Friday, August 19, 2011

English Comfort Food (Pub Grub)

We left our homeland, England, ten years ago to settle in Philly. Today I can't imagine living in any other city other than Philly.  But, as any ex-Pat will tell you, however well you acclimate to a new culture, one of the things you miss most about your homeland is the comfort food that you grew up with. 

Aside from a traditional Sunday roast, Pub grub (food) is what I miss most of all because it's more than just a meal out -- it's an experience. 

The village pub is what defines the English countryside for any traveller. 

Having just returned from two weeks in the UK and Italy, here's my top picks of the best pubs we visited and the memorable nose-bags (meals, that is) we enjoyed during our whistlestop tour of London, Kent and the South Coast of England...

Every coastal village features a Crown & Anchor pub; it's a testament to that village's loyalty to the Monarchy and a recognition of the Village's reason for existing - the sea, trade and fishing.

A dead impressive pub in Pluckley, Kent, which is allegedly the most haunted village in England!

The South coast of England is characterized by its romantic (but stony) beaches.  Many a pub faces outwards towards the sea.

England is remarkably close geographically to France.  At its closest point, there is a scant 27 miles between the two countries, which explains why the French invaded England in 1066.  The record for swimming the English Channel (the body of water uniting England and France) is 6 hours 57 minutes and 50 seconds.  For any of you thinking of emulating this achievement, other than covering yourself head to toe in Vaseline, I would highly recommend any one of these traditional English dishes.

1. Fish 'n' chips - beer-battered at the posher pubs but best consumed sea-side on Whitstable's stony beach...(To make your own, try Jamie Oliver's recipe.  It combines egg whites and beer and results in a fluffy batter.)

 Our visit to this exquisite fishing community coincided with Whitstable's famous Oyster Festival. I didn't try a beer-battered oyster - it was $5 for a solitary oyster!  Whereas the locally caught fish was a bargain. 

I indulged my yearning for fish and chips on the beach...

2. Steak and kidney pie.  Don't try making it without the kidney it just doesn't have the same depth and texture; mushrooms are often substituted because people are squeamish about offal.  It's just not the same...  

3. Roast beef and home-made horseradish with roasted onions, beets and carrots

4. FRESH horseradish sauce, with a dash of chili powder.  This is a memorable addition to your roast beef.  Once tasted, never forgotten.  (You can buy fresh horseradish root from Iovine Bros in the Market, I checked)  Food Network has a recipe, courtesy of Emeril Lagasse.  Try this...

5. Yorkshire puddings a.k.a popovers - almost warrants a separate entry.  The secret's in the fat.  Ideally you want to use lard (shortening) and it has to be smoking hot before you add the batter.  Also, let the batter sit in the fridge for 5 minutes before you add it to the red hot fat.  If you do, the end result looks like this!

Accompanied by the perfect mashed potatoes - specially when they are dug up from Grandpa's back garden!

Not all pubs serve these British staples.  In recent years, the U.K. has seen the rise of the Gastro-pub - a pub where the food is just as important as the beer.  Probably the best meal I had on my trip was this guinea fowl and puy lentils entree. (Remember that France lies just across the Channel, hence the appearance of ingredients such as puy lentils on an English menu) 
I know Game birds such as quail and guinea fowl are popular but - I balked at this...

Spotted this in The Daily Telegraph, a national newspaper in the U.K.  
Canadian Geese "incline to toughness."  I didn't know that.

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