British cuisine is both exciting and varied, with an eclectic mix of tradition, innovation and influences from around the world. Each part of the United Kingdom – Scotland, England, Wales and Ireland and all the various regions within these countries, offer a fascinating flavour experience for anyone who loves food.
British Cuisine Facts and History
In ancient times, it is believed that seafood and plants made up a large part of the daily diet of the British people until livestock was introduced into the country and meat and dairy began to replace fish on the menu. Farming became a necessity to keep up with the demand for food and animal by-products. The Romans and Vikings brought with them new foods such as cabbages and peas as well as new techniques such as smoking foods and winemaking.
In the meantime, Britons discovered the benefits of using herbs and spices during cooking. During the two world wars, the British people had to learn to become frugal with their rations. Food needed to be edible for as long as possible but it also needed to be filling as people never knew when their next meal would be.
Foods such as Yorkshire Pudding, dumplings and a lesser known, savoury suet and bread-based food called Season Pudding were created at a time when meat was scarce, expensive and families needed something else to provide which would feed and nourish on a tight budget. More recently, British cuisine has seen an influx of cultural influences both from migrants and from the increase in popularity in travelling overseas. Alongside these new creations, traditional dishes are still much loved and very much a part of today’s modern society.
British Cuisine Menu
If you go to a British food outlet and ask for a traditional English breakfast, you will most likely receive a plate filled with bacon, sausage, fried eggs, fried bread, mushrooms, baked beans and possibly a serving of black pudding (a black sausage which is made from pork, dried pig’s blood and suet). Cereal is a more commonly used, healthier option although toast does make an appearance on many a breakfast table.
Sandwiches are probably the most popular lunchtime choice with a huge range of options including a wide variety of breads and fillings. Other options include soup and a (bread) roll or a jacket potato filled with anything from baked beans to chilli con carne.
Dinner & & Desserts
Some examples of traditional dinner options include a roast joint of meat with roasted potatoes, vegetables and gravy; hotpot; Scottish haggis with mashed potatoes; Dublin Coddle; Welsh Rarebit and of course, not forgetting desserts such as apple pie, rhubarb crumble and jam roly poly, all served with homemade custard.
Snacks vary from person to person. There is a plethora of packaged options in the shops such as chocolate bars, bags of crisps and nuts, flapjacks and ‘healthy’ bar options. Some people prefer a piece of fruit or some vegetable sticks dipped into hummus.
As for drinks, tea and coffee are probably the most popular choices. Traditional tea is made with boiling water, milk and sugar to taste but there are also many other varieties including green tea and herbal options. Milk is a favourite, especially for children, with many schools offering schemes where young children receive a drink of milk and some fruit for their morning snack.
Christmas & Easter
Christmas dinner often consists of turkey, potatoes (mashed, roast or both) several different vegetables, pigs in blankets (cocktail sausages wrapped in streaky bacon) cranberry sauce and gravy. Some prefer a twist on the traditional with an (up to) six bird roast which consists of, for example, partridge, pheasant, chicken, duck, turkey and goose, all stuffed inside each other. Sweet treats include Christmas cake – a rich fruit cake topped with marzipan and icing; mince pies (sweet mincemeat encased in pastry) and Christmas pudding – a rich fruit pudding which is often soaked in brandy and set fire to before eating.
Some people hide a coin inside it which brings luck to the finder (unless they break a tooth finding it!). Easter food is often similar to Christmas dinner in that a turkey dinner is often on the menu. This is followed by Easter Simnel cake and of course, chocolate eggs.
Most Popular Dishes and Ingredients
Interestingly, the most popular food in the UK is curry. However, traditional foods such as fish and chips; roast dinners; haggis; potato-based dishes, meat and potato pies and the English Breakfast are still offered in many British food establishments.
Most Used Ingredients
Although there has been a growth in the numbers of vegetarian and vegan food establishments available, meat, fish and dairy are still some of the most popular ingredients used in cooking. Chicken, beef, pork and lamb are the staples of British meat-based cuisine. Potatoes and pasta are used regularly as accompaniments. Salads, vegetables and fruits are all available both direct from farmers and in shops and markets. Whilst most are available all year round now in the larger supermarket chains, many shoppers prefer to buy produce in season to improve their carbon footprint. Lettuce, tomatoes, cucumber, celery, beetroot, sweetcorn, peas, broccoli, cauliflower and carrots are all common items in the baskets of British shoppers. Common British fruits include strawberries, apples, plums and rhubarb.
Traveling Foodie – What to eat when you travel to UK
Most British towns and cities are inundated with greasy spoon cafes, fast food outlets, coffee shops, chain restaurants, fine dining and pubs serving food. There really is something to suit all tastes, but if you are looking to try some traditional British cuisine then roast beef and Yorkshire puddings is a must, as is stew and dumplings, haggis and for the brave, black pudding. If you are going to try fish and chips then you absolutely must visit the coast for the freshest, tastiest offerings. A trip to Wales is not complete without tasting a traditional Welsh breakfast which includes laverbread and cockles, whilst the Irish offer dishes such as Irish stew, Barmbrack (bread with sultanas and raisins) and Colcannon (mashed potato with cabbage).
If you find yourself sightseeing and roaming one of the many beautiful cities and towns within the UK, why not try some of the exciting street food available. Whether that be a hog roast sandwich, a tray of cockles and whelks, a Melton Mowbray pork pie, a deep-fried Mars bar or a hot Cornish pasty, you can guarantee that you will find something tasty, exciting and probably a little bit quirky but most importantly, enjoyable and filling.