Thursday, November 8, 2007

English indulgences

A strange thing has happened.
I have come back from England without having taken a single picture of food.
That doesn't mean that I forgot about food for a few days while riding the tops of double-decker buses with Sam. Far from it. During this trip I made it my mission to introduce him to the things I love best in England: mint Aero, Fry's Peppermint Cream (do you detect a theme here?) and, perhaps best of all, the Crunchie bar*.
I couldn't leave without trying a Wispa, which is making a comeback in England. This airy chocolate bar with a milk chocolate coating was new to me, and I have to say I found it unpalateably sweet (yes, even compared to Crunchie bars).
While not gorging on chocolate, I filled up on food television. I saw Jamie Oliver on screen for the first time in my life - he was mellower than I expected, lying down next to his vegetable patch and plucking out the seedlings - and memorized his recipe for carrot salad with spiced lamb (stay tuned). I caught every minute of Saturday Kitchen and watched Gordon Ramsay's Kitchen Nightmares in horrified fascination.
During my two days in London, I had to limit myself to what was fast and practical with a child. That meant Prêt à Manger and Wagamama, but also a restaurant called Hummus Bros specialising in bowls of the smooth chick pea purée with meat or vegetable toppings - a brilliant idea that shows how diverse the fast(er) food offerings have become in London.
I also made it to Books for Cooks - foolishly the first time, as it was Monday and the shop was closed. To fit it in on the second day I had to take a taxi there, which cost more than the Sushi book I bought. My only other purchase, in a moment of uncharacteristic restraint, was Simple Indian by Atul Kochhar, chef of the Michelin-starred Benares restaurant. I had seen him on Saturday Kitchen and liked the way he put a contemporary spin on Indian recipes.
If I'd been less traumatized by London prices and had more space in my suitcase, these are the other books I would have bought:Crust by Richard Bertinet - I know I already have some good bread books, but I would buy this book for his baguette recipes alone.
Beaneaters and Bread Soup by Lori de Mori - My kind of cookbook, a series of essays with recipes on food producers in Tuscany.
Arabesque by Claudia Roden - The most recent cookbook by Britain's doyenne of Middle Eastern cooking.
New Flavours of the Lebanese Table by Nada Saleh - Written by a resident cook at Books for Cooks.
What would be on your cookbook wish list?

* In case you're wondering, Sam isn't normally allowed a chocolate bar every day. We were on holiday, after all!


Wendy said...

A) You saw Jamie Oliver for the first time? Wow. He’s so incredibly big here that I thought he’d been exported (by TV – not actually banished)
B) That Wispas are making a come back is the best news I’ve heard all year!
C) I greatly admire your restraint.

Glad you had a good time. :)

Lucy said...

Welcome home Rosa (and Sam, of course). Very pleased that your first taste of Jamie is this new, mellower, gardening man - he was frantic in those early episodes, though no less entertaining!

Wishlist...sort of wish someone would take away about half of the books I've got to make room for some new ones...but:

Maggie Beer: Maggie's Havest (Australian, mammoth new tome - and beautiful to boot).

Tamasin Day-Lewis: Where Shall We Go For Dinner? (Think I love this woman).

And Beaneaters and Bread Soup - my favourite kind.

P.S. I do love a Crunchie bar...

Rosa said...

A) We can get Jamie here, but only on the cooking channel, which I don't have - and dubbed!!
B) Happy to be the bearer of good news!
C) Why, thank you.

Thanks Lucy! I can imagine what the young Jamie was like, but I like this mellow version too.

Oh dear, now I also need the books on your wishlist!

Susan said...

Well, I'm fixed for a while. I've just recently gotten:

In a Persian Kitchen/Maideh Mazda;
Indian Regional Cooking/Julie Sahni; and
Candymaking for Dummies (Alas, don't think they have a recipe for Mint Aero, though.)

You've got courage. I can't bring myself to watch anything Ramsay. I'm afraid I will turn to stone.

Rosa said...

I love the sound of all of those books, Susan! My Christmas list is getting longer by the day.

I didn't think I could bear to watch Gordon Ramsay either, but I warmed to him a little, amazingly!