One thing I love about British food is that it’s not scary. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy a good walk on the culinary wild side (fufu and fish heads in Ghana, roasted grubs in Thailand, bull testicles in Spain, and sheep brain right here in the Lone Star State) but sometimes, there is such a thing as a pleasant non-surprise. Brits have mastered the meat and potato combo, along with gems like fish and chips, mushy peas, all things pickled, puddings (or “desserts” as we Yanks say) and other yummy treats (short bread? yes, please).
As our time in England drew to a close, Hubs and I took a couple of day trips into Wales. If you’ve never been, Wales is a beautiful country with lots of sheep and unusual linguistic choices. Exhibit A:
Right. So. On our jaunt to Hay-on-Wye, “the town of books,” we were delighted by a pop-up farmers’ market but I was absolutely blown away by a food entirely novel to me: flap jacks. Now, as a card carrying American, I grew up with flap jacks as pancakes. Pretty run of the mill stuff. But let me tell you about flap jacks on the other side of the pond: they are so much more delicious, because they are even more full of fat, sugar, and carbs. They’re a little oat bar and if you’re lucky, you can find them topped with chocolate fudge. Wanna fly off to flap jack heaven? Here’s how:
* 6 tbsp. syrup
* 2 sticks butter
* 12 oz. oats
- Preheat oven to 350
- Butter a 9″x 13″ pan and line the base with baking parchment.
- Place the syrup and butter into a large saucepan and heat gently until the butter has melted into the syrup and stir well.
- Put the oats into a baking bowl, add a pinch of salt then pour over the butter and syrup mixture and stir to coat the oats.
- Pour the mixture into the prepared pan and spread evenly.
- Bake in the preheated oven for 25 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from the oven while the flapjack is still slightly soft, they will harden once cool.
- Cut the flapjack into bars and let cool completely before serving.
After stuffing myself full of flap jacks, our second day in Wales was spent getting slightly lost on Sugar Loaf Mountain. Check out the kind of creepy Medieval looking forest we found:
But I digress…on our way back from Hay, we made a pit stop in Hereford (England side of the border) at the Oak Church butchery, farm shop, and garden centre (“r” before “e” because that’s how they do it). At the sight of fresh vegetables, every cut of meat you could imagine –and probably didn’t know existed– and a cheese case that made me weak in the knees, I knew we were in just the right place.Though I stuck with a grilled portobello mushroom, Hubs bought a few gorgeous steaks and I gotta say, it was nice to see the animals right there in the field enjoying the open air and cloudy, damp sky.
It was one of our last nights in the UK and we wanted to make a special, slow dinner for Mum and her beau. We decided to start with local cheeses (Herefordshire goat cheese and a firmer cheese called Little Hereford), crackers and a scrumptious assortment of olives stuffed with garlic, and pickled onions stuffed with blue cheese.
Dinner was steak/portobello, with roasted vegetables, and garlic mashed potatoes. We finished up European style with a green salad and, finally, a homemade rhubarb crumble.
Our meal, starting with wine and nibbles, started around 5 o’clock in the afternoon and eased into the latest hours of the night. There was no rush, no better place to be. For several creeping hours we ignored our phones and instead enjoyed sharing the kitchen, simple food, real face-to-face conversation, and maybe a few too many bottles of wine.
If this is the best of British eating, I’ll take it.