The British Table: A New Look at the Traditional Cooking of England, Scotland, and Wales, written by Colman Andrews, features the best of British cooking with over 150 recipes, travel stories, historical notes, and beautiful photos. A few highlights include Fish and Chips, Yorkshire Pudding, Cornish Pasties, Forager’s Soup with Goat Cheese Gnocchi, Lancashire Hotpot, and Bakewell Tart. I will also be sharing his recipe for Cambridge Burnt Cream following the review.
Disclosure: I received this book from Abrams Books in exchange for my honest review. All comments and opinions are my own. This post contains Amazon affiliate links. If you purchase something through the link, I may receive a small commission at no extra charge to you.
Colman Andrews was born in Los Angeles and has degrees in history and philosophy from UCLA. He is the recipient of eight James Beard Awards, has written nine cookbooks, and is the co-author/co-editor of an additional three Saveur cookbooks. Colman was also a co-founder of Saveur, its editor-in-chief from 2002 to 2006, and is now the editorial director of TheDailyMeal.com.
The British Table
In The British Table, Colman focuses on the modern-traditional cooking of today and shares dishes from British chefs, restaurateurs, and food writers. Scattered among these recipes are also historical letters, writings, and travel stories. You will also learn about the origins and evolution of British food and drink from ancient times to present day.
The cuisine that once had a reputation for being bland and colorless is making a comeback with remarkable flavors and styling that has made London one of the world’s greatest food cities today. I particularly enjoyed reading about the history of individual dishes such as Fish and Chips. Even the evolution of breakfast is covered from the basic beginnings with bread, cold meat, and ale to the more extravagant English breakfasts of the latter seventeenth century and the modern-day full English fry-up.
Chapters are divided based on course: Breakfast; Soups; Fish and Shellfish; Poultry and Rabbit; Beef, Pork, and Lamb; Wild Game and Offal; Savory Pies and Puddings; Vegetables; Desserts and Confections; Whets and Savouries; Sauces, Condiments, and Preserves; Teatime; and Whisky, Cider, Beer, and Wine.
The gorgeous photography is by Hirsheimer & Hamilton, founders of The Canal House. Many of the recipes are accompanied by a wonderfully-styled, full page photo of the finished dish. There are also a few shots of the British landscape photos among the chapters. Measurements for the recipes are listed in US Customary and Metric. Headnotes with background information and tips along with serving sizes are also included.
Cambridge Burnt Cream
Burnt Cream first appeared in an English recipe in 1723. It became a popular dessert at Cambridge University- Trinity College in the late 1800s where it was often served topped with the college arms.
Compared to the French crème brûlée, this recipe for Cambridge Burnt Cream is made completely on the stove. Once the rich egg and cream mixture thickens, it is strained and divided among individual serving glasses. Right before serving, the tops are covered in sugar and torched until caramelized for a beautiful crisp layer to encase the creamy custard below.
This is the perfect dessert for a dinner party since it can be made a day or two ahead of time and stored in the refrigerator until needed. Don’t caramelize the tops of the custard until immediately before serving. After sitting for a bit, the sugar will begin to soften.
Looking for more brûléed desserts?
I also made Eggs and Soldiers, Parmo, Spag Bol, and Toad in the Hole.
Eggs and Soldiers is a classic “nursery food” breakfast. It was quick and easy to make and enjoyed by the whole family. Slices of white bread are spread with butter and cut into 4 strips to resemble “soldiers.” They are served with a soft-boiled egg for dipping.
Parmo comes from Middlesbrough in northeastern Yorkshire. It was created in 1958 by an American chef named Nicos Harris. This huge piece of breaded and fried chicken, 10-12 inches across, is topped with a béchamel sauce and grated cheddar cheese. It is then broiled until the cheese is melted. I served the Parmo with chips (fries) and salad. Want a little variation? The Parmo Hotshot includes pepperoni and jalapeños and the Parmo Kiev has garlic butter and mushrooms.
Spag Bol, a nickname for spaghetti alla bolognese, has been a comfort food in Britain since the 1970s. Spaghetti is tossed with a ground beef tomato sauce to make a filling meal for casual dinner parties, potlucks, students, and dining alone. I actually made this for our Christmas Eve dinner and it may become a repeated tradition. This dish was definitely the favorite with Evan and Claire.
Toad in the Hole is an interesting name for a British dish with sausages baked in a batter. It was quite the delicious, easy meal and can be served with mashed potatoes and gravy (recipes also included in the book).
The British Table is a great pick for those interested in British cuisine. Recipes range from simple weeknight meals to the more complex pastries, pies, and tarts. Fish lovers will enjoy a wide variety of dishes. Basic recipes such as puff pastries, stocks, sauces, butters, and preserves will help add additional flavor.
Most of the ingredients are readily available in the average American grocery store. Some of the more difficult to find ingredients that may include online sourcing or a visit to a market specializing in British food include red currant jelly, seafood, goose, tarragon vinegar, grouse, offal, British cheese, stone-ground Scottish oats, gooseberries, golden syrup, mace, cockle, and malt vinegar.
Cambridge Burnt Cream Recipe
Adapted from The British Table
Cambridge Burnt Cream
- 6 egg yolks
- 1 teaspoon all-purpose flour
- 3 cups (720 ml) heavy cream
- Pinch ground cinnamon
- 6 tablespoons (75 grams) granulated sugar
- Put the egg yolks into a medium bowl, then whisk the flour into them, combining them well. Add the cream and cinnamon and whisk until well combined.
- Pour the mixture into a heavy-bottomed pot and bring it to a boil over medium-high heat. Stir in 3 tablespoons of the sugar as it boils, then remove the pot from the heat and strain the custard through a sieve into a medium bowl, then carefully ladle it into four to six glass or ceramic ramekins.
- Let the custard cool to room temperature, then refrigerate it until it sets.
- Sprinkle the remaining sugar over the tops of the custards, adding a bit more if necessary, then caramelize it with a kitchen torch.
- Alternatively, in a small pot, melt the remaining sugar with 1 teaspoon water and cook the mixture over low heat until the sugar caramelizes. Pour the caramelized sugar onto a sheet of aluminum foil and allow it to cool and harden, then break into pieces and scatter them over the custards.