and crumbled bacon or sliced hot dogs mixed into the finished dish would also be good. This recipe makes enough for two people, but you can easily double or triple it, to feed a family.
Use mild or mature cheddar cheese, or even vintage, extra-strong cheddar. Some people like to add a little parmesan or gruyere. You will need a handful of cheese (as much cheese as you can grab in one hand) for the main recipe and then a little more for sprinkling on top before you bake the dish at the end, just enough to go on top and melt. Forgo this last stage if you do not want to bake it, and just serve it as soon as the macaroni is added.
Although you will often see mac ‘n cheese listed on menus in the United States, the recipe is of English origin. It was introduced to the US and Canada by British immigrants. Of course, the macaroni component is Italian, but combining it with a cheese sauce is something English cooks came up with as far back as in the 1300s. Head north to Scotland and you will find the ‘macaroni cheese pie’ where prepared macaroni cheese is served in a pastry shell. Macaroni cheese is usually prepared from scratch in the UK, although you can get tinned (canned) versions as well as boxed mixes (which are obviously inferior to this delicious homemade version!) Continue reading
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