Simanaitis Says

On cars, old, new and future; science & technology; vintage airplanes, computer flight simulation of them; Sherlockiana; our English language; travel; and other stuff


THERE WAS a time when British food was ridiculed: overcooked veggies, questionable meats, indifferent presentation. However, it’s my theory that, having the good sense to include kippers, they’ve long had one of civilization’s great breakfasts. And, over the years, the rest of Brit grub has evolved for the better.

BBC Good Food monthly, three recent “numbers,” as the Brits would say.

There’s no better proof of this than BBC Good Food magazine. Here are tidbits from several favorite recipes in its October 2017 issue.

Swede Purée with Aubergine Ragu. Part of the fun with Good Food is translating English to American. Swede is Brit for rutabaga; we’d say eggplant for aubergine. Puy lentils, grown in the Puy region of France, are known for their peppery flavor, er, make that flavour.

“Once softened,” the recipe notes, “drain the swede and then blitz it with 40g butter and 2 tbsp natural yogurt in a food processor….” We might say blend or zap; the Brits have a historical precedent. And, note, only we, Liberia, and Myanmar aka Burma still measure using “English” units, such as oz. and lb.

Fettucine Alfredo. An old favorite gets entertaining coverage. Good Food author Orlando Murrin agrees with my own “customisation” in adding frozen peas. His historical tidbit cites Alfredo di Lelio inventing the dish in Rome in 1908. Today, two Roman restaurants claim to be the authentic Alfredo originator: Alfredo alla Scrofa and Il Vero Alfredo. Murrin offers a tidbit: “Film buffs should head to the latter, in Piazza Augusto Imperatore,” where the walls are lined with photos of John Wayne, Frank Sinatra, Orson Welles, and others enjoying this classic cuisine.

Wife Dottie and I learned about clotted cream from Betty Walker, wife of Rob, rest their souls. She told us how to stir double cream while it simmered, then let it cool in a shallow pan.

Murrin recommends “the best clotted cream of all comes from Trewithen Dairy in Cornwall which you can order by post.” Alas, we’d have to make it ourselves or settle for less than the best locally.

Matar Paneer. This dish reflects the Brits’ love affair with the cuisine of India. (Even the smallest British towns have their locals.) Paneer is a fresh cheese; that is, there’s no culturing or aging. I’ve seen a recipe for paneer cheese, but even Good Food is happy with store-bought.

The same technique of frying paneer cubes to brown their edges would work just fine with havarti cheese or tofu, though I’d translate the spices from India to Denmark or Southeast Asia, respectively.

IPA Treacle Tart. Treacle is Brit for sugary syrup. Black treacle is our molasses; light treacle would pass as any golden syrup. The treacle tart has a rich English culinary tradition. The Dormouse in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland talks about a “treacle-well,” after the curative St. Frideswide’s Well in Oxfordshire. In Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, the Child Catcher uses treacle tarts to lure kiddies. The treacle tart is also Harry Potter’s favorite dessert.

IPA, India Pale Ale, is popular in Britain. However, as Good Food notes, “Adding a touch of grapefruit zest brings out the vibrant American hop bitterness we love in our beers at the moment, plus it balances terrifically with the sweetness of this classic bake.”

I wonder what beers the Dormouse, Child Catcher, and Harry Potter prefer? ds

© Dennis Simanaitis,, 2018


  1. Michael Rubin
    January 29, 2018

    Last night (Sunday) on PBS’ “Victoria” the gang visits France and the Duchess is offered Champagne, foie gras or an eclair during a picnic and responds bluntly “Why can’t I just have a piece of dry toast and some tea?” After returning to England she mutters about the French putting sauces on everything and how good it was have “boiled beef and rutabaga.”

  2. Mark W
    January 30, 2018

    While I’m still traumatized by my trip to England 20 years ago (I decided to aim towards Chinese restaurants….) , there’s a neat show on amazon prime (Len and Ainsley’s food adventure or some such) that shows Britain’s food evolution. A little updated so maybe worth watching….

  3. VTK
    February 1, 2018

    I lived in England in the 70s and the only edible food was Indian or Chinese. I’m sure things are very different now, based on what I see on British TV shows.

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