I do love good food! British food is probably not the first cuisine you would choose when deciding what to eat, especially with dishes like mushy peas. England (or Great Britain for that matter) is not known for its food. But after spending more time in England, there are a few British foods that I think we could use more of here on this side of the pond.
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British Food vs American Food
I think, in general, traditional British food is simpler and heavier than American food. It reminds me of American comfort food with interesting ingredients and sauces.
The British love their sausages, pies (both meat and fruit), and fried foods like fish and chips. They also love their curry and some now say it is the British National Dish. I have also found that the British have more different types of desserts than we do in the US.
There is a lot more to British food than I expected, as I keep learning about new dishes all the time. If you are in the US, you will be able to find some of these foods on Amazon or you can also try British Corner Shop.
You might also enjoy reading more about other European delicacies.
British Food #1: Clotted Cream
First of all, let me just say that clotted cream is not the same as butter. I know the name sounds less than appealing, but if you have never tried it, you should! Clotted cream is made by indirectly heating full-cream cow’s milk using steam or a water bath and then leaving it in shallow pans to cool slowly. Unfortunately, it has a very short shelf life so virtually none is exported.
I have seen some clotted cream in the US and even found some British foods online on Amazon (pictured below). It is not the same as what you get in England (The clotted cream I got from Amazon is pasteurized). You will need to whip it before serving and it will separate (you can just pour off the liquid).
Clotted Cream is as essential to an English afternoon tea as proper etiquette. It is most commonly used as a spread on a scone like we might spread butter on a biscuit and then topped with jam. Although there is a very passionate debate about whether you should put the cream on first or the jam. (I believe the cream should be first, but according to this study, I may be in the minority.)
The texture and flavor of clotted cream is creamier and sweeter than butter. I could just eat it by itself, it tastes that good. I also found clotted cream ice cream at Tesco’s in England, which I had to try and it was good too.
You can also make clotted cream at home. Try this recipe.
British Food #2: Fish Pie
Savory pies are a quintessential British Food. A fish pie is sort of like shepherd’s pie but with fish instead of beef. A mixture of different kinds of fish are poached (or baked) and then combined with a cheese sauce and vegetables. Then you top the mixture with mashed potatoes and little more cheese and bake in the oven. Traditionally it also has a hard-boiled egg in it, but I requested that mine didn’t.
Russell made it for me for the first time New Year’s Eve 2015 and it was amazing. It is not easy to make but definitely worth the effort. Now we typically prepare it together and I have decided the hard-boiled eggs actually work well in the fish pie.
British Food #3: Black Pudding
Don’t ask what is in black pudding, or you will never want to eat it. It is not pudding like we would think of in the US, the British use the term much more broadly. I was scared to try it until my boyfriend made it for me, and now it is one of my favorite things.
Black Pudding is served as part of a full English Breakfast along with eggs, toast, sausage, bacon (well Canadian bacon), tomatoes, and mushrooms. Baked beans are also part of a full English breakfast, but we usually leave that out.
British Food #4: Yorkshire Pudding
The best way I can describe this is that it is kind of like what we would call a turnover. It is a hollow muffin. Yorkshire pudding is traditionally served with roast beef, but it is also served at Christmas dinner or with any roast dinner. I tried it for the first time at the Dabbling Duck Pub in Norfolk, and it was delicious, especially when dipped in gravy.
British Food #5: Bread Sauce
Bread sauce is a milk-based creamy sauce that can be served warm or cold and is thickened with breadcrumbs. We had some bread sauce with our turkey for Christmas Dinner. Bread sauce can be traced all the way back to medieval times when cooks used bread to thicken sauces. The idea to use bread this way probably comes from cooks wanting to use up stale bread and discovering the breadcrumbs could be added to sauces to make them thicker.
Here is a recipe for bread sauce that you can try at home.
British Food #6: Christmas Cake & Christmas Pudding
These British Christmas desserts are similar but not the same as the fruitcakes you would get here in the US. The cake is baked weeks in advance and then “fed” a little bit of brandy each week. Then there is a layer of marzipan and it can be decorated, usually white frosting and then a Christmas theme. The cake can have anywhere from a ¼ to ½ bottle of brandy in it. The alcohol does not get cooked off, so perfect for a party dessert.
The pudding doesn’t get decorated and you can also buy it on Amazon. Instead, a little bit of warmed brandy is poured on top and then it is set on fire (be careful, it will flame up). You serve it with a custard sauce which is sort of like a creamy vanilla sauce.
British Food #7: Black Currants
Black currant is a berry that is a bit tart and sweet, maybe like a mix of passion fruit, raspberries, and blackberries? Currants (there is also the more tart red currant) were banned in New York and other parts of the United States for more than 50 years because they were thought to help spread a fungus that threatened the timber industry. Now, you may be able to find black current in the US but it is rare.
In the UK, you can find maybe black currant products. I love black currant jam and black currant desserts like crumbles or pies. My husband loves to drink a black currant flavored drink which is called squash.
So yes there is more to traditional British food than fish & chips or curry. I was pleasantly surprised by how much I love British food and British sweets!
Do you have any favorite British foods that didn’t make my list?
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