Happy Bastille Day everyone - I hope you've all had coffee and croissants for breakfast and a protest march for lunch. In celebration of all things French I've decided to start what will be an irregularly regular series of posts sharing the joys of English cuisine.
Rightly or wrongly we English cop our fair share of abuse for our cooking - or "heating up" as is perhaps more accurate (not least from the French who fondly refer to us as les Rosbifs in the same apparently friendly but quietly patronising way that they are called frogs). Perhaps as a result we've seen Jamie, Nigella, Gordon and a whole celebrity army of British chefs marching around the world, all desperate to prove that there's more to the British than than sunday roasts, fish, chips, curry and crisps.
Well, I'm here to tell you that they're wrong. There may be a few more wagyu beef fillets and ladies fingers in some British shopping baskets but I'm proud to report that the frozen food aisles are still bigger than the fresh fruit aisles in all the UK supermarkets I've ever been in. The British may no longer rule the waves but Captain Birdseye does a fine job in their stead. Despite what you may think, this is a great thing - especially when you can only be arsed to go shopping once a month.
So I plead with you to ignore those attention-grabbing celebrity chefs and their warped international vision of British kitchens and ask you to place your faith in Mint Custard to tell you the truth about the real joys of British food. Let us begin with my favourite - the humble pickled egg.
Celebrated in song by the All Seeing Eye, pickled eggs are the perfect accompaniment to fish and chips and a pint of bitter. You can't get them in Australia (Mrs Custard has gamely tried on my behalf only to be laughed out of many a deli) so your only option is to make them yourself. This is easier than you'd think, as my step by step guide will show...
Oeufs au vinaigre (Pickled Eggs)
You will need:
- Six eggs (from a chicken - none of your posh eggs)
- A bottle of white vinegar
- An old jar of pasta sauce emptied and cleaned with boiling water
1. Boil six eggs for six minutes. This is about the length of Blur's Coffee and TV which has a very cute video about milk so maybe watch it on YouTube instead of using a conventional timer.
2. Peel all your eggs. Set aside, have a cup of tea and allow to cool (the eggs, not the tea - unless it's really very hot indeed in which case let that cool down a bit too).
3. Place eggs in clean jar. Be surprised that they all fit in. I was.
4. Pour white vinegar into jar until eggs are covered / drowned.
5. Put lid on tightly. Really tightly. Then put away in a dark cupboard for a month. This is about the same time as it takes for the moon to orbit the Earth. I wouldn't suggest you spend the whole time looking at the moon, but maybe spare a few minutes thinking about how ace it must have been to be Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin 40 years ago this week and how that even though Neil might have been the first man on the moon and destined to be famous for all eternity, at least Aldrin had Buzz Lightyear named after him and that's much cooler.
I should warn you I got this 'recipe' from my mum over the phone and it's the first time I've tried it. Other peoples' recipes on the net seem to vary and a fair few add salt. I'll keep you posted on my pickling progress in August. It could be terrible...
Eggilogue: Success! - see full story here