Celebrating the Olympics with an English menu

By Jackie Burrell

San Jose Mercury News

Published: Tuesday, July 31 2012 4:57 p.m. MDT

The Olympics are starting in London, so cozy up to the telly with some suitable pub grub, such as Prawns with mayonnaise. (Mark DuFrene/Contra Costa Times/MCT)

Mark Dufrene, Mct

The Olympics started this weekend; England's glorious capital is hosting the games — and we'll be glued to the telly, watching all those swimmers, runners and gymnasts going for the gold and silver, as we enjoy some suitable grub inspired by some of England's brightest culinary stars.

But first, it's time to stop with the old jokes about bad British cuisine. True, it's still possible to get some really terrible food in the U.K. — but you can do that here, too. And, OK, we have issues with some of their breakfast choices. Baked beans and kedgeree?

But Great Britain is home to some of our favorite chefs, including Jamie Oliver, Gordon Ramsay and Chez Panisse alum Claire Ptak, the Marin County, Calif.-born pastry chef who fell in love with a Londoner and moved across the Pond. So we've called upon their cookbooks and treasure troves of recipes for inspiration.

We're also adding a dash of Beatles to this Olympics-watching menu, with a little help from a new vegetarian cookbook, "The Meat Free Monday Cookbook" (Kyle Books, $29.95, 240 pages), edited by Annie Rigg with recipes and prose by Paul McCartney and his family and friends. You can't be a vicarious Brit without tea sandwiches, old chap, so we've used their ideas for creative sandwiches to craft some new wave finger foods. Among them: balsamic onions, arugula and goat cheese nestled atop whole-wheat toast and garlicky carrots and cilantro on hummus-slathered sourdough.

The self-styled Naked Chef's anti-obesity and sustainable food awareness campaigns have made him a household name on both sides of the Atlantic, but Jamie Oliver is also known for some sensational, not-exactly-calorie-free culinary creations, including sizzling hot, tiny Yorkshire puddings — which he calls Yorkies or Baby Puds — served with a creamy pate made from smoked trout, horseradish and cream cheese. The dish is "dead quick," he says, and the pate boasts a "bolshie attitude."

Clearly, our grasp of British idioms is not up to snuff because we had to look that one up. It's a Bolshevik-inspired idiom for something that is angrily provocative or revolutionary or, in this case, "hot, smoky (and) salty," Oliver says.

Oliver says it's "sweet" to do individual servings, but you can also "just whack it right in the middle of the table" and let guests serve themselves. You'll find smoked trout in the deli case near the smoked salmon and lox, either of which would make a delicious substitute.

Gordon Ramsay may be known on this continent as the screaming savior of drowning restaurants on "Kitchen Nightmares" and fierce judge on "Hell's Kitchen" and "MasterChef," but his cookbooks include new twists on classic British pub fare, including a killer rendition of Scotch Eggs. The sausage mixture that encases the gently hard-boiled eggs is laced with fresh herbs and lemon zest, and the breadcrumbs adorning the outside are freshly made. The result is crisp, flavorful and addictive.

The result is worthy of a medal — maybe even gold.

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AN OLYMPICS WATCHING MENU

Scotch Eggs

Baby Yorkshire Puds with Smoked Trout Pate

Pint of Prawns with Mayo

New Wave Tea Sandwiches

Eccles Cakes

BABY YORKSHIRE PUDS WITH CREAMY SMOKED TROUT PATE

Serves: 6-8

Note: It's best to use the metric measurements on your scale and measuring cups, but nonmetric approximations are included below.

Creamy smoked fish:

125 grams cream cheese (about 4 1/2 ounces)

2-3 heaped teaspoons prepared horseradish