Welcome to Cooking the Books! My guest is debut Destiny Romance author Laura Greaves. Laura’s release, Be My Baby, is one of Destiny’s new Chick Lit titles and they’ve all been fabulous romps. I’ve just been over to the Destiny website to read the first chapter here and I’m already hooked. So hop on over and have a look. But first, here’s Laura!
Thanks so much for having me today, Louise! I’m here to take your readers on a culinary journey through one of the great European foodie nations. No, I’m not talking about France. Not Italy either. And nope, it’s not Greece (although dolmades and baklava – yum!)
“England? Did she say England? Home of pork pies, Yorkshire puddings and ‘greasy spoon’ cafes? England, where more ‘beige’ food is consumed per capita than any other country?”
Yep. That’s the one.
Just as its weather is unfairly maligned (I mean, what’s not to like about grey skies and drizzle? It’s perfect curl-up-with-a-book weather!) I really think England gets a bad rap when it comes to food. And I should know: I called London home for five years, and now return every couple of years with my English husband.
Just like Anna, the Aussie heroine of my novel, Be My Baby, I lived in the beautiful Borough of Richmond-Upon-Thames and worked as a newspaper entertainment journalist. This meant that I not only had a plethora of lovely riverside ‘gastropubs’ on my doorstep, I also had the opportunity to nibble designer canapés in trendy restaurants (sometimes with a celebrity at the next table).
Forget what you think you know about English food. Here’s five of the best reasons to bring a big appetite to the UK.
1. Indian food. If modern England has a national dish, it is arguably the curry. The UK has large and vibrant Indian and Pakistani communities, which happily means there’s a curry house on virtually every corner, especially in London. I became such a regular at my local Indian restaurant that they stopped asking for my address when I’d call for home delivery. And a night ‘on the tiles’ must always be followed by a late-night stop at an Indian restaurant, if only to marvel at the resplendent 1970s décor most seem to favour.
2. Marks & Spencer Food To Go. Marks & Spencer is a huge department store chain, not unlike Myer or David Jones. But even better than ‘Marks and Sparks’ stores are their food outlets, where you can pick up anything from a freshly-made sandwich or a tub of sweet treats to a bottle of M&S-brand wine or even a full gourmet heat-and-serve meal. It. Is. So. Good.
3. Gastropubs. I don’t think it’s too controversial to say that food is often an afterthought in Aussie pubs. Sure, you’ll usually find a decent steak, burger or schnitzel, but that’s about as gourmet as it gets. It’s a completely different story in England, where the rise of the ‘gastropub’ has taken pub grub to the next level. Celebrity chefs are even getting in on the act: Heston Blumenthal’s Michelin-starred Fat Duck pub in country Berkshire has been named the UK’s best eatery several times, and Gordon Ramsay’s The Narrow is a must-visit in the Docklands area. Despite the unfortunate name, which conjures up some decidedly not delicious images, gastropubs are a revelation. My tip: take the Sunday newspapers and hole up in a riverside pub on a chilly afternoon.
4. Regional delicacies. Apparently it would take 50 years to eat at every one of the restaurants in New York City. Well, the same could be said for sampling all the regional delights in England. You’ll find more mouth-watering – and often rather peculiar – local foods in this tiny scrap of land than you can poke a whelk at (that’s a sea snail that’s inexplicably popular in London’s East End). Those with a sweet tooth should head to Derbyshire for Bakewell tarts or Devon for an authentic cream tea. Then there’s pease pudding (a fancy pea and ham soup) in Northumberland, sausages in Lincolnshire and scouse – a delectable lamb stew – in Liverpool. Delish.
5. Fine dining. I love a pub lunch, but when a special meal is in order there is a dazzling array of fine dining establishments in Old Blighty. I have two all-time favourite ‘posh’ London restaurants. Locanda Locatelli is helmed by celeb chef Giorgio Locatelli and offers modern Italian fare that’s arguably even better than you’ll find in Italy (and I’ve spent a lot of time eating my way through Italy!) Then there’s The Wolseley, a big, noisy brasserie reminiscent of Parisian cafes with a Euro-style menu to die for. You’re virtually guaranteed a celebrity sighting at The Wolseley. I once found myself at a table next to formidable Vogue editor Anna Wintour (who didn’t eat a bite and kept her sunglasses on through the entire meal).
As someone who’s had the best and worst of food in England, thank you for the tips, Laura!
Do you have a favourite English food?
Ambitious Australian Anna Harding seems to have it all: a glamorous job as a gossip columnist, and a beautiful home in London that she shares with her gorgeous boyfriend, Finn Cassidy. Her only problem is her regular run-ins with their neighbor Luke, who is furious about Anna’s internet shopping constantly being delivered to his place by mistake.
When her flighty best friend Helena winds up pregnant, Anna agrees to be godmother – despite her aversion to children. But then Finn announces he’s moving to Belfast for a great job in television and Helena takes off to Scotland – leaving baby Ivy behind. Suddenly Anna’s perfect life is in pieces as she tries to juggle the baby, her job and a long-distance relationship.
Will Finn wake up to himself and return home or will he be swayed by the charms of his seductive producer? Will the irresponsible Helena finally sort herself out with the help of her eccentric great aunt? And will Anna’s life ever be the same, especially after Luke’s unexpected response to the chaos unleashed next door?
Nothing is certain in this entertaining and moving tale about the relationships that matter most.
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