Saturday, September 28, 2013


Ever since I opened my first tin of Twinings Earl Grey tea to begin writing this blog last summer, I’ve been hooked on it. I begin every work day—every single one—with a glass of Twining’s iced tea. For variety I’ll mix it up and try English Breakfast or Irish Breakfast or Lady Grey, but I’m very brand loyal. That’s why I felt a twinge of guilt when I made room in my desk last week for a box of Yorkshire Gold tea. Taylors of Harrogate holds a royal warrant from HRH the Prince of Wales as “Suppliers of Beverages.”

Taylor’s and Twinings don’t have much in common, as brands go. Twinings dates back to 1706 and has always been London-based, while Taylor’s was founded in the late 19th century—a youngster by comparison—and runs its business from Yorkshire, in the remote north country of England near Scotland. Taylor's is new to the royal warrant pool while Twinings has held a warrant since Queen Victoria first granted the company one in 1837. Surely this would be no competition.
It was in the Victorian era that CE Taylor’s sons opened tea tasting rooms in Yorkshire’s fashionable spa towns of Ilkley and Harrogate.  (In the 1960s Taylor’s closed its tea rooms and consolidated this business with Betty’s, which today runs a famous chain of Yorkshire tea rooms by the same name.)

I am probably in good company among Americans who have never heard of Taylor’s of Harrogate, but I have heard of Yorkshire Tea. I admit I'm totally unfamiliar with their great advertisements though. This was has to be my favorite.

Yorkshire Tea today proclaims itself “the official brew of English cricket.” I don’t know what I could tell you about cricket that Pippa Middleton hasn’t already explained to uninitiated Americans in her expertly-written Vanity Fair column (seriously, when are they going to pull the plug on this?), but I was excited to see Yorkshire Tea’s summer web series called “The Great Cricket Tea Challenge.”
As explained on the website, in the middle of a cricket match “everything stops for tea.” The cricket club hosting the match will put on a huge spread of sandwiches, salads, cakes, cookies, and of course teas for hungry players and fans to enjoy in the clubhouse. For the Challenge, these clubs competed in the categories “cakes,” “sandwiches,” and “signature recipes” in order to win an expensive kitchen remodel for their clubhouses. These entries are chalk full of yummy recipes. I’m super excited to try Great Habton’s chicken pesto sandwiches. Seriously, I bought bacon today and plan to take these in my lunch all week. You can read the blog and check out all of the recipes here.

Aside from being a brand used by the royal family for five consecutive years, Taylor’s won a royal warrant from Prince Charles for maintaining an ethical and sustainable business model. While the Queen and Prince Philip do not focus on such things in their selection of royal warrant products and services, Prince Charles has set the bar a bit higher. If his name is on the product—and so far we’ve seen it on Hunter Boots and Yardley bath soaps—you can rest assured you’re buying from a company that cares about the environment. According to the Prince's official website: "The Prince of Wales asks that companies meet a code of good environmental practice if they are to qualify for his warrant."
As I’ve researched this entry I’ve again been reminded that “tea” means something different in America than it does in England. When I use the word I’m talking about ground fragrant leaves used to make a beverage. In England they use the noun to talk not just about a beverage but about an event. Everything—from a busy workday to a heated cricket match—stops for tea. If only, you know? If only.

I’m sure I’m not getting the full Yorkshire Tea experience by simply brewing a cup, mixing in some sugar, and dumping it into a glass of ice each day before starting a busy workday. Despite that, I’ve fallen in love with this tea. The Yorkshire Gold blend is lovely, and I’ve grown to like that it runs a little bit stronger than the Twinings flavors I frequent.

If we're no longer debating which brand is better, perhaps it's time to move on to a new debate. Are you a miffie or a tiffie? Find out what I mean by watching this "How to Make a Proper Brew" video.
Where to buy: I found my box of Yorkshire Gold tea bags at Spencer’s Jolly Posh Foods. In the States you can also buy this brand at Whole Foods.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013


I wrote a couple of weeks ago that I wanted to highlight local producers who service the royal family—not only at Buckingham Palace but also at Sandringham and Balmoral and Windsor. It turns out the Queen has a host of producers in all of these places and buys from the producer closest to where she’s traveling instead of bringing food with her from London. Thus, the list of firms holding a royal warrant as fruit & vegetable suppliers tells a story about the royal family’s habits and haunts. D&F MCCARTHY LTD. is a family-owned producer located just outside of Norwich, England, that holds warrants from both the Queen and the Prince of Wales. DEESIDE DELI & GARDEN SHOP provides fruit and vegetables to the Prince of Wales when he visits Scotland, and DDP LTD, located in the New Covent Garden Market, supplies fruit and vegetables to the Queen while she is in London.
If the royal family is that interested in eating local, I thought we could give it a go here too. Why not try using local ingredients to make authentic English cuisine? I bought a fabulous cookbook—Jamie Oliver’s Great Britain (Penguin, 2011)—and decided to jump right into it. This girl is going to make some British food.
I’ve dabbled a little in that before, right? There was the Pilgrim’s Pie and bacon butties I made with HP sauce; the caramel slice I baked with Lyle’s golden syrup; the barbecue sauce I made using a Waitrose recipe. Still, I feel like I usually end up cheating a bit and making the recipe into something already familiar to me. Maybe I ought to make an effort to bend a little and try something new.
I thought Jamie Oliver might be a nice gateway into British food. Real British food. He’s such a fabulous crusader for home-cooked meals that use fresh fruits and vegetables and humanely-treated meat and animal products. I love his Food Revolution programs and his intent to practice what he preaches in his cookbooks. The recipes in this book, as in all of his cookbooks, are simple and straightforward. Though they might use red meat or butter or cream, their redeeming feature is that they don’t contain preservatives or artificial ingredients or shortcuts. This is real food. Oliver’s recipes also take vegetables I’m usually a little afraid of—kale, spinach, turnips, leeks, watercress—and makes them delicious.
I admit that at times Oliver’s book seems a little too authentic for me. The recipes for Flapjack Crumble, Velvety Chocolate Pots, and Root Vegetable Chips don’t pull me out of my comfort zone, but several of the others do.
Hearty Oxtail Stew? Yikes.

Easy Essex Haggis? Huh?
Happy Fish Pie? No. Just…no.

I’d almost talked myself out of it before I started. Shouldn’t British food seem a little more familiar? Shouldn’t American cuisine and that of the Mother Country have more in common at this point? It doesn’t, strangely. As I turned through page after page of vaguely familiar-sounding dishes with all manner of bizarre meats and cheeses, I felt the trademark Chelsey pickiness kicking in. What was I doing here? 
I set my cookbook aside but made myself return to it the next day. What about the vegetable section, right? How bad could that be? I turned the pages until I stopped dead in my tracks on page 317. There I saw the most fantastic looking mashed potatoes I’d ever laid eyes on.
Oliver dubs these potatoes “King of Mash: Irish Champ.” It’s a thick and hearty mashed potato flecked with lots of dark green from parsley, scallions, a leek, and watercress, the latter being something I’d never bought or cooked with before. I had to try these mashed potatoes.
The recipe is straightforward and gave me no trouble: while you boil the potatoes on the stovetop, you roughly chop your scallions and leek. Then you do this incredible thing where you boil milk, butter, the scallions, and the leek together. The onion flavor infuses the milk, which you later use to mash the potatoes with. Brilliant, right? I admit I usually like my potatoes non-lumpy and whipped into a light and fluffy perfection, but the great flavors from the onions and the watercress (peppery and fresh-tasting) made up for it. Adam—who never gets potatoes mashed the way he likes them—absolutely adored these. Here’s the recipe:
King of Mash: Irish Champ (adapted from Jamie Oliver’s Great Britain)
2 lbs. russet potatoes (I used a mixture of russet and red potatoes; I peeled the russet and left the skins on the red)
Sea salt and ground black pepper
2 scallions
1 leek
2/3 cup milk
1 fresh bay leaf
3 ½ T butter
A small handful of watercress
A small bunch of fresh flat-leaf parsley, leaves picked and roughly chopped
Peel the potatoes and place in a large pot of salted water. Bring to a boil and cook for 12-15 minutes, or until fork tender.
While the potatoes are boiling, wash and trim the scallions and the leek (leeks hold a lot of sand and sediment in their layers, so be mindful of this and wash thoroughly), then slice them finely. Place in a heatproof pot with milk, bay leaf, salt, pepper, and the butter. Bring everything to a boil, then turn the heat down and allow the milk to simmer for 5-7 minutes.
Drain the cooked potatoes and transfer to a bowl. Mash with a potato masher, ladeling in the milk as you go. Once you’ve used all of the milk, add salt, pepper, and butter to taste. Add more milk (I did) if the potatoes are not yet at the consistency you want. Roughly chop the watercress and parsley and stir the chopped leaves into the mash.