Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Eating Ampersands

English cuisine has a pretty bad reputation in general, though I am not sure that it is deserved. Admittedly it's not flashy like French or Italian cuisine, but if you like simple and satisfying meals, the English aren't so bad at all. We've recently sampled two favorites: bangers & mash and fish & chips.

My wife borrowed a cookbook from the local library to check out local recipes. One recipe is bangers and mash, which is sausages and mashed potatoes for those of you not in the know. I'm a pretty big fan of this dish, having eaten it several times during our month or so when we could voucher our meals. It's standard fare at pubs across the UK.

After discovering the recipe, we drove to a local farm and bought fresh made sausages. Sinc our household goods had not arrived yet, we did not have a potato masher, so we didn't buy potatoes at the farm. Luckily the English also have lots of ready-to-eat items in their grocery stores. We were able to buy mashed potatoes in a plastic refrigerated tub. The only prep for them was heating in the microwave.

We fried the sausages in a pan to brown them, then finished cooking them in the oven. As they baked, we cooked some onions in the frying pan and added some beef stock and other ingredients to make the yummy, dark sauce. Combining all the ingredients was no problem and we had a wonderful dinner ready with little effort (something that will surely change now that we have the potato masher back). Jacob at first didn't like it, though after he tried one bite of sausage, he realized that he did like it. Sometimes that's how it goes.

Last Saturday, we were too wiped out from our Ikea trip and subsequent furniture construction to grill steaks like we planned. So we opted to go to a fish and chips place for a take away [Editor's note: that's "take out" in America) dinner. We arrived at Drakes Fish and Chips, where we previously had a good in-restaurant dining experience. They had a longish line, but we waited anyway. It was worth the wait.

The restaurant serves almost only fish and chips. If you want something else from the menu, like chicken bites or spam fritters (!?!?), you need to special order them before you get to the front of the line. "Special order" means calling out to the cook behind the counter. The cook didn't seem too organized that day, which may explain the huge back up. Patience was delightfully rewarded: They wrapped a piece of deep fried cod with a bunch of chips in paper. We left the store with a nice bundle ready to eat at home.

We got home and unwrapped our bundles. The fish was yummy and the chips were very unlike most American french fries. The chips were larger, tasted more like potatoes, and were a little soft or mushy. I like them very much and wound up eating some of the kids' leftovers. Our only failing was not having malt vinegar at home for the food. The kids did not eat the fish; we had the foresight to call out for chicken bites, which they did enjoy.

I don't think fish and chips will be a dish we make at home. We left our deep fryer back in the States, though I suppose we could pan fry them. Breading always seems like more work than it's worth. Maybe we'll change our minds or become bolder. Or buy a UK deep fryer. Only time and our appetites will tell.

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