Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Traditional British Food, Part 18: Dinner Party

Pease porridge hot, pease porridge cold,
Pease porridge in the pot nine days old.
Some like it hot, some like it cold,
Some like it in the pot nine days old.

You'll have to excuse the super-dark photo. I forgot to take photos before everything got to the table and we don't have any light (except a desk lamp) in our living room. Clockwise from top left: Pease Porridge (hot), Boiled Beef with Carrots and Dumplings. Those headless bodies behind the food are Giancarlo and Denisse. I'd like to thank them as well as David, Kelly, Tyrone and Sean for being very cheerful guinea pigs. Paul and I ended up with a 4-pound arm roast (from our eighth of a cow) we knew we couldn't possibly finish by ourselves, so we invited a bunch of people over and fed them something we weren't sure was going to work out. By the way, this is not recommended by any entertaining expert! Thankfully, our guests were good sports and brave eaters. Here are the recipes:

Boiled Beef with Carrots and Dumplings

Serves 8

4-pound arm roast, covered in kosher salt a few hours before boiling
2 teaspoons peppercorns
2 bay leaves
2 sprigs parsley
3 sprigs thyme
6 cloves

1 pound of boiler onions (or pearl or cippolini onions), peeled*
1 1/2 pounds carrots, scraped and quartered (as above)

2 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/2 cup vegetable shortening
2 teaspoons chives, minced

  1. Place the beef in a large (5- to 6-quart) stock pot or stove-safe casserole and add enough water to cover the beef by at least half an inch. Add the peppercorns, bay leaves, parsley, thyme and cloves. It's a good idea to tie all this up in cheesecloth so it doesn't have to be strained out later.
  2. Bring to a boil over high heat, skimming off foam and scum. When it comes to a boil, turn down the heat and simmer, partially covered, for 2 1/2 hours.
  3. Add the onions and carrots and continue simmering for another 30 minutes.
  4. While the onions and carrots are cooking, preheat the oven to 250 degrees Fahrenheit and make the dumplings.
  5. Sift the flour, baking powder and salt into a bowl. Rub in the fat until the mixture resembles a coarse meal. Pour in milk, as needed, to form mixture into a ball then mix in the chives.
  6. When the onions and carrots are finished, remove them, along with the beef, from the pot with a slotted spoon. Place in an ovenproof dish and put it in the oven.
  7. Increase the heat of the burner to high to bring the remaining stock to a boil.
  8. Drop the dumpling mixture by the tablespoonful into the stock and cook, uncovered, for 10 to 15 minutes. They will rise to the surface.
  9. When the dumplings are finished, arrange the beef, carrots, onions and dumplings on a serving platter and serve, at once, with the gravy and a bowl of horseradish sauce.
This recipe is adapted from Foods of the World: The Cooking of the British Isles, as well as this recipe from The Independent, and this recipe from the Lark Rise Cookbook.

Horseradish Sauce

1/2 cup heavy cream
juice of 1/2 lemon
2 tablespoons prepared horseradish

Beat the cream to stiff peaks then stir in the lemon juice and the prepared horseradish. This can be made in advance and kept in the fridge.

This recipe is adapted from Jane Grigson's British Cookery.

Pease Porridge

Serves 8-12

1 pound split peas
1 quart water
4 tablespoons butter
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper

In a stock pot, bring the water to a boil then slowly add the peas (so that the water continues to boil). Reduce heat and simmer, partially covered, for about an hour, or until water is absorbed and peas are totally mushy. At this point, the mushy peas can be refrigerated for later.

Just before serving, heat the peas in a saucepan over low heat and stir in the butter, salt and pepper. Continue stirring over low heat until the porridge is heated through. Serve at once.

This recipe is adapted from Foods of the World: The Cooking of the British Isles.

English White Bread

Treacle Pudding

Makes 1 10-inch bundt cake

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
4 eggs, room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla
zest of 1 lemon
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup golden syrup

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. In a large mixing bowl, cream together the butter and sugar then beat in the eggs, vanilla and lemon zest. Sift in the flour, baking powder and salt. Beat until just combined.

Grease and flour a 10-inch bundt pan. Pour the golden syrup into the bottom of the pan then top with the cake batter, smoothing out the top. Bake 35-40 minutes or until a cake tester comes out clean (do not test all the way to the syrup). Remove the cake from the oven and cool for a couple minutes before turning it out onto a cake plate.

n.b. I may use cake flour the next time I make this instead of all-purpose for a lighter cake.

This recipe is adapted from Tea & Sympathy.


I'd also like to thank Jamin, John and Vince for inviting me and Paul over for pumpkin carving (and tacos). The fruit (ha ha) of our labor is in the above photograph.
*When I make this for just me and Paul, I simply peel a medium-sized white or yellow onion and add it in with the carrots for flavor. Paul likes the flavor of onions, but doesn't like to eat them whole.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Quick Check-in

Just thought I'd stop by and show off my newest estate sale find--Liberty Blue dinner plates, cups and saucers. Liberty Blue is Staffordshire pottery that features scenes from the American Revolution. Talk about Anglo-American relations! The dinner plate (above) has Liberty Hall in Philadelphia on it while the cup has the Midnight Ride of Paul Revere and the saucer has a picture of the Old North Church. This website has more information about the pattern. I must say that I wish our grocery store would give away anything half as nice as Staffordshire pottery!

Here's Perfect Steamed Broccoli again along with Cheesy Chops & Chips, one of the easiest and most delicious ways to cook pork chops ever.

Next time, I'll post some of my own recipes. Paul and I have some friends coming over for a Traditional British Food dinner party. On the menu: Boiled Beef with Carrots and Dumplings, Pease Pudding, English White Bread, and Treacle Pudding.

Saturday, October 10, 2009


In the 2000 census, 23.9% of Americans self-identified as having either British or Irish ancestry (it was 67.5% in 1790). That's over 67 million people! To put that into perspective, the 2001 census showed the population of the United Kingdom to be almost 59 million while the Republic of Ireland's 2006 census showed just over 4 million people. All this means that there are more people in the United States claiming British/Irish ancestry than there are people in Britain and Ireland.

Despite being the largest single ethnic group (if we combine all the British Isles ethnic groups), British food (I'm including Irish in this, as well. My apologies to any Sinn Fein supporters out there.) is as rare as hen's teeth. Part of this is many traditional American dishes (apple pie, pot roast, macaroni and cheese, etc.) are either the same as many British dishes or are closely related. Thus, here in America, many yummy British meals are "American." Another problem is the global reputation of British food. If it's as nasty as everyone says, why would we want to eat it? Much better to just go get Italian, Thai or Mexican food.

Don't get me wrong. I love international cuisine. I just think that it's time to resuscitate British cooking in America. It shouldn't be about green beer on St. Patrick's Day and a turkey leg at Ye Olde Renaissance Faire. Brew yourself a cup of tea, seek out lamb chops and a tin of golden syrup, and join me on my journey to bring a precious few blog readers in contact with my culinary patrimony.

I'd like to apologize for being AWOL the last couple of months. I guess now you know I'm still alive. August is such a nasty month that it takes me all of September to recuperate. Thankfully, October is here and it's finally sweater weather. I'll be here weekly (hopefully more, but now I'm only a part-time lady of leisure) with more recipes. Here's a menu I've put together from BBC Good Food that uses those lamb chops you're going to find. Lamb is super-tasty (if you cook it more than medium-rare I will hunt you down and take away your cooking rights) and not very commonly used in the United States (outside Middle Eastern cuisine). I'm sure you'll love it.

Lamb with Rosemary Butter Beans
Perfect Steamed Broccoli (contrary to what the recipe states, butter is not optional)

Enjoy! See you back here next week!