A Letter to Readers from Brian Yarvin
Dear Amazon readers,
I always love the underdog and British food has such a bad reputation that I couldn't help but be drawn to it. Soon it became my special culinary place--an unknown spot where nobody else went. I would have thought that the popularity of The Two Fat Ladies, Nigella Lawson, Jamie Oliver, and Gordon Ramsay would have done something--yet, the joy of a B&B breakfast, a Sunday pub lunch, a great curry, or a lavish tea service remains something of a cult secret.
So much of British food is a poor man's vision of a rich man's meal: breakfast with sausages AND bacon or a big Sunday lunch of roast beef and Yorkshire pudding. And even more has always been and always will be a "poor man's meal:" fried bread, dumplings and mince, or bubble and squeak.
When you travel to Britain, nobody gives you any advance notice that there are foods worth eating outside of a few fine-dining temples, and on my first trips, everything seemed new. The surprises never stopped coming: sandwiches, artisan cheeses, cereals and beverages of the highest quality, and the obvious: these legendary gardeners grew more than flowers--this very green place is paradise for produce fans.
The United Kingdom is like a Chinese restaurant with a secret menu--learn what's good, find out what to order, and you'll be among the initiated. Let everybody else suffer with kabobs or frozen pizzas; we can go on a journey. I'll share a secret with you and take you along a gastronomic path that isn't anywhere as heavily traveled as it should be. You'll love it--I promise.
Brian Yarvin Sample Recipe from The Ploughman's Lunch and the Miser's Feast: Chicken and Leek Casserole
Makes 4 servings
Chicken and leeks seem to be an inspired combination, in Great Britain as elsewhere. Here we make that cousin to a chicken pie, a chicken casserole. You can also find the pair in a soup, Cock-A-Leekie.
1/4 cup chopped bacon
1 pound boneless chicken breast or thigh meat, cut in 1/2-inch pieces
2 cups chopped leeks, white parts only
1 cup chopped carrot
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1 cup beer or ale
1/4 cup dry breadcrumbs
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Combine the bacon, chicken, leeks, carrot, salt, pepper, broth, and beer or ale in a Dutch oven or casserole and mix well so that the ingredients are evenly distributed.
Bake the casserole, covered, until the chicken is fully cooked, about 60 minutes.
Remove the cover, return the casserole to the oven, and bake until about 1/3 of the liquid has evaporated, about 30 minutes more.
Sprinkle the breadcrumbs on top and return the casserole to the oven. Bake, uncovered, until the breadcrumbs are nicely browned, about 30 minutes more. Serve warm.