Friday, 30 September 2011

Simon Says: British Food Fortnight

It's the 10th annual British Food Fortnight (17th September to 2nd October - I am late to the bandwagon). I had a look down the list of 14 ways to participate, and to be honest none of them really floated my boat. It's either things I already do (seek local food, buy British, choose seasonal produce, cook British dishes, explore regional food) or really have no connection to (children's menus, school dinners, going to church for harvest festival).

We did celebrate the Harvest/autumnal equinox in time-honoured fashion with a couple of cans of cider, though.

The thing about British food, like British people really, is that it is a bit of a mongrel. Waves of invasion and immigration and colonisation have added dishes, techniques and ingredients to the menu that were never native to the UK. And this is a Good Thing, since otherwise we'd just be eating onions and broad beans. Even the rabbit was introduced. What really makes British food British is the fact that people are cooking British ingredients in Britain. It's the terroir, don't you know.

Quiche Lorraine. If you call it kweech it makes it British.

So I decided that to really commemorate British Food Fortnight I was going to draw your attention to a very British national treasure of the food scene: Simon Hopkinson. Now, if you aren't into food (why are you reading this blog?!) or you aren't from these parts, you probably haven't heard of this guy. But he gets name-checked by Delia Smith, Rowley Leigh, Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall, Nigel Slater - pretty much anybody in England who likes proper, unpretentious food with no shortage of flavour. In 2005 a book of his from the 1980s was voted "most useful cookbook of all time" by a panel of chefs, restaurateurs and food writers. This year, he made his first TV series, The Good Cook.

You can tell it was a good series from Paul's response. He is not the devotee of food shows that I am, so to grab his attention it has to be a bit special. He kept declaring that every university student in the land should watch this series, that there was no excuse to eat rubbish when Hopkinson was showing so very clearly how to cook delicious, simple things from scratch. He gets quite emotional at the thought of young people living off chicken nuggets and Iceland ready meals. He also kept demanding that I add the dishes to our menu, and no one can say I am not an obedient woman. Well they could really, but on this I agreed with my lord & master and let him think it was his idea.
Fried ham and cheese sandwich - like their namesake the 4th Earl of Sandwich, English to the core! And not at all a croque monsieur.

Apparently I am deficient in my wifely duties, having never made a lemon drizzle cake before. This isn't from the Good Cook series, but it is a Hopkinson recipe. And quite sublime too.

The Hopkinson recipe was for a rhubarb crumble, but I had apples. It was very nice, but I really do prefer my normal crumble with oats and nuts and whatnot added.

Grilled aubergines with olive oil, garlic, parsley and feta cheese. No doubt stolen from the Greeks at the same time as the Elgin marbles and they are not getting this back either.

As Jay Rayner wrote recently, "if you really want to do justice to the British larder, you'd better be sodden with French technique". Excellent produce, cooked with a bit of care and centuries of knowledge picked up from all over. That's really what British food is about.


mscrankypants said...

The lemon drizzle cake looks delicious, and I'm trying to wrap my tongue around saying 'kweech' ... :-)

Caroline said...

I enjoyed the recent series, but not as much as Paul appeared to! I like your selection of Hopkinson recipes, especially that pappardelle and the crumble. Perhaps I should seek out a few to make. Looks like I'm going to miss British Food Fortnight altogether!

hungryandfrozen said...

Namechecked by Nigella, too, so he's got to be alright ;) what a supremely fantastic award to win - most useful cookbook of all time. Have no idea why there's not more of this man in my life (cooking-wise, that is)

Alicia Foodycat said...

Cranky - I am sure no one will mind if you say quiche properly.

C - the pappardelle was absolutely gorgeous! The porcini flavour is so rich and delicious.

Laura - there you go then! Proper badge of approval.

Joanne said...

That cake looks amazing! I love lemony desserts.

wildtomato said...

Funny, but someone just served a lemon drizzle cake to me yesterday. I never had one before, and now I have a recipe in hand. Thanks!

Yasmeen said...

Yum, I love a good lemon drizzle cake. And a fried ham 'n cheese!

Literally LOLed at the quiche/kweech thing. Hilarious.

Alicia Foodycat said...

Joanne - lemon drizzle is gorgeous!

Wild tomato - it's a very British cake, although quite similar to some of the middle eastern syrupy cakes. Delicious though!

Yasmeen - thanks!

Anonymous said...

Interesting comment about how you prefer your crumble. Made me wonder if you have the same assortment of related desserts on your side of the pond: crumbles, buckles, cobblers, brown betties, etc. There's a good summary here:

Deb in Hawaii said...

I had not heard of Simon Hopkinson before now but the recipes all look really tasty. Want the lemon drizzle cake. ;-)

Anonymous said...

I want the lemon drizzle cake now....


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