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. Well-known favorites such as Fish and Chips, Chicken Tikka Masala, Yorkshire Pudding, Cornish Pasties, and Eton Mess are paired alongside the lesser known Forager’s Soup with Goat Cheese Gnocchi, Michaelmas Goose, Lancashire Hotpot, Bakewell Tart, and Bara Brith.
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. He was also a co-founder of Saveur, its editor-in-chief from 2002 to 2006, and is now the editorial director of TheDailyMeal.com.
Disclaimer: I received this book from Abrams Books in exchange for my honest review. All comments and opinions are my own.
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.
Along with the recipes, 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.
British cooking has been influenced over the years from a variety of sources. The Romans arrived in 43 CE and brought along foods from the Mediterranean. Scotland and France had an alliance dating back to 1295 which created a sharing of dishes between the countries. In more recent years, the introduction of Indian ingredients has also had a notable influence. The decline of the quality during the Victorian era through the two World Wars is also mentioned. For the recipes, Andrews 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.
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.
This book 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 to choose from. 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.
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.
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 Aerican 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).
Cambridge Burnt Cream
Adapted from The British Table
6 egg yolks
1 teaspoon all-purpose flour
3 cups (720 ml) heavy cream
Pinch ground cinnamon
6 tablespoons (75 grams) granulated sugar, divided
In a medium bowl, beat together the egg yolks, then whisk in the flour. Mix in the cream and cinnamon.
Transfer the cream and eggs to a heavy-bottomed pot and place over medium high heat, stirring often. As the mixture comes to a boil, mix in 3 tablespoons of the sugar. Continue to stir until thickened, then remove from heat.
Strain the mixture through a sieve and carefully divide among 4-6 serving glasses or ramekins. Allow to cool to room temperature, then cover and refrigerate until chilled and set.
When ready to serve, sprinkle the remaining sugar over the tops of each chilled custard. Use a kitchen torch to caramelize the tops. If a kitchen torch is not available, melt the remaining sugar in a small pot with 1 teaspoon water until caramelized. Pour onto a sheet of aluminum foil and allow to rest until cooled and solid. Break into pieces and scatter over the custards. Serve immediately.