British Cuisine Article – It’s not all cream teas and finger sandwiches! ~by The SL Parade’s own Belle “Love Hunni” Sonsie~
I am British, and I live in Britain, so I know when lots of other cultures think of British Cuisine, there tends to be an instant image of cream teas with strawberry jam and clotted cream…or maybe even cucumber sandwiches with the crusts cut off…all being served on an elegant afternoon tea platter with flowers on it. While this is indeed part of our history (hey, I have to admit have enjoyed an afternoon tea or 2 in my time) there is so much more to our love of everything foodie!
Wiki describes British Cuisine as “the specific set of cooking traditions and practices associated with the United Kingdom.” British cuisine has been described as “unfussy dishes made with quality local ingredients, matched with simple sauces to accentuate flavour, rather than disguise it.”
This is not a bad description because we do love quality, and love being able to REALLY taste our food.
In my own cooking, I like to try new ingredients with more complex flavours. I feel we have programs like “Master Chef,” “Great British Bake Off,” and “The Naked Chef” (catchy title, but trust me, the Chef isn’t really naked) is to blame for the explosion of fancy dining found all across the British isles.
Being such a multi-cultural nation, we have the advantage of being able to try so many new cuisines and styles of cooking, and we love creating fusions of foods from all nations blended with our own traditional methods to create amazing new varieties of flavours and styles which become more popular than some classic dishes. In fact, according to many polls our nation is actually a big fan of dishes like Indian curry (or “ruby murry” as it is fondly called in some circles), and we also normally enjoy spicy hot dishes…the hotter, the better for many. I myself am not a huge spice enthusiast, preferring flavour over heat any day!
It also never ceases to amaze me just how diverse British food is from county to county and city to city. Considering the actual size of England and the British Isles, we have so many distinct flavours varying from place to place. For instance, in the southern counties most people would put ketchup on their chips (we call our fries chips here, and potato chips are called crisps lol), where as in the north of England you will find more people put gravy on them. There are those, of course who will smother chips in mayo, garlic mayo or…particularly where my husband is concerned…mint sauce!
You will also find cooking methods change as you cross the country, from those that prefer to deep fry more food than is healthy, to those that under cook or over cook food as per how most people from that region cook.
We do take a lot of pride in our traditional foods, and when and how we eat them. Sundays are the day for Roast dinners, consisting of a joint of meat which has been slowly roasted for hours, served with roast potatoes, 2 or 3 different vegetables, stuffing, Yorkshire puddings and plenty of thick flavorsome gravy. Friday night is traditionally “fish and chips” night, and you will still see queues of people outside most chip shops, and the servers deep frying the battered cod or haddock as fast as they can to get the food wrapped up in paper so the customer can get home and serve supper to the family.
Something which makes me giggle is the fact that depending on which part of Great Britain you are from, you will call your meals different things. In the South (where I am from originally) we have breakfast (around 8am), lunch around midday and dinner (anytime from 5pm onwards).
Up north, where I live now, they have breakfast the same, but the meal at midday is dinner, and the evening meal is tea (not to be confused with the drink tea even though it is spelled the same lol).
And we must not forget supper, which normally consists of a warm drink and a couple of biscuits or a small sandwich, and mostly enjoyed by people further up the country just before going to bed, however if you are eating a full meal after 8pm we do tend to call that a late supper. Confused? yep we are a very confusing nation lol!
In my own experiences, Brits have a great relationship with food; some may even say our relationship with food is almost sexual! We will avidly watch cooking programs, which are renowned for their sexual connotations and many nuances between sex and food. Nigella Lawson, for instance, is famous for how she plays to the camera. She is notorious for doing things like licking whipped cream off of a spoon, making men everywhere simply drool at the screen, while their wives get jealous because Lawson has cooked and eaten such fattening food, yet still looks amazing! lol
In fact, this week sees the return of a program called “The Great British Bake Off,” where contestants will compete every week, baking their finest creations to try and win the coveted title at the end of the series. Of course, all the contestants hope that Mary Berry doesn’t tell them that the underside of their cakes have a “soggy bottom” and Facebook will filled for a couple of months with nothing but “Bake Off” quotes and funny stories about the show. We just can’t seem to get enough, and I hold my hands up high and say yes I will be watching it hoping to get some tips on perfecting my scones, or learning a new recipe for my Victoria sponge cake.
Even though there are fast food restaurants everywhere, not to mention “take-aways” on most streets in busy cities, we do love to cook. I bake a couple of times a week, as well as routinely cook meals on most days. We also take a lot of pride in putting out a “nice spread” for visitors; just 2 days ago, I had my in laws here and was really under alot of pressure to cook a 3 course meal for us all. I went with the “impress with simplicity” approach and cooked deep fried Brie with a cranberry jus for starters, and I also slow cooked (6 hours) a short rib of beef, and served it all with roast potatoes and fine green beans. I also finished the meal off with a traditional lemon tarte for the ladies and sticky toffee pudding for the gents, all made by my fair hands.
I admit that I was totally exhausted afterwards, and thought to myself, “Why did I do so much?” Then, I thought, “….but I will do just as much…if not more next time lol!”
I probably own more cook books than any other genre, and like to try something new at least once every 2 weeks.
We are also a nation that loves to eat out, and simply adore fine dining. In fact, eating out is not a cheap option over here, but we have some of the world’s best chefs and restaurants here, and you are sure to be in gastronomical heaven if you were to visit Le-gavroche Michelin 2 star restaurant. The Le-gavroche Michelin restaurant is owned and ran by Michel Roux Jr, a world-renowned Chef that has worked in venues such as Hong Kong’s Mandarin Hotel and has also worked with an assortment of other renowned chefs.
I could write for hours about our cuisine and foodie loves and hates, but the best way to learn about our cuisine is to try it… Make sure you keep your eyes peeled for my Recipes from the British Isles! Just to get your taste buds flowing, here is a very quick and easy favourite from my little nation. Happy cooking!!!
450 g frozen white fish fillets, from sustainable sources
500 g frozen peas
5 tablespoons plain flour
1 tablespoon smoked paprika
½ unwaxed lemon, zest and juice from
freshly ground black pepper
2 large free-range eggs
3 slices of wholemeal bread, (100g)
½ a bunch of fresh mint, leaves picked
Start by defrosting the fish fillets, preferably overnight in the fridge (I like cod or haddock, but it’s up to you what you use).
Put the peas into a colander in the sink and pour over boiling water to defrost them, then set aside. Place the flour in a shallow bowl with the paprika, lemon zest and a pinch of salt and pepper, then beat the eggs in another shallow bowl. Blitz the bread in a food processor to fine breadcrumbs, then tip onto a plate. Once defrosted, slice the fillets length ways into fingers, roughly 2cm wide, then add to the flour and toss to coat (you’ll need to do this in batches). Dip the flour-dusted fish pieces into the egg, shake off the excess, then roll in the breadcrumbs until well coated and place on a tray.
Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a large non-stick frying pan over a medium heat. Add the fish fingers (you’ll need to do this in batches) and fry for 2 to 3 minutes on each side, or until golden, crispy and cooked through. Remove to a double layer of kitchen paper to drain while you fry the next batch, adding a splash more oil, if needed.
Meanwhile, blitz the peas in a food processor until they’re smashed up to a nice, chunky purée, or mash well with a fork. Tip into a bowl, then finely chop and add the mint leaves, squeeze in the lemon juice and season to how you like it. Mix well and serve alongside the crispy fish fingers and a nice green salad. If you want a dollop of ketchup, too, I won’t judge!