Pubs and beer gardens have been exported galore, but not many people know a lot about British cuisine. In fact, British food has a wide variety of dishes influenced by commonwealth nations and taken from simple home-grown ingredients.
Snacks and smaller meals you will encounter include:
Cornish pasty - Orignally from Devonshire and the Cornish countryside. They are found all over the UK, but only those baked following certain guidelines and in Cornwall itself can be sold as genuine ‘Cornish Pasties’. Originally a food for poorer families, the humble pasty has been around since the 14th century.
Made from short-crust or flaky pastry filled with vegetables, sometimes meat and gravy, folded and baked into a ‘D’ shape. This tasty, filling treat is a must try for lunch or dinner.
Cream tea - Also from around Devonshire and the Cornish countryside. Very popular in the south of England, the best cream teas are made with Devonshire or Cornish clotted cream. Not to be confused with a simple tea with cream, this is much more. Yes, a cup or mug of tea, but with a fruit scone accompanied by a dollop of jam, butter and a generous serving of clotted cream. Best to save these for a special treat if you fear an expanding waistline!
- Welsh rarebit - As the name suggests, this is a local speciality in Wales. A Cheddar cheese sauce containing other ingredients such as paprika, mustard or ale served over toast, perfect as a snack or a light lunch.
While British snacks are very tasty, the UK also has an abundant choice of hearty and mouth-watering main meals.
- Sunday roast - A British classic, it was traditionally served on a Sunday, but it can be had any day of the week. Best tried with British beef or lamb, but also commonly eaten with chicken or pork. The meal is accompanied by seasonal boiled or roast vegetables, and nearly always with potatoes and gravy (a meat flavoured sauce made from the roasting juices). Beef is traditionally served with Yorkshire pudding and horseradish sauce and lamb with mint sauce.
- Bangers and mash - A mountain of mashed potato and sausages, soaked in gravy if you like. This dish should be made with the best English sausages (bangers) when possible.
- Fish and chips - Perhaps the best known of all British dishes. In the south of England it is usually made with battered cod; with haddock being more prevalent in the north. Served with chunky chips, add lashings of salt and vinegar and eat out of the paper on the sea-front for the full effect. In the north people are partial to gravy, curry sauce or mushy peas with their fish and chips.
The UK is famous for its colonial past. This extends into the present with British colonies exerting a huge influence on modern British cooking. Birmingham is home to the ‘balti triangle’, an area densely populated by balti houses and one which lays claim to the invention of the balti. The balti is a one-pot dish cooked and served in a small wok. Meat and vegetables are cooked in a blend of spices. The balti is just one of many delicious food-stuffs from the Indian sub-continent that are dished up in curry houses all over the UK. Curry is in fact so popular that it has been named a national dish.
People with a sweeter tooth will be interested in some of the delectable puddings that the UK has to offer. The classic ‘crumble’, a type of pie made with any fruit available, but typically apple, plum, rhubarb or blackberry. The fruit is stewed then covered with a crumble made from butter, sugar and flour then baked in the oven. Best enjoyed with thick, hot custard and a glass of milk or cider. For a lighter option summer pudding is perfect. A bread lined bowl filled with summer berries in juices, left overnight then turned out onto a plate. Lovely and cool on a summer’s day. One more dessert that has grown in popularity since its creation by a New Zealander in the 1920s, is pavlova. A meringue base topped with whipped cream and seasonal fruit, usually served during the summer at celebrations or on special occasions.
Though stereotypically a stodgy and somewhat dull cuisine what it lacks in presentational flair it more than makes up for in taste and variety. When moving to the UK, trying the best that British cuisine has to offer is an absolute ‘must’ for the full British experience.