Serious Entertaining: London Particular

Serious Entertaining

Seasonal menu planning for the perfect dinner party.


[Photographs: Carrie Vasios]

If you were to visit London in the 19th century, you'd probably encounter quite a few London particulars. This doesn't refer to an assortment of Sherlock Holmesian characters (though I would have loved to meet them too), rather it refers to the fog. A London particular was the heavy blanket of Industrial revolution smog that piped out of London's chimneys, met with the natural mist from the Thames, which made it damn near impossible to see or breathe. By all accounts that fog was thick. As thick as pea soup, in fact.

And here is how we get to the etymology of one of my favorite dishes. London fogs became known as pea soupers and, in time, ham and pea soup became known as London Particular. This menu is based around that pea soup, with a few other recipes you might have if you were sitting in a London pub one autumn night, patiently waiting for the fog to lift.

Jacket Potatoes with Leeks and Cheddar Cheese


Jacket potatoes are popular in England, where they come topped with everything from beef chili to Heinz beans. In this version, leeks are sauteed until tender, then mixed with a dash of Worcestershire sauce. They're piled high inside baked potatoes, which are topped with extra sharp cheddar cheese. After a brief spell under the broiler, the cheddar melts into the leeks, creating a warm, gooey, oniony and very substantial side dish.

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London Particular (Pea Soup with Bacon)


Split pea soup is a great comfort food. It starts with the classic mirepoix of carrots, onions, and celery. Bacon creates a porky, savory backbone. Split peas are almost like beans in the mild nature of their flavor, yet when they're blended with the other ingredients, they provide just the right amount of vegetable brightness.

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A few notes: It's important to keep in mind that bacon can be very salty, and you might not need to add any other salt to the finished dish. As for the texture: there is thick soup, and then there is baby food. I hate pea soup that verges too strongly on the latter, so in this version I include a fair amount of broth. If you're an extra thick pea-souper, decrease the amount of chicken stock by 1/3.

A Good Beer


Did I say another recipe? I meant beer. There is nothing to help you wait out the fog like a toasty, coffee inflected stout, or a few crisp golden lagers to wash down the soup.