The Cook Book: Fortnum & Mason by Tom Parker Bowles, EPUB, 0008199361

February 6, 2017

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The Cook Book: Fortnum & Mason by Tom Parker Bowles

  • Print Length: 304 Pages
  • Publisher: Fourth Estate
  • Publication Date: October 6, 2016
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B01DT37C1Y
  • ISBN-10: 0008199361
  • ISBN-13: 978-0008199364
  • File Format: EPUB

 

”Preview”

Contents

 

Cover

Title Page

Copyright

Introduction

 

Breakfast

Morning Tea

Lunch

Ice Cream

Afternoon Tea

Savouries

Dinner

Sides

Puddings

Supper

Cocktails

 

Credits

Index

Acknowledgements

About the Author

About the Publisher

 

 

‘Where the food is just about as good as food can be’

 

 

Introduction

 

They say you never forget your first time. And when it comes to Fortnum & Mason, they’d be right. It was a chill winter’s evening, in the early days of the 80s, and I was dressed in my London best – shiny Clarks sandals, pressed corduroy trousers and an unusually spotless shirt. My tattered Husky had been replaced with a dark blue overcoat, and as my cousin and I walked down Piccadilly with my grandmother, I shivered with a mixture of cold, and pure, unalloyed excitement. We were up to see the Christmas windows. And maybe – if we were very good and said our pleases and thank yous and didn’t moan or fidget or fiddle about – maybe we could have a banana split at the legendary Fountain.

Having grown up in the depths of Wiltshire, I thought of London as a glittering Emerald City, impossibly exotic, endlessly exciting. And the Italian restaurants, Mimmo’s and La Fontana, that my grandmother loved so much were pure bliss. We would suck down endless Coca-Colas, fight with breadstick swords, devour vast bowls of spaghetti Bolognese, and have our cheeks pinched until they glowed. We didn’t go out to restaurants in the country. In fact, I don’t think Chippenham had any, save the ubiquitous chippy.

London was thrilling, no doubt about that. And Fortnum & Mason was the very pinnacle of big-city glamour. Those spectacular windows, warm and lavish, with the ornate tins of tea and exotic sweets and glittering bottles filled with magic potions. And the clock, where, on the hour, two wooden men emerged, one with a tea tray, the other with a candelabra, faced each other, and bowed graciously.

Of course, I had little idea that these four-foot figures were Mr Fortnum and Mr Mason and that the clock, unveiled in 1964, had taken three years to build. For me, it was utterly magical, more Narnia than Piccadilly, with all the fur wraps and fake snow and sugar-dusted Turkish delight that came with it. Although, unlike Narnia, there was no doubt it was Christmas. ‘Hark the Herald Angels’ trilled from some hidden speaker, and the place was laden with candied fruits, gleaming decorations and vast, extravagant crackers. The White Witch would not have approved.

There was a smell of spice and tea and expensive eaux de toilette. We fought our way through the festive hordes, past the tailcoated staff (more soldiers than shop assistants) and found ourselves in the Fountain, where that banana split, with its lashings of cream and fruit and chocolate and ice cream, seemed impossibly big. It was lust at first sight. As it had been for my mother and father, and for generations of excitable, star-struck children.

Because Fortnum & Mason is so much more than a mere shop. It’s a national icon, a British institution, the finest grocer of them all. For this is a store that has fuelled the furnaces of British history, helped build empires, and fed the appetites of kings and queens, maharajahs and tsars, emperors, dukes and divas alike.

To read through a list of Fortnum’s clients is to wander through our island story, a definitive Who’s Who of the grand, gilded and great. Every British monarch since Anne, the last reigning Stuart queen. Prime ministers from Gladstone and Disraeli onwards. The most brilliant of war leaders, Wellington, Churchill and Montgomery. Actors from Sir John Gielgud to Sir Michael Caine. Plus some of the greatest writers ever to put pen to paper: Byron, Dickens, James, Conrad, Wodehouse, Betjeman and Waugh. All came for their hampers, griottes, Scotch eggs, smoked salmon, claret and tea. All united in their love for this legendary store.

Fortnum’s is a company built upon spent wax. Literally. A seemingly malleable base for such an august London store. William Fortnum was a footman to Queen Anne. And one of the perks of his job was being allowed to keep the spent candles. The Royal Family insisted on new ones each night, which meant a lot of spare wax. Wax that he sold on for a decent profit. But it wasn’t just the candles that kept Fortnum’s coffers flowing. He also had a grocery sideline. And in 1707 he convinced his landlord, Hugh Mason, to go into business with him. So Fortnum met Mason. And they built their grocery as near as possible to the royal palace. Then, as now, St James’s was the very centre of upscale, old-school society.

As Fortnum & Mason grew (helped by Fortnum’s grandson, Charles, going into the household of Queen Charlotte, the wife of George III), so too did the British Empire. Wars raged, the map became steadily more pink, and the fortunes of Fortnum’s grew. They supplied tea, wine and ale to the officers of Waterloo and Trafalgar alike. Queen Victoria sent out huge shipments of their famed beef tea to feed her armies during the Crimean War. And Robert Graves writes of Fortnum’s hampers, filled with potted beef, Stilton and proper tea, arriving weekly in the World War I trenches. Winston Churchill was just one of many grateful recipients.

Yet Fortnum & Mason has never been content to live in the past. To respect it, sure, but never to become trapped in its amber grip. To stay still is to stagnate. They’ve always been innovators, from hampers and Scotch eggs to having their own beehives on the roof. With the Food and Drink Awards, they continually inspire (and reward) excellence in British food writing. And in 45 Jermyn St. they have a thoroughly modern restaurant that still values old-fashioned delight. Comfort, quality, the joys of a civilised long lunch.

This is the first official Fortnum & Mason cook book in over 300 years, the recipes a fusion of the classic and modern. But it is no mere coffee-table tome, destined to look good but gather dust – this is a book that should become splattered and worn with constant use, to be bent, bruised and loved. Like Fortnum & Mason itself, it aims to be timeless and practical, offering a taste of Britain with a resolutely global appetite. A keeper of British tradition and a curator of the world’s greatest ingredients. The recipes, though, are all united by two things – their connection with Fortnum & Mason, and the fact that they taste damned fine too. So here’s to the Grande Dame of Piccadilly. To good food, and cooking. And to the next 300 years.

 

 

Ingredients

Good cooking starts with the best possible ingredients – a simple but fundamental Fortnum’s philosophy. Listed here are some favourites, all of which will make the recipes in this book the best they can be.

Burford Brown eggs

The yolks are wonderfully creamy.

Butter

Fortnum’s have some amazing butter, but one particular favourite is Abernethy butter, churned by hand in Ireland.

Honey

A great substitute for sugar, Fortnum’s has an exquisite assortment of honeys.

Chardonnay vinegar

This delectably rounded vinegar will work wonders in any dressing.

25-month-aged Parmesan cheese

With a wonderfully salty and peppery flavour, this can be grated over carpaccio, asparagus or salads. Or simply eaten with honey.

Anchovies

Fortnum’s use L’Escala anchovies – as a seasoning with lamb, in a salad, to boost the flavours of a dish, or served on toast.

Fortnum & Mason’s Traditional Potted Stilton

From the last family-owned Stilton producer in the UK, this cheese can be made only with milk from the three ‘Stilton counties’ – Derbyshire, Nottinghamshire and Leicestershire.

Daphne’s Welsh lamb

Produced by Daphne Tilley in Denbighshire, this is lamb as it’s supposed to taste.

Fortnum’s smoked salmon

The house cure comes from Severn & Wye in Gloucestershire. They use Var salmon (one of the most sustainable and fine-tasting farmed fish), gently smoked over oak. The result is a delicate, smoked salmon with languorous length and true depth of flavour.

Glenarm salt-aged beef

This beef is hand-selected from the Glenarm Estate in Northern Ireland. It is then dry-aged for 28–42 days in the producer’s Himalayan salt chamber, a process that reduces moisture and intensifies the flavour.

Fortnum’s Single Cask Madeira

This goes beautifully with most puddings. Once opened it will keep indefinitely. An ever-reliable store-cupboard ingredient.

 

 

Breakfast

 

‘The English-speaking world divides roughly into two main camps – one camp swears by tea, the other coffee. Occasionally, each camp swears at the other. At Fortnum’s, we maintain a strict neutrality. Here harmony reigns – for here you will find the best of both worlds’

 

 

Grilled Kippers with Lemon and Parsley Butter

After Edward VIII had abdicated, and was waiting, in exile, to marry Mrs Simpson at Château de Condé, he still craved a taste of home. So he had Fortnum’s send down its Craster kippers (from Northumberland, with a strong oak smoke) every morning by plane. Anything to avoid that gloomy Continental breakfast.

Proper oak-smoked herrings are a classic British breakfast dish, although they seem to have fallen out of fashion in recent years. Why? All those fiddly bones? Perhaps. My mother reckons it’s the smell, which tends to linger, but if you poach them, you’ll have no such odorous issues. Anyway, the scent of grilling kippers is sublime.

As ever with such a simple, unfettered dish, quality is everything. A second-rate kipper is a mean and disconsolate thing. Fortnum’s source theirs from Severn & Wye. The smoke is elegant and rather light. They’re grilled, and served with a melting lump of good butter. Add a decent twist of pepper, and you have a breakfast fit for an (ex) king.

Serves 2

2 kippers

a little olive oil

For the lemon and parsley butter

50g softened unsalted butter

a small bunch of curly parsley, finely chopped

1 lemon

Put the butter into a small bowl and beat in the parsley. Add the zest of a quarter of the lemon, then cut the lemon in half, squeeze the juice from one half and beat that in too. Taste the butter and add more lemon zest or juice if you like.

Heat the grill and line the grill pan with foil. Place the kippers on it skin-side down and brush them lightly with olive oil. Grill for 6–8 minutes, then transfer to serving plates and top each kipper with a spoonful of the lemon and parsley butter. Serve with the remaining lemon half, cut in two, and some brown or granary toast.

 

Porridge

Porridge, stirred slowly, the old-fashioned way. Which means just water, real Scottish oats, salt and, if required, a splash of cream. Plus honey, the golden nectar that runs thick through Fortnum’s veins. A simple dish, but one that has to be made just right. You sure don’t want to annoy a Scotsman. In the eternal words of P. G. Wodehouse, ‘It has never been hard to tell the difference between a Scotsman with a grievance and a ray of sunshine.’

Serves 4

1 litre water

a large pinch of salt

200g porridge oats

To serve

plenty of runny honey

double cream (optional)

Suggested toppings

golden raisins

sunflower seeds with ground cinnamon

sliced banana with maple syrup

blueberries with chia seeds

Bring the water and salt to the boil and whisk in the oats. Cook gently for 4–5 minutes, until the mixture has thickened and the oats are tender.

Ladle into 4 bowls and top with a generous swirl of honey and/or one of the toppings suggested. To make the porridge extra luxurious, add a good splash of double cream.

Boiled Egg and Soldiers

A boiled egg, I hear you cry? A boiled bloody egg? But everyone knows how to boil an egg. Get water to a rolling bubble, add egg, cook, and remove. Simple, right? Well, yes and no. We’ve all suffered the indignities of overcooked ovoids more suited to tennis than tucker. Or undercooked, where the white teeters on the translucent, and the yolk is still cold. But to Fortnum & Mason, perfection is all about just-firm white and oozing yolk, all the better for the buttered soldier’s initial assault.

Traditionally, the bread was baked fresh on the premises, while the butter came up, in churns, from Somerset and Devon. It was there, thanks to all that lush grass, that the richest, sweetest and deepest yellow butter could be found. It was wrapped in lettuce leaves, to keep it cool, in the days before refrigeration.

As to instructions – the fresher the egg, the better. And please, never ever keep eggs in the fridge. There’s no need and, if you do, plunging cold eggs straight into bubbling H2O will cause them to crack.

1 Put the eggs into a pan of cold water.

2 Bring the water to the boil.

3 Turn off the heat and cover the pan.

4 Set your timer for the desired time:

3 minutes for really soft-boiled eggs

4 minutes for soft-boiled eggs

6 minutes for firm soft-boiled eggs

10 minutes for firm yet still creamy hard-boiled eggs

15 minutes for very firm hard-boiled eggs.

Serve with lavishly buttered toast soldiers.

Plus a sprinkle of salt and pepper.

 

 

Caviar Boiled Eggs

Caviar. ‘As eaten by mermaids in cool grottos’, according to the honeyed words of ‘All The World’s a Stage’, a Fortnum & Mason Commentary from the early 1930s. These fearsomely expensive fish eggs have long been a favourite Fortnum’s product, sourced from wild Volga sturgeon. Thanks, though, to rampant overfishing, the wild stuff is now illegal. Good. But farmed stuff is so fine these days that it would take a master to spot the difference. At 45 Jermyn St., a caviar trolley has been introduced. And its well-oiled wheels have barely stopped revolving. Here, with impeccable tableside theatrics, eggs are scrambled before your very eyes.

Serves 4

12 Burford Brown eggs

150ml double cream

70g unsalted butter, plus extra for buttering the toast

1 tablespoon chopped chives

20g Oscietra caviar

8 slices of sourdough bread, toasted

salt and freshly ground white pepper

Bring a large pan of water to a rapid boil and add 8 of the eggs. Simmer for 6 minutes. Remove the eggs from the pan and refresh under cold water. When they are just slightly warm, put the eggs in eggcups and cut the top off each one. Carefully remove the yolks with a teaspoon, mash them with a fork and set aside.

Crack the remaining 4 eggs into a bowl, add the double cream and some salt and pepper and whisk until combined.

Melt the butter in a heavy-based pan and add the beaten eggs. Cook gently, stirring, until they are softly scrambled. Remove from the heat and stir in the mashed egg yolks and the chopped chives. Fill the boiled eggs with the scrambled eggs and top with the caviar. Serve with the buttered, toasted sourdough.

 

Highland Scramble

At Fortnum’s, the 45 Jermyn St. salmon cure is smoked on the roof, not far from the beehives. They also have a house cure, and organic and wild varieties too. Just add scrambled eggs, soft and buttery. Simple, but sublime.

Serves 4

80ml double cream

40g butter, plus extra for buttering the toast

salt and freshly ground white pepper

8 eggs, preferably Burford Browns, lightly beaten

250g smoked salmon

1 tablespoon chopped chives, to garnish

4 slices of sourdough bread, toasted

4 lemon wedges, to serve

Pour the double cream into a heavy-based pan and bring to the boil. Add the butter and heat until foamy. Season with salt and white pepper, then reduce the heat to low, add the beaten eggs and stir with a heatproof spatula until they are softly set. To prevent overcooking, it’s best to take them off the heat a minute or so before they are done; they will continue to cook in the heat of the pan.

Arrange the smoked salmon in a nest on 4 serving plates. Put the scrambled eggs in the centre of each one and sprinkle with the chives. Serve accompanied by the buttered toast and the lemon wedges.

 

Kedgeree with Smoked Haddock

A culinary love child of Empire, this Anglo-Indian dish has its roots in khichri, a deeply sub-continental mix of lentils, rice, herbs and spices. Bewhiskered brigadiers and very proper peers came back to Blighty with a taste for the dish, gradually adding fish, preferably smoked, in place of lentils, and a few boiled eggs for that true taste of Nanny’s nursery. And so kedgeree was born.

Fortnum & Mason was always a spice pioneer, and was among the first British companies, around 1849, to mix its own curry powders. One of the Fortnum family was part of the East India Company. And Fortnum’s even had a range of bottled curry sauces.

There’s a whiff of cardamom and coriander in this recipe, plus coconut milk for the most gentle tropical allure. The eggs should be soft-boiled, and the curry spicing delicate rather than fierce.

Serves 4

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

2 shallots, finely diced

4 garlic cloves, crushed

4 cardamom pods

1 teaspoon coriander seeds

1 tablespoon medium curry powder

250g basmati rice

50g golden raisins

200ml coconut milk

250ml chicken stock

400g undyed smoked haddock

6 eggs

200ml crème fraîche

4 tablespoons chopped coriander

salt and freshly ground black pepper

Heat the vegetable oil in a heavy-based casserole, add the shallots and garlic, then cover and cook gently. Remove the cardamom seeds from the pods and lightly crush them in a pestle and mortar with the coriander seeds. Add them to the pan along with the curry powder and continue to cook for another 5–10 minutes, until the shallots are tender.

Rinse the rice in a sieve under the cold tap, then drain well and add to the pan, stirring to coat it with the spices. Add the raisins. Mix the coconut milk and stock together, add to the rice and bring to the boil. Cover the casserole tightly with a lid or aluminium foil and transfer to an oven heated to 180°C/Gas Mark 4. Cook for 20 minutes, until the liquid has been absorbed and the rice is tender. Remove from the oven and fluff the rice up gently with a fork. Season with salt and pepper.

While the rice is cooking, poach the smoked haddock. Put it into a large frying pan, cover with water and bring to a gentle simmer. It should be cooked through at this point; if not, turn it over and give it a minute longer. Remove from the pan, drain thoroughly and leave until cool enough to handle. Flake the flesh into large chunks, discarding the skin and any bones.

Soft-boil the eggs by adding them to a pan of boiling water and simmering for 4 minutes. Remove and cool under running water. When they are completely cold, shell the eggs, cut them into halves or quarters and set aside.

Put the crème fraîche into a pan, bring to a simmer, then add the cooked smoked haddock and cook gently for a couple of minutes to heat through. Gently fork the haddock and cream through the rice.

Serve in individual shallow bowls or in one large serving dish, garnished with the soft-boiled eggs and chopped coriander.

 

 

Toasted Crumpets with Marmite and Poached Burford Browns

This is a dish created for the opening of 45 Jermyn St. And there’s some lively debate as to who actually invented this mightily British combination of butter, crumpet, Marmite and oozing egg. But whoever it was deserves a CBE for services to their country. Magnificent, and magnificently simple too.

Serves 2

50ml white wine vinegar

4 crumpets

4 Burford Brown eggs, at room temperature

unsalted butter

Marmite

ground black pepper

Fill a large saucepan with water and bring it to just under boiling point. Turn down to a simmer and add the vinegar.

Place the crumpets in a toaster; they should be double-toasted to give them a little crispness.

Crack each egg into a small cup (this makes it easier to poach 4 at the same time). With a slotted spoon, swirl the water around to create a whirlpool in the centre, then gently drop all the eggs into it. Turn the heat back up and, when it starts bubbling again, turn it back down to a low simmer. Poach the eggs for 3–4 minutes – they will rise to the surface when they are done. Remove them from the pan with the slotted spoon and put them on a wad of kitchen paper to soak up the excess water.

Spread the crumpets generously with butter, then spread with Marmite. Put them on 2 plates, top each one with a poached egg and sprinkle with a little ground black pepper.

 

Lobster Benedict

As if the classic eggs Benedict wasn’t rich enough, the ham has been swapped for sweet chunks of lobster. Don’t fear the Béarnaise sauce. Glass bowl. Gentle heat. Have faith. And make sure the lobster is a touch undercooked, as the warm sauce will bring it to soft succulence. As ever, organisation and preparation are everything. Get the ingredients in place before you start.

Serves 4

50ml white wine vinegar

8 very fresh eggs

20g unsalted butter

400g spinach

4 plain white muffins

350g cooked lobster, sliced

salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the Béarnaise sauce

200g unsalted butter

1 shallot, finely chopped

50ml white wine vinegar

50ml white wine

5 black peppercorns

4 sprigs of tarragon

3 large egg yolks

a pinch of cayenne pepper

2–3 teaspoons lemon juice

First make the Béarnaise sauce. Clarify the butter by melting it gently in a small pan, then pouring it into a jug, leaving the milky solids behind. Put the shallot, vinegar and wine into a small saucepan with the peppercorns and a sprig of tarragon and boil until reduced to about a tablespoon.

Strain into a large bowl. Set the bowl over a pan of gently simmering water, making sure the water doesn’t touch the base of the bowl. Add the egg yolks and cook, whisking constantly with a balloon whisk, for about 3 minutes, until the mixture is pale and slightly thickened.

Reheat the melted butter in a microwave for a few seconds, if necessary; it should be lukewarm. Whisk it into the egg yolks a little at a time. As the sauce thickens and becomes more stable, you can add it faster. When you have a smooth, thick sauce, season with salt, cayenne pepper and lemon juice to taste. If the sauce is too thick, let it down with a little warm water (remember, this is a sauce, not mayonnaise). Chop the remaining tarragon sprigs and stir them in. Turn off the heat, but leave the bowl over the pan so the sauce keeps warm.

Next, poach the eggs. Fill a large saucepan with water and bring it to just under boiling point. Turn down to a simmer and add the vinegar. Crack 4 of the eggs into individual small cups (this makes it easier to poach 4 at the same time). With a slotted spoon, swirl the water around to create a whirlpool in the centre, then gently drop all 4 eggs into it. Turn the heat back up and, when it starts bubbling again, turn it back down to a low simmer. Poach the eggs for 3–4 minutes: they will rise to the surface when they are done. Remove them from the pan with the slotted spoon and put them on a wad of kitchen paper to soak up the excess water. Repeat with the 4 remaining eggs.

Heat the butter in a large frying pan, add the spinach and some salt and pepper and stir over a medium heat for 2–3 minutes, until the spinach has wilted. Transfer to a sieve and press out the excess liquid with the back of a wooden spoon.

Split and toast the muffins. Put 2 muffin halves on each serving plate and top with the spinach, followed by the lobster. Place the poached eggs on top and spoon over the Béarnaise sauce.

 

 

Baked Beans with Chorizo

Fortnum’s use Heinz in this dish. Don’t look so shocked. Fortnum & Mason were the first in Britain, back in 1886, to sell Mr Heinz’s famed baked beans. And, in 2007, there was a special tin commissioned, clad in Fortnum’s eau-de-nil, to commemorate the 300th anniversary of the store. This really is a dish to knock up in moments. A perfect lazy supper. Or weekend breakfast. With some shallots, butter, chorizo, parsley and Parmesan, this recipe takes the everyday and makes it great.

Serve with French bread. Diced streaky bacon makes a great alternative to the chorizo or, for vegetarians, you can substitute batons of fried courgette.

Serves 2

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 small shallot, finely diced

120g chorizo, cut into slices 5mm thick

1 x 415g tin of baked beans

30g butter, diced

1 tablespoon chopped parsley

20g Parmesan cheese, grated

Heat the olive oil in a frying pan, add the shallot and fry gently until softened. Add the chorizo and fry until caramelised and slightly crisp.

Heat the baked beans in a separate pan. Stir in the butter a few pieces at a time, then add the shallot and the oily juices from cooking the chorizo. Finally add the parsley and Parmesan cheese.

Serve the beans in shallow bowls with the chorizo on top.

 

Scrambling Prawns

This is a dish from the archives, hugely popular in the mid-50s as an hors d’oeuvre in the Outside Catering catalogue. Eggs scrambled with prawns, with a lobster bisque added for serious richness. You don’t need tiger prawns, rather those smaller, more flavour-packed pink commas from the North Sea.

You do only need a little of the bisque for this recipe, but it freezes well and is perfect for shellfish soups and risottos. Use the shells left over from Lobster Benedict (see here) to make it.

Serves 4

25g unsalted butter

400g raw peeled Atlantic prawns

8 eggs, lightly beaten

2 tablespoons chopped chives

2 tablespoons chopped chervil

4 slices of white bread, crusts removed

3 tablespoons vegetable oil

salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the lobster bisque

about 500g lobster shells

4 tablespoons olive oil

1 carrot, diced

2 celery sticks, diced

1 leek, diced

1 onion, diced

4 sprigs of thyme

2 bay leaves

1 tablespoon tomato purée

50ml brandy

150ml white wine

50ml double cream

First make the lobster bisque. Break up the lobster shells into smaller pieces – or bash the thicker ones with a hammer. Put them into a roasting tin, drizzle over a little of the olive oil and place in an oven heated to 200°C/Gas Mark 6. Roast for 10–15 minutes. This step isn’t essential but it will greatly improve the flavour of the bisque.

Meanwhile, heat the remaining oil in a large pan, add the carrot, celery, leek and onion and cook until softened but not coloured. Add the lobster shells, thyme, bay leaves and tomato purée. Cook, stirring, for a few minutes, until the tomato purée becomes a ruddy brown colour. Add the brandy, heat for a few seconds, then set it alight, standing well back. When the flames have died away, add the white wine and simmer until reduced by half. Pour in enough water to cover, bring to the boil and simmer for 1 hour, regularly skimming the froth from the surface. Strain through a fine sieve lined with a piece of muslin. Reheat gently, season with salt and pepper if necessary, and stir in the cream.

Heat the butter in a saucepan, add the prawns and some salt and sauté for 2–3 minutes, until the prawns are heated through but not coloured. Add 3 tablespoons of the lobster bisque and cook until slightly reduced. Add the beaten eggs and stir over a very low heat until softly scrambled. Be careful not to overcook them; they should be baveuse (soft). Stir in the herbs and check the seasoning.

Fry the bread in the vegetable oil until golden brown on both sides. Drain on kitchen paper, then place on 4 serving plates and top with the scrambling prawns. Drizzle 2 teaspoons of lobster bisque around each one.

 

Avocado with Toasted Sourdough Bread and Bloody Mary Sauce

Fortnum & Mason once had its very own team of plant hunters, scouring the globe for all things green, exciting and novel. Rather like Indiana Jones, with a pair of secateurs rather than a bullwhip. In fact, they were so respected that they even won a Gold Medal at the Great Exhibition in 1851.

This dish is hardly original, but is made piquant with Fortnum’s own-blend vodka-spiked Bloody Mary sauce. Boozy but rather brilliant. You can always leave out the booze, or make double the amount of Bloody Mary, so you can sip one on the side. Perfect for starting the day with a bang.

Serves 2

2 ripe avocados

juice of ½ small lime

½ red chilli, deseeded and very finely diced

2 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley

2 large slices of sourdough bread, toasted

salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the Bloody Mary sauce

50ml vodka

15ml lemon juice

½–1 teaspoon creamed horseradish sauce

4 dashes of Worcestershire sauce

4 drops of Tabasco sauce

75ml tomato juice

a pinch each of salt and pepper

To make the Bloody Mary sauce, mix all the ingredients together in a jug. Taste and adjust the seasonings if necessary, then set aside.

Cut the avocados in half, remove the stones, then peel and cut into small chunks. Transfer to a bowl and toss with the lime juice, chilli and salt and pepper to taste. Stir in the parsley.

Divide the mixture between 2 serving plates. Drizzle the Bloody Mary sauce over and around and serve immediately, accompanied by the sourdough toast.

 

Marmalade

Marmalade in the morning, someone once said, has the same effect upon the taste buds as a cold shower does on the body. It revives and refreshes, sharpening the senses with its exquisitely bitter bite. Fortnum’s has an astonishing twenty-five varieties, ranging from the elegant and well behaved (Burlington Breakfast, with fine-cut peel and pale golden jelly) to the altogether more bold and forthright (Sir Nigel’s Vintage Orange, created in the 1920s for actor-manager Sir Nigel Playfair. It’s bitter, thick cut, dark and deep).

If these two extremes don’t tempt, there’s plenty of choice in between: Old Hunt, with medium-cut peel; Monarch, rich, regal and full-bodied; Dark Navy with Rum, for that slightly boozy kick; English Breakfast, infused with Royal Blend Tea. Even one with a chilli and ginger kick, the deliciously diabolical Lucifer’s. And that’s just the orange-based varieties. You can also find marmalade made with blood orange, pink grapefruit and lime.

Marmeleda was the Portuguese name for a solid quince paste, imported by the rich of England in the fifteenth century. Used as either medicine or a pudding dish, these solid marmalades (designed to be sliced and eaten as a sweetmeat) were also made from lemons and Seville oranges. Over time, the jellies became more soft and spreadable and eventually, some time in the eighteenth century, made their way on to our toast.

Fortnum’s also has a close affiliation with the World’s Original Marmalade Awards, for amateurs and artisans, based at Dalemain Mansion in Cumbria and started in 2006. Hundreds of jars are entered, and the annual ‘Best in Show’ is sold in store. Winners range from a traditional family recipe (Lord Henley in 2011), to the Radnor Preserves Smoky Campfire (2015’s victor), a blend of orange, smoked salt, chilli flakes and maple syrup. A long way from the quince paste of old, but a worthy victor all the same.

And there are few things more British than toast, hot and thick, spread with cool butter and a blanket of marmalade. As a child, I couldn’t bear the stuff. Too bitter by half, an unwanted taste of adulthood. But like olives, anchovies and pickled onions, marmalade gradually moves, with the passing of the years, from villain to steadfast ally. It’s a fine ingredient in its own right too. Dribbled over steaming sponges, baked into teacakes and served up with sausages. That last combination is particularly sublime, where the sweet, salty and bitter all waltz together in a splendid breakfast dance.

I never quite mastered the art of making marmalade at home. The kitchen always ended up with every surface coated in sticky sugar, and the end result was either too runny or turgidly thick. Thank God, then, for Fortnum’s marmalade. A style to suit every possible desire.

 

Marmalade-glazed Sausages

This may sound a little bizarre, but the match of sweet pork and bitter orange is one made in heaven. Fortnum & Mason used to supply Seville oranges (an advertisement was placed in The Times each January announcing the arrival of the new-season Sevilles) and sugar, but didn’t make their own marmalade for the domestic market. They did, however, boil up batches for overseas from 1849, the perfect salve for those expats craving a taste of home.

By the 1920s, as technology began to burn as fierce as a sulphur flash, production was taken back in house and the famed range of Fortnum’s marmalades began. There are a variety of different strengths. The Burlington is a nineteenth-century recipe, followed by the Old English Hunt, made for the Pytchley Hunt. But the most bitter and bold, with thick curls of peel, was created in 1926 for the great actor and manager Sir Nigel Playfair. It remains a bestseller to this day.

The best way to cook sausages is slow and low, over a gentle heat, turning them every now and again until the skin turns burnished and sticky.

Serves 2–3

1 Cumberland sausage ring

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

1 generous tablespoon dark, thick-cut marmalade

a knob of butter

Pass 2 long wooden skewers diagonally through the sausage ring to help it keep its shape during cooking.

Heat the oil in a frying pan, add the sausage and cook over a medium heat for about 25 minutes, until well browned on both sides and cooked through.

Pour off the excess oil, return the pan to the heat and stir in the marmalade, followed by the butter. Cook until the sausage is well coated, then put it on a plate, remove the skewers and spoon the remaining glaze over. Serve with extra marmalade, if you like.

 

 

Greek Yoghurt with Granola and Lime Marmalade

Home-made granola is key here, lots of fat nuts, plus flaked almonds, orange zest, demerara sugar, honey and golden syrup. A serious, fresh, grown-up granola, with that all-important balance of sweetness and citrus tang. Make it in large batches, as it will keep for 3–4 weeks in an airtight container. Add fresh or dried fruit at your discretion. And don’t just stick to marmalade. Fruit compote, jam, milk and cream will all delight too.

Serves 4, with plenty of granola left for another day

300g Greek yoghurt

4 heaped tablespoons lime marmalade

For the granola

55g unsalted butter

60g honey

25g golden syrup

85g demerara sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

25g hazelnuts, roughly chopped

75g pecan nuts, roughly chopped

35g pistachio nuts

50g flaked almonds

70g sunflower seeds

30g desiccated coconut

125g porridge oats

grated zest of 2 oranges

Put the butter, honey, golden syrup and demerara sugar into a pan and melt over a low heat. Remove from the heat and stir in the vanilla extract.

Combine all the dry ingredients in a bowl, add the orange zest and pour in the butter mixture. Mix until the dry ingredients are thoroughly coated. Spread the mixture out on a baking tray lined with baking parchment and place in an oven heated to 150°C/Gas Mark 2. Bake for 50–60 minutes, turning the mixture over every 15 minutes or so, until it is golden brown. Leave to cool and crisp up, then store in an airtight container.

To serve, spoon the Greek yoghurt into 4 glass dishes. Top with the lime marmalade and sprinkle a couple of generous spoonfuls of granola over it.

 

Scotch Pancakes with Marmalade

Made with buttermilk, these pancakes are soft and cloud-like. Pile ’em high. At Fortnum’s, they are served with marmalade. But they’re more traditionally served (in the US, at least) with bacon and maple syrup.

Makes about 20

250g plain flour

2 teaspoons bicarbonate of soda

2 teaspoons sugar

1 teaspoon salt

2 eggs

500ml buttermilk

100g unsalted butter, melted, plus extra for greasing

marmalade, to serve

Sift the flour, bicarbonate of soda, sugar and salt into a bowl and make a well in the centre. Add one egg and one egg yolk to the well and mix them in with a wooden spoon, drawing in the flour from the sides. Gradually beat in the buttermilk, followed by the butter. In a separate bowl, whisk the remaining egg white until stiff, then fold it into the mixture.

Place a large, heavy-based frying pan or a flat griddle pan over a medium heat and grease it lightly. Add a ladleful of the batter for each pancake – you should be able to cook 2 or 3 at a time. Cook for about 3 minutes, until the pancakes are golden brown underneath and are beginning to look dry around the edges on top. Flip them over to cook the other side. You can keep them warm in a low oven while you cook the rest, if necessary. Serve spread with marmalade – and with butter as well, if you like.

 

Marmalade-glazed Ham with Fried Duck Eggs

Ham meets Seville orange. Again. Not everyone has the time to glaze their own ham. But it’s pretty easy. Simmer the joint, then slather sticky marmalade all over the surface (Sir Nigel’s is perfect and has a bold tang) and bake. Duck eggs are rich and wonderful. But chicken eggs will do just fine. Serve with a spoonful of beetroot chutney, or any other chutney you like, on the side.

Serves 4, with ham leftovers

1 x 2kg ham joint

a few cloves to stud the ham

4 duck eggs

a good knob of butter, for frying

freshly ground black pepper

For the marmalade glaze

4 heaped tablespoons strong marmalade

½ teaspoon ground cinnamon

a pinch of ground cloves

25g dark soft brown sugar

Put the ham into a large pan, cover with cold water and bring to a simmer. Drain well, then cover with cold water again, bring to a simmer and cook gently for an hour. Drain again, then transfer the ham to a roasting tin and place it in an oven heated to 180°C/Gas Mark 4. Bake for 30 minutes. Meanwhile, mix together all the ingredients for the glaze.

Remove the ham from the oven and peel off the rind with a small sharp knife, leaving a good coating of fat. Score the fat in diamond shapes and stud each one with a clove. Coat the ham generously with the marmalade glaze, then return it to the oven and cook for 30 minutes, spooning the glaze in the tin over it from time to time, until it is burnished and golden.

Leave the ham to rest for about 10 minutes while you fry the duck eggs in the butter (if you keep the heat low, the whites will stay smooth and white). Carve the ham and serve each portion with a duck egg on top, sprinkled with a little freshly ground black pepper. Accompany with toasted sourdough or granary bread.

 

 

Morning Tea

 

‘Such a tea as this makes the mind young with pleasure’

 

 

A combination as British as, well, Fortnum & Mason – tea and biscuits were always made to be together. Although baked at Fortnum’s from the start, biscuits were originally big in the export trade. All that added sugar and fat was essential for those in search of the Northwest Passage. Or the speediest route up K2. The domestic market had no need (with the exception of a few delicate French-made fancies) to buy biscuits ready-made, as their cooks would do it for them. Of course.

But by the 1920s and 30s, biscuits were made fresh each day and sold alongside the fruits of the Chocolate and Cake Department. So people would come in for morning tea and biscuits. These days, biscuits are still hugely popular, ranging from Pistachio & Clotted Cream, to Dark Chocolate & Macadamia Nut to the mighty Chocolossus.

 

 

Ginger Biscuits

These babies have bite. Far more than your favourite shop-bought ginger nut. You really taste the fiery soul of this punchy root. Both candied and ground ginger are used, and demerara sugar adds its rich, redolent charms. The size may be small, but the flavour is immense.

Makes about 35

135g unsalted butter

135g golden syrup

300g plain flour

4 teaspoons baking powder

1½ teaspoons bicarbonate of soda

2 tablespoons ground ginger

105g demerara sugar

2–3 nuggets of candied ginger

Put the butter and golden syrup into a pan and heat gently until the butter has melted. Sift the flour, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda and ground ginger into a bowl. Stir in the demerara sugar, then make a well in the centre and grate in one of the pieces of candied ginger – either finely or coarsely, as you prefer. Add the melted butter and syrup to the well and stir to bring everything together into a dough.

Break off pieces of the dough approximately the size of a candied ginger nugget and roll each one into a ball. Place on baking sheets lined with baking parchment, spacing them about 6cm apart. Press each ball of dough to flatten it slightly.

Cut the remaining candied ginger into small dice and place a piece in the centre of each biscuit. Transfer to an oven heated to 160°C/Gas Mark 3 and bake for about 8 minutes, until golden. Leave to firm up on the baking sheet for a couple of minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool.

Note: once made, the cookie dough can be wrapped and frozen. Defrost and bake as required.

 

Florentine Biscuits

Despite them sounding resolutely Italian, you’re actually more likely to find these sticky, lacy, candied-fruit creations in a French pâtisserie. ‘An exceptionally delicious titbit’, in the words of former Fortnum & Mason Executive Chef, Jean Conil.

These are slightly different from the classic Florentines, in that they sit on a pastry base. The honey caramel binding lies at their heart, with dried fruit and nuts, and should be made with a surfeit of double cream, while the final texture should be crisp, with a hint of the seductively chewy.

Makes 20

½ quantity of Sweet Pastry (see here)

50ml double cream

40g honey

40g unsalted butter

20g liquid glucose

115g caster sugar

85g mixed dried fruit, such as sultanas, diced apricots and quartered glacé cherries

120g flaked almonds

20g pistachio nuts, chopped

You will need a shallow baking tin approximately 30cm x 24cm. Roll out the pastry into a 4mm-thick rectangle and use to line the tin. Prick the pastry all over with a fork and chill for 30 minutes. Bake in an oven heated to 170°C/Gas Mark 4 for about 10 minutes, until very lightly coloured.

Meanwhile, put the cream, honey, butter, liquid glucose and caster sugar into a heavy-based pan and bring to the boil, stirring constantly. Remove from the heat and stir in the dried fruit and nuts. Pour the mixture carefully over the pastry base and spread it level. Return to the oven at 160°C/Gas Mark 3 and bake for 15–20 minutes, until golden.

Remove from the oven and cut into fingers when the topping has firmed up but is still warm.

 

Shortbread

Shortbread used to be made on the Fortnum’s premises and is still a perennial bestseller. It’s all about the butter, rather than hateful margarine, and that essential crumble. A tablespoon of porridge oats is added in this recipe for extra texture.

Makes 10

120g softened unsalted butter

70g caster sugar, plus extra for dusting

165g plain flour

15g porridge oats

Cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Sift in the flour, then mix in the oats and bring the mixture together to form a dough. Wrap in cling film and chill for 30 minutes.

Roll out the dough to about 1cm thick. Cut into rounds with a 6cm cutter and place on a baking sheet lined with baking parchment. Chill again for 30 minutes.

Place in an oven heated to 160°C/Gas Mark 3 and bake for 8–10 minutes, until very lightly coloured. Remove from the oven and sprinkle immediately with caster sugar, then leave to cool.

Teacakes

These are serious, fruity teacakes, toasted and slathered with butter and jam. This recipe makes pretty, petite mouthfuls. If you want more bulk, just shape into larger balls.

Makes 22 small teacakes

500g strong white flour

7g salt

50g caster sugar

15g milk powder

10g instant yeast

50g softened unsalted butter, diced

280ml water

180g currants

40g mixed peel

Put the flour, salt, sugar, milk powder and yeast into a large bowl. Add the butter and about three-quarters of the water and stir until well combined, adding the remaining water a little at a time until you have a fairly soft dough. Turn out on to a lightly floured board and knead for 8–10 minutes, until smooth and elastic. (Instead of doing all this by hand, you could mix and knead the dough in a freestanding electric mixer, if you have one.) Place in an oiled bowl, cover and leave for 1½–2 hours, until doubled in size.

Knock back the dough and turn it out on to a lightly floured work surface again. Add the currants and mixed peel and work them in well – it may look like too much at first but the dough will be able to hold it all if you persist. Divide the dough into 22 pieces – you can weigh them for accuracy if you want them all to be exactly the same size. Shape each one into a ball, rotating it under your hand on the work surface until smooth.

Place the balls of dough on 2 baking sheets lined with baking parchment, spacing them a few centimetres apart, and flatten slightly with your hand. Cover loosely with cling film or a tea towel and leave to prove until the teacakes have almost doubled in size.

Place in an oven heated to 200°C/Gas Mark 6 and bake for about 10 minutes, until golden. Leave the teacakes to cool, then split and toast them – or eat untoasted, if you prefer. Serve with lots of butter and jam.

Peanut Hob Biscuits

Oats, golden syrup and peanut butter – chunky, of course. Proper biscuits, and rather light too. Plus the children love making them, as the recipe is blissfully simple. Try to use the best peanut butter you can find, as it will improve the result no end. You could even spread them with a little strawberry jam, for a British take on peanut butter and jelly.

Makes 25–30

125g strong white flour

65g light soft brown sugar

125g rolled oats

½ teaspoon salt

125g unsalted butter

125g golden syrup

¼ teaspoon bicarbonate of soda

25ml water

60g chunky peanut butter

Put the flour, sugar, oats and salt into a bowl and stir to combine. Melt the butter and golden syrup together. Mix the bicarbonate of soda with the water, add it to the melted butter and golden syrup and mix well. Stir into the dry ingredients, then add the peanut butter and mix until combined into a dough. Leave to cool.

Shape heaped teaspoons of the mixture into balls and place them on baking sheets lined with baking parchment, spacing them well apart. Flatten the balls slightly. Place in an oven heated to 160°C/Gas Mark 3 and bake for 10–12 minutes, until golden brown. Leave the biscuits on the baking sheets for a few minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool.

Any excess mixture can be rolled into a cylindrical shape, wrapped in cling film and frozen. When you want to bake, remove the dough from the freezer, leave to defrost, slice and bake as above.

 

 

Garibaldi Biscuits

Better known to generations of children as the ‘squashed fly’, these slender biscuits are named after the great unifying Italian general. He even made a visit to South Shields in 1854, and the first recorded recipe is in 1861, where it was manufactured by Peek Freans. These are rather different from the packet version, though, more crisp, and less chewy and dense. Plus a wonderful scent of orange too. For best results, roll as thin as you dare.

Makes 35–40

250g plain flour

1½ teaspoons baking powder

a pinch of salt

60g unsalted butter, diced

40g light soft brown sugar

60ml orange juice

20ml water

1 egg, lightly beaten

250g raisins, chopped

1 egg white, lightly beaten

granulated golden sugar

Sift the flour, baking powder and salt into a bowl and rub in the butter with your fingertips until the mixture resembles fine crumbs. Stir in the sugar. Add the orange juice and water and mix to a fairly soft dough. Wrap in cling film and chill for 30 minutes or so.

On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough out into a rectangle 3–4mm thick. Brush half of it with the beaten egg and sprinkle the chopped raisins on top. Fold the other half of the pastry over the raisin-covered side, pressing the edges together to seal. Roll out to 3–4mm thick again.

Prick the dough all over with a fork, brush with the egg white and sprinkle with granulated golden sugar. Cut into fingers and transfer to a baking sheet lined with baking parchment (you may need more than one sheet). Place in an oven heated to 180°C/Gas Mark 4 and bake for about 8 minutes, until golden.

Crumpets

Bought crumpets are lovely but they are also very easy, and quick to make. You will need some crumpet or chef’s rings.

Makes 12

275ml milk

1 teaspoon caster sugar

250g strong white flour

1 tablespoon dried yeast

½ teaspoon bicarbonate of soda

1 teaspoon salt

butter, for frying and serving

Put the milk and 55ml water into a saucepan, warm over a gentle heat, then stir in the sugar. Put the flour into a bowl and stir in the yeast. Pour in the warm milk and stir together until smooth. Cover the bowl with a tea towel and leave in a warm place until the batter is frothy and full of bubbles. This can take anything from 20 minutes to a couple of hours.

Mix the bicarbonate of soda and salt with about 50ml warm water (you may need a little more). Gradually beat this into the batter until it is smooth.

Butter the insides of the crumpet rings. Heat a large frying pan or flat griddle and grease with a little butter. Put a couple of rings into the pan and add a tablespoon of batter to each one. Cook for 4–5 minutes, until bubbles, then holes, appear on the surface. Turn the crumpets over to cook the tops (this will take about a minute), then remove them and cook the rest of the batter in the same way.

Serve warm with lots of butter or one of the suggested toppings.

Crumpet Toppings

Hot, chewy and dripping with butter, the crumpet is a thing of gentle majesty. Especially when topped with mango chutney butter or honeyed cream cheese. A welcome elevenses, sure, but a snack that suits any whim, or time of the day.

Honey and Cream Cheese

1 tablespoon cream cheese

1 teaspoon good-quality honey

a few black sesame seeds

Mix the cream cheese and honey together and spread on a hot toasted crumpet. Add a sprinkling of black sesame seeds.

Marmalade and Lemon Curd

2 teaspoons marmalade

2 teaspoons lemon curd

Mix the marmalade and lemon curd together and spread on a hot toasted crumpet.

Mango Chutney Butter

2 teaspoons softened butter

2 teaspoons mango chutney

a pinch of chia seeds

Mix the butter and mango chutney together and spread on a hot toasted crumpet. Sprinkle with the chia seeds.

 

 

Seed Cake

An old-fashioned English classic, flavoured with ground almonds and a handful of caraway seeds. It may sound a little dull, but believe me, it ain’t. Don’t overdo the caraway, though, as it can tend to overwhelm any subtle notes. Topped with a golden crunch, this cake goes well with tea or coffee. Even better with a mid-morning glass of Madeira.

You can also add chopped peel if so desired. Fortnum’s has a huge range of whole candied fruit, which is superior to anything ready-cut from a supermarket.

Makes 1 large loaf

175g softened unsalted butter

175g caster sugar

3 large eggs, lightly beaten

250g self-raising flour

2 dessertspoons ground almonds

1 dessertspoon caraway seeds

40ml milk

For the topping

1 tablespoon flaked almonds, roughly crushed

1 tablespoon demerara sugar

1 tablespoon rolled oats

Beat the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs a little at a time, then fold in the flour, followed by the ground almonds and caraway seeds. Finally fold in the milk.

Transfer the mixture to a greased and lined 900g loaf tin. Mix together all the topping ingredients and sprinkle them over the cake. Place in an oven heated to 160°C/Gas Mark 3 and bake for 40–45 minutes, until the cake is well risen and golden brown and a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean. Leave the cake to cool in the tin for about 10 minutes, then turn out on to a wire rack to cool completely.

 

Tea

Tea. Perhaps the most iconic of the Fortnum & Mason offerings, and certainly one of the first. And as important as William Fortnum’s candle wax, upon which the empire was built. Because there can be no shop on earth where the leaves of Camellia sinensis (to address it in the most formal of terms) are treated with such reverence, and found in such great variety.

From the well-known blends (and the art of the blend, from Breakfast to Royal, is one for which Fortnum’s has long been famed), through the classic geographical areas (Assam, Darjeeling, Ceylon, Yunnan), the specialist (Gyokuro, perhaps Japan’s finest tea), and incredibly rare Single Estate beauties (100-Year-Old Tree, made from one of the oldest tea bushes in the Fenghuang Mountains), there are nearly 150 varieties in store at any one time. In 2015, an astonishing 230,000 pots were sold in the Diamond Jubilee Tea Salon and Gallery alone.

The ground floor is a temple to the dried leaf, a grand bazaar of tea caddies that brings together the finest varieties from India, China, Sri Lanka, Japan, Kenya, Taiwan, Nepal and even the UK. And these blessed leaves are inextricably entwined with the shop’s long and lustrous history. Okay, so the first imported variety – way back in 1712 – was the Chinese Black Bohea, made from inferior stalk, rather than the all-important leaf. But at 25 shillings a pound (about £100 in today’s money) it was an expensive brew, kept locked away in a tea caddy, way out of the reach of normal folk. Indeed, back then, tea was very much an aristocratic tipple.

Now, of course, it’s not only gloriously democratic but, after water, the most widely consumed drink in the world. As ever, though, at Fortnum & Mason, quality and consistency are paramount. And speaking to their buyers is like being whisked away to some far-off, romantic land, one filled with mist-shrouded plantations, secret gardens and tiny, family-run factories where the leaves are still roasted by hand. Terroir (climate, soil and geomorphology) is as important in growing tea as it is with grapes. And the relationship between Fortnum’s tea buyer and supplier often stretches back many generations, bonded by trust, respect, and more than a few sundowners too. It means that Fortnum’s has a direct link with the growers, choosing the very finest leaves. These close relationships ensure quality, consistency and all-important provenance.

India (Assam and Darjeeling), Ceylon (Sri Lanka) and China are still the main suppliers. And the leaves are turned into black, green, oolong or white tea, depending on how they are processed. It all starts with the first ‘invoice’, the very first taste of the crop of the year. It’s an indication of how the season is going to turn out, and one that gets Fortnum’s buzzing with caffeinated excitement. Much of the art is in the picking. Buyers look at how well the leaf has been twisted, and how much tip (where the most refined flavour resides) is left. As a tea-plucker, it’s much quicker and easier to pick the huge, dark, coarse leaves. But Fortnum’s insist on the very top of the plant, just two leaves and a bud (though there are always exceptions to the rule where the buds are not desired, depending on the style of tea). It is, of course, a markedly more skilled, and time-consuming task. But all-important when it comes to the final taste.

Once the best leaves and buds have been picked, they begin to wilt and oxidise. And need to be rolled and dried. Sharpish. The level of oxidation is key to the tea: too little, and the flavour is wan and underdeveloped; too much, and the taste will be stewed and over-fruity. Every single stage of the process, from picking to brewing, must be done just right to create that perfect cup of tea. Including the art of the blend, where the Fortnum’s buyers and tasters mix a variety of leaves (and assorted flavour additions) to produce a cup of something wonderful. Experience is key, and knowledge too, in creating something that will remain consistently fine for the entire year. Which is why the Fortnum & Mason pot of tea, in whatever variety you choose, is no mere cuppa. Rather it’s the distillation of Fortnum’s obsession, and the purest expression of the tea-grower’s art.

 

Sunday Times Bestseller

It’s a national icon, a British institution, the finest grocer of them all. Fortnum & Mason is a store that has fuelled the tide of British history, fed the appetites of kings and queens, maharajahs and czars, emperors, dukes and divas alike.

Fortnum & Mason is a constantly evolving, hugely successful modern enterprise, one that respects its magnificent history while looking forward into the 21st century. The first Fortnum & Mason’s cook book does the same, appealing to the modern reader and cook, whilst never forgetting the past.

A contemporary, accessible recipe book that combines superb recipes and expert advice on ingredients, The Cook Book: Fortnum & Mason shines a light on the history of the best British cuisine, with delicious, contemporary Modern British dishes.

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