Culinary Anthropologist


  1. The Sun Inn

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    esb.jpgExcerpt from Eat Slow Britain by Alastair Sawday & Anna Colquhoun:

    “People in Essex wanting good pasta or risotto come here,” says the Sun Inn’s proud Neapolitan chef, Ugo Simonelli. This fifteenth-century coaching inn may look quintessentially English, but the passion for good food and conviviality evoke an Italian trattoria. Owner Piers Baker says: “Sundays are mayhem: children dashing everywhere, parents reading the papers, grandparents nattering, and regulars at the bar laughing at us running around.” …

    smvictoriasplumsshop0001.JPGUgo exudes enthusiasm for Italian cuisine and, encouraged by adventurous diners, has unearthed vanishing dishes. Hare with chocolate and rosemary sauce is a relic of times when boundaries between sweet and savoury were blurred, and cassuola, a Milanese cabbage and pork stew, was traditionally eaten at the end of pig slaughtering season. Pumpkin and mussel soup, raw fish marinated with smoked Maldon salt and pan-fried lamb hearts have their fans too. For more conservative palates, there is grilled salt marsh lamb with roast beetroot, pan-fried calf’s liver with melted onions and sage, and sea bass with saffron potatoes and samphire.

    Between shifts Ugo tends his vegetable patch or experiments with bresaola and prosciutto curing in the cellar. He also teaches in the village school. “We make pasta, pizza and gnocchi, and the kids find they like garlic, parmesan and basil after all. I had them eating pesto by the spoonful!” he laughs …

    The Sun Inn, Essex, England

  2. Elan Valley Mutton

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    esb.jpgExcerpt from Eat Slow Britain by Alastair Sawday & Anna Colquhoun:

    If Tony Davies’ great-great-grandfather could see Henfron Farm now, he would hardly notice the difference. Here in the remote Elan Valley, in mid-Wales, seventeen-hundred acres of wind- and rain-swept moorland, peat bogs and heathered hillsides sustain the Davies’ resilient Welsh Mountain sheep, just as they have done for centuries …

    Tony checks his flocks on horseback. “Other farmers use quad-bikes, but our men love their horses, that keep them warm, know every crease of the hillside and offer a better vantage point. On a foggy afternoon they make it back in time for tea while the quad-bikers are still going in circles,” says Angela.

    Mutton was once one of Britain’s most loved meats. “Saddle of mutton … is a joint for an epicure,” wrote Dorothy Hartley, a food historian, in 1954. But around this time factors converged to start its decline: imported New Zealand lamb; working women with less time for slow-cooking; post-war affluence expanding the privilege of eating immature animals and expensive cuts.
    Recently, a niche market for the rich meat has appeared …

    Elan Valley Mutton, Powys, Wales

  3. The Mistley Thorn

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    esb.jpgExcerpt from Eat Slow Britain by Alastair Sawday & Anna Colquhoun:

    As a teenager, Sherri Singleton sold watermelon fruit cups on the beach in Los Angeles for pocket money. It was the first of a series of successful culinary enterprises, stretching from California to Essex, where she now runs two restaurants and a cooking school. “Food is in my blood: my great grandmother ran a gourmet food store, my grandmother had a restaurant, my mother cooked everything from scratch and grew vegetables, and our neighbour, a celebrated chef, roasted pigs in his garden. I was surrounded by people who adored food.”

    smmistleythorn0001.JPGArriving in Essex in the eighties was a shock to Sherri’s culinary system – where were the bundles of fresh coriander and basil, the heirloom tomatoes? She found excellent meat, seafood and cheese, but couldn’t lay her hands on local fruit and vegetables. So Sherri persuaded smallholders to grow for her, something many other restaurateurs wouldn’t catch onto for years.

    smmistleythorn0002.JPG“Now it’s ridiculously easy. People pick samphire for me, grow asparagus in their gardens, leave boxes of quinces and squashes on my doorstep. And we grow artichokes, sprouting broccoli and blackcurrants ourselves.”  …

    The Mistley Thorn, Essex, England

  4. Whitmuir Farm

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    esb.jpgExcerpt from Eat Slow Britain by Alastair Sawday & Anna Colquhoun:

    … At first cattle and lambs were trucked four-hundreds miles to a slaughter house in Devon, from where meat travelled to supermarkets across Britain. If supply outstripped demand, orders were reduced or delayed without notice. If animals grew too large, they were rejected as unsuitable for the mechanised processes. “For all we knew our meat ended up on shelves down the road, yet untraceable to Whitmuir. We wanted to take control and know our customers.”

    smwhitmuirfarm0001.JPGA gift of two Tamworth sows – Cinnamon and Nutmeg, thought to be sterile yet proving prolific – spurred the move to direct sales. A tiny shop was swapped for a bigger one and now they have a restaurant, too. “We invested everything and have more risk and direct accountability to consumers, but we wouldn’t go back to anonymous wholesale.”

    … Whitmuir’s Shorthorn cattle only eat grass. This gives their meat a healthier balance of Omega-6s to Omega-3s, and softer, yellower fat. Calves also wean naturally. An early attempt to hasten the process by luring cows away to a field of tasty kale resulted in disaster when they trashed three electric fences and a gate to reclaim their young …

    Whitmuir Farm, Scottish Borders, Scotland

  5. The Olive Branch

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    esb.jpgExcerpt from Eat Slow Britain by Alastair Sawday & Anna Colquhoun:

    “The Olive Branch is more than a pub, it’s a community project, too,” says Ben Jones, who with old friends Sean Hope and Marcus Welford, managed to get their hands on the pub before it was sold as a house. Locals were delighted: with no local shop or post office, the Olive Branch was vital…

    smolivebranchpub0002.JPGInside the beautiful stone house you can see the frame of the three cottages that were knocked together  – now they are cosy interconnected dining areas. Low beams, old wooden furniture, crackling fires, the chatter of happy diners and genuinely enthusiastic staff put people at ease. “We like to generate rapport with our customers, so we can tell them about our food and encourage them to try new things,” explains Ben …

    The menu changes constantly to capture ingredients at their peak: asparagus from Abbey Parks Farm in spring; courgette flowers from the Red Lion’s kitchen garden in summer; quinces from villagers’ trees in autumn; pheasant and partridge in winter. “We offered locals a pint per pound of food brought in. They soon twigged heavy items were a winner, and we were inundated with venison haunches!” recalls Ben …

    The Olive Branch, Rutland, England

  6. Dorset Oysters

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    esb.jpgExcerpt from Eat Slow Britain by Alastair Sawday & Anna Colquhoun:

    … The farming of oysters dates back to at least Roman or Greek times. For millennia people have believed in their health-giving properties: Parisians and Londoners used to buy oysters by the hundred, Cicero ate them to nourish his eloquence and Louis XI swallowed them by prescription. Oysters are now known to be rich in minerals, vitamins and cancer-fighting ceramides.

    smoysterswildgarlicbutter0003.jpgOyster farming has slowly increased in Britain, but we have never fully regained our love of the slippery bivalve; we export the majority, along with most native shellfish, and frozen prawns from Asia seem to have grabbed most of the market. Trawled wild tiger prawns have a MCS [Marine Conservation Society] score of 5 [the worst], not least because up to ten kilograms of by-catch is discarded for every kilogram of prawns landed.

    Pete is exasperated by this madness. “Supermarket fish counters are generally poor, stocking fish flown in from around the world. In the Poole area they prefer to stock Scottish or Irish oysters when they have some of the best oysters in the country caught here.” …

    Dorset Oysters, Dorset, England and Storm Fish Restaurant, Poole

  7. The Thomas Lord

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    esb.jpgExcerpt from Eat Slow Britain by Alastair Sawday & Anna Colquhoun:

    The Thomas Lord pub does not serve orange juice. And don’t expect Tabasco with your Bloody Mary, parmesan on your pasta or lemon with your fish. Instead there will be local Hill Farm apple juice, Fireball hot sauce, Lyburn farmhouse cheese and lemon thyme butter. Frustrated by the ubiquitous slogan “local and seasonal wherever possible”, David Thomas and Richard Taylor set out to prove it was always possible …

    smthomaslordpub0006.JPGThis doesn’t mean going without variety: ten or more vegetables adorn Sunday roasts. Even in winter they rainbow around the lovely handmade plates – emerald broccoli, purple carrots, pink Chioggia beetroots, black cabbage, red cabbage, earthy bean sprouts, creamy cauliflower, golden parsnips – and put the usual pub trios to shame.

    … In summer the outdoor brick oven is fired up for pizzas served on wooden rounds. Richard’s inquisitive quails look on from the coop, and keep the kitchen in eggs. Those from the hens are sold on the bar, labelled with their creators’ names. Past the hurdle fence, a table for two nests in the potager amid grape vines and cooks scurrying in and out to pick salad leaves, edible flowers and soft fruits moments before they are served …

    The Thomas Lord pub, Hampshire, England

  8. Riverford Organic Vegetables

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    esb.jpgExcerpt from Eat Slow Britain by Alastair Sawday & Anna Colquhoun:

    … [Guy Watson] has seen a massive change in people’s aspirations.  “The time of greed, excess and Thatcher’s children seems to have ended,” he says.  “Once again people are seeing virtue in thrift.”  Citing the number of people taking up allotments and ‘home restaurants’ popping up in cities, Guy suspects our food values are shifting too. “People don’t want to be passive consumers in a greedy society; they want to take control of their lives. It’s hugely encouraging.” …

    Guy hates the way many restaurants trumpet their use of ‘local food’. “It’s often a marketing gimmick, with many lies hiding in the fridge. For example, there’ll be a huge focus on English cherries in June, but they’re such a tiny part of our diet.” Guy believes these ‘smokescreens’ detract attention from questions around the bulk of our consumption.  Indeed, he says, many shoppers will enjoy the warm glow of buying Kent apples over South African, then pop a pineapple in their basket. 

    Guy bases his environment decisions on two years’ research with Exeter University. “What counts is how things are grown and transported. Take tomatoes: those grown in the natural heat of Spain have a far lesser environmental impact than British ones in heated greenhouses.” The research also revealed that vegetables shipped from western France create a fifth of the emissions of those trucked from Spain. So Guy acquired a farm in the Vendée within striking distance of a port, where the sunny climate nurtures a good range of vegetables over a long growing season, filling Britain’s ‘hungry gap’ in April and May …

    Riverford Organic Vegetables, Devon, England

  9. Strattons


    esb.jpgExcerpt from Eat Slow Britain by Alastair Sawday and Anna Colquhoun:

    “Our parents grew up in the war years and taught us not to waste a thing, which is how we’ve run Strattons since the start. High quality and care for the environment can go hand in hand without compromises,” says Vanessa Scott, owner of what is considered to be one of the country’s greenest hotels.

    Indeed, this Palladian-style villa, built around a medieval malting house, exudes style: spectacular artwork; individually designed bedrooms; a candlelit cellar with an extravagant air in pink, black, cream and gold; Floss, the seal-point Siamese, slinking between cowhide-clad armchairs …

    Chef Simon Linacre-Marshall applies his classical French training to ingredients for which the Brecks, the central area of Norfolk, is renowned: griddled asparagus with hollandaise, wild mushroom risotto with beetroot carpaccio and truffle, rabbit and partridge terrine with damson jelly, venison with sour cherry sauce, lavender ice cream with honey and blueberry cheesecake. He enjoys the challenge of keeping it local, seasonal and to a large extent organic, knowing that Vanessa and Les will not tolerate rogue ingredients …

    Strattons Hotel & Restaurant, Norfolk, England

  10. Stichelton Dairy

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    Excerpt from Eat Slow Britain by Alastair Sawday and Anna Colquhoun:

    stichelton1.jpgBritain was once teeming with cheesemakers: in the 1930s over sixteen-hundred farms were making it. By the early nineties that number had dwindled to one-hundred, due to post-war industrialisation of cheesemaking, supermarkets driving demand for mass-produced cheese and food safety concerns. The number is creeping up again, though, and Joe Schneider – “an American who started out making Greek cheese for a Turk in Holland” – is part of the renaissance.

    Over a pint in a London pub in 2004 Randolph Hodgson of Neal’s Yard Dairy planted the idea in Joe’s mind of recreating raw milk Stilton, which had disappeared in 1989 due to unproven health scares …

    The alchemy of turning mild white milk into such complexity of flavour, texture and colour has fascinated us for millennia. To create Stichelton, tiny amounts of rennet set the curds, as they would in a calf’s stomach, the starter weaves its bacterial magic, and penicillium roqueforti blooms into blue-green veins. Until the Stichelton is pierced, it is dry, crumbly and acidic; activated by air, the mould interacts with proteins and fats creating that buttery texture. Over three months a rind forms, and cheesemaker, then affineur, watches like a hawk and manipulates time, temperature and humidity. As one noted Edwardian Stilton-maker remarked, “stiltons … are more trouble than babies.”

    Stichelton Dairy, Nottinghamshire, England