United Kingdom

Why the UK?

May is Liam’s birthday month, and he has chosen England because he likes the English Lions’ song, which is associated in some complicated way with soccer.

And despite what many Brits want to think, England is not a standalone country. It is united with the (former) kingdoms of Wales and Scotland. And, um, Northern Ireland.

Was Northern Ireland ever a kingdom, I wonder? I suspect not – I’m sure there is a long and bloody history behind Northern Ireland’s union with England. You’ll be able to find out in the factsheet below!

My experience of the UK

I lived and worked in the UK for two years in 2008 and 2009, and absolutely loved it. I would have spiraled into depression if I thought I would have to spend the rest of my life there, but those two years there were magnificent.

It is impossible for Australians to understand how easy it is to fly to Paris or Berlin or Barcelona for the weekend. I wonder if Europeans realise how lucky they are to be so close to so much history and diversity.

But the absolute best thing about the UK for me is that Karma and her family live there. How I wish, every day,  that London wasn’t so far away.

Preparation

Lunch in the UK is on Sunday 27 May. We’ve invited Sarah and Jamie and their two kids. Lauren used to work with Sarah, and they were each other’s bridesmaids. And Jamie is one of the nicest people you’re ever going to meet.

The menu

Being the egalitarian that I am, we have to make sure that the menu represents the four countries, so we’re going to have:

  • Scottish red lentil soup (Scotland)
  • Black pudding (Scotland)
  • Shortbread, naturally (Scotland)
  • Scottish macaroon bars (Scotland)
  • Irish soda bread (Northern Ireland)
  • Colcannon, naturally (Northern Ireland)
  • Leek and caerphilly crumble tart, naturally (Wales)
  • Cawl (Wales)
  • Chicken tikka masala (England)
  • Eton mess, naturally (England)
  • Yorkshire pudding (England)
  • Pimms, naturally (England)

Jeepers, I’ve been worried that there will not be enough food, but that’s an awfully long list.

The Scottish macaroon bars are a bit weird – they’re made of mashed potato mixed with icing sugar and then dipped in chocolate and coconut.

And, yet again, I’ve left it too late to source authentic ingredients. I was particularly keen to do the leek and caerphilly crumble tart because my mother’s family was originally from Caerphilly. But I cannot get it locally, and had to use King Island Cheddar. Never mind.

Will suggested I get black pudding from the Salami Shack because they have the best black pudding outside of England (allegedly), so off I went to the Dingley Farmers’ Market last Saturday, where the Salami Shack had a stall. I also bought a roasted lamb salami, which was seriously delicious.

The Dingley Farmers’ Market was awesome – it was just like a country market, full of beautiful hand-made produce. I also bought some of the nicest gnocchi I’d ever eaten. I’m never going to even try to make gnocchi after eating Alberto’s Delicacies gnocchi. Truly, if you ever see Alberto’s gnocchi, do yourself a huge favour and give it a go. You won’t be sorry!

The highlight of lunch in the UK

The chicken tikka masala was lovely, and Will’s Yorkshire puddings were awesome – his best ever, I reckon. Lamb shanks aren’t my thing at all, but those that had them enjoyed them, and the soda bread turned out really well. The leek tart was really good, too.

And there seems to be a pattern with our favourite dishes and mashed potatoes. The colcannon was excellent.

The Scottish macaroon bars were surprisingly nice. I’d be interested to try them again and put just a drop of peppermint oil in them. The shortbread was also lovely, as it always is.

The highlight for me, though, was the Eton mess – seriously simple and seriously delicious!

Drinks

Jan and I got into the Pimms from the get-go. We have both had so many Pimms in English beer gardens, and it was lovely to sip it and be taken back to all those lovely English pubs.

Will and Jamie brought an extraordinary variety of English beers, and Jamie made us a cocktail called raspberry bramble. I’m not much of a gin lover, but it was wonderful. Thanks Jamie and Sarah for that – it was yum, yum, yum.

The ambience

I thought I’d spend half an hour making a UK playlist on Spotify. Holy moly, I had forgotten just how much music has come out of the UK, even just in my era. It makes me realise how fortunate I was to grow up with such fabulous music. I’m feeling glad all over!

Herman’s Hermits, The Troggs, the Who, Police, David Bowie, Rolling Stones, the Hollies, Gerry and the Pacemakers, Eric Clapton. Not to mention the Fab Four, who are my forever favourites. And then we can add the later ones – Elton John, Bonnie Tyler, U2, Oasis, every Andrew Lloyd Webber song ever written. I love my new playlist!

The only song I couldn’t find on Spotify was Cliff Richard and the Young Ones singing Living Doll. I found it on You Tube though – it is still hilarious. Cliff Richard was always a bit too sugary for me, but when I saw what he let the Young Ones do with his song, I re-assessed his conservatism. That clip is so funny. And Neil is still my favourite!

Liam wrote the quiz, with only a little bit of help from Lauren. He was an excellent quizmaster – well done, Liam. Will won it with but Sarah nipping at his heels.

The photos are attached – thanks again, Elysia for taking them – you do a great job.

Here’s the factsheet –Factsheet_UK

Here’s the place-mat – Place-mat_UK

Here’s the quiz – Quiz_UK

Where to next?

Next month, we’re off to Iran. Now there’s a giant step from the totally familiar to the totally unfamiliar!