— Banoffee pie. Saw this flavor on a Scottish ice cream store menu. Wikipedia says it’s a very popular combination of banana and toffee and suggested that it was widespread. Never heard of it (have you?). Didn’t ask at the time, because I was busy inquiring about …
Physalis is the orange fruit on the right of my ice cream plate, served at Martone’s in Edinburgh. (Photo by Laura Groch)
—Physalis. When served my order at the same ice cream store, I found the plate decorated with a small orange fruit, about the size of a large grape, with its husk peeled back like a tomatillo. The flavor was pleasantly sweet, not too overpowering; lots of little seeds inside. I asked what it was and was told with a shrug, “Physalis.” Which I’d also never heard of. Turns out it’s a kind of chokecherry. Not that I’ve ever encountered one of those before, either.
—Sticky toffee pudding. I’ve read about this stuff for years in various British novels, magazines, etc., so when I had the chance to order it at a Scottish hotel, I jumped at it. Oh, it’s heavenly. A cake soaked in caramel sauce. Yum, and forget the calories.
—Peri-peri sauce, also spelled piri-piri. Peri-peri is a kind of hot pepper; it also refers to a sauce made from the peppers that’s ubiquitous. We had peri-peri sauce on the take-away chicken wraps at Marks & Spencer. Very tasty, not terribly hot, just right. The Brits also have a fast-food chain called Nando’s that’s like a Pollo Loco, only with peri-peri sauce as the marinade. Sadly, I was outvoted every time I wanted to go there. Next time, I’m getting me some Nando’s. (I just found out that Nando’s has restaurants in Virginia, Maryland and D.C. What the hey? Come on, California!)
—On a related hot-sauce note, the Burger King outlet in Euston train station was offering burgers with “sweet chilli (sic) sauce.” I think chili garlic sauce (like the Huy Fong company makes) would be even better.
—Flapjacks. We saw these advertised widely in London. I thought, “How nice, we can get pancakes! But how odd to call them flapjacks.” Nooooope. Flapjacks are a kind of granola/energy bar in lots of nut-fruit-chocolate chip combinations.
—Try this in the U.S. Dept.: Baked beans on toast. Nutritious, filling, inexpensive. I knew this was a staple of British kitchens, but I didn’t realize how iconic it was until reading a newspaper article about a breakfast program for low-income elementary students. An official was proudly discussing the newly launched program: “This morning, we were able to provide every student with a breakfast of baked beans on toast.”
—Welsh cakes. (I told you I’d get around to these sooner or later.) I’ve written before about how I like to take food along as we sightsee in case we need a snack and can’t find one. Browsing a London grocery store for something nonperishable, we found packages of small cakes that looked like muffin tops, but not as sweet. They were sprinkled with granulated sugar and dotted with currants. Truthfully, they didn’t look terribly appealing, but the price was right, so were the size and weight, so I plunked down my pounds and bought a couple of packages.
Well. They were very pleasant indeed, sweeter than they looked and moister too, delightful as a snack or an accompaniment to tea. More like a soft cookie than a “cake.”
I bought a few more packages near the end of our trip for souvenirs. When I returned home, I was pleasantly surprised to see I already had a recipe for Welsh cakes from a very authentic source — on a tea towel a friend gave me as a souvenir from her trip to the British Isles.
Welsh cakes turned out to be so delightful, I brought several packages home. (Photo by Laura Groch)
If you want to make these, and you’re not a fan of lard (although it has no trans fats — just saying), I suspect you could use the same amount of butter again and/or vegetable shortening to get pretty close results. This recipe also calls for raisins, which is fine, but do try currants if you can get them. Enjoy this “little thing in life”!
1 pound flour (3 1/3 cups)
1 teaspoon baking powder
4 ounces each butter and lard
4 ounces seedless raisins (3/4 cup)
7 ounces sugar (1 cup)
A little milk to mix
1 pinch each allspice and salt, with a little caster sugar (Note: Granulated white sugar is
a good substitute)
Mix together flour, baking powder, allspice and salt in a bowl. Rub in butter and lard. Add sugar and raisins. Beat the eggs and add to mixture using a little milk to make a fairly stiff dough. Roll out to about 1/4-inch thick and cut into 2-inch rounds. Cook on a greased griddle or frying pan, for about 3 minutes each side or until golden brown. Sprinkle with sugar and serve. Makes several dozen.
(c) copyright Laura Groch 2015