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Traditional English Food Specialities: look out for them!

Helen enjoys fish and chips in Whitby, UKOpen any guide book to the UK and you will see the same traditional dishes listed. They are generally relatively simple, hearty fare which in the past were chiefly notable for the freshness of their ingredients and marvellous "unprocessed" character. The best examples still are, but unfortunately (and especially in tourist areas) you may encounter sadly degenerate versions scarcely worthy of the name. Hold out for the good stuff, it's worth it!

Fish and Chips: Usually cod or haddock, although skate and plaice are often available. The fish is battered and deep-fried, and served with chips (french fries) and "mushy peas". You usually season it with salt and vinegar or lemon. The trick is to get fresh fish and not frozen, and your best chance is at the seaside resorts, an example of which is Whitby. Don't be scared to get a takeaway and eat it straight from the paper (it used to be newspaper) the traditional way - with your fingers!

Roast Beef and Yorkshire puddingRoast Beef and Yorkshire Pudding:
The traditional British Sunday lunch. Crispy on the outside, rarer inside, the beef comes with a rich gravy enhanced with its juices. Yorkshire pudding is made from a batter and was originally cooked in a tin under the rotating spit on which roast beef was cooking - the juices from the meat dripped on to it, giving a delicious flavour. Nowadays it's often cooked separately in individual portions. Roast potatoes and seasonal vegetables complete the dish, and horesradish sauce and fresh English mustard provide added spice.

Shepherd's PieShepherd's Pie: Not many people, even in England, know the difference between Shepherd's Pie and Cottage Pie. The answer is that the former is made with minced lamb and the latter with minced beef. A popular pub meal, the savoury meat, often with carrots added, is baked with a covering of mashed potato until crisp.

Ploughman's LunchPloughman's Lunch:
My favourite, especially when accompanied by a pint of beer! Nowadays it can be quite fancy, but the basic ingredients are a hunk of cheese (often Cheddar), crusty fresh bread, a pickled onion, Branston pickle, and some salad garnish. Pubs often offer pork pie, ham or pate instead of cheese.

cornish pastieCornish Pastie: Another traditional pub staple, basically a dryish mixture of meat and potato and other vegetables baked in a folded-over pastry crust.

Steak and Kidney PieSteak and Kidney Pie: Chunks of beef and kidney in a rich, thick gravy baked in a pastry crust. If it's baked in a suet crust (less usual these days) it's called a steak and kidney pudding.

Cumberland SausageCumberland Sausage: There are lots of regional sausages in the UK, but the Cumberland variety is the best known. Made in a coil, each butcher keeps his recipe as closely guarded as the ingredients for Coca Cola. Basically, it's a spicy pork sausage and is best roasted whole. Any sausages served with mashed potato are known as "bangers and mash".

Dover SoleDover Sole: My dad's favourite fish and regarded by many as Britain's most desirable flat fish, it's certainly not cheap. Usually served grilled on the bone, it is a large fish whose white flesh has a firm texture with a delicate flavour. It's equivalent in the Far East is the Macau Sole, but the latter lacks the delicacy of the cold water variety.

British cheeseCheese: France may hold the blue riband for soft cheeses, but the UK's choice of hard cheeses is unmatched anywhere (though Spain is underrated). Served after dessert in Britain, the best quality cheeses are not inexpensive (although you can buy plenty of cheap versions in the supermarkets) but well worth seeking out. Blue and White Stilton, Cheddar, Red Leicester, Wensleydale, Sage Derby, Cornish Yarg, Double Gloucester, the list goes on and on. Accompany them with a fine port or tokay.

English Sherry TrifleSherry Trifle: One of the rare cases where in my view, the newer versions are better than the rather simple original. Nowadays it usually consists of sherry-soaked sponge covered with mixed fruit and jelly (jello in the US), all topped with a layer of whipped cream and decorated with glace cherries, angelica plus anything the cook has on hand. Delicious!

Strawberries and Cream:
The most expensive strawberries and cream in the world are served at Wimbledon but you can enjoy them anywhere in the UK in the early (and these days throughout) summer. Raspberries are also popular later in the season, and I prefer their tarter flavour myself although they are less frequently offered.

Spotted DickSteamed Treacle PuddingSteamed Treacle Pudding, Spotted Dick:
These puddings are not for wimps. These two puddings are really winter dishes, proper, solid (believe it) puddings that provide you with the calories to survive the privations of the English winter. Spotted Dick is a steamed, log-shaped suet pudding studded with currants and ideally served with treacle poured over it. Steamed Treacle Pudding is basically a steamed sponge pudding made with treacle that also has treacle poured over it when served. Calorie counting? Fuggedaboudit.

So. as you see, food in England needn't be so bad!

Here are our other English food pages:

Food in England and Wales: look out for these traditional specialities!

English Breakfasts and Afternoon Teas: the quintessential British gastronomic experience

More about English Food in our England Food Blog

And a useful website:

Traditional English food: The Giant British Cookbook

Helen Gaffney's informative website on British cooking, it's definitely worth a visit.

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Our other England and Wales pages:

Travel to England - it's much more than a pub-crawl!

When to travel to England and Wales for your UK tour

Tour Routes in England and Wales

Events, calendar, holidays and useful facts for your tour of England and Wales

Food in England and Wales: look out for these traditional specialities!

English Breakfasts and Afternoon Teas: the quintessential British gastronomic experience!

Daily Newspapers in England (Great Britain)

Brief History Timelines of England and the UK

English Weights and Measures and their equivalents

Clothing and Shoe Size equivalents

Book your sightseeing tours or day-trips in the UK online

Book your hotel in the UK online

Hire a Limousine in London, England

Residential telephone directory England, Business too!

More interesting, fast facts about England


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