Digestive Biscuits

Ingredients: Wheat flour, vegetable oil, wholemeal, sugar, cultured skim milk, partially inverted sugar syrup, sodium bicarbonate, tartaric acid, malic acid, salt.

These are biscuits in the British “cookie” sense, not the American “bread-thing” sense. They don’t have graham crackers in the UK. They pretty much don’t even know what they are. In things that have graham cracker crusts, they use digestive biscuits instead. They have some things in common with graham crackers, but there are a lot of differences.

In contents, these are probably kind of similar to graham crackers, in that they are not excessively sweet and are made of whole grains. They kind of straddle a line between crackers and cookies, but I personally would rather not eat mine with a big slab of cheese. Although some chocolate spread wouldn’t be completely wrong.

Now the tasting. They aren’t dense and crunchy like a graham cracker. They’re more crisp and flaky like a good sugar cookie. The flavor is light and only slightly sweet, with a tiny bit of a buttery finish, even though they contain no butter. They’re extremely versitile in their relative blandness, making them a tasty partner for custard or ice cream. I’d even be willing to try some makeshift Smores with them.

Here, digestive biscuits are often eaten with tea. So I’ll try dunking one in tea, against my better judgement. (It isn’t a flavor thing. I just don’t like crumbly bits of cookie in the bottom of my tea cup.) It’s not bad. It doesn’t effect the flavor of the tea or the cookie that much, and doesn’t immediately crumble to the bottom of the cup. But it does moisten an otherwise fairly dry cookie. It probably would do okay in coffee or hot chocolate too.

Overall, I like digestive biscuits. They don’t have all the great kindergarten snack time associations for me that graham crackers have, but they are a tasty light snack with a cup of tea. Last night I had some dipped in vanilla yogurt. They were tasty and not too unhealthy.

Note: You can also get these with one side coated in chocolate, either dark or milk. They are also fabulous. My friends at English Tea Store stock plain and chocolate ones.

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Pork Pies

Pork pies seem to be a very English thing that the Scots enjoy once in a while. (One web site I found said that the original pork pie recipe came from France, but I don’t know if that’s true. Even if it is, the English will deny it, I’m sure.) The ones I bought are Melton Mowbray pork pies, which my husband said are the best. Looking it up online, I found out that the difference is that Melton Mowbray pies are made of regular pork, while plain pork pies are generally made from cured pork products like bacon and ham. I’ve eaten plain pork pies at a few office parties, so we’ll see if there is a difference.

The pie itself is a short cylindrical pastry, much like the usual American pie pastry, folded around pork and, apparently, pork jelly, which is the natural gelatine that comes out of the pork (much like the jelly stuff around Spam). It can be baked as a big full-sized pie to cut into slices and serve, but more usually it is baked in little individual mini-pies. I’m eating them cold (which is the usual way), so there isn’t a strong smell at all. It smells of pastry and pork. As I’d expect.

My husband insisted that I try it with Branston Pickle, but I also tried a little bit plain. When you slice into the pie, the meat stays packed tightly together inside, in a way that I have to admit, is incredibly appealing. It’s all smooth and pink inside the crumbly pastry. It has a texture much like a good sausage, but not the British sausages with breadcrumbs inside. More like a German or American sausage. Very dense and meaty. There isn’t as strong of a flavor as I remembered from the ones I’ve had in the office. I’m guessing that it’s because these are the more delicate and fresh Melton Mowbray pies, without cured meat. The cured meat ones are saltier and a little spicier. I like them, but I think I do prefer the freshness of the Melton Mowbray pies. Also, my husband was right that they are excellent with a little Branston Pickle. I would definitely eat pork pies again, but hopefully not too often, as they aren’t particularly healthy.

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