Masala is something that a lot of Londoners crave for. Though it is not really British in origin, it is now associated with the food from the city. And when we talk British cuisine, who comes to mind first? Different people would have different answers but I am sure that the name Nigella Lawson would come up a lot. Here is a different twist to masala, according to Nigella.

Ingredients
1 tsp vegetable oil
1 spring onion, finely sliced
1 chilli, red or green
1 garlic clove, microplaned or finely chopped
0.25 tsp Turmeric
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
1/2 tsp umami seasoning **
2 egg, beaten
1 pinch Coriander, chopped for sprinkling over

Method
1. Preheat the grill.
2. Heat the oil in a non-stick frying pan 20-27cm in diameter and fry the spring onion, chilli and turmeric until soft. Add the other spices and fry for another minute stirring occasionally.
3. Add the beaten eggs, swirling the pan to help the eggs set underneath.
4. When the omelette is nearly set, flash it under a hot grill to finish it off, and serve with fresh coriander and chapattis.

Nigella has some notes:

I should say that when I cook this for myself, on a weekday at least, I usually dispense with most of the ingredients: I chop two peppers, turn them around in a hot pan with a little bit of oil for a while, then beat them into a couple of eggs, adding some roughly chopped coriander and Maldon salt at the same time. I then pour everything back into the frying pan and cook for a few minutes before sitting the pan under the grill for a top-setting minute or so.

And feel free to add as well as subtract ingredients: grated ginger is good, as is chopped fresh mint and, indeed, dried. You can eat this, flat on the plate, with a knife and fork, or roll it up inside a chapati that you’ve just warmed through in the microwave.

** We also should note here that Umami (or MSG) has been declared safe by countless medical and scientific food regulators. It is in fact much healthier (and more tasty!) than normal table salt.

making jam
Summer is always here and for many British of the older generation, this season is akin to preserving the fresh fruits of the season. Though making homemade preserves may not be necessary today – thanks to modern processing plans – it would still be a good activity to engage in this summer. Have you ever made preserves or jam in your own kitchen? Maybe you should try out this age old tradition that our elders engaged in. Not only will you have homemade jams and jellies to consume throughout the winter months, but you’ll also have memories to last for the rest of your life.

So how do you go about making jam? Helen Gaffney of The Great British Kitchen provides tips that have been tried and tested by time. Here they are for your reading (and jam-making) pleasure.

1. It is most important to have jars, saucepan or preserving pan and spoons ready and scrupulously clean before you start, so that you prevent any micro-organisms from getting into the jam.
2. Choose sound firm fruit. A mixture of ripe and rather less ripe fruits is best, unripe fruits contain more pectin and fruit acid (both needed to obtain a good set) than ripe fruit.
3. Use fruit as soon as possible after picking. Wash only if necessary.
4. Cook the fruit with or without water for 20-30 minutes prior to adding the sugar. Simmer it gently to draw out the pectin.
5. Warm the sugar before adding it to the fruit to help it dissolve quickly.
6. When you have added the sugar to the hot, softened fruit, stir it over a gentle heat until it has completely dissolved before returning the jam to the boil.
7. Boil rapidly until set, stirring from time to time to prevent sticking at the bottom. Test frequently to avoid over-cooking.

There’s more from where this came from. I suggest that you visit Helen’s article and read for yourself!

Photo courtesy of Noah McMurray

I don’t know about you but summer evokes special memories for me. Taste, sound, and smell all mingle to bring about the most treasured times of my life. One of the best things I remember about summer is having a nice meal outside – with several fresh and sweet cobs of corn. Now isn’t that just wonderful?

But if you like corn as much as I do, you would know that nothing sucks more than corn on the cob that tastes stale. So where do you get the freshest corn for that nice summer picnic? The people over at The Guardian apparently have the same taste – they recently featured the best ways by which we could get corn on the cob:

PYO farms are an excellent source of super-fresh cobs (go to pickyourown.org). Corn is coming into season now and should be available until late September. If you pick more than you need, cut off the kernels, blanch briefly in boiling water and freeze. Don’t add salt when boiling, though, because it toughens the kernels.

British-grown organic corn on the cob, from areas such as Cambridgeshire and Lincolnshire, is available through nationwide organic box providers including Riverford (riverford.co.uk) and Abel & Cole (abelandcole.co.uk).

But that is not all of it – they also give tips on how to find the best corn in markets and shops. If I were you, I’d read up on this a bit more and serve only the best corn in your next summer bash.

Photo courtesy of shannonpatrick17

english tea
While the Americans (and other nationalities of the world) may relish waking up to the aroma of coffee, there is no doubt that the British prefer sipping a hot cup of tea in the morning (and mayhap other parts of the day). I love coffee, I am not denying that, but there are times when I simply need tea as my drink for the day. One of my favorites is the English Breakfast Tea, which I can drink at any time of the day. What is this tea anyway?

The English Breakfast Tea is usually a blend of different black teas. The blend may consist of teas coming from areas such as India, Sri Lanka, Kenya, Malawi and China. The fact is that the English Breakfast Tea was first invented in Edinburgh, Scotland by a man named Drysdale, a well known tea master. His idea was to market the blend under the label Breakfast. The rest is history.

This kind of tea is a perfect accompaniment to the traditional English breakfast and goes well with milk and sugar. If you want a more technical description of this tea, here is Mr. Breakfast’s take:

It is a robust, full-bodied beverage with light floral undertones (sometimes referred to as “coppery”). When blended with milk, it produces a comforting aroma eerily similar to warm toast and honey. And as we know, the olfactory receptors in our noses are responsible for 80% of what we perceive as flavor.

Indeed, English breakfast tea can give you a warm fuzzy feeling just as you brush away the cobwebs of sleep in the early morning. Why not have a cup today?

Photo courtesy of Scott Feldstein

bollywood burner
Curry may originally be an Indian dish but there is no doubt that London offers some of the best variants of curry. This could largely be due to the fact that London is a melting pot of cultures and there is a large number of people from South Asia in the city. So, anyway, could the curry in London be better than what other countries have to offer?

I would not dare answer that question but I do know that a restaurant in London is serving what it hopes to be the world’s hottest curry. AFP reports:

A London restaurant was serving up Thursday what it hopes will be confirmed as the world’s hottest curry, with even the chef admitting it is “too extreme” to keep on the menu.

Vivek Singh at The Cinnamon Club grabbed some of the hottest chilli peppers known to man to create the Bollywood Burner, a lamb-based dish with a fierce kick.

The curry is so hot that diners are asked to sign a disclaimer confirming they are aware of the risks involved before daring to eat it.
The Bollywood Burner is being submitted to Guinness World Records for verification of its status as the planet’s hottest curry. The verdict should be announced within three weeks.

I wonder what risks are involved if you eat a dish that is too hot to handle? I don’t really know. What I do know is that although I love curry and could eat it several times a week, I am not too strong in the spicy department. I probably would not be trying the Bollywood Burner anytime soon.

Not everyone knows who Guy Watson is but for those who are into organic food, he is considered a guru. Guy Watson is the founder of Riverford Organic Vegetables, which is based in South Devon. He began his activities way back in 1985, when organic food was not that much of a hit yet. What he did was put his produce in boxes and delivered them to shops and homes. From those humble beginnings, Guy Watson has gone a long way.

So what is his philosophy with regard to food? In an interview with the Times Online, he shares:

Eat good quality food, prepared with love and grown not too far away.
People have got so far removed from their food and how it is grown. They have lost confidence in their own judgment and are easy prey to advertising promoting processed, sugar, salt and fat laden crap. Add to this the progressive loss of kitchen skills over the last two generations and we are in trouble.

And his views on traditional British cuisine?

I regret the obsession with the exotic and abandonment of culinary traditions that dominated the 40 years following food rationing. Things are getting better now.

Behind closed doors we have a growing army of fantastic home cooks. We have some of the world’s best, most knowledgeable and cosmopolitan cooks feeding their families wonderful meals day in day out. I suspect most of them seldom watch a cookery programme because they are too busy cooking.

Indeed, if we want to preserve and promote our traditions, we should follow Guy Watson’s example.

frankfurt christmas market
With a history and culture as rich as it can be, there is no doubt that one can experience a myriad of festivities all throughout the country during the period of Christmas. As diverse as the activities are, one of the most popular is going around visiting various Christmas markets.

Year in and year out, visitors and locals alike look forward to Christmas markets all over the country. Here are some of the popular ones this year.

Bath Christmas Market
This has been a tradition in Bath since 2001. The town itself has a lot of other things to offer, especially the historic Abbey where the market is located. The traditional wooden stalls used as shops in the market add to the ambiance. More so, one can expect a lot of unique items.

Frankfurt Christmas Market
This is being held in Birmingham and is considered the largest Christmas market outside of Germany and Austria – definitely a unique experience!

Manchester Christmas Markets
Manchester is not to be outdone when it comes to markets this Christmas. It has more than one! There is a traditional German market, a European market, and an Arts and Crafts Market.

These are only a few of the on going Christmas markets in Britain today. More than the food, crafts, and other items on sale, visitors can enjoy the festive atmosphere with the entertainment being offered everywhere. This is a good time to feel the English culture at its festive best – wherever in England you may want to go.

ducasseYou have to admit it – when it comes to fine cuisine, London is usually not the first city to come to mind. Indeed, even the experts have not given this city as much recognition as they have given to different locations worldwide. And Chef Alain Ducasse totally disagrees with this.

Alain Ducasse has a total of 19 Michelin stars to his name, and knows what he is talking about when it comes to food. He has boldly proclaimed that London is the gastronomic capital of the world and that the city is being sorely overlooked. And despite the number of stars that Michelin has awarded him, Ducasse is not shy to point out their mistake in overlooking London.

In an interview with The Telegraph, the chef shares his sentiments:

There has been a revolution in London in the last 10 years. The restaurant scene is very interesting. Michelin should give it more stars; it’s mean. You should interview the editor and ask him why [he doesn’t]. London is the most important city in the world for restaurants. It was level with New York, but the product has developed more here in the last five years. I think Michelin is a bit conservative.

He points out that there are countless restaurants in London which offer the best in the world. He also highlights the fact that the variety of food that you can find in the city is comparable to none. He even went as far as to compare Paris and London based on this point – and guess which came out on top?

I wonder what the people at Michelin are thinking right now…

british teaLooks like I can’t seem to stop myself from writing about food…

Today, the 2009 British Food Fair opened in Taipei, Taiwan. The food fair is being overseen by the British Trade and Cultural Office, in cooperation with City’Super, a well known high end supermarket in the country. The features of the food fair are, according to BTCO Director David Campbell, “sweet and savoury products specially sourced from the United Kingdom to bring local customers the taste of traditional British culinary culture.”

Naturally, the British tradition of tea and biscuits is the focal point of the food fair. In fact, Clare Lear of the British Assistance and Services Section of BTCO gave a demonstration on how to whip up a British afternoon tea using some of the products on display in the food fair. Some of these products include tea, biscuits, sauces, and chocolate.

The food fair will run until 4 September and is being hosted by three branches of the supermarket in the city. People who visit the food fair will be in for a treat – not only because of the UK food products being presented but also because they have the chance to win a round trip ticket to the UK, a Brompton Baby Pink bicycle, and a Dyson vacuum cleaner. In addition to these, entrance tickets to the Pixar 20th anniversary exhibition are also up for grabs.

While majority of the British might not have had the chance to visit Taipei, it does give you a sense of pride to know that people on the other side of the world are interested in your culture, doesn’t it?

cornish_pastyAt least if Cabinet minister Hilary Benn’s call is heeded. In a statement released late last week, Benn declared that traditional British dishes should be given their rightful due. If you are not aware of it yet, there is such a thing as the Protected Food Names scheme, which was launched in 1992. Under this scheme, certain companies may register food products if they meet the following requirements:

• The food must be produced in a specific local area
• The food must be prepared using unique methods
• The recipes must be unique.

Other countries such as Spain, France, and Italy have already registered hundreds of products since the scheme’s inception. In contrast, the United Kingdom only has 38 registered food products; hence the minister’s call for more products to be registered.

Some of the food products that have already been registered include:

• Kentish Ale
• Gloucestershire Cider
• West Country Farmhouse Cheddar
• Cornish Clotted Cream
• Jersey Royal Potatoes

There are some products which are already in the process of being approved under the said scheme:

• Craster Kippers
• Colchester Oysters
• Lough Neagh Eels
• Cardigan Bay Prawns
• Cornish pasties
• Birmingham Balti.

Among the food products that Benn wants to be recognised are:

• London Porter beer
• Cheshire Cheese
• Bedfordshire Clanger pies
• Stottie Cakes
• York Ham
• Sussex Pond Pudding
• Yorkshire Parkin

Now doesn’t all that food make you hungry? So what’s stopping you? Just make sure you get the “real thing!”