|Published in Britain, 1996
by Kyle Cathie Limited,
20 Vauxhall Bridge Road, London SW1V 2SA
Text 1996 by Liz Taylor
ISBN 1 85626 188 3
|British Cooking -||Recipes -|
|Mediterranean Cooking||Recipes -|
|Asian Cooking||Recipes -|
|Central and South
|New World Cooking|
|Londoners at home|
|Shops and Shopping|
Fanny Craddock wrote "Bon Viveur in London" for the Daily Telegraph in the years 1950-55. In writing about restaurants of the day, she explained in her introduction that 'it must be realised that we faced and still face a task which is as endless as painting of the Forth Bridge. Just as soon as the painters finish at one end, the opposite end requires fresh attention. So it is with the hotels and restaurants - to what extent we had no clue until we began the job'.
This is true about my search for recipes in London today. As soon as I started my research 1 realised that recipes, cooks, ideas and restaurants were constantly changing. The food they produce evolves, is created and eaten every day and the next day provides an opportunity to cook something entirely new. So it is with a great humility that I am able to portray a selection of recipes that represent cooking in London today. Cooks are constantly on the move, travelling around the city cooking business lunches, domestic dinner parties, meals in restaurants, suppers at home; and once they have used up all their ingredients from around London, they have to start again the next clay with a fresh delivery of food. Back in the days of eight years ago when I used to work for Leiths Good Food, it was a much smaller establishment off the Goswell Road in the City. Most jobs like washing lettuce were done by hand, cooking lasted a 12-hour day, and the quantities of fruit, vegetables, meat, fish and dry store goods that used to come into our relatively small kitchen were, I used to think, enormous. I was sure that in the course of the day's cooking we could never use it all up - naturally we did and often ran out! Nowadays, Leiths boasts lettuce jaccuzis (or washers) and huge amounts of catering; equipment we would have died for. There is a far greater variety of fresh ingredients available, too, and new and exciting recipes and culinary styles have developed to reflect this.
Having lived and worked in London for nine years, in daily contact with food suppliers, shops, chefs and restaurants, I thought I knew what was happening in and about the food scene in London pretty well. However, the more delving into the food life of the capital I did, the more I realised just how much I didn't know: people, places, ideas and concepts relating to what was happening in London crept out of the must unusual and often unexpected knooks. Accidentally discovering an Iranian restaurant, for example, only to be sworn to secrecy, as the owner is terrified he'll be inundated with numbers of customers he just can't accommodate in his 20-seater caravan. Equally accidental was the discovery of a great British Institution, The W.I., holding a very village-style food market every Friday in Barnes, south-west London. Many of the foreign Embassies in London have excellent traditional cooks lurking in their offices, bringing an exotic flavour to London's food scene. The market traders too, perhaps those most acutely aware of changing consumer demand, gave their best and realistic comments as to how significantly they thought food in London had changed in the last 10 year.
If the last decade has brought about changes, the last half-century has seen nothing short of a transformation in the quality, variety and affordability of food on offer in the capital. The rationing restrictions of the Second World War had resulted in food in Britain, and London becoming unimaginative, in short supply and generally staid. Rationing was not lifted until 1954, with sweets being the last product to come off rationing.
People's attitude towards cooking was not as exciting or enlightened as it is today, and as a result the writer and historian Raymond Postgate took drastic measures. In 1949 he founded the 'Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Food'. In an article in the Leader magazine he reflected on the standard fare which was at that time being offered in the average London eating establishment. The article read thus:
'Sodden, sour, slimy, stale or saccharined - one of these five things (or all) it would certainly be, whether it was fish, flesh, vegetable or sweet. It would be over-cooked, it might be reheated. If the place was English, it would be called a teashop or caffy, if foreign it would be called a restaurant or a caffy. In the second case, it would be dirtier, but the food might have some taste.'
It was from this article that the Good Food Guide eventually developed, with the first issue being published in 1951. It sold with great success. This led to increased awareness and enjoyment of food, especially in London.
A Frenchman, André Simon, had also been trying to raise the awareness of good food and wine, by setting up 'The Wine and Food Society'. He was very interested in monitoring the standards of wine and food in hotels, restaurants and private homes.
Elizabeth David's books A Book of Mediterranean Food, published in 1950, and French Country Cooking, which followed in 1951, had an enormous impact on directing people's thoughts on cooking, in particular towards a more open, European approach. Enjoyment in eating out and experimenting with new ingredients developed as the British people started to travel again after years of war-time restrictions. London attracted many more foreigners to work or study, and they came in large numbers. The Italian influx of waiters, chefs and café workers introduced one of the symbols of London in the late Fifties and early Sixties - the Gaggia Espresso coffee machine. Cafés became the most popular meeting places. The best ones had their own character; El Cubano, for example, in the Brompton Road was lively and noisy, whereas the Partisan in Charlotte Street was quiet and frequented largely by young, left-wing intellectuals. Food didn't feature highly in these bars, but snacks such as beans on toast were generally available.
The Companion Guide to London by David Piper, published in 1964, contains a section on restaurants in which he describes the development of all kinds of European and Oriental cooking in London. It was at this time, too, that Egon Ronay's Guide to 1,000 Eating Places in Great Britain was published, advising the best places to eat in London.
The Indian and Chinese restaurants noted by Piper were now flourishing, and so-called 'ethnic' foods have continued to become popular in London, challenging the traditional monopoly of French and Italian chefs. For example, West Indian and Asian ingredients and food traditions have become integrated into London food life. Ethiopian, Portuguese, Jewish, Sardinian, Dutch, Czech, Austrian, Japanese, Californian, Greek, French, Italian, German and Spanish establishments all exist around London. In the 1980s and 1990s all kinds of culinary traditions and ingredients are to be found alongside one another. This continued change and development is characteristic of the most diverse and exciting food capital of all.
British food in London has changed enormously even in the last ten years, and now offers a thriving culinary heritage of which the capital's inhabitants can be proud. Increasing numbers of top chefs use British ingredients and give classic recipes a modern twist to suit today's tastes and health concerns. Celebrated eating places, such as the Savoy, the Dorchester, the Ritz and Simpson's, continue to feature staple British dishes on their elegant menus. 'Nursery food' like oxtail stew and sticky, steamed toffee pudding has also emerged from the domaine of gentleman's clubs to become a fashionable item for the modern palate.
The Modern British style of cooking has a strong international style and flavour. European influences bring additional texture and interest to the traditional, for example French brioche and Italian panettone transform the traditional bread and butter pudding. Modern British menus offer chefs and cooks great flexibility in adapting recipes to imaginative new ingredients. New methods of cooking like char-grilling have also led to varied methods of visual presentation.
|Avocado filled with caponata and feta cheese
(Aubergine and avocado)
|Chicken in Mango sauce|
|Chicken with tarragon and tagliatelle|
|Larieux (Biscuit covered with dark chocolate glaze)|
|Poached Breast of Chicken with a Green Herb Sauce|
|Wild Mushroom and seaweed Risotto|
|Empenada bonito - Tuna and puff pastry|
|Salted cod in the oven - Cod, onion, potatoes|
|Rabbit stifado - Rabbit with plenty of onions|
|Taua - Boned leg of lamb|
|ROASTED RED PEPPER, COURGETTE
AND FRESH MOZZARELLA SUNSET
MANOUCHER BREAD SANDWICH
|Goan mixed-meat curry
(Spicy beef, pork and chicken)
· Serves 4 ·
· 50 gr (2 OZ) unsalted butter,
· 2 tablespoons olive oil,
· 1 onion, finely chopped,
· 2 litres (3,5 pints) vegetable soup,
· 350 gr (12 OZ) arborio rice,
· 50 ml (2 fl. OZ) white wine,
· 4 tablespoons finely grated fresh Parmesan,
· 250 gr (9 OZ) wild mushrooms, sliced,
· 150 gr (5 OZ) fresh seaweed, washed (laitue de mer),
you can replace with spinach.
1. Heat 25 gr butter plus the olive oil in a large pan and sauté the onion until soft, but not brown (about 10 minutes).
2. In a separate pan, heat the vegetable stock until boiling. Lower the heat and simmer gently for 15 minutes.
3. Add the rice to the onion and cook until lightly toasted. Add the stock, one ladleful at a time, to the rice. Cook until the rice has absorbed the stock, then add another ladleful of stock. Repeat this process until all the stock has been used up or the rice is almost cooked (15-20 minutes).
4. Add the wine and grated Parmesan and mix well together.
5. In a separate pan, melt the remaining butter and sauté the mushrooms for a few minutes. (If you substitute seaweed for spinach, then stir in the spinach and sauté for a minute). Stir the mushrooms and seaweed (spinach) into the rice and serve immediately.
CHICKEN IN MANGO SAUCE (see page 20 in the book)
· Serves 4 ·
· 1 fresh ripe mango, peeled
and stoned (or 1 can mango pieces),
· 1 finely chopped onion,
· 25 gr (1 OZ) butter,
· 1/2 teaspoon grated lemon zest,
· 1 chicken stock cube,
· 1 tablespoon lemon juice,
· salt and black pepper,
· 1 stick of celery, finely chopped,
· 2 tablespoons chopped walnuts,
· 60 ml(2,5 fl.OZ) sour cream
(or creme fraiche),
· 1 tablespoon oil,
· 25 gr (1 OZ) butter,
· 4 chicken breast.
1. To prepare the sauce, purée the mango in a food processor or blender.
2. Sweat the onion in butter until soft but not coloured. Add the mango purée, lemon zest and stock cube. Gradually stir in the lemon juice and season with salt and black pepper. Boil rapidly for 10 minutes until the sauce has reduced. The sauce can be set aside at this stage.
3. To cook the chicken, heat the oil in a frying pan and add the butter. When frothing, fry the chicken breast for about 20 minutes until cooked. Place in a serving dish and keep warm.
4. Reheat the sauce slowly and add the celery and walnuts, then stir in the cream or creme fraiche. Do not boil once the cream has been added. Pour a little sauce over the chicken and serve the remainder separately. Serve at once.
· Serves 4-6 ·
· 1 onion, chopped,
· 2 tablespoons olive oil
· a few saffron strands
· 450 g (1 lb) puff pastry, rolled out
· 300 g (10 OZ) can tuna, drained and flaked
· 150 ml (1/4 pint) tomato pasta
· 8 piquillo peppers, chopped
1. Preheat the oven to 220 °C /425 °F / gas mark 7.
2. Sauté the onion in the olive oil. Infuse the saffron strands in some warm water. Bake half the rolled out pastry in the oven for 10 minutes until puffed and golden. Remove from the oven and set aside.
3. Add the tuna, tomato pasta, peppers and saffron to the onions, and sauté gently for a few minutes. Cover the cooked pastry with the filling.
4. Place the remaining rolled out pastry over the filling, tucking the pastry edges underneath the cooked base. Bake in the oven for 20 minutes. Serve hot!
· Serves 4 ·
· 350 g (12 OZ) salted cod
· 1 medium onion, finely sliced
· 2 cloves garlic, finely sliced
· 2 tbsp olive oil
· 250 gr. (9 OZ) ripe tomatoes,
peeled, seeded and chopped
· 1 tbsp chopped parsley
· 450 gr. (1 lb) potatoes, boiled,
and cut into thick slices
· dry breadcrumbs, for sprinkling
1. Preheat the oven to 200 °C / 400 °F / gas mark 6.
2. Have the salted cod well soaked from the previous day, as explained in the introduction (soak for about 12 hours in clean, cold water, changing the water two or three times. If the slices are thick, a 24-hour or at least 18 hour soak is advised). Skin it and discard the bones. Cut the cod into smallish pieces or flake it. Set aside.
3. Fry the onion and garlic gently in half the oil until translucent. Add the tomato, cook for another 5 minutes or so, until soft, and season very lightly with a sprinkling of paprika. Mix in the parsley. At this stage add the cod, and cook for about 6 minutes, over a low heat.
4. Meanwhile grease an ovenproof dish with a spoonful of oil and spread about the third of the potatoes over the base. Cover with the cod mixture and place the remaining potatoes on top, smearing with the rest of the oil.
5. Sprinkle with some dry breadcrumbs and place in the middle of the preheated oven for about 15 minutes, or until it is golden and crisp. Serve with a side salad and black olives.
Note: when boiling the potatoes, season with only the slightest amount of salt. Dishes containing salted cod do not, as a rule, need salt added to them, despite the previous soaking.
· Serves 4 ·
· 1 red pepper
· 1 large courgette
· olive oil
· a pinch of salt
· freshly ground black pepper
· 1 fresh whole Mozzarella
· 1 round Manoucher bread
(can be found at most large supermarkets)
· fresh basil leaves
1. Wash the red pepper and courgette. Slice courgette and cut the pepper into 4 slices, discarding all the pips.
2. Put 2 teaspoons of olive oil into a frying pan and heat gently. Once hot, add the 4 pepper quarters, a pinch of salt and some ground black pepper and cook until brown. Take out of the pan and leave to cool.
3. Flash the sliced courgette in the same pan and heat for 45-60 seconds.
4. Slice the Mozzarella into 6 thin slices. Cut the Manoucher bread horizontally, in order to separate the top and bottom.
5. Lay out the cooked peppers, courgettes and sliced mozzarella onto the bread base, and add 4 or 5 basil leaves. Splash a small amount of olive oil onto the filling, with a light sprinkling of salt and black pepper on top. Close the sandwich with the crown of the bread and cut into 4 wedges, to serve.
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