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Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Harrods' Food Halls, An English Tradition

Walls and Floors in Magnificent Tiles

Just one of the many ornate displays

A Few Things Don't Cost the Earth

        (Be sure to scroll down for more photos and a recipe.)

Been to Harrods? It’s the massive pillar of London’s upper crust section, Knightsbridge.  Ya gotta go.  More than just another department store, it’s a sight, a destination, a one of a kind playground for eyes, imaginations, and pocketbooks.

But, like anything else, to get the most out of a visit, you really should know a bit about what you’re seeing.  Harrods stands as towering reminder of the enduring entrepreneurial spirit of its founder, Charles Henry Harrod.  Chuck, as he has never been known, opened his one room shop in 1849, selling tea and groceries, and employing two clerks and a messenger boy.

Since then it’s blossomed into a looming seven floors and over a million square feet of luxury, fulfilling every need of even the most demanding and deepest pockets.  In short, it lives up to it’s motto, Omnia Omnibus Ubique,  All Things for All People, Everywhere.  Check out all the good stuff at

Just name it and you can buy it here.  Let your imagination wander.  Yep, they’ve got it!  But, my favorites and probably the world’s favorite sections are the food halls.  No market I have ever seen can match it, either for luxury, quality, or service, with prices to match.  Want to sit at the Caviar House Oyster Bar and enjoy a half dozen?  Well, you’d better know your oysters because the selection includes varieties from all over Ireland and Great Britain.  Go and scoop up a half dozen and at today’s exchange rate you’ll plunk down about $46, or op for the seafood platter, which includes two glasses of wine.  $247.50.

For obvious reasons, being married and having no reason to impress being the main ones, I wander aimlessly, asking questions, peering at the food, and wondering what ever became of man’s natural lust for a bargain.  No bargains here.  The food staff, wearing aprons and boaters attends to your every need, including your finger pointing at sausages you’ve never before laid eyes on, or hanging rabbits, or brightly feathered birds ready for plucking.  “

You’ll have to admit, however, that the berries are perfect, every one of them.  The apples shine.  The joints of beef fit for Henry VIII. The displays are a marvel of panache, and if you plod and poke enough, you can in fact savor a souvenir or two for under ten bucks.  Ah, the meats!  Ah, the teas!  Ah, the breads!  Amen.

Back in 1985, Mohammed Al Fayed, an Egyptian, purchased Harrods for £615 million.  You might remember the name.  His son perished with Princess Diana on that fateful evening of the unhappy car crash.

Recently, Mr. Al Fayed sold the property to the Qatari royal family for £1.5bn, a tiny profit of just under 200 %.

I doubt the sale will change Harrods one whit.  It didn’t before.  Why mess with a moneymaker?  Another thing they won’t mess with is the world famous Harrods’ winter sale, when prices plummet and crowds mash in with a gusto that makes a sardine tin seem roomy.  Want to get in on this year’s action? Be there at 9:45 am on Wednesday, 26 December, when Cirque de Soleil’s performance will mark the 25th anniversary of the Harrods Sale, in association with Macmillan Cancer Support charity. Doors open at 10am for all the credit card waving bargain hunters.

Until then, here’s a bit of the English table to keep you entertained, a recipe from Harrods.

Beef Wellington with Stilton (Serves 4)

1 tbsp vegetable oil
750g (1 pound 10 oz) beef fillet
1 large onion, finely chopped
3–4 tbsp finely chopped parsley
250g (9 oz) chestnut mushrooms, finely chopped
150g (5 oz)Stilton, crumbled into small pieces
1 packet of puff pastry
1 egg, beaten
Horseradish sauce to serve

1. Preheat the oven to 200°C/400°F/Gas 6.

2. Heat the oil in a non-stick or heavy frying pan on a high heat, and fry the beef until it is browned on all sides. Remove the meat from the pan and set aside to cool for about 15 minutes.

3. Reduce the heat and add the onion, parsley and mushrooms to the pan. Season with salt and pepper. Fry for a few minutes, then remove from the heat and leave to cool. Add the crumbled Stilton and stir gently.

4. Roll out the pastry into a rectangle slightly wider than the beef and long enough to wrap completely around the beef. With the longer side of the rectangle nearest you, spread the Stilton mixture onto the pastry, leaving a 2.5cm gap all around. Brush the edges with beaten egg. Place the beef in the centre and wrap the pastry over it, sealing the edges carefully. Fold in the ends and place on a non-stick baking sheet or in a roasting dish.

5. Cut a diamond pattern into the surface of the pastry, being careful not to cut through it, and brush it with the beaten egg.

6. Bake for about 40 minutes. Leave to rest for 10–15 minutes, then cut into thick slices and serve with horseradish sauce.

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