The Zulu Lounge (Edinburgh): Finding Bacon Butty

Bacon buttyIt could be said that I’m something of a bacon butty obsessive.

I’m fairly new to this, mind you — in fact, I was a bacon butty virgin for many years. I’d been hearing and reading about British bacon sandwiches, a little frisson of excitement popping up whenever some hungry D.I. mentioned one in the British cop shows I adore. And yet in all that time, I’d never come across a place in New York or Singapore where I could find one. Sure, I could whip out some bacon and bread and make one — but what’s the fun in that?

One day, I thought, a bacon butty will cross my lips. (A girl can dream.)

Finally, on a sunny morning in Edinburgh, it happened …

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James Cockburn & Son Family Butcher (Scotland): A Date With The Pie Man

James Cockburn & SonsI have great appreciation for any man who understands my massive love for meat.

In the U.K., meat pies, to be precise, have been my obsession for years. When this happens to slip out in conversation, Dorset boy merely says: “I have a man — a pie man.”

What follows then is weeks of (at first) gentle inquiring about this pie man, then outright pestering, and then a fair amount of wondering aloud if he actually exists. (A girl has to be careful, after all. I may not be the first to have been smitten by some mention of a fictitious pie man.)

Finally, one morning, it becomes clear that proof is in order. Which is how I find myself pulling up in front of a tiny butcher on a side road of wee Bonnyrigg, Scotland

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Mexican Cottage Pie: A British Standard, Spiced Up

I have been in love with pie for as long as I can remember — crisp crust, hot filling … what’s not to adore?

My love extends far beyond traditional American apple and pumpkin pies, however — spicy (or sweet) empanadas, pot pies, shepherd’s pies, British pork pies, Singaporean fried curry puffs (which are, essentially, hand-pies) … you name it, I’ll worship it.

So I was thrilled when Lucy over at A Cook and Her Books suggested pie for this month’s theme for our Let’s Lunch virtual lunch date, which is a special one as we have a bunch of fabulous new bloggers joining our little group this month: Betty Ann at Asian in America, Margaret at Tea and Scones, Too, Naomi at The Gastro Gnome, Sara at Three Clever Sisters and Tammi at Insatiable Munchies.

What to make for this month’s lunch? I decided it had to be something pretty special to toast our new Lunchers …

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Auntie Jane's Potato Gratin: A Singaporean Christmas Casserole

Chinese new year may belong to my grandmother, she of the legendary pineapple tarts. And my Koh family aunties, a stalwart group of women who make mooncakes rather than buy them each year, may own the Mooncake Festival. But Christmas — that will always, always be my Auntie Jane’s holiday.

In Singapore, where Christmas is typically celebrated by people of all races and religions — largely as a secular festival, one squarely centered on getting together to eat and exchange gifts — my family, representing a jumble of religions in itself, would do the same. It didn’t matter whether you were Buddhist, Protestant, Catholic or Jewish — we were united on Christmas Day in our quest to eat well, share gifts and sing along to cheeseball Christmas carols.

The venue for these celebrations was usually my Auntie Jane’s — she always had a beautiful tree, a wonderfully decorated home complete with holiday cards she had received fashioned into a 2-D Christmas tree plastered onto a wall and a large buffet table topped with turkey and ham, fried rice and noodles.

The one dish we truly looked forward to, however, was a potato gratin she whipped together just once a year — filled with sliced chipolata, a skinny British sausage that’s packed with seasonings, mushrooms, onions and potatoes, this gratin was a meal in itself. (And it’s usually a hit with even the pickiest of child eaters.)

Despite my fondness for it, this gratin was yet another family dish that I’d taken for granted and never attempted to make. But when my Let’s Lunch group, a monthly Twitter-fueled virtual lunch-date, decided on sharing a holiday dish from your family or culture this month, I decided it was high time I gave my Auntie Jane’s recipe a shot…

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Cheese & Onion Sarnie: A Working Man's High Tea

If you’ve never had high tea in Singapore, add it to your bucket list.

These feasts, often buffets,  typically unfold over a few hours in posh hotels — all the better if they’re of the colonial variety such as the country’s fabled Raffles — and feature heaping tables of sweets (scones, clotted cream, jam, tiny tarts) as well as hearty servings of local savory dishes such as curry, noodles, steamed Chinese buns and more.

I always look forward to the scones, cakes and tarts — what proper post-Colonial Anglophile wouldn’t? But it’s often the dainty finger sandwiches that I covet first. Cucumber, sweet curried chicken — I can never get enough.

So when my monthly virtual lunch-group, the Let’s Lunch bunch, decided on doing high tea for October,  little sandwiches immediately went on my docket …

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