The British are here! The British are here!

The Baltimore Sun

First came the Beatles. Then the Mini Coopers. The latest British invasion? The chefs. Here's "Naked Chef" Jamie Oliver pitching his new 446-page cooking instructional, Cook With Jamie, showing up on the Today show and debuting a new show on the Food Network, Jamie at Home.

Here's Nigella Lawson, who has a new Food Network show, Nigella Express, as well as a new quick-meals cookbook with the same name.

And here's Sam Stern, the British teen cooking sensation, encouraging America's youth to put down the Wii and pick up the spatula in his new cookbook, Real Food, Real Fast.

Oh, and Marco Pierre White, enfant terrible of Britain's chefs, is promoting his memoir, The Devil in the Kitchen: Sex, Pain, Madness and the Making of a Great Chef, in the United States.

Who can ignore White's protege, Gordon Ramsay, who spent an hour each week on Fox's Kitchen Nightmares swearing at incompetent restaurateurs? Ramsay also has got a gaggle of U.S. restaurants, the reality show Hell's Kitchen and the paperback version of his book Roasting in Hell's Kitchen: Temper Tantrums, F-Words, and the Pursuit of Perfection.

Chef Simon Hopkinson's cookbook Roast Chicken and Other Stories has long been beloved in the United Kingdom and has arrived in the United States. And then there's Fergus Henderson, the architect-turned-chef whose new cookbook, Beyond Nose to Tail: More Omnivorous Recipes for the Adventurous Cook, details how to cook a pig's head for a romantic meal.

Before you make a joke about steak and kidney pies, know that English cooks have never been hotter. (Quick quiz: In 2007, which city had more Michelin-starred restaurants: New York City or London? It's not the Big Apple.) And the United States is happily importing Britain's biggest names.

"It's wonderful to finally get people to stop sneering," said Nach Waxman, owner of New York City's Kitchen Arts and Letters, one of the largest cookbook stores in the country.

The culinary renaissance in Britain boils down, so to speak, to good timing. English chefs such as White and Ramsay raised the level of cooking in restaurants as home cooks were being urged by writers and television chefs to open their minds - and their pantries - to new flavors, ingredients and techniques from the Mediterranean and other regions, Waxman said.

"Suddenly, there was this great breeze of fresh, good cooking coming in. There was a convergence of people who were interested in doing professional and interesting and carefully conceived food and the home cooks who were suddenly more receptive to that," he said.

To say London and the rest of England are hot would be an understatement.

"It's one of the most food-centric cities in the world right now," said Food Network's senior vice president of programming, Bob Tuschman, who added that soon the network will be announcing another cooking show led by a British chef, though he remained coy about who that would be. "I think that would have been unimaginable 15 years ago."

There's so much interest in British cookbooks, Waxman said, that he regularly special-orders editions available only across the Atlantic for fans who cannot wait for them to come out here. And, he said, when word leaked out that Henderson was going to be at the store to sign copies of his book, an excited crowd of young American chefs showed up.

His and other British-cook recipes are, occasionally, very that-side-of-the-Atlantic. For example, Lawson, Stern and Oliver all offer recipes for Eton mess, a fruit, meringue and whipped-cream dessert beloved in England but virtually unheard of here - at least until now.

Curries (and other Indian-inspired dishes) also make appearances in these cookbooks as weekday staples far more likely to appear on an English kitchen table than an American one.

And there are loads of recipes for puddings. Besides a love of custards and meringue, other differences exist, too. Americans, Lawson said, are more demanding when it comes to exact measurements in recipes.

But, she said, there are far more similarities between the two cultures than differences. The British food of, say, Oliver and Lawson is primarily comfort fare you can make in your own home from ingredients bought at your local supermarket.

Trine Tsouderos writes for the Chicago Tribune.

Pan-Fried Scallops With Lentils, Pancetta and Lemon Creme Fraiche

Makes 4 servings

1 1/2 cups puy lentils

2 cloves garlic

1 tomato

1 russet potato, peeled, halved

1 bay leaf

1/4 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley leaves

2 tablespoons herb or red-wine vinegar

1/4 cup plus 1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil (divided use)

1 1/4 teaspoons sea salt (divided use)

freshly ground pepper

1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon creme fraiche or thick, natural plain yogurt

juice of 1 lemon

12 each: pancetta slices, trimmed asparagus spears

12 large or 16 small scallops

24 sage leaves

Cover the lentils with water by 1 inch in a medium saucepan; add the garlic, tomato, potato and bay leaf. Heat to a boil over medium-high heat; lower heat to a simmer. Cook until lentils are tender but still holding their shape, about 25 minutes. Drain, leaving about 1/4 cup of the water in the pan, stirring to combine; discard bay leaf.

Transfer the potato, tomato and garlic to a medium bowl; mash with a fork. Return mixture to lentils. Stir in the parsley, vinegar and 2 tablespoons of the olive oil, stirring to combine. Season with 1/2 teaspoon of the salt and pepper to taste; set aside. Season the creme fraiche with lemon juice, pepper to taste and 1/2 teaspoon of the salt; set aside. Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat; add the pancetta. Drizzle with 1 teaspoon of the olive oil. Cook, turning once, until golden and crisp, about 2 minutes per side; transfer to a platter. Add the asparagus and scallops to skillet; season with the remaining 1/4 teaspoon of salt and pepper to taste. Cook, turning occasionally, until the scallops are golden on both sides, about 2 minutes per side; transfer to the platter. Add the remaining 2 tablespoons of the olive oil; place the sage leaves in the skillet. Cook, turning once, until leaves are crisp, about 40 seconds. Transfer to the platter. Divide the lentils among 4 plates; top each plate with 3 or 4 scallops. Scatter the pancetta over the scallops. Place sage leaves and asparagus equally around the plate. Serve with a good dollop of the creme-fraiche mixture.

Adapted from "Cook With Jamie," by Jamie Oliver

Per serving: 548 calories, 24 grams fat, 5 grams saturated fat, 22 milligrams cholesterol, 57 grams carbohydrate, 29 grams protein, 1,202 milligrams sodium, 19 grams fiber

Recipe analysis provided by the Chicago Tribune.

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