Sometimes you find interesting cookbooks in unlikely places. Having been coerced (well, strongly encouraged) by my girlfriend and my friend Scott to attend the Pennsylvania Renaissance Faire, I was hiding in the Faire’s tiny bookshop from the many, many people dressed as Captain Jack Sparrow (this was right after the last Pirates of the Carribean movie was released) and discovered A Taste of England, by Josy Argy and Wendy Riches, sitting on the remainder shelf. It’s essentially a British version of A Taste of Pennsylvania History, but unlike Elliott and Nunley’s later effort, A Taste of England got government support from the English Tourist Board.

There’s an ongoing effort in Britain to rediscover national and local foodways, proud traditions which went into hibernation with the advent of the Empire, the Industrial Revolution and processed foods. This book’s an early (1979) example of the movement, and has a lot of really interesting recipes.

After proudly consuming some very American 4th of July barbecue items on Friday, what’s an Anglophile to do to in repentance but cook something with “Britannia” in its name?

Chicken Britannia (from A Taste of England: Traditional English Food – Where to Find It and How to Cook It)

  • 1 chicken, quartered
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp pepper
  • 1/2 tsp cumin
  • 4 tsp made English mustard (Colman’s)
  • 3/4 cup chicken stock
  • fresh breadcrumbs

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Mix salt, pepper, and cumin and rub into chicken pieces. Spread with mustard and cover with breadcrumbs. Place in baking pan and add stock. Bake for about an hour, until the crumbs and mustard have set into a crunchy coating. Baste and return to oven for another 30 minutes. Serve with savory rice (Near East garlic rice pilaf works well) and pan juices.

This recipe produces a tender, faintly mustardy chicken. The book said it’s also good cold for picnics, and I believe it. It was contributed by the Shant Hotel in Kent, near Maidstone. Apparently the historic building was gutted by a fire in 2002, but it’s still listed as in operation on several current travel websites so perhaps the establishment and the chicken still survive, in name at least. UK readers, please enlighten!

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