Fortnum & Mason, in Piccadilly, London, is a British institution — “a store that has fueled the furnaces of British history, helped build empires and fed the appetites of kings and queens, maharajas and tsars, emperors, dukes and divas alike” according the Fortnum & Mason: The Cook Book, which celebrates the culinary offerings of the legendary retailer.
Founded as a grocery store in 1707, Fortnum’s (as it is often known) has evolved into an incredible, upmarket department store selling everything grocery related, from forks to Florentines. Within the flagship store there are four restaurants, each offering a different and delicious experience — you can enjoy afternoon tea, a decadent ice cream sundae, or an exquisite cheese board with a glass of fine wine.
Writer and food critic Tom Parker Bowles is the curator of Fortnum & Mason The Cookbook — the first official Fortnum and Masons cookbook in the store’s 300-year history. The pages are filled with iconic recipes from all of the Fortnum and Mason restaurants as well as stunning illustrations and glorious photographs of perfectly poached eggs, indulgent ice cream sundaes, and so much more.
“It is no mere coffee table tome, destined to look good but gather dust — this is a book that should become splattered and worn with constant use, to be bent, bruised and loved,” Bowles writes. “Like Fortnum & Mason itself, it aims to be timeless and practical, offering a taste of Britain with a resolutely global appetite.”
Recipes featured in the book include:
The Daily Meal: What is your philosophy of cooking (and/or eating)?
Tom Parker Bowles: Keep it simple. Find the best seasonal ingredients and let them sing. Flavour is all.
How did it inspire the recipes you chose to include in this book?
The recipes in this book are inspired by the long and illustrious history of Fortnum and Mason, although not written by me, rather the fine in-store executive chefs. Still, there’s an emphasis on the finest produce. Always.
What is your favorite recipe in the book and why?
Welsh Rarebit. Melted cheese, Worcestershire sauce, beer, and egg yolk. Mixed up, smeared on bread and toasted until it browns and bubbles. It’s the greatest recipe of them all, one I devour in store, at Heathrow T5, at St. Pancras train station and at home. An oozing masterpiece.
What are some of the foods you can’t live without?
Chillies. I can’t go for more than an hour without some form of capsaicin-fueled hit. Plus good Cheddar, nutty Comté, ripe tomatoes, ceviche, proper sashimi, shepherd’s pie, tacos al pastor, prawn aguachile, well hung steak, asparagus, gull’s eggs, cheese and onion Hula Hoops, McDonald’s cheeseburger, caviar … God, I could go on and on. I can’t really live without most food to be honest.
Would you rather dine out or cook at home?
Depends on my mood. A whole Saturday spent in the kitchen — red wine close to hand, and the radio trilling gently — cooking some rich ragù sauce or fierce Thai curry is how I relax. Yet I love restaurants too. I’m a restaurant critic, so this means I can indulge my every greedy whim and get paid. Amazing.
What is your favorite go-to meal or drink?
A fiery chicken larb, or vast rib of roast beef, or punchy North Indian lamb curry. I love toasting and grinding spices, adding layer after layer of flavour. As to drinks, Bloody Mary, michelada, blanco tequila, pale pink rosé wine, or a serious claret.
How do you hope readers will use this book, what do you hope they take away?
We hope that like any good cookbook, it will thrill, inspire and excite. I collect cook books, and I have them as much for reference as I do for cooking. The Fortnum’s Cook Book offers over 300 years of British eating history. This was the store that built empires, fed kings, queens, generals and prime ministers. Yet it continues to evolve, and move with the times. There are recipes here for every taste, and some very serious baking. That said, the history is as fascinating as the recipes.
Is there anything else you’d like to share?
I prefer the unvarnished, joyous grunt of street food to endless Michelin-starred mucking about. Give me tacos and tortas, oyster omelettes, and phở over incongruous smears, edible dirt, and strong shaped plates.