When I was about seven and a half and traveling in Europe for the very first time in my life, the city of London was the gateway to the Old World. It was a city I found most fascinating since, at the time, Prince Charles and Lady Di were in still in the storybook-phase of their relationship and the eyes of the world were on their romance. Plus, I’d always relished old stories about Merrye Ould England: Boadicea the Warrior Queen, King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table, Sir Galahad and his quest for the Holy Grail, Henry VIII and his six wives.
Strangely enough – considering the culinary image of the UK at the time – I was also fascinated with the food. How could I not be fascinated? I mean, breakfast consisted of all my favorite things: sausages, bacon, buttered toast, and fried mushrooms! And the soups – beautifully bright green watercress soup that had a bit of a tang, creamy green pea with a swirling spiral of cream – bewitched my young palate. And, hey, I even ate roast lamb with a smattering of mint jelly; I actually liked the stuff!
Over the years, I have never really been able to get over those early experiences with Brit food and Brit cookery in general. This is probably why Nigella Lawson is my food author of choice, why I try to catch Tom Norrington-Davies‘s Great British Food on the telly (I never do, alas!), and why I am torn between rooting for boyish Jamie Oliver and the irascible Gordon Ramsey.
It’s also why I crave for old-school Rowntree KitKats – not those titchy Nestle knock-offs – sometimes. Somehow, they tasted chocolatier than the ones sold these days.
And it’s also why I was thrilled when I saw back issues of BBC Good Food at Book Sale at the SM Megamall. It’s quite a fun read and I recommend it to all you foodies out there. The photos are lush and gloriously mouth-watering and the writing is quite cheeky and fun. Plus, most of the recipes are easy to do. Since this is the Philippines and some of the ingredients are rather hard to come by, the magazine actually lists possible substitutions for an equally scrumptious dish. Oh, and you should really check out Gordon Ramsey’s Masterclass section: talk about taking the restaurant experience to your home dining room!
Another local place where I can get a good dose of Brit food is the Union Jack Tavern at Festival Supermall in Alabang. It’s actually two things in one shop: an actual pub that serves genuine British food (the bangers and mash are good and I hear the roast beef and Yorkshire pud are excellent) and a small grocery stocked with British comestibles. It’s where I go for a few supplies; namely:
- Hovis easy-blend [quick-rising] yeast;
- Horlicks malted milk powder;
- self-rising flour;
- dark beer (Guinness and Boddington’s Pub Ale – huzzah!);
- Bovril (beef extract paste) and Marmite (yeast extract) – perfect for adding an extra flavor fillip to soups and stews;
- Nestle Aero instant hot choc (mint!); and
- Walker’s potato crisps – the tangy-salty Marmite and the even tangier Worcester sauce chips are faves!
Of course, there’s always the option of getting fish and chips somewhere, but that’s a really tame option. So, I really wouldn’t turn my nose up at British food. Even if most people think it’s rather bland, it can actually be quite exciting. (Oh, and there’s a bunch of sticky pudding recipes I intend to make soon as the weather gets cooler…)