About the food of the United Kingdom

Arlington Row, Bibury, UK was built in 1380 as a monastic wool store. The buildings were converted into weaver cottages in the 17th century. Photo by Saffron Blaze.

Arlington Row, Bibury, UK was built in 1380 as a monastic wool store. The buildings were converted into weaver cottages in the 17th century. Photo by Saffron Blaze.

I’m not sure why people groan when I ask them what they think about the food in the United Kingdom.

If I beg them to explain themselves, they mutter something about tripe, kidneys, haggis, mushy peas and lamb roasts. But, truly, what is more sublime than a bright green pea plucked from the  garden just moments before eating it? Or farm-fresh meats, from down the street? This is what I love about cooking in the United Kingdom. There’s a taste of the farm everywhere. In her tea sandwiches, there’s cucumber, or perhaps a spicy bit of watercress. In her tea, there’s hot milk, as fresh as can be. And, in the desserts, there’s all manner of berries, juicy, ripe, and sweet.

Panorama of Cromford mill pond. Photo by  Mike Peel (www.mikepeel.net)

Panorama of Cromford mill pond. Photo by Mike Peel (www.mikepeel.net)

If the food doesn’t come from the farm, it may come from the ocean, as Fish and Chips prove.

When I was in London, I made sure to get a batch, smokin’ hot from the deep fryer. The fish is  moist, the batter crispy, and the chips, as thick and delicious as any other French fry.

Panoramic view of London from St. Paul's Cathedral. Photo by IgnisFatuus.

Panoramic view of London from St. Paul’s Cathedral. Photo by IgnisFatuus.

Beyond the farm and well past the port, the cuisine of the United Kingdom is as varied as her people and the lands to which she’s traveled. The U.K. is made up of Scotland, England, Wales, and Northern Ireland, plus countries around the world. The World Cookbook for Students says that:

The United Kingdom has a varied cuisine based on French, Germanic, Scandinavian, and Celtic elements, with influences from immigrant groups, most particularly Indian, Italian, and Chinese.

Pulteney Bridge, Bath, UK. Photo by MichaelMaggs.

Pulteney Bridge, Bath, UK. Photo by MichaelMaggs.

Case in point?

One of the most popular street foods in the U.K. is Tikki Masala, a dish with Indian origins adapted for British tastes. The creamy, gently spiced dish is a favorite with basmati rice.  The famous (and much beloved) Coronation Chicken, a chicken salad made with curry and chutney, also demonstrates Britain’s close ties to India [Recipe].

Leadenhall Market In London. Photo by DAVID ILIFF. License: CC-BY-SA 3.0

Leadenhall Market In London. Photo by DAVID ILIFF. License: CC-BY-SA 3.0

When it comes to good, old fashioned British food, though, there’s my favorite: a good cream scone with fresh strawberry jam [Recipe].

What are your favorite dishes from the United Kingdom?

Maps and flag courtesy of the CIA World Factbook.

Maps and flag courtesy of the CIA World Factbook.

 

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Comments

  1. Just a note – you may annoy a lot of Irish people by posting a picture of Ireland in a post about the UK ;)

    My favourite foods are probably chippy chips with gravy (which is far more common in the north – I didn’t find a single chip shop in London that served gravy) and crumpets. A Sunday roast with Yorkshire Pudding is lovely, too. Dessert wise, I like Bakewell tart/slices.

    • Sasha Martin says:

      Gah – how did that get in there!? Thanks Michelle. I edited that out of an earlier version, or at least I thought I did. Wikimedia had them misfiled and didn’t notice until later. That pony was just too sweet.

      As for crumpets – yes!! One of my all-time favorites, too.

  2. Yay, you made it to my home country! As an Englishwoman living in the USA, my list of foods would be a long one and everything I miss.
    Toad in the hole (Yorkshire pudding with sausages baked in), back bacon, a decent chippy (fish and chip shop), savoury pies and pasties of all kinds ( steak and kidney, cornish pasties, sausage rolls ). A great curry. Also parkin (a sort of gingerbread cake) among others.
    We only have milk in a cup of tea though, never, ever cream…………….

  3. LOVE the “ties to India”…just my cup of tea….

    By the way, you may want to check in on Prince Charles’ [and Camilla’s now] organic free-range farm and vegetable garden – the source of his daily bacon, meats, veggies, etc. From what I have read, he is quite adamant about eating healthy and thus ‘grows his own’…

  4. Judi Suttles says:

    Having lived in London I have come to love Brittish food. Bubble and Squeek, roast beef with horseradish sauce and Yorkshire Pudding, Shepherds Pie , mashed swedes or Colcanon. Or you could go Indian with Chicken Sagwala and all the chutneys. Yummy! England has a lot to offer.

    • Sasha Martin says:

      Bubble and Squeak has forever been ruined by my daughter’s obsession with the recent Tinkerbell movies (they play her friends)… haha

  5. Terri Nestel says:

    This is my 2nd visit to your website. I wish I had known about this from the beginning, it is a great concept. Will it become a book? ;)

    I visited England and France this year and in my opinion the food in England was much better than the food in France. Even the most casual meal was served with good presentation. The word “proper” always came to mind!

    I especially loved fish-n-chips and mushy peas!

    • Sasha Martin says:

      Welcome, Terri! I’m working on a food memoir – it’s more about my life – but a few sprinklings from the blog will be included :) If you’d like to get notified when it comes out, fill out the form right above these comments. :)

  6. Toad in the hole- ( only with real English ‘bangers’ sausages.. anything else just won’t do.) , Bubble and squeak – ( leftover cooked cabbage and potatoes from Sunday dinner) Thrown in a pan with a little oil and butter on Monday and fried together, chopping the vegetables up and turning as you go till golden brown. Yum. A good cuppa. I like Typhoo tea, but black without milk, first thing in the morning. My kids would always laugh at me and call my toast bricks, because forsaking the toaster to them I put my bread in the oven at about 315 degrees and turning it every 7 minutes or so, till it looked more like a rusk, spread with butter and apricot jam… what else do you need? I miss good currant scones and some of the boiled sweets( candies) In particular Oatfield Clove and I can’t remember the brand but tell me if anyone remember this boiled sweet- rhubarb or rhubarb and cream? If I had a last meal out of anything in the world it would be: Fresh just caught English Grey sole or Dover sole ( the real deal.. not what they pass off as sole fillets in the US because it rarely is sole actually). sauteed in brown butter, salt and pepper, a little fresh parsley served with lemon, chips and a simple green salad. I agree with Judi Suttles, England has a lot to offer.

  7. When in London, I ordered fresh caught Dover Sole at one of the best – and most pricey – restaurants: The Athenaeum. I figured, if I was going to try it, I might as well go all the way.. Presentation was fantastic; however, the fish was very tough and unappetizing. For almost $100, if I had known, I would go to an Indian restaurant and eat so much better and to my heart’s desire… . No regrets trying the Sole – good experience… .

    One of the best things about London was tea at the Goring Hotel…tea served the way it should be – five essential items : one pot with hot water, one pot with warm milk, the cup and saucer to drink from, a small bowl for “refuse”, and a container of sugar cubes with ‘tweezers’ to pick the cubes up with …really an adventure..
    Oh! Don’t forget the fine wood box with lock and key containing all the tea choices. If you are unable to think of something to talk about with your companion, you can always focus on the art and science of making and sipping your teas. [Melt-in-your mouth SCONES WERE ONLY AVAILABLE FOR BREAKFAST FRESH MADE FROM THE KITCHEN – none for lunch or afternoon tea]

    Proper…yes

    • Re-reading this, I realized there are two pots of hot water….one to put your teabag in , and the other to lighten the tea once it is poured into your cup.
      So all together there are three pots, two bowls, and one cup & saucer.,,,

      • Sasha Martin says:

        Wonderful! Though my research shows scones available in the afternoon. Wonder what other people have experienced?

        • Not at THE GORING Hotel…next door to Buckingham Palace…”one of London’s best-kept secrets”*….where the guest list matches it’s setting and the Queen has been known to lunch….and where guests are given a 20 min, 25 min, or 35 min optional jogging guide for very early morning excursions

          from: A Very Special Place – tales from the Goring Hotel.

  8. Ruby Libertus says:

    Sasha,
    Every time I want to text you its so late, how can we get tickets for your finale at the Philbook? Thanks.

  9. I adore fish and chips! Scones, crumpets, and shortbread top my list of favorite British treats.

  10. I am as British as they come, and I HATE both Bubble and Squeak and Toad in the Hole! Also not keen on Yorkshire pudding, and only like Roasts when the potatoes are done PROPERLY (crunchy on the outside fluffy on the inside, preferably in Goose or Duck fat),and if the meat is lamb shoulder with garlic and rosemary slow cooked until the bone pulls right out, or chicken stuffed with lemon and rubbed all over with salt, or Pork with crunchy, not chewy, crackling and apple sauce (and so never bother ordering roasts when out.).

    If you go back into Britains food history then primary influence is actually middle-eastern spices, Mace, Cinnamon and ginger, made into rich sauces etc. (at least for the richer folk). In fact the french chefs learnt from us, a couple hundred years went past, then it became all the rage to have a french chef, – then throw in food rationing after WW2 and people cooking everything in lard and there’s our ‘bad’ reputation for food!

    The ‘fry up’ came from Chop Houses, the first establishments where lower and upper classes would mix, all having pork chops and ale for breakfast. :)

    Also it’s all about the quality – GOOD black pudding is delicious, STRONG crunchy Davidstow Cheddar n fresh baked bread, Hearty stews with suet dumplings (delicious with chives added), Fresh Cornish Pasties, Fresh Fish and Chips (not forgetting the little hard ones at the bottom, yummy!, Pies, Locally Brewed Ales, Rabbit, Pheasant and Vension in season…..

    People also forget what is now considered ‘posh’ seafood was often eaten by working class people. Like Oysters, winkles, and crab. But being an Island it’s so easy to get deliciously fresh seafood – in Cornwall there are mussels growing on high rocks (so no grit) plump and juicy and living in the clear waters of the North atlantic, they taste so different freshly picked to the farmed ones from shops. Dying out now is the taste for Jellied Eels (Which, once you get past the looks, essentially taste like Salmon!) My uncle used to catch eels and my mum said they would always ‘squeal’ in the cooking pot!!!

    Plum pudding at Christmas is also dying out, it’s so moist and light, but everyone always does yucky Christmas pudding!

    I haven’t even started on Wales and Scotland and Northern Ireland…

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