Friday, May 16, 2008

Traveler Guide to Brit Food (Part II)

As we discovered in Part I of this series (if you missed it, head to the web site), finding your way around traditional British foods can be easy with a little guidance. On the other hand, sometimes a little guidance, especially where some of Britain's main dishes are concerned, might do more harm than good. For example, now that I know how haggis is made, it is high on my "things to avoid" list, right up there with unnecessary dentist visits and teasing an unrestrained rottweiler.

The good news is this...this article covers the good stuff! As we wrap up the series, we'll have a look at puddings (that's desserts to the Yanks!) and baked goods. So, throw your calorie counter book away, and prepare yourself for a trip to Deliciousville.

A Stop at the Bakery

Bakewell Tart - Bakewell is a lovely town in its own right, sitting prettily on the River Wye in the striking Peak District in Northern England. If you can't make it up there on your next trip, content yourself with the exquisite Bakewell tart, a delicious almond-flavoured confection which was invented around the 1860s when a baker botched a recipe for a strawberry tart! This lucky mistake is sometimes filled with a bit of raspberry jam.

Eccles Cake - The Eccles (pronounced EHK-uhls) cake is named after the town of Eccles, which is located in Lancashire, in Northern England. This confection is essentially a puff pastry stuffed with a currant and dried fruit sugary filling.

Crumpet - A crumpet is a flat bready cake riddled with small holes, traditionally served toasted and covered with butter. Americans will find crumpets very similar to the ironically named English muffin, which is a tad less doughy.

Scones - Just how more British can you get than a scone? Scones are a floury bread, and will be found with or without currants in them. These are eaten halved, and traditionally served with clotted cream and strawberry jam. A true high tea favourite.

Bannocks - Also known as oatcakes, bannocks are an oat and barley floury biscuit which has been baked on a griddle. These are often eaten with cheese as an accompaniment.

Shortbread - Traditionally a Christmas and Hogmanay (the Scottish New Year) treat, shortbread is now a firm British favourite. Shortbread is a crisp, butter rich biscuit (er, cookie to the Yanks). While it comes in many shapes and forms today, its traditional round shape evolutionised from the Yule Bannock, which was round and notched on the edges to represent the sun and its rays.

Black Bun - A very rich cake treat, a black bun is made with currants, fine peel, almonds, brown sugar, ginger and cinnamon. The black bun's name is derived from its dark colouring.

Pudding Power

If you haven't stuffed yourself silly at the bakery or filled up on your dinner, pull out the pudding menu, and let's have a look at what's on offer.

Bread Pudding - This baked dessert is made from cubes of bread that have been saturated in a mixture of eggs, sugar, milk, vanilla and spices. This delectable dessert sometimes has chopped nuts or fruits added, and may be served cold or hot with cream or other sweet sauce.

Trifle - A trifle is an alcoholic marinated sponge cake, with alternating layers of fruit, whipped cream, and custard.

Spotted Dick - Despite the snickers this pudding's name receives, spotted dick is a suet pudding with bits of dried fruit. It is mostly served with custard.

Hasty Pudding - Hasty Pudding is a steamed pudding dessert comprised of milk, butter, eggs, flour and cinnamon. This takes very little time to make, so is very well named!

Dundee Cake - Dundee is a city in central east Scotland, and the namesake for this Scottish fruitcake. This dessert is made with candied citron peel, almonds and spices, and is traditionally completely encased by a layer of almonds.

Mincemeat - Mincemeat is chopped nuts, apples, brandy, spices and sugar mixed with beef suet for a pie filling. It's sometimes used in biscuits as well.

Loosening Your Belt

Well, hopefully now you've had your fill. If you're hungry for more, here are a few web sites to investigate!
- This site celebrates English food, giving a bit of history and lots of recipes. - This site offers a brief overview of British food - For the tea obsessed!

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