It was the custard creams with ‘Eat me’ stamped into them that appealed when I first looked at the new book by the Fabulous Baker Brothers. They immediately made me want to start creaming butter and sugar, put the oven on and make a nice pot of tea to go with them.
Maybe it’s the chilly, damp, in fact properly British weather we’ve been having that drew me to the cheery comfort of the afternoon tea section. But recipes for gloriously buttery home-made Custard Creams and Bourbon biscuits, and Jammies (very generous sized Jammie Dodgers that look as if they’d be wonderful with raspberry jam in the middle) would surely be tempting at any time. There’s something about the mix of nostalgia, sweet chocolate fillings and home-made jam that makes a traditional teatime such an irresistible institution.
Kate Glover of Lahloo Tea gives a great insight into the ‘Magic of Tea’ in this chapter, touching on the “terroir” of tea. She declares that:
“Tea is just what you need on a cold rainy day when you are sitting by the fire with hot buttered crumpets and a good book.”
Of course this book isn’t all about teatime; Tom and Henry Herbert take you through a day of glorious grub, from breakfast to brunch, lunch, picnics, barbecues, dinner and pudding. Finally, there are ideas for midnight snacks, for when as Tom says:
“..the people you are with are just too good to let go, these kinds of snacks will keep the party alive.”
Even here, alongside the Fiery Fish Balls (made to fuel Blackpool revelry) and Popping Candy Truffles there’s a nostalgic, comforting element with Anchovy Soldiers made with sourdough suggested as a salty treat to go with a Scotch.
The Food in ‘Glorious British Grub’ strikes me as a combination of lashings of homely and old-fashioned food (which has a great appeal to me) and ideas with a more innovative, contemporary twist. Perhaps something to do with the fact that Tom and Henry Herbert are young foodies with a strong family food heritage.
Hobbs House Bakery, the Cotswolds based family business that they’re part of goes back five generations. Henry runs the traditional butcher’s shop which shares a front door with Hobbs House Bakery in Chipping Sodbury, so has some great ideas for cooking and buying meat from pie-fillings to pulled pork. I particularly like his section on buying and cooking steak, which highlights some of the cheaper cuts that we’ve forgotten what to do with. Cheaper cuts that are often minced are highlighted by Henry in his ‘New Steaks on the Block’ section where he suggests cooking as steaks, cuts like False Filet, Skirt and Hanger Steak:
“Often cheaper and more flavoursome, these steaks are making a big noise. As long as they are cooked and carved right, they can be mind-blowing for a fraction of the price of the Big Flour.”
Like their current TV series, this book is based on the baker brothers travels around the country over the last year; they visited six popular sightseeing hotspots, meeting great food producers (a passion for good ingredients is evident throughout their recipes), getting inspiration for some glorious british grub and encouraging cafe and restaurant owners to get back to proper cooking with proper local ingredients. This may include cooking dishes with mackerel and beef when visiting Exmouth or taking part in a scone-off in Bourton-on-the-Water.
I have to admit that the more gimmicky recipes developed to be eye-catching on the TV series such as ‘Shakespeare’s Codpiece’ (pulled pork with a spiced filling and filo pastry) or the Blackpool inspired Pleasure Cake (a big cake with smashed rock and popping candy, topped with candy floss and LED lights) didn’t immediately appeal. Not that I’m a kill-joy when faced with a fabulously decadent dish – the rhubarb knickerbocker glory with pistachios is on my list to try very soon.
And I obviously like the fact that the pulled pork (I love the recipe for this alone without adding the fussiness of the filo pastry) is spiced up with Elizabethan inspired ingredients. It’s a good point that although some of the seasonings in tempting dishes like roast beetroot with puy lentils or goats curd and mint salad sound both exotic and to add a contemporary twist, British cooks have actually been adept in using spices since the Crusades.
It’s just that when I read about the grandpa Wells inspired Bacon Porridge, ‘Overnight Porridge’, home-cured bacon with juniper berries and coriander or even how to make a proper Cornish pasty, I decided that I prefer the simple dishes that show that this butcher and baker duo may be very charismatic on telly but they also really know their stuff food-wise. In fact, back to their bakery background again, some of the bread recipes are the ones that I’m keen to make first. They’re perfectly chosen to go with the dishes they accompany, from the wheaten bed with hot-smoked trout pate to rotis to go with lamb. And they may even make an appearance in my kitchen before the custard creams.
THE FABULOUS BAKER BROTHERS GLORIOUS BRITISH GRUB IS PUBLISHED BY HEADLINE PRICED £20.
I received a review copy of this book from Headline. All photos in this piece are by Chris Terry.