For my husband, autumn means it’s time to start making chili. As an Anglophile, I start thinking about hearty British dishes like bangers and mash, Cornish pasties, and shepherd’s pie. I’m sure many Anglotopia readers feel the same way, so this month’s column focuses on finding recipes and provisions to make your favorite British comfort foods at home.
I’ve been collecting English, Irish, Welsh, and Scottish cookbooks for more than 30 years. If you don’t have a similar stash, then British magazines are a great resource for recipes. BBC Good Food magazine’s website is overflowing with tempting treats, including a large selection of British and Indian recipes and collections of recipes for scones, biscuits, and retro cakes. Other good choices include Woman & Home, Country Life, and the Irish magazine Easy Food. I made my first Welsh rarebit of autumn a few weeks ago using Westminster Rustic Red Cheddar and Fergus Henderson’s Welsh rarebit recipe from Country Life.
British supermarket chains are another good resource. The large selection of recipes on the Tesco Real Food site includes slow cooker, seasonal, and holiday recipes. The Waitrose site includes a guide to preparing roast dinners, comfort food recipes, and recipes from celebrity chefs such as Mary Berry, Nadiya Hussain, and Heston Blumenthal. Sainsbury’s extensive recipe collection can be searched by ingredient, type of meal (breakfast, starters, main course, etc.), and diet.
Of course, there are also lots of great food blogs and websites. Glyn Hughes’s The Foods of England Project has more than 3,000 recipes or ‘receipts’ for traditional British dishes dating from the 1300s to the present. Delightful Repast is a labor of love from an American food writer who often features recipes that reflect her British heritage (including the potato-leek soup recipe at the end of this article). The UK’s National Baking Week website includes recipes for desserts, party foods, and picnic foods, and ideas for baking with kids.
I’ve picked up most of my cookbooks in used bookstores and many of them are long out of print. A good volume that’s still easy to find is The Illustrated Encyclopedia of British Cooking by Annette Yates, Christopher Trotter, and Georgina Campbell. It contains an introduction to the food traditions of the British Isles and more than 350 recipes from England, Ireland, Scotland, and Wales. The recipes are clear and easy to follow.
CONVERSIONS AND EQUIPMENT
Once you’ve found your recipes, the next step is to think about kitchen logistics. If you’re using recipes from British sources then you’ll probably need to do some conversions. I keep two recipe conversion magnets on my refrigerator: one has imperial and metric measurement conversions for liquids and solids and one has Fahrenheit, Celsius, and gas mark oven conversions. The Delightful Repast website is a good resource for information on recipe conversions (including an explanation of the difference in US and UK egg sizing), and the BBC Good Food and Waitrose websites both have glossaries that are helpful for decoding unfamiliar cooking terms and ingredients.
British and Irish recipes often call for weighing rather than measuring ingredients, so you’ll also want to have a kitchen scale on hand. It doesn’t have to be expensive; I bought one for about $15 and it’s been going strong for years. I also have a set of British measuring cups and spoons for recipes that require measuring.
It’s not always easy to find the ingredients you need for British recipes. Luckily, Anglotopia has a great list of British-themed stores where you can get many of the supplies you’ll need. It’s best to place your orders well in advance, but sometimes that isn’t possible. I recently put together a British brunch for the Chicago Bears-Oakland Raiders game in London and I didn’t have enough time to order provisions online. I had to go to six different stores to find everything I needed for the menu, which included a ham and asparagus tart, bangers, back bacon, sausage rolls, bacon floddies, crumpets, scones, clotted cream, Eton mess, and Buck’s Fizz.
Bangers and back bacon are particularly difficult to find in US grocery stores. Fortunately, I was able to purchase Spencer’s Jolly Posh bangers and bacon at a market about 30 minutes from my house, and received rave reviews from my guests. Jolly Posh products are available through several stores on Anglotopia’s list, including Goodwood’s, which also sells its own line of British-style bangers under the Harold Wood’s logo. You can also order bangers from Myers of Keswick, which I featured in my July 2019 Eating British in America column, and Irish-style sausages and black and white pudding from Winston’s, which has been serving Chicago’s Irish-American community since 1967. If you need smoked haddock for dishes like kedgeree and Cullen skink, a good option is Stonington Seafood, which prepares it in the traditional Scottish manner.
I gravitate toward recipes with cheese and I try to use British and Irish cheeses whenever possible. The Irish dairy cooperative Ornua has been making inroads into the American market with its Kerrygold cheeses and butters, which can be found at many grocery stores. I’ve also noticed that many grocery stores now stock at least a couple of English cheeses.
The best selection of English, Scottish, Welsh, and Irish cheeses I’ve found in the US is at Jungle Jim’s International Market, an Ohio landmark with stores in Fairfield and Eastgate. Jungle Jim’s stocks a wide range of cheeses from British cheese makers such as Coombe Castle, Singletons, Belton Farm, Quicke’s, Collier’s, Snowdonia, and Mull of Kintyre. It also has an extensive British food section stocked with mixes, sauces, and seasonings for your cooking and baking needs and a freezer case filled with meats and savory items from companies such as Jolly Posh, Winston’s, and Cameron’s. Jungle Jim’s is definitely worth a special trip.
A RECIPE TO TRY
I’m going to wrap things up with a Delightful Repast recipe for one of my favorite autumn comfort foods, potato-leek soup.
Delightful Repast’s Potato-Leek Soup
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 cups thinly sliced leeks, white part only
1 cup finely chopped celery
1 quart lower sodium chicken broth
2 pounds potatoes, chopped in 1/2-inch dice (4 cups)
2 cups milk
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 to 1 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
1 teaspoon dill
Garnish: coarsely shredded cheddar (about 1/2 ounce per serving) and sliced leeks
In 4-quart pan, saute the leek and celery in butter over low heat until soft and translucent, about 15 minutes. Add broth and potatoes, bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer until potatoes are soft, about 20 minutes. Remove from heat. Using a potato masher, coarsely mash potatoes. Return to heat. Add milk and seasonings. Taste and adjust seasoning. Ladle into bowls and garnish each bowl just before serving. Makes six 12-ounce servings.
ENJOY AND SHARE
The products and businesses mentioned in this article are brands I’ve encountered over the years. I haven’t received any type compensation in exchange for including them, they’re simply recommendations based on my experiences. I’m sure Anglotopia readers would love to hear your thoughts and recommendations!