- a thematic guide to Britain
Britain - traditional and popular fare
Britain is not traditionally famed as one of the world's
great gourmet nations, British food is often underrated.
British cuisine is not just fish and chips and steam pudding. Britain
has plenty of mouth-watering specialities, plenty of innovative
cuisine, good fresh produce, and also, these days, plenty of good
places to eat them in.
Food from Britain
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Cookery is an old art in Britain, even if the classic dishes
cuisine are not always on the menu in restaurants. According to recent
surveys , the favorite dish of the British is now ... curry.
Not exactly a British dish....
Nonetheless British cooking and British specialities are beginning to
get a bit more international recognition than they used to have, even
in a country like France, where classic British specialities such
as crumble or Cheddar and Stilton are now available in good delis, and
increasingly in supermarkets, and also on the menus in good restaurants.
Finding a good English restaurant in England, or a
good Scottish restaurant in Scotland, specialising in traditional
cuisine, is not always easy- which is not always easy. In London, for
instance, there are certainly more "French" restaurants and "Italian"
restaurants, than restaurants that announce themselves as "English"
restaurants; but find a good restaurant serving great British
specialities, and not even the finest gourmets will be disappointed. To
eat out in places that serve good traditional British or local fare,
the best bet is often to try a pub or a hotel offering home-cooking.
Britain is also a good place for bread: although
people eat mass-produced sliced bread from the supermarket, this is by
no means the only choice available. The British
also have a passion for French bread , particularly baguettes or
sticks"; but the quality of other fresh-baked breads available
bakeries today is on a par with the best anywhere, and the choice often
far broader than in continental bakeries.
Main course dishes
& Kidney Pie , beef and kidney in a
thick meat sauce (gravy), under a pastry pie crust, served with
potatoes and vegetables.
beef (or roast beef ) & Yorkshire Pudding
roast potatoes and two vegetables. This is the most classic
. Yorkshire puddings are small puffballs made from batter. Note that
the British do not eat vegetables separately from the meat, everything
is served on the same plate. As far as the meat is concerned, this is a
speciality that the English gave to the French a few centuries ago...
hence the French word for roast beef which is "le rosbif".
and Sunday lunch
potatoes are potatoes roasted slowly in the oven, either on their own
or with a joint of meat. In the old English tradition, the " Sunday
roast " or "Sunday joint" was put to cook in the oven before people
went to church on Sunday morning. On returning from church, all that
remained to do was to cook the vegetables, and then put the dessert -
normally an apple or fruit pie – into the warm overn. The
lunch" was complete. In households where they wanted a starter, it
would usually be soup - but in ordinary families, even the best meals
of the week were only a two-course affair. Cheese, if it was taken, was
an alternative to the dessert, not an extra course.
stuffed with sage and onion . This is the classic English
Christmas dish, eaten with a delicious stuffing made with sage and
onions. It is accompanied by a classically British "bread sauce" - a
sauce made from white bread, milk, butter, seasoning and flavored with
- this can be made from beef or lamb , stewed in the oven or in a pot
for three hours with onions, carrots, parsnips, turnips , and seasoned
according to the cook's own preference.
- Fish and chips
, breaded or battered fish with fries. Prefer
cod or plaice: In restaurants fish & chips are often
accompanied by peas and baby carrots, and sometimes by something called
"mushy peas", a mixture between peas and pea purée.
& cheese pie a baked fish
baked salmon : a great speciality in restaurants not too
far from the great salmon rivers in northern England and Scotland
the classic Scottish speciality. A kind of round sausage made of well
spiced sheep's offal and oats, cooked in a sheep's stomach. To some
people this may not sound very appetizing, but it can be delicious.
Some English desserts
While the good traditional British main courses have not earned an
international reputation, British desserts have done a bit better. Some
specialities such as trifles, crumbles and other British specialties
have become established fare even in the best restaurants in France .
Others are waiting to be better known ....
For many people in Britain,"pudding" is used as a generic synonym of
"dessert". More specifically it refers to a kind of cake, spiced up
with fruit, ginger , prunes, etc, and usually eaten hot with custard.
Curiously, the word " pudding " comes from the French , being derived
from the French word boudin
(which today designates certain types of sausage in France). The
were boiled or steamed, protected in a sheep's stomach, in the same way
as sausage. Christmas
Pudding is always cooked this way, even if the
sheep's stomach has long been replaced by another envelope.
the original meaning of pudding as a kind of sausage is still found in
Scotland, where black
pudding is blood sausage, and white pudding is
like a German Weisswurst.
, another classic dessert: fruit and cake marinated in light syrup and
sherry , covered with custard and whipped cream, eaten cold.
fruit (apples, rhubarb, plums or gooseberries) covered with a crumbly
pastry and baked in the oven. Eaten hot or cold.
pie: Fruit cooked in the oven under a pastry crust .
Generally served with custard (a creamy sauce).
pudding: a cold pudding made from white bread marinated
for 24 hours with raspberries and / or strawberries and / or
blackberries, and if wanted with a little brandy or sherry .
fool (or foul ): a purée of mashed cooked
with sugar and cream, served chilled .
(Jello in the USA) A traditional dessert made from
fruit juice and gelatin. Since the 19th century, commercially
manufactured jelly has become a favorite food with children in Britain.
Sweet , cheap, and very colorful, this is an easy dish to suit all
budgets . Take a packet of jelly, cut it into pieces, add boiling
water, let cool , and the jelly is ready. Children love it . To
increase the nutritional value (almost zero for water based
comercially-manufactured jelly), add milk to make a milk
jelly, or add fruit, or both.
mess : A summer dessert, made from strawberries, pieces of
broken meringue, and cream, served chilled.
are now hundreds of different cheeses available in Britain
Some great British cheeses:
In a classic
English meal , cheese is eaten after - or instead of - dessert ,
accompanied by port or sweet wine
- Stilton, The king of blue cheeses,
a blue cheese made in the English Midlands. Blue Stilton is
one of Britain's PDO cheeses (Protected Designation of
Origin), and can only be made in areas of Leicestershire,
Nottinghamshire or Derbyshire.
Farmhouse Cheddar. "Cheddar" is the world's best known
cheese; but the industrial product manufactured all over the world is a
far cry from the PDO original, which can only be manufactured by local
dairies near the town of Cheddar, in Somerset.
Cheddar. A higher quality and tastier version of ordinary
Cheddar, but manufactured all over Britian.
similar to Cheddar , but whiter and with a slightly different taste
Yorkshire. PDO protected.
a hard but fairly crumbly white cheese made in Cheshire in the
northwest of England. It is a cheese that has been made since the
Blue . An unusual blue cheese, insofar as it is a
blue-veined yellow cheese, unlike virtually all other blue cheeses
which are white.
Two popular dishes from elsewhere ....
: Originally from India, curry has become
Britain's favourite dish. The word designates neither a spice nor a
specific dish, but a whole category of dishes based on a stew of meat
and / or vegetables and spices. Curries vary from very mild (the
"korma" varieties) to very hot ("Madras curry" or "Vindaloo
curry") and can be hot and spicy, cream or vegetarian. Traditional
curries do not use pork . In India, the population is predominantly
made up of Hindus, who are vegetarian, and Muslims, who do not
eat pork .
a dish of Greek origin, popular dish in Britain . A gratinee of
eggplant (aubergine) on a layer of minced lamb or beef .
Apart from these traditional specialties , the British have very
international eating habits, and are particularly fond of Italian,
Chinese, and American fast-food specialities.
Photo top of page:traditional English Sunday lunch in a pub
British cuisine ? Surely you must be joking ?
Britain suffers - often unfairly - from a
reputation as a country where the food is bad. According to popular
belief, the British live on a diet of boiled meat, mealy sausages,
sugary baked beans, or greasy fish 'n' chips covered
with vinegar .....
Much has been written and said
about dietary disasters such as "chip butties", or culinary
calamities like "deep-fried chocolate bars" – reputedly
popular in the
northern parts of Britain; and an official report recently warned that
50% of the British population could be obese by 2040. So yes, plenty of
people in Britain do not eat well or healthily; but for those who do
enjoy good cooking and fine food, there is plenty on offer.
is now reputed as one of the gourmet capitals of the world, and TV
cooking programmes are very popular through out Britain.
In plenty of places in Britain, restaurants and
even supermarkets, the choice and quality of food on sale is as good as
This page looks at some of the most famous
traditional British dishes.
served "flambé", and eaten with custard or brandy butter..
Where to eat traditional British
The best options are often traditional pubs or hotels that offer
at best rates