Friday, July 27, 2012

London is Well Fit: or British Love and Olympic Nosh

If there's anything I love more than the Olympics, it's the British - the film, the literature, the music, the humor, the boys, the curses, the accent, the tradition and history of the country.  My family has always had a great appreciation for all things English.  I was raised on The Clash and Elvis Costello and Nick Lowe and Van Morrison and The Black Adder and Mr. Bean and The Goods and Eddie Izzard and Monty Python and James Bond and Four Weddings and A Funeral and Pimm's Cups.  My love of British literature really blossomed in college, where I took not one, but three British Lit courses - I honestly could not get enough, especially contemporary authors like Nick Hornby and Neil Gaiman.
Me and the Big Guy - ignore the face, I hadn't slept.

My family are such Anglophiles that our first international vacation was to London and Wales to visit family.  Last year, my parents sent me on my first solo-vacation back to London for my birthday to visit a few friends who were studying abroad there.  I was thrilled to be heading to my favorite country (yeah, I said it), but I was worried about how I'd take to London - I'm not a big city girl, New York sends me into panic attacks.  However, I immediately fell in love.  Especially with the Underground.  One of my favorite memories of that trip was sitting on the train on my way to New Cross listening to The Clash on my iPod.  As I recall, I was smiling like an idiot, and might have scared some of the commuters sitting around me.

Part of what drew me to London and made me so at ease there was the fact that it doesn't seem like a city. New York is too big - the buildings are too tall and shiny, there too many people around me, there's too much going on, too much stimulus.  I find New York extremely overwhelming and  anxiety inducing.  London, on the other hand, is like a giant small town.  There are no skyscrapers, the buildings are all old and historic and beautiful.  The English respect and preservation of their past and history is so endearing and wonderful - as Eddie Izzard so perfectly puts it, "I come from Europe, where the history comes from.  You tear your history down, man.  Thirty years old let's smash it to the ground and put a car park here!"  Within London you have these little neighborhoods that feel so much like country villages that you forget you're in the city.  Cobblestone streets with shops and merchants that could have magically walked out of a Dicken's novel.  My favorite nook in the city was Borough Market.

Borough Market, located under London Bridge, is the city's oldest fruit and veg market with roots that date back to 1014.  Now a days, they have far more than fruit and veg - meat pies, pastries, cheeses, breads, meats, curries, ciders, mulled wine, basically everything and anything you could possibly want.  It's tiny, but there is a definite community and culture attached to the market.  The vendors are loud and boisterous, calling you over to try their goods.  The locals come to gossip over a big bowls of green Thai curry or to grab some fresh rabbit for dinner on their way home from work.  I went just to wander and to take everything in - the sounds, the smells, the colors.  Oh, and don't forget the tastes.  Rabot Estate chocolate shop was my go-to, mainly because of their chocolate enhanced menu.  A smoked salmon sandwich with chocolate creme fresh and nibs - I mean, does it get any better?  Though I have to say the banana, salted caramel, and cocoa nibs on toasted brioche was my favorite.  I may or may not have had a few dreams about that sandwich.

But I digress.  Moral of this long, rambling tirade is that I love the British and London and was terribly excited about the opening ceremonies of the Olympics tonight.  I decided that I wanted a celebrate with a London inspired meal.  I thought about the classic British fare - bangers and mash, meat pie, beans on toast, fish and chips - but wanted to find something a bit more traditional.  So, I do what us Confoy's do best: research.  In no time at all, I found two dishes that jumped out at me - ploughman's lunch and potted shrimp. The ploughman's lunch is a pub food that usually consists of bread, cheddar cheese, sliced ham, pickles, and apples laid out that are then assembled into sandwich form.  I took this idea and as per usual, put my own spin on it.  I kept the bread, cheese, and apples, but substituted the ham for smoked salmon and added some roasted garlic for good measure.  Potted shrimp was definitely the highlight of tonight's Olympic nosh - not only was it quick and easy, but it was ridiculously delicious.  It was a great addition to the spread we had, and most importantly, it was the perfect pair to my tall, cold Pimm's Cup.

Potted Shrimp
½ stick of butter
1 large scallion, whites and a little green thinly sliced
1 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp nutmeg
½ lb wild-caught shrimp, roughly chopped
salt and pepper to taste

+ In a medium skillet, melt 2 tablespoons butter over medium-high heat.  Once the butter is hot, add the scallions, cayenne and nutmeg.  Saute for a few moments until scallions are soft.
+ Add another tablespoon or two of butter and melt.  Add shrimp and saute, stirring occasionally.  Right before the shrimp are cooked, add the rest of the butter and cook until melted.  

+ Place shrimp and butter into a ramekin and refrigerate for two hours, or until solidified.  Serve cold on bread or toasts, preferably with a Pimm's Cup.

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