Friday, February 3, 2012

Spotted Dick and Clotted Cream and a Traditional British Affair

The beauty of being a foodie lies in the ability to make and share food with others. There's nothing in life that brings people together like a good meal, good wine, and good conversation. For the past four years, I have been blessed with inclusion in a supper club where we rotate hosts and houses and come up with varied meal plans to tackle together. Although we've done the typical beloved fare like Italian feasts and ethnic cuisine, I always love it when we step out of our traditional palate and shoot for a meal that we normally wouldn't eat. Not only does this give us an opportunity to learn about another culture or geographic region's culinary idiosyncracies, but it allows us to appreciate a wide range of never before tried dishes.

Recently my club decided upon a traditional English dinner. When I remarked to a non-member of the club that I would be enjoying British delights, he remarked, "Oh you mean bad and boring food?" The English have been long maligned for their bland, heavy and starch laden classics as well as their penchant for strange things like herbed veggies. But we managed to come up with a menu that blended a variety of food groups to produce a pleasant array of choices.

 Stilton Tart

Shepherd's Pie

Steak and Guinness Pie
(Guinness being expertly substituted for the traditional kidney)

Minty Mushy Peas

Butternut Squash Soup

Brussel Sprouts

Red Cabbage

Cauliflower with Cheese

The beauty of doing this is that everything doesn't always come up gourmet and oftentimes we feel like we are getting an authentic slice of a region even if the choices are something we wouldn't necessarily run to over again. And then there's always the addition of drinks that make everything go down smooth. For this meal, we enjoyed wine and Guinness beer and an English honey mead for dessert; one a heavy stout and the other a sweet wine that went perfectly with the dessert of spotted dick and clotted cream that I was assigned to make.

 A table adorned with the British Flag

When guests read the name of the dessert they cringed, but spotted dick means "raisin studded fat" (or cake) and the cream is supposed to be made in an oven for hours on end until a clotted skin forms at the top, which is used to top the cake. I didn't want to spend hours waiting on cream to clot so I mixed 8 ounces of mascarpone with a pint of heavy cream until whipped and dropped in a bead of almond extract. This cream became the surprise of the evening and is something I will use in lieu of normal whipped cream again because it was truly delicious. One guest remarked that the spotted dick was only a vehicle for this luscious cream and that is the true gem of the evening that I will take away from the whole experience.

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