Bringing out the best of British grub
Fifth generation bakers Tom and Henry Herbert, whose show airs on TLC, scoured the British countryside to seek inspiration from local producers and turn the attention to quintessential British food
The Fabulous Baker Brothers, as Tom and Henry Herbert are popularly known, grew up surrounded by food in their little market town of Chipping Sodbury in Gloucestershire, a county in South West England.
Tom and Henry Herbert grew up surrounded by food in their little market town of Chipping Sodbury in Gloucestershire, a county in South West England.
“Our family business was a bakery and there was also a butchery downstairs, so we had great meat, great bread. My mum used to cook from scratch so we ate nice food and we saw how to cook and bake. All our parents’ friends are in the food business, so we grew up around food,” reveals Henry.
The trained chef now runs the local butcher’s shop next door to the Hobbs House Bakery, which has been in their family for five generations. Tom, oldest of the six siblings, is responsible for all that is served at the hugely popular bakery. Having won numerous awards for his breads, Tom aims to give British baking a new lease of life.
The brothers love discovering new things and meeting new people. And that’s exactly what they did while filming their latest television show, Bite of Britain, for which they took to the road, exploring Great Britain, meeting locals and drawing inspiration from their iconic produce.
“What we liked about this series is that everything had to stay basic – fire, gas, barbecue — not much else…Cooking with basic stuff is a challenge, but it makes it more exciting, and in the end more accessible to the viewers. I enjoy thinking ‘What can we create, on a beach, where it’s windy, and we’ve only got the basics — plus it’s got to look beautiful?’,” says Henry.
They picked six of their favourite locations, visiting the Lake District, Wales, the Kent coastline as well as the Peak District in Derbyshire. Before their trip, they’d take to Twitter to find out the latest happenings, whom to meet and so on. Rye, a medieval town in East Sussex, was one of their favourites. “Rye ticked lots of boxes for us – it’s beautiful, it’s quintessentially British, there are stories around it,” reveals Henry. Here they used freshly caught scallops to concoct a gorgeous looking dish they called Scallop Tartare served with a punchy mustard dressing.
Although they didn’t limit themselves to local ingredients, these were the stars of their dishes. “While we were on a road trip to the city of Winchester, we visited a former watercress waterbed which has now become Europe’s first commercial wasabi farm. We had an idea to fuse salmon with wasabi and beetroot,” recalls Henry. They mixed ingredients such as chives, egg, potatoes and gherkins to complete their creation — Hot Pink Salmon Wasabi. Cooking food, according to Tom, is like telling a story. “Your food should look like a beautiful painting, so you can eat it with your eyes, and then tell a story which can help you remember it and tell other people,” concludes the older Herbert brother.
The show airs every Monday and Tuesday at 9 pm on TLC
For the salmon
>> 400 ml beetroot juice
>> 150 gm fine salt
>> 100 gm caster sugar
>> 2 tsp wasabi root, freshly grated
>> 300-gm piece of salmon, cut into 1-cm thick slices
For the salad
>> 250 gm cooked new potatoes, sliced
>> 1 egg, hard boiled
>> 2 gherkins, chopped
>> 2 tbsp sour cream
>> 2 tbsp chives, chopped
>> 2 wasabi leaves, picked and finely shredded
For the crumb
>> 1 tbsp wasabi root, freshly grated
>> 2 tbsp rye breadcrumbs, toasted
>> 1 lemon, zest only
>> 2 wasabi leaves for garnish
>> For the salmon, pour the beetroot juice into a bowl and add the salt, sugar and wasabi
>> Stir the ingredients until the majority of the sugar and salt have dissolved into the liquid. Submerge the salmon in the liquid, and leave to cure for 10 minutes
>>Drain the salmon from the liquid and run under cold water for 10 seconds
>> For the salad, place the potatoes in a bowl and crumble the eggs over the top, add the gherkins, sour cream, chives, and wasabi leaves, season, and mix together gently
>> For the crumb, mix the wasabi root with the breadcrumbs and lemon zest in a bowl
>> To serve, fan a few slices of the cured salmon across each plate, top with the wasabi rye crumbs and garnish with a wasabi leaf. Serve the salad in a bowl