The British Fare Wish ListAugust 9, 2015
We are in the midst of a British Invasion and no, I’m not talking about a group of five four boys in ripped skinny jeans. What I mean is the seemingly continuous arrival of British food brands in the local market. First was Waitrose, whose items are being carried by Rustan’s. Then there was the opening of the first standalone Marks & Spencer Food store. Most recently, SM Supermarkets started carrying Tesco items. And it’s not just the mega-chain brands that are making their British presence felt. Smaller independent brands like Teapigs, Clipper, Wilkins & Sons, and Dorset Cereals are now also available locally.
While I’m glad that I can now get my favorite Scottish All-Butter Shortbread at almost any mall, some of my British favorites haven’t made it to our side of the world just yet. Here’s hoping that it’ll just be a matter of time before we can all tuck into these:
The British love their dairy, and they sure love their cream. A quick look at the dairy chiller at any British supermarket proves this, with racks filled with tubs of whipping, single, double, and extra-thick double cream. My undisputed favorite from all of these (and the one I attempted to stash in my check-in luggage), is clotted cream. Made from indirectly heated then slowly cooled full-cream milk, clotted cream is thick and heavy, almost like cream cheese in consistency, with a beautiful, rich, nutty flavor with fat content to match (at 55% or higher, the fattiest of all the creams). It is famously paired with strawberries, as it is during Wimbledon and during Prince Charles and Princess Diana’s wedding breakfast. The combination is fantastic; I add a drizzle of Lyle’s (see below) and I’m in heaven. But my favorite way to have clotted cream is with traditional cream tea. Generously spread on a proper scone and topped with dollop of jam, the clotted cream’s rich texture play beautifully with the scone’s buttery crumb and the tartness of jam. The combination of all three is one of the things I look forward to the most for my trip back to the UK. Because it’s bad enough we can’t get clotted cream here, we also can’t get. . .
Yes, I know, you can get “scones” in Manila. But the rounds of dough that carry the name bear hardly any resemblance to what any tea-loving Brit would consider a proper scone, because a good scone is light, soft, and still manages to be, at the same time, crumbly. A well-made one would have hints of nuttiness from butter, creaminess from milk, and a subtle sweetness from a bit of sugar. A proper scone will complement the richness of clotted cream and the burst of fruitiness from whatever jam, rather than get lost or compete with them. And so far, none of the scones I’ve had in Manila, including those from fancy hotel afternoon teas, have passed muster. They are all either depressingly bland, unbelievably dense, or both.
Lyle’s Golden Syrup
It’s difficult to describe what Lyle’s Golden Syrup or light treacle is without referencing other liquid sweeteners. It has a milder flavor than molasses (i.e. dark treacle), and a less distinct flavor than honey. But it certainly isn’t just a lesser version of either. A byproduct of the sugar refining process, Golden Syrup has a subtler, better-rounded sweetness that doesn’t overpower whatever it’s cooked or eaten with. It’s great with oatmeal, yogurt, and especially pancakes. From what I know it isn’t widely available in Manila, and when it is, it’s at three times the price you’d get it for, at any supermarket abroad.
Walk down a UK supermarket aisle for chips or, more accurately, crisps, and you will likely realize how downright boring our selection of potato chip flavors is. While most grocery aisles stop at Barbecue, and Salt & Vinegar, a British one will raise you Prawn Cocktail, Smokey Bacon, Roast Chicken, and Worcester sauce. And these are just some of Walker’s (i.e. British Lay’s) regular flavors. Things get even more interesting for limited run flavors and high-end brands, with things like English Roast Beef & Yorkshire Pudding, Roast Lamb & Mint, Honey Roast Ham & Cranberry, and Chicken Tikka. Some flavors are less successful than others; for instance Prawn Cocktail should really be called Cocktail Sauce instead. But winners like Cheddar Cheese & Bacon will make you wonder how you were ever happy with just plain old Sour Cream potato chips.