London’s all afroth, and who can blame those Brits? The Olympics start this weekend; England’s glorious capital is hosting the games — and we’ll be glued to the telly, watching all those bronzed swimmers, runners and gymnasts going for the gold and silver, as we enjoy some suitable pub grub inspired by some of England’s brightest culinary stars.
But first, it’s time to stop with the old jokes about bad British cuisine. True, it’s still possible to get some really terrible food in the U.K. — but you can do that here, too. And, OK, we have issues with some of their breakfast choices. Baked beans and kedgeree? And, yes, we giggle immaturely when faced with Bubble and Squeak, Hairy Tatties and Spotted Dick.
But Great Britain is home to some of our favorite chefs, including Jamie Oliver, Gordon Ramsay and Chez Panisse alum Claire Ptak, the Marin County, Calif.-born pastry chef who fell in love with a Londoner and moved across the Pond. So we’ve called upon their cookbooks and treasure troves of recipes for inspiration.
We’re also adding a dash of Beatles to this Olympics-watching menu, with a little help from a new vegetarian cookbook, “The Meat Free Monday Cookbook” (Kyle Books, $29.95, 240 pages), edited by Annie Rigg with recipes and prose by Paul McCartney and his family and friends. You can’t be a vicarious Brit without tea sandwiches, old chap, so we’ve used their ideas for creative sandwiches to craft some new wave finger foods. Among them: balsamic onions, arugula and goat cheese nestled atop whole-wheat toast and garlicky carrots and cilantro on hummus-slathered sourdough.
The self-styled Naked Chef’s anti-obesity and sustainable food awareness campaigns have made him a household name on both sides of the Atlantic, but Jamie Oliver is also known for some sensational, not-exactly-calorie-free culinary creations, including sizzling hot, tiny Yorkshire puddings — which he calls Yorkies or Baby Puds — served with a creamy pate made from smoked trout, horseradish and cream cheese. The dish is “dead quick,” he says, and the pate boasts a “bolshie attitude.”
Clearly, our grasp of British idioms is not up to snuff because we had to look that one up. It’s a Bolshevik-inspired idiom for something that is angrily provocative or revolutionary or, in this case, “hot, smoky (and) salty,” Oliver says.
Oliver says it’s “sweet” to do individual servings, but you can also “just whack it right in the middle of the table” and let guests serve themselves. You’ll find smoked trout in the deli case near the smoked salmon and lox, either of which would make a delicious substitute.
Gordon Ramsay may be known on this continent as the screaming savior of drowning restaurants on “Kitchen Nightmares” and fierce judge on “Hell’s Kitchen” and “MasterChef,” but his cookbooks include new twists on classic British pub fare, including a killer rendition of Scotch Eggs. The sausage mixture that encases the gently hard-boiled eggs is laced with fresh herbs and lemon zest, and the breadcrumbs adorning the outside are freshly made. The result is crisp, flavorful and addictive.
Any TV-watching marathon requires beer — and sweets. Ptak does both with a Guinness Malt Cake recipe from her new book, “Leon Baking and Desserts” (Octopus Books, $29.99, 304 pages). We made them in cupcake form, and used an English stout to flavor both the cake and the creamy frosting.
The result is worthy of a medal — maybe even gold.
AN OLYMPICS WATCHING MENU
Baby Yorkshire Puds with Smoked Trout Pate
Pint of Prawns with Mayo
New Wave Tea Sandwiches
Guinness Malt Cupcakes
BABY YORKSHIRE PUDS WITH CREAMY SMOKED TROUT PATE
Note: It’s best to use the metric measurements on your scale and measuring cups, but nonmetric approximations are included below.
Creamy smoked fish:
125 grams cream cheese (about 4 ½ ounces)
2-3 heaped teaspoons prepared horseradish
Small bunch fresh chives, finely chopped
Sea salt, ground pepper
125 grams hot-smoked trout, skin removed (about 4 ½ ounces)
Rapeseed oil (or olive oil)
2 large free-range eggs
100 grams flour (about 3 ½ ounces)
100 ml milk (between 1/3 and ½ cup)
1. Mix the cream cheese, horseradish, the zest of 1 lemon and juice from half a lemon. Mix in most of the chopped chives. Taste and add a pinch of salt and pepper. Add more horseradish or lemon juice, if needed.
2. Flake in the trout, removing any skin and bones. Use a spatula to fold the mixture gently so you have smaller bits and nice chunks. Decant into a nice serving dish or several little bowls. Drizzle with oil and sprinkle with chopped chives. Cover and refrigerate until cold.
3. Just before serving, preheat oven to 475 degrees. Drizzle vegetable oil into the bottoms of 16 wells in a mini-muffin tin, so there’s a thin layer covering the bottom of each. Pop the tray onto the top rack of the hot oven for 10 to 15 minutes, until smoking. Meanwhile, aggressively beat the eggs, flour, milk and a pinch of salt and pepper together, by hand or in a food processor, until light and smooth. Transfer the mixture into a jug with a spout.
4. Carefully take the tray from the oven. Quickly and confidently pour the batter into the hot tin so it nearly fills each well. Return to oven and cook for 10 to 12 minutes, or until the Yorkies are puffed and golden. Serve sizzling hot with the potted fish and lemon wedges.
—Jamie Oliver, www.jamieoliver.com