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Eating for Britain [Paperback]

Simon Majumdar
4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
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Book Description

17 Mar 2011

'Who are these people? Look at what they eat.'

Simon Majumdar travels the country to find out what British food - from Arbroath Smokies to Welsh rarebit to chicken tikka masala - reveals about British identity. Exploring the history of British food, he celebrates the wealth of fare on offer today, and meets the people all over the country - the farmers, the fishermen, the brewers, bakers and cheese makers - who have given the British reason to love their food again.

Join Simon as he becomes a judge at the Great British Pie Competition (where, to his sorrow, he ends up judging vegetarian pies), as he learns to make Balti with a true Brummie, hunts for grouse, and sees seaside rock being made in Blackpool. EATING FOR BRITAIN is an impassioned and hilarious journey into the meaning of eating British.


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Product details

  • Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: John Murray (17 Mar 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1848542275
  • ISBN-13: 978-1848542273
  • Product Dimensions: 13.2 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 700,971 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

His enthusiasm for the food - and its producers - is infectious. Eating for Britain is stuffed with fascinating facts that will have you yearning for a Lancashire hot pot or proper fish and chips (Financial Times)

'Simon Majumdar knows his sh** . . . Plus - the bastard can write' (Anthony Bourdain, author of KITCHEN CONFIDENTIAL)

'Majumdar writes like a dream and eats like a pig. It's a killer combination. Eat My Globe is a very funny, very hungry book, much like its author' (Jay Rayner, Observer food critic)

'Personal, enthusiastic and very certain about what's good' (Observer)

Book Description

The author of EAT MY GLOBE investigates how British food defines what it means to be British


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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A great read 22 Jun 2011
By mp
Format:Paperback
Well worth reading, this book looks at the broad spectrum of UK food that can compete with the best that Europe has to offer. The author spent a lot of time travelling throughout the country meeting producers and his (and their) passion for the food comes through clearly. He also has included quite a lot of the historical context which underlies the foods/dishes he examines, which is very interesting and which suggests that the phrase "British food revival" misses the point.
His writing is always entertaining and, while I dont always agree with his broader opinions on food, he makes clear and reasoned arguments.
If I have a criticism (and after the time and effort which was put in to write this book and the style with which it is written it seems almost coldhearted to criticise), I got the feeling that some of the chapters were a little too short, that a little more detail could have been included in some areas. But this is a minor quibble and I would recommend this book to anyone who is interested in UK food
(and I would recommend his website too [...]
Looking forward to his next one.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Finally, an appreciation of British Cuisine 14 May 2012
Format:Paperback
Simon Majumdar (a fellow Yorkshireman) has finally set the record straight on British cuisine. When done correctly with fresh ingredients, it can hold itd own with the rest of Europe. He does, however, explainf why it was so bad for so long which can be a cautionary tale for other nations (US? Or at least parts of it). I like SM's sense of humor (I'm writing from the US) as well as his keen isights.

One glaring omission, however. No mention of bubble and squeak ! Not exactly restaurant food but one of the tastiest left-overs ever and truly a great contribution to cuisine.
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2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Yummy yummy! 30 Oct 2010
By Em
Format:Paperback
I borrowed this from the library - as even in paperback it was a bit pricey - what an excellent book! Made me buy pork scratchings from my butcher and eat them sureptitously in the corner out of sight from my daughter. Definitely worth a read -but get the price down !
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1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Life in the UK 20 Jun 2010
Format:Paperback
An absolute must read to obtain British citizenship !!!
I'll recommend Simon Majumdar to the Home Office .
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Amazon.com: 5.0 out of 5 stars  3 reviews
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars If you like eating and you want to visit the UK, this is the book for you! 8 Oct 2010
By Kiwi - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Kindle Edition
From pork pies to jellied eels, Simon Majumdar documents the endangered flavours of his homeland.

At the end of last year the author finished a journey that took him to nearly every corner of Britain. His aim was to meet as many as possible of the people who grow, prepare and sell the food Brits eat, to construct the perfect ''Best of British'' menu. Along the way he met farmers, chefs, butchers, brewers, cheesemakers, distillers, restaurateurs, hunters and anglers who all took time to share their lives and food with him. It was a journey that was filled with privileged experiences: He imbibed whisky costing 10,000 ($16,250) a bottle (I'm jealous) and sipped exquisite tea from delicate china cups at Brown's Hotel in London's Mayfair.

It was also a journey blighted with occasional sadness as he witnessed the seemingly terminal decline of some of Britain's most traditional foods. Whether you love them or loathe them, London's pie-and-mash shops and jellied-eel stalls will probably be little more than a memory in less than a generation's time. There were some experiences that gave cause for concern (hang your head in shame, those who think that chicken tikka lasagne is a good idea). Despite this, he returned from his adventure convinced that British food is on the up.

Here's a few highlioghts which will give you a flavor of the book :)

The Midlands - Staffordshire oatcakes

"A regional British treasure, the oatcake, or ''oat flannel'' as it is sometimes known as, fuelled generations of workers in the Potteries. Quite different from its crisp Scottish cousin, the Staffordshire oatcake is more like a dense pancake made from batter containing three types of flour and oats. As the ceramics factories have disappeared, so, too, have the bakeries that provided their workers with this sustaining breakfast. However, there remain a dozen or so producers and between them they still make 350,000 oatcakes a year, nearly all eaten within the boundaries of Stoke-on-Trent. At the Oatcake Kitchen, former ceramics worker Chris Bates expertly griddles up to 1000 oatcakes a day. Try one the local way, stuffed with cheese. Eat in, or take away as the workers would have done as they rushed to the factory. Delicious."

Melton Mowbray pork pies

"If I were stranded on a deserted island, I would dream of Melton Mowbray pork pies. The hand-raised, hot-water pastry; the fresh, seasoned pork; and the jelly from trotters make the most perfect combination. Last year the Melton Mowbray Pork Pie Association (see mmppa.co.uk) finally attained European PGI (protected geographical indication) status after more than a decade of trying. The name and recipe are now protected. If you want to see the fine art of hand-raising a pork pie for yourself, head to Dickinson & Morris in the town of Melton Mowbray, Leicestershire. It is one of the oldest pie shops and gives demonstrations."

Fish and chips

"Like so much of the best of British food, fish and chips is a product of immigration. Portuguese-Jewish refugees brought their skills in the fish-frying department and collided with their Belgian and French counterparts who knew about frying potatoes. The dish was one of the few not to be rationed during World War II, so detrimental would it have been to the nation's morale. I tried examples in dozens of places but my favourite was in the unlikely surroundings of a Birmingham shopping centre. Great British Eatery was created in 2007 by two Brummies, Conrad Brunton and Andrew Insley. They fry their fish and chips in beef dripping and the smell as you walk through the door of their takeaway goes a long way to explaining why the place is a huge hit."

Northern England - Lancashire hotpot

"Few sights are more appealing than that of a hotpot being taken from the oven, its meaty lamb juices bubbling through the golden potato crust. Yet so few people have actually tried a real one. It is a slow-cooked reminder of hard-working times and deserves to be treasured, particularly when made as well as it is by a terrific young chef, Warrick Dodds, of Hastings in Lytham St Annes. Order it with a side dish of pickled red cabbage and a pint of local ale and follow it with an Eccles cake."

London - Jellied eels

"People either love them or loathe them. Unfortunately for the few remaining jellied-eel stalls in London, the latter seems more common. This is a shame because eels, cooked with water, salt and parsley, then set in the gelatine they release, are delicious. Tubby Isaacs's family has been selling eels on Goulston Street, near Petticoat Lane in London's East End, since 1919. This is the perfect place to learn the art of eating jellied eel. You might not like them as much as I do but you'll be sampling a piece of history."

Potted shrimps

"Brown shrimps with clarified butter and a hit of mace have been a staple of British cuisine since the late-Victorian era. Nowhere is this made with more care than at London's oldest restaurant, Rules, in Covent Garden. The shrimp is sauteed, set in butter and lobster oil and served with lemon and a slice of brown toast."

Scotland - Arbroath smokies

"Arbroath smokies are cleaned and brined haddock that have been hot-smoked over oak chips until their skin is golden and the flesh beautifully white. Iain R. Spink and his mobile smoking set-up are a regular sight at the farmers' markets of Fife and he is well worth seeking out for one of the finest tastes of my whole trip. The markets are on Saturdays, rotating between Kirkcaldy, St Andrews, Dunfermline and Cupar. It is worth getting here early to see Spink and his enthusiastic crew at work and to buy a hot smokie straight from the fire, with its juices still bubbling under the skin."

Haggis

"The haggis by veteran Edinburgh butcher George Bower in Stockbridge are made with the whole ''pluck'' - lamb's heart, lung and liver - simmered in game stock and then minced twice with fresh onions, pinhead oatmeal and spices. The offally end result might not be to everyone's taste but there is no doubting that it is the real deal."

Chicken tikka masala

"The owner of the Shish Mahal curry house in Glasgow, Ali Ahmed Aslam, has a strong claim to be the inventor of chicken tikka masala. He created the dish in the mid-1970s using a tin of tomato soup to make a spicy gravy when a customer complained that his meal was dry. The rest is history. So much so that last year a Glasgow member of parliament tabled a motion to apply for protected status and to have the dish renamed the Glasgow Tikka Masala. That might be a rather silly notion but a sizzling bowl of tender spiced chicken, cooked in the tandoor then coated with a fiery, tomato-based sauce, is a British treasure. Ali Aslam and his two sons can still be found at the Shish Mahal, carrying plates of their most famous dish to hungry Glaswegians."

Northern Ireland - The Ulster fry

"The great British breakfast can be a thing of beauty but is all too often a plate of stodge floating in grease. Not so at Georgian House in Comber, south of Belfast. Unassuming chef Peter McKonkey has three decades of experience in Ireland's best kitchens and has one of the best ''frys'' in the country. The whopping plateful includes organic eggs, dense meaty sausages, thick smoked bacon, local black pudding, tomatoes, mushrooms and - just to make sure you wobble out the door - the best soda bread and potato farls I have tasted."

Yellowman sweets

"A treat for sweet-toothed Belfast boys and girls for generations, yellowman was originally created by Peggy Devlin and sold at the Ould Lammas Fair in Ballycastle. As the name suggests, it is a lurid yellow candy made from caramelised sugar frothed with bicarbonate of soda and allowed to set before being broken into jagged shards. The best-known source for yellowman is now Aunt Sandra's candy shop in Belfast. David, the nephew of the original owner, still makes most of the sweets the shop sells and gives regular demonstrations."

Wales - Faggots and peas

"They might not have the most appealing name (it comes from the Welsh for ''little bundle'') or be made from the most tempting ingredients but these cricket ball-sized parcels of minced pork lung, liver and belly wrapped in bacon or caul (the lining of the stomach) are delicious. N.S. James family butchers has made award-winning versions since the shop opened in 1959. Local restaurants such as the Beaufort Arms (beaufortraglan.co.uk) have them on their specials menu but I think there is no better way of eating them than straight from the butcher's oven as a takeaway, doused with vinegar and a hit of white pepper."

Welsh cakes

"The chance to join Pat Maddocks as she prepared a batch of 1000 Welsh cakes in the small kitchen of her Gower home allowed me to relive a slice of my childhood. The smell and taste of her flat, fruit-laden griddled cakes (like small scones to look at but more delicious), taken hot from the stove and spread with butter, transported me back to the days when my own grandmother prepared them. Pat and her husband, Anthony, have recently opened a tearoom where you can sample Wales's finest baked goods, including cakes made with a shot of Penderyn Welsh whisky."
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Yes, there is wonderful traditional food in Britain. Here's what and where and how. 23 May 2012
By Craig Matteson - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I was born in Detroit in the 1950s at the height of its Industrial Power and grew up in one if its suburbs called Wayne. We had our Ford plant. My parents were working class folks, we had good schools, had lots of food to eat and nice clothes to wear. Frankly, we viewed ourselves as middle class. I knew that people who had more money than us lived in bigger homes, ate fancier food, had more expensive clothes, drove fancier cars. But I did not see fancier as necessarily better. Just more expensive. I rejected that as evidence that it was really any better.

Simon Majumdar uses this terrific book to show us that traditional foods may be humble compared to the elite and fashionable cuisines, but, when done right, need not take a back seat to them. I concur with those sentiments most enthusiastically. We all need to eat but just sticking on a feedbag and sticking any old chunk of calories into our mouth that was cranked out of a machine with low quality ingredients is no bargain even when low priced. Any more than paying a high price for a fancy cut of beef makes sense when you could have more flavor and more fun with a less expensive cut cooked with care and a touch of tradition and creativity.

He organizes the music by meal and then takes us on a tour of great examples of that item on the menu for that meal. These are traditional British meals and foods. That isn't to say they are all found in England. These foods are distributed throughout Britain. And Majumdar even laments that eels are now brought over from across the channel because local stocks have dwindled. But he laments even more that dishes are dying out and the last remaining specimens are left to older people and when the last generation retires from the shop it will likely close. There are a few exceptions where young people are taking traditional cooking seriously. But too often, the author notes, examples of traditional cooking in fashionable celebrity-chef restaurants are witty satires of the traditional fare and therefore do not count.

Growing up in Wayne, Michigan with World War II in the air, a sense of Britain was permeating American culture. This became even more pervasive with the British Invasion of Rock & Roll Bands and the fashions of Mary Quant and the designers of Carnaby Street. With my bent toward classical music I also fell in love with the music of William Byrd, Henry Purcell, G. F. Handel, Edward Elgar, Ralph Vaughan Williams, William Walton and Benjamin Britten.

In the mid-1990s I had the great fortune of being able to travel to the UK more than a dozen times on business and couple more just for fun. And I went to France, Germany, Belgium, and Austria on other business, as well. I became even more of an Anglophile. As a very conservative American, I am not enamored of its politics, but set that aside, and I really love the people, the culture, and all the wonderful things I got to explore. Of course, it helped that I had a nice expense account.

Well, being a citizen of Great Britain, Majumdar knows the culture far better than I ever could and he travelled the length and breadth of England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland and ate a wide range of items, some wonderful others not so much. I do note right off that bat that the British seem to use a LOT more white pepper than Americans. We use black pepper and treat white pepper as something more for Asian dishes. When I do some of the dishes in this book I will have to be sure and use the proper white pepper. Some of these dishes are provided by the author to inspire us and others to protect us so we won't have to experience what he did on our behalf.

For Breakfast he found the best Full English Breakfast for us. I experienced several different versions at London hotels and were told they were great. I found them good. But the European and American tastes for breakfast are quite different. Taught me the glories of Black Pudding, Craster Kippers, and the King's Liver. He took us to the legend and realities of the Arbroath Smokie, Staffordshire Oatcakes, and the Bacon Butty - which you must always cut crosswise and never on the diagonal or you don't get the full flavor. I have to say I do loved smoked fish for breakfast. But the way these fish are described I would think I should travel to where they are made to eat them there to really understand them. Maybe I will get to some day.

For Elevenses - a tradition we should adopt in America - we get Tea and Biscuits, Yorkshire Parkin, Welsh Cakes (scones cooked on a griddle) and Pikelets. Australian pikelets seem to be a bit different. When I was in Queensland if you made pancakes you just made a few extra and left them under a cozy to eat with butter and jam at room temperature later and those were called pikelets. They even sold these little pancakes in wrappers at the grocery store if it was too burdensome to make them yourself. The difference with the English variety is that they seem to put in baking powder to make them rise more, I guess.

Lunch is where things really start to get interesting. The Lancashire Hot Pot is braised lamb shoulder and neck with veggies. Sounds delicious. The Fish and Chips is where Majumdar focuses on his hope for the future because the shop he focused on was a couple of young guys taking the time and care to do the food right. I have to admit that I have never heard of the Welsh lamb dish Cawl, but it sounds wonderful. Lancashire Cheese we can get a gourmet cheese shops right here in Ann Arbor, Roast Beef we do quite well here. The ideal Yorkshire pudding he describes seems a lot like what we call popovers here. Pie and Mash and Jellied Eels are dishes I would love to try in the company of someone who truly appreciates the dish. I would have no idea with its virtues and vices are without guidance as I was eating it.

The Afternoon Tea is a sublime introduction to tradition at a great hotel and the glories of clotted cream. Yes, we Americans haven't a clue unless we have eaten it there. And even if we have, we probably don't understand it properly without eating with someone who does. This book was a great introduction. I have eaten it and found it glorious. But I do think most Americans will have to do a little work searching the web to understand the differences between clotted cream, double cream, and single cream. And there are other varieties in the culinary world, as well.

Snacks include the Cornish Pasty, which is a traditional dish in Michigan because of the mining history we have in the Upper Peninsula. Of course, we do it a bit differently. Melton Mowbray Pork Pies, which I have never tasted but Majumdar's devotion to them makes me want to. And Park Scratchings which are just a different name for Cracklin' over here.

Supper starters include Potted Shrimps, Cromer Crabs, and Smoked Salmon. The author gives me a history of smoked salmon that makes me appreciate it all the more. The main courses on offer are Rabbit Pie, Steak and Kidney Pudding (which I have eaten and enjoyed), Chicken Tikka Masala (which I have eaten but never appreciated as fully as I do after this book), and Haggis. I have to admit that the author makes Haggis seem a lot less threatening than the comedy shows would have me believe.

The book ends with discussions of traditional desserts and drinks that I will leave to you.

The book has several recipes that will help you re-create tasty versions of the traditional dishes in your own kitchen. Have fun with them!

This is an informative and funny read. Even if you are an American who has no clue about Britain, I think you will enjoy it if you like to broaden your food and cultural horizons. If, like me, you are a bit of an Anglophile, I think it is a must read.

Enjoy!

Reviewed by Craig Matteson, Saline, MI
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Required reading for foodies 9 Mar 2013
By Dr. Terry Simpson - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
The ability to craft a sentence like Gordon Ramsay can create beef Wellington. Simon takes you on his journey to prove there is great food in Britain all while showing you the great food artisans there. If you are a foodie - read this
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