All of the food from across the world should be available in London. After all London is THE world city. Not so long ago the entire world was watching London 2012. Surely I can find cuisine from every country in the city that I live in?
Note to self, make life easy, try and impress the boss and hit the ground running. British food I say to myself. If my googling (thank goodness for WiFi on the Tube to help) has found lots of cuisines not native to these green and pleasant lands, then British is easy. ‘One in the can’; as they say.
No. Not so easy. A few questions come to mind:
- What is British food?
- Where do I find it?
- Meat and two veg?
- A pie?
- Something artisan from Dorset?
- Do I include fish and chips with mushy peas?
- Kippers. I like kippers.
- Curry or gravy? (Not with the kippers)
I’m not very good at pondering. I like to be active and do things and I’m stuck. Google ‘British food’ and the first mention is India. That’s far away. Now being honored by Farmers Weekly magazine last year for being an Ambassador for British food, I’m a bit stuck. Modern British is easy, add a mango salsa, a little chili, Thai basil, but Winston Churchill British. I need more inspiration.
I open the fridge; find some left over crumble think to myself that’s British. Cup of tea, crumble and custard = comfort food. Yes, custard on this occasion was out of a carton, there are realities in life too you know – but by placing the tetra pack in the AGA Simmering Oven its warmed through in no time and no pan to clean = boy logic™. Ask any AGA shop and they will tell you how I do avoid washing dishes.
Roast Beef and horseradish sauce, Yorkshire pudding, gravy and vegetables. Or curry and rice, udon noodles or fajita. The fact remains that our world city has evolved to take Ethnic food and make it mainstream, last week Tesco reported that they sell over 1,000 Asia food lines alone in the UK. A few weeks back I had a client over from China who wanted ‘traditional British food’ and I knew very few places to go. Any other cuisine (I hope for the sake of this project) is available in London, but British food in Britain?
Finally, I find what I consider ‘quintessentially British food’, a restaurant called Mews of Mayfair. Tucked away in the middle of Mayfair, I meet the Executive Chef Richard Sweyer in the most amazing private dining room I have ever seen. The wallpaper covering the ceiling and walls was a map of the Commonwealth, a digestif trolley at the side of the room with classics like ‘Hennessey’, ‘Beefeater’ and many a sherry behind a beautifully set table with starched napkins and beautiful silver.
My cameraman is very keen to capture the ‘essence of British food’ from Richard. The setting is right and Richard and I chat. This man knows a thing or two about British food, we discuss the common context of ‘modern British’ and how traditionally British food was warm and hearty to keep one warm in the winter. Cameraman says ‘CUT’. I thought it was going great. I was reminded that it was turning into a seminar rather than an interview. We start again and then Richard lands the concept of British food in one sentence. “Its not one thing or another, its not just the food we grew up with, it, like any cuisine just evolves”.
“Very good old chap” I say. I hear “CUT”. We walk into the kitchen and start to cook.
I do love a fillet steak, nicely medium (from a cook’s point of view I never understood the concept of medium/rare. Surely it is one or the other?), I have cooked literally hundreds of them over 10 years to audiences of thousands of people on the AGA in the UK and North America, but how will Richard cook his? Bingo, he landed the answer right on my lap. Soak the steak in a little brine solution overnight to remove any trace of blood. Simply genius. Steak, simply yummy. I ask for béarnaise sauce, “English mustard” was Richards’ reply.
Now the AGA is made in Britain, and everyone who eats AGA cooked food knows thatmeat tastes better cooked on an AGA due to the cast iron ovens sealing the meat on the outside, heating up the juices inside and cooking it in a succulent manner. Cast iron loves heat and when heated distributes it evenly. Heating the AGA Cast iron grill pan in the Roasting Oven gets it supper hot and as I have been saying to audiences for years, if you want those char marks on the steak – oil the steak and not the pan.
Restaurant: Mews of Mayfair
Address: 10 – 11 Lancashire Court, New Bond Street, London, W1S 1EY
1 x beef fillet steak, about 2cm thick, trimmed
Light brine solution, enough to cover steak
Oil for coating
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
½ tsp fresh rosemary, chopped
1 tsp butter
- Place the fillet in the brine solution, cover, and place into the fridge overnight to remove any excess blood.
- Remove the fillet from the brine and pat dry with kitchen paper. Set aside for 5-10 minutes in the mean time, place an AGA cast iron grill pan into the Roasting Oven to heat.
- Place the grill pan onto the Boiling Plate with the AGA Bake-O-Glide Splash Shield over the inside of the Boiling Plate lid and use the AGA pan handle cover over the grill pan handle. Place the steak onto the grill pan and leave for a few moments, turn the steak and place the grill pan onto the floor of the Roasting Oven to finish cooking to the desired stage (medium rare, medium or well done) or take out of the pan for rare. Set onto a plate and allow to rest for a few minutes before serving.