I love to travel. One of my favorite pastimes when traveling is to visit food markets and grocery stores to see what our world neighbors are eating. While the food in some locations is more “exotic” than others, I still find food items and eating habits to differ significantly from one country to another.
My wife and I just returned from a wonderful three weeks in England. We visited Dorset, which is often referred to as the “Larder of England” or the “Pantry of England.” The many farms that dot this lovely countryside that Thomas Hardy made famous most certainly confirm this reputation.
While England does not enjoy the same reputation for fine cuisine when compared to France and Italy, you can easily find exceptional cuisine from all over the world – particularly in London. One of our favorite haunts is the now fashionable open air Borough Market in London which is on the south side of the Thames.
I had a lovely porchetta sandwich for lunch, but Borough market is probably best known for its cheeses – now relegated mostly to quaint shops on nearby side streets. Exploring this wonderful market, one can find most anything, including Pimm’s Cup. This fabulous market features fresh fish, meats and vegetables from around Europe. A great place for a quick and delicious lunch.
While open air markets are my passion, you really can’t get to know a country’s eating habits without visiting their supermarkets. One of my favorites in England is Waitrose. While there are plenty of other well known chains and specialty boutiques worth a detour, Waitrose is “where it is happening” for most families. In particular, I always make a point of picking up the FREE Waitrose Food magazine which is chock full of excellent and healthy recipes.
While I could speak at length comparing Waitrose to Wholefoods (for instance), I think it is fair to say that British shoppers are exposed to a far wider variety of prepared foods than most American shoppers. While many U.S. supermarkets now feature salad bars and hot-food entrees, Waitrose seems to have a far wider variety of prepared foods that one generally takes home to reheat and serve to the family.
Unless you are planning to visit London to enjoy these prepared meals yourself, I am featuring a wonderful recipe from the Waitrose April Food Magazine, “Borlotti bean and tuna salad with balsamic roast onions.” This Waitrose recipe is reprinted below and we have simply substituted fresh cranberry beans (frozen) for the borlotti beans and added our own balsamic vinegar, olive oil and bottled tuna. Enjoy.
Cranberry Bean and Tuna Salad
- 2 red onions thickly sliced into rings
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1 lemon
- pinch sugar
- 3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
- 100 grams tender-stem broccoli trimmed
- 400 grams cranberry beans borlotti beans if necessary, drained and rinsed if canned
- 1 celery heart thinly slice
- large handful of fresh pitted black olives
- chopped leaf parsley to garnish
- 200 grams tuna steak small bottle preserved in oil
- Preheat the oven to 190º C (375º F). Spread onion in one layer on a baking tray, season and drizzle with 1/2 tablespoon of the juice of 1/2 lemon, the sugar and 1/2 the vinegar. Roast for 20 minutes until just tender and crisp at the edges.
- Cook the broccoli in a pan of boiling salted water for 2 minutes; drain, rinse under cold water until cool and set aside.
- Put the cranberry or borlotti beans in a large bowl and toss through the celery, olives, parsley, broccoli, roasted onions with all their juices and the remaining vinegar and olive oil. Divide between plates, top with the tuna and squeeze over the remaining half lemon before serving.
This is a simple and wonderful salad.