Toad-in-the-hole, bread and butter pudding and more English dishes
Over the past century, English cooking has received a bad rap from other nations, yet the true gems of this cuisine have been largely underestimated and forgotten. English food has developed over millennia, with increasingly diverse influences, yet it remains at its heart a primarily hearty, rustic and unpretentious affair. The arrival of the Romans brought cheese making and rabbits, followed by colonisation and later immigration, which not only introduced ingredients such as tamarind to the English kitchen (did you know it’s is a key ingredient in Worcestershire sauce?), but also made dishes such as British Indian curries a standalone culinary genre.
This year, we celebrated modern British cooking standards by introducing, for the first time, a British restaurant category into the annual Time Out Dubai Restaurant Awards. And with the feast day of England’s patron saint, Saint George, falling at the end of this week on Tuesday April 23, we decided to celebrate one corner of the British Isles and its culinary contribution to Dubai’s food scene.
Toad in the hole This hearty dish is made with a Yorkshire pudding-style batter, which is baked around sausages to create a crispy casing. Try it in Dubai at Raffles: the hotel chain is celebrating its 125th birthday by offering a year-long season of menus using recipes dating back to the 19th century. Among them are many from Mrs Beeton’s 1861 cookbook, including her original recipe for toad in the hole: in this case the dish is made with rump steak and sheep’s kidneys instead of sausages. It’s served at the hotel’s weekly Friday brunch. From Dhs235. Fri 1pm-4.30pm. Raffles Dubai, Oud Metha (04 314 9888).
Calf’s liver and veal bacon Characteristic of English meat dishes is the pairing of two simple ingredients such as lamb and mint. Historically, liver was a cheap but rich source of iron, often prepared by pan-frying it with bacon and onions to add a little sweetness and tone down any dryness. Try a modern version at Alfie’s, which uses veal bacon. You can also try English staples such as bubble and squeak, a dish made with potatoes and leftover vegetables fried in a pan, and named after the sound it makes while cooking. Dhs68. Alfie’s, Jumeirah Emirates Towers, Sheikh Zayed Road (04 319 8785).
Eton mess The story goes that this dessert was first created at English boys’ school Eton, and served at cricket matches. It features strawberries, cream and meringue, which is intentionally broken to create a rustic mix of textures, hence the word ‘mess’. At the Rivington Grill, the dish is made with rhubarb, another English favourite. The venue offers plenty of other British classics, including fish and chips, roast beef with Yorkshire puddings and beef Wellington. Dhs40. Rivington Grill, Souk Madinat Jumeirah (04 366 6464).
Sticky toffee pudding Like many British puddings, this classic dessert is made with a steamed sponge, topped with a sticky toffee sauce. It’s thought that the recipe originates from Yorkshire, in the north of the country. At The Ivy, this pudding is made with banana, an unusual addition that gives it an extra-gooey edge. Also available at The Ivy is one of England’s most popular desserts: apple and blackberry crumble. Dhs55. The Ivy, Jumeirah Emirates Towers, Sheikh Zayed Road (04 319 8767).
Bread and butter pudding This traditional dessert is made by layering bread and raisins in a dish, topped with a mixture of eggs and cream, which is then baked to achieve a custard-like consistency. The dish dates back as far as 1723, although some early recipes used bone marrow. The version at Rhodes Mezzanine is among our favourites: it’s given an modern update with elegant chevrons of bread that are crisp and caramelised on the outside. Dhs75. Rhodes Mezzanine, Grosvenor House Dubai, Dubai Marina (04 399 8888).
Ploughman’s lunch It’s a commonly accepted myth that the ploughman’s lunch, a platter of cheese, bread, pickles and cold cuts, was the traditional lunchtime fare of hardworking men in the fields. Yet many now attribute the dish to a post-war dairy marketing board, a faux-rustic combination dreamed up to encourage people to eat more cheese. Try it at Double Decker, where the ploughman’s platter comes with English cheddar cheese, gherkins, pickled onions, roast tomato, pickle and crusty bread, as well as chicken, turkey or other meats. Dhs80. Double Decker, Al Murooj Rotana, Sheikh Zayed Road (04 321 1111). Also try… English cheese According to the British Cheese Board, there are more than 700 different cheese products within Britain. A few of these varieties include Cheshire (one of the oldest varieties, and referred to in the Domesday Book); Shropshire blue (which, confusingly, is made in Leicestershire and Nottinghamshire), stilton and its unpasteurised cousin, stichelton; Cornish yarg; double Gloucester; red Leicester and Wensleydale. Here’s our pick of must-try varieties of English cheese.
Cornish blue This blue cheese is a global award winner – it was named World Cheese Champion in 2010. Originating from Cornwall at the south-westerly tip of England, it’s handmade from pasteurised cow’s milk, hand salted and allowed to mature for 12 to 14 weeks. The flavour is mellow and sweet. Dhs22 per 100g. Jones the Grocer, Sheikh Zayed Road (04 346 6886).
Long Clawson blue stilton Located in Leicestershire, the Long Clawson dairy has specialised in making stilton since 1911. The cheese comes in both blue and white varieties: blue stilton is characterised by a creamy consistency with a tangy, sharp flavour. Dhs59.25 for 175g. Milk and Honey, Meadows Town Centre 1, Emirates Hills (04 435 6363).
Lye Cross Farm cheddar This Bristol-based dairy, in the county of Somerset, is located six miles from the town of Cheddar, from which cheddar cheese originates. The dairy specialises in making a variety of cheddar cheeses, and the range is available in Dubai at Choitrams – don’t miss the organic and vintage-matured varieties. The organic range is due to be stocked by Ripe this month. From Dhs15.95 for 200g. Choitrams, various locations, www.choithram.com.