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. 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

  3. 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

  4. 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

  5. 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

  6. 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

  7. Combe House

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

    combehouse0036.JPGCombe House brims with the heart and soul that owners Ken and Ruth Hunt pour into it. They are proud of their renovation of this grand Elizabethan manor near Honiton in Devon but, most of all, they cherish the relationships they’ve built, with staff, guests, suppliers and the wider community.

    “We used to work in large corporate hotels, where pressure to make profit for shareholders reduced all relationships to mean minimums,” says Ken. “Here, we’ve discovered a wonderful new world of generous relationships and real hospitality. We’re most proud of our extended family of thirty-eight staff, which intertwines the life of the hotel with that of the village.” …

    combehouse0031.JPGTen acres of lawns, ancient cedars, paddocks, orchards and woodland are maintained with minimal use of pesticides and no artificial fertilisers. Compost, leaf mould and horse muck feed four walled Victorian kitchen gardens. There are flageolet and borlotti beans; globe and Jerusalem artichokes; cabbages for all seasons; year-round supplies of shallots and garlic; currants, strawberries and Worcesterberries; dozens of herbs …

    Combe House, Devon, England

  8. Plain to be seen

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    Smtanya0001.JPGThe puszta – the great plain – is very important to Hungarians.  It may not sound very interesting to outsiders: it’s the flattest part of the country, dotted with fairly shabby isolated farms, wells, marshland and perhaps not a great deal else.  But here it means more than that: it holds an important place in the Hungarian imagination and sense of national identity.

    As we found out, though, it’s also a place to hear lively folk music, eat the best bread and pork fat we’ve found so far (and that’s saying a lot), and learn how to play the pig’s bladder while cracking a whip. At least, it is if you’re coordinated enough, which one of us was …


  9. Places to eat in Poland

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    Smpierogi0001.jpgDuring our quest for the best żurek, pierogi (pictured), barszcz and golonka we came across these rather nice places to eat. 

    Should you find yourself in Zakopane, Kraków or Kazimierz Dolny (three of the prettiest towns in Poland), you could do a lot worse than dine here…


  10. A bistro too far?

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    Smeiffel0001.JPGWith only seven nights and seven days in Paris, narrowing down our shortlist of 36 restaurants to a feasible dining regime was no easy task. 

    In the end we managed six bistros, two fancy restaurants and over a dozen bars, cafes, boulangeries and patisseries, plus five outdoor food markets and two cooking classes, leaving a couple of hours to quickly nip up the Eiffel Tower and round the Louvre.  

    Did we go a bistro too far?