In this week’s British Pantry, we’re paying homage not to a product, but a whole brand – and a US one at that. We don’t think the contradiction here is anything to worry about. After all, we have spoken many times about the shared culinary heritage of us transatlantic cousins, and the “57 Varieties” of the H. J. Heinz Company founded in Sharpsburg, PA in 1869 offer a prime example. From ketchup to Worcestershire sauce to cans of soup, Heinz’s condiments and convenient sustenance is as beloved in New York City as in Norwich or Newcastle.
But in this store-cupboard romance, there’s one particular product which we feel the Brits have well and truly made their own. For many, beans on toast has summed up the frugal food that’s dominated British plates since World War II. Hungover students and busy mums alike knew that with a can opener, a microwave and a toaster you could fill demanding stomachs pretty sharpish – and for less than £1! Indeed, Brits consume 95% of the world’s baked beans. And while the Jamie Oliver age of British cuisine has seen a slowdown in their sales, they’re still one of the biggest sellers in our store and restaurant.
^ A rather silly take on Gordon Ramsey’s F-Word, paying homage to beans on toast.
With news that Heinz are set to release a new five bean variety of the classic, we’re interested to see whether they can tickle the more exotic, health-conscious tastes of British taste buds – as well as try them for ourselves! And as a fascinating little aside to end today’s post on: did you know that tomato ketchup used to be made of fish?! We’ll hand over to Gizmodo here for further explanation:
The first English reference to “katchop” was in the book, Compleat Housewife [sic], published in 1727, which contained directions for a sauce spun from “twelve to fourteen anchovies, ten to twelve shallots, white wine vinegar, white wine…mace, ginger, cloves, whole peppers, a whole nutmeg, lemon peel, and horseradish.”
Food historians reckon the recipe was brought back from Southeast Asia by travellers, and that British shelves were also adorned with mushroom, walnut, red pepper, grape and oyster variants! However the new “Five Beanz” taste, we’ll be sure to count our blessings!
The great British food brands are pulling out all the stops to commemorate Queen Elizabeth II’s 60th year on the throne. Here’s a list of our favorite commemorative packaging so far. The limited edition Marmite is on its way – and the others should be here soon after!
7. Tate & Lyle Confectioner’s Sugar
5. Johnnie Walker
4. Heinz Tinned Spaghetti
2. Tate & Lyle Golden Syrup
1. Cadbury Dairy Milk
A very sweet customer from Maryland got in touch to tell us how much she loved the blog and to enquire about purchasing our cookbook “Tea & Sympathy: A Tale of an English Teashop in New York”. She also asked about a good recipe for Piccalilli. After a bit of head-scratching, soul-searching and thumb-twiddling Matt in A Salt & Battery, our fish and chip shop, recommended this version from the extremely affable Rick Stein. We thought it hit the spot perfectly and was well worth sharing with you all.
Piccalilli is a traditional English relish made of pickled vegetables. Cauliflower and vegetable marrow always play a leading role, as do mustard powder (we recommend Colman’s) and turmeric, the delicacy of which, balanced with the robustness of the vinegar, creates the condiment’s distinct flavor. Serve with crusty bread and thickly cut ham for a simple but divine snack.
Overnight preparation time
30 mins to 1 hour cooking time
Makes 12 x 450g/1lb jars
- 450g/1 lb salt
- 4.5 litres/8 pints boiling water
- 2 medium cauliflowers (each weighing about 450g/1 lb), broken into small florets
- 450g/1 lb pickling onions, peeled and halved
- 450g/1 lb runner beans, topped and tailed, sides peeled away and cut diagonally into 2.5cm(1 in) pieces
- ½ large cucumber, halved lengthways, seeds removed and then into 1cm(0.5in) chunks
- 225g/8oz courgettes, topped and tailed and cut into 1cm chunks
- 275g/10oz caster sugar
- 1.5 litres/2 pints 13fl oz distilled malt vinegar, plus extra 5 tbsp
- 2 cloves garlic, crushed
- ½ whole nutmeg, grated
- ½ tsp ground allspice
- 50g/1¾oz plain flour
- 25g/1oz mustard powder
- 25g/1oz turmeric powder
- 15g/½oz ground ginger
- ½ tsp cayenne pepper
- Mix the salt with the boiling water. Leave to cool, divide between two large bowls and add the cauliflower and onions to one bowl and the runner beans, cucumber and courgettes to the other. Cover with a plate to keep the vegetables submerged and leave for 12-24 hours.
- Drain the vegetables and rinse them well, still keeping them separate.
- Put the sugar, garlic and 1.5 litres (2 pints 13fl oz) of vinegar into a large pan. Bring to the boil, add the cauliflower, onions, allspice and nutmeg and cook for just three minutes. Add the beans and the cucumber and cook for a further 4-5 minutes. The vegetables only want to be just cooked, with still a little crunch left in them. Lift out of the vinegar with a large spider or sieve into a large bowl and set aside.
- Mix the flour, mustard, turmeric and ginger powder with the rest of the vinegar and enough water to make a smooth paste. Add a little of the hot vinegar mixture, stir into the rest left in the pan and bring to the boil, stirring. Simmer for 10 minutes.
- Stir the sauce into the vegetables, spoon into warm sterilised jars and seal with vinegar proof lids.
In properly sterilized jars, this will keep for an age – with Hurricane Irene around the corner, stock up now; this well keep you well fed for months!
We stock two varieties of piccalilli in-store. Haywards for $8.95 and Heinz for $4.95 – we can ship and you can order via email: email@example.com, or by phone: 212-989-9735. Keep it a secret but the former is far superior.
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