British

The Wee Treat That Wowed Ottolenghi's Pastry Chef

by:
April 19, 2017

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. 

Then it came time to choose dessert.

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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.

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. 

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Top Comment:
“Why would the only place that you might find an Eccles cake with Lancashire cheese be in London. Eccles cakes come from Eccles in Lancashire. Do you really believe that took a Londoner to discover that these two items go together? For goodness sake!”
— Karen L.
Comment

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.  


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

9 Comments

Andrea B. May 7, 2017
If you can get an Eccles cake in Northern California (Cost Plus sometimes carry, but fresh is obviously best), try with Marin French Cheese Company Petite breakfast. It's not Lancashire, but it's a good substitute - closer to a very fresh Wensleydale.
 
Karen L. April 23, 2017
Why would the only place that you might find an Eccles cake with Lancashire cheese be in London. Eccles cakes come from Eccles in Lancashire. Do you really believe that took a Londoner to discover that these two items go together? For goodness sake!
 
Courtney O. April 23, 2017
"unpretentious (bone marrow and parsley salad; a single perfectly braised carrot for an entrée)" ..... er, if this is unpretentious, I'm afraid to see pretentious...
 
X April 23, 2017
I'm curious as to how a "single braised carrot can even BE an entree". I'd be raiding the fridge an hour later--lol!
 
Deedledum April 21, 2017
Nope, dried.<br />
 
Jennifer S. April 21, 2017
Saw the question after I posted. Darn!
 
Jennifer S. April 21, 2017
Fresh currants?
 
Andrea B. May 7, 2017
The dried little grape kind.<br />
 
Deedledum April 19, 2017
Oh, I love Eccles cakes.<br />