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The Wee Treat That Wowed Ottolenghi's Pastry Chef

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What dish defines how Londoners are eating now? We asked leaders in the city's food scene to share a recipe that says "London" to them. Helen Goh is Yotam Ottolenghi's longtime collaborator on all things dessert and the co-author of his forthcoming book Sweet.

It was a few months after I had arrived in London. Compared to Melbourne (where I had lived for nearly thirty years), a culinary hub where interesting, affordable food was never far away, the scene in London seemed to me to be dichotomized between high-end, Michelin-type restaurants and me-too chains on the high street. In theory, you could get everything; in practice, you often ended up with nothing.

My husband and I decided to try St. John in Smithfield. I knew that Fergus Henderson had made his name championing nose-to-tail eating, but other than that, didn’t know what to expect. The meal was unexpectedly delicious. Bold, pared back, unpretentious (bone marrow and parsley salad; a single perfectly braised carrot for an entrée) and probably the first meal I had had in London that was like nothing I had ever eaten. 

Fergus Henderson's Red Salad

Fergus Henderson's Red Salad by Kristen Miglore

Fergus Henderson Can Make You—Yes, You—Want to Eat Pig's Feet

Fergus Henderson Can Make You—Yes, You—Want to Eat Pig's ... by The Curious Pear


Then it came time to choose dessert.

Now, I usually go for luscious, fruit-based desserts. The description for the Eccles cakes (caramelized currants encased in pastry) didn’t sound very appealing. I didn’t even know what an Eccles cake was. Also, I don’t love cheese, and this was paired with Lancashire. It sounded an odd combination, which was probably the reason I decided to try it. Everything else had been so good, I thought I’d go for it on trust.

Fergus Henderson's Eccles Cake
Fergus Henderson's Eccles Cake

The dish was presented unadorned—a puck of pastry, a wedge of Lancashire cheese. The (puff) pastry, oozing dark caramel from its deep slashes on top, was tender and flaky. A thin layer of sugar crust cracked delightfully when I first bit into it—no exaggeration to say this excited me. Inside, buttery currants (or other fruit?), a bit sticky, with that deep caramel flavor. On its own, it was beautiful; complemented by the savory note of the cheese, perfection. 

Eccles cake with Lancashire cheese. It takes me straight back to London, to St. John's, and to dish I probably couldn’t have found anywhere else in the world.  

Fergus Henderson's Eccles Cake

Fergus Henderson's Eccles Cake

Food52 Food52
Makes 12 pastries

For the puff pastry:

  • 1 pound 2 ounces bread flour
  • 2 teaspoons sea salt
  • 4 1/2 ounces cold unsalted butter, diced, plus 1 cup cold unsalted butter, divided
  • 1 cup cold water
  • 2 teaspoons white wine vinegar

For the filling and assembly:

  • 1 3/4 ounces unsalted butter
  • 4 ounces (scant) dark brown sugar
  • 7 3/4 ounces currants
  • 1 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 3 egg whites, beaten with a fork
  • Shallow bowl of superfine sugar
Go to Recipe

To see the rest of our Food52 Goes to London guide, head here.

Automagic Spring Menu Maker!
Automagic Spring Menu Maker!

Tags: Dessert, Bake, Travel