British Gourmet Food
Read About History and Culture of beautiful England.
The history of British Food is linked to the rich and diverse histories of three different countries: England, Scotland and Wales. In ancient times, the Romans, whose occupation of Great Britain began in 43 AD, introduced cherries, cabbage, peas and wine to the region and built roads which allowed for transportation of produce throughout the land. The Saxons first occupied Britain in 441 and were known to be great farmers who cultivated large varieties of herbs, which were used for flavor and to add substance to traditional meals such as stews. The Vikings introduced smoking and drying fish to the region. The Norman invasion introduced exotic spices and promoted the drinking of wine. Normans also provided the words for foods such as mutton (mouton) and beef (boeuf). The importing of foods from abroad left a lasting imprint on the history of British Foods. During the Middle Ages, some foods were sourced from as far away as Asia and were strictly reserved for the rich. In Tudor times during the 16th century, tea from the Far East, coffee and cocoa from South America and curry-based spices from India all found its way to British shores. Potato crops from America began to be grown. Turkeys were introduced from America and served at the wealthiest tables. Imported sugar from the Caribbean was also reserved for royalty and the wealthy. It is said that Queen Elizabeth I loved sugar so much that by the time she was sixty-five years old, all her teeth had turned black. After the Protestant Reformation in the 16th and 17th centuries, the focus shifted to plain yet hearty foods in Great Britain.
Since the 1700s, the British have been the largest consumers of tea in the world. Introduced from China, tea was at first reserved for royals and the wealthy. Initially, tea was highly taxed, but by 1784, these taxes were repealed allowing the masses to experience what many believed was not only a pick-me-up but an elixir that helped treat colds. Traditionally, the British had only two meals during the day, and dinner was the largest meal served in the afternoon. Yet, as times changed, dinner began to be served later and later in the evening, so “tea” would be served in the afternoon as a snack in between meals. Duchess Anna Maria of Bedford is credited with the creation of “afternoon tea” in the 1840s. Her habit of ordering tea with the accompaniment of a small meal of foods such as cakes, tarts, biscuits, and breads on summer afternoons caught on quickly amongst the upper classes and created the long-standing British tradition. Because it was eaten at a high table rather than a low tea table, it became known as “high tea” now known as “afternoon tea”
Two World Wars inexorably changed the course of British Food’s history. Rationing began during World War II and continued several years after, so that many citizens were never exposed to previously common household ingredients. For instance, olive oil was only available at the chemist shop, not the grocery store. It was during these times that British Food gained a poor reputation. Today, British Food is influenced by cuisines from around the world including Indian, French, Italian, American, Chinese, Thai and Spanish.
The Sunday roast originated in the 1700s in England. On Sundays, families would put roasts in the oven before leaving for church, and the roast would be ready to eat upon their return. The traditional continued as the Sunday roast would consist of a roast of beef, pork, lamb or chicken that would be served with Yorkshire Pudding (a pastry eaten with meat and gravy), vegetables, gravy and stuffing. Sweet and savory pies and pasties are another English favorite. Cornish pasties, a hearty meal of meat and vegetables baked in a pastry crust, were created as an easy to hold and eat lunch dish for Cornish miners who could not leave the underground to eat their meals. Farmers in South West England are known for their clotted cream, produced as a way to reduce waste from their milk. The region is now a tourist attraction for their production of this thick and rich cream. A poplar working class meal for workers throughout Great Britain, Fish and Chips, originated in the 1800s. Fish and Chips are deep-fried battered fish and french fries. Fish and Chips is a meal not usually cooked at home but rather is purchased at a Fish and Chip shop (“chippy”) and is a popular take-out food today. Ploughman’s lunch is yet another traditional meal and my favorite on a warm summer’s day, from England that became popular in the 1960s and is usually served in British pubs. A typical Ploughman’s lunch is cheese, pickled onions, chutney and bread, usually served with a pint of cold beer, larger or cider. India’s influence on British Food is on display with the dish Chicken Tikka Masala, (chicken marinated in yogurt and spices) which is gaining support as a new national dish British dish.
Welsh Food has been influenced by other British Foods throughout history. The Welsh are known for their use of beef and lamb in their cooking. Cawl is Wales’ national dish, which is a rich stew or soup typically made from bacon, lamb or beef, cabbage and leeks. One of the most recognisable songs sung at Wales rugby matches features the rousing refrain “Feed Me ‘Til I Want No More”. Wales has a wealth of organic farmers’ markets, artisan producers, food festivals, and award-winning restaurants, ensure the taste of Wales is one to really savor.
Welsh Cakes originate from the country of Wales in Great Britain. The cakes are a cross between a cookie, a scone, and a pancake but they are truly unlike any of these things when it comes to taste and texture. They are the size of chubby cookie, made from ingredients similar to a scone, but they are cooked like a pancake on a griddle, they are not baked. Sweet but not overly so, Welsh Cakes are an example of a unique and traditional food that reflects the resourceful, wholesome, and practical nature of the Welsh people. Made from simple pantry items like flour, sugar, milk and butter, Welsh Cakes are considered a special treat since they take a great deal of time and effort to make. Being griddled, they pretty much must be made by hand and this is why there are very few commerical makers of these cakes in the world. Traditionally they were cooked over a hot bake-stone but iron griddles were later used and are now the predominant method used to cook them. They have gone by a few different names since their inception including their Welsh language names “cage bach” or “picau ar y maen” but also they are known as “Griddle Cakes”, “Welsh Tea Cakes” and “Welsh Miner Cakes”.
Scotland is known for the high quality of their beef, lamb, potatoes, seafood and their many different kinds of whiskey. Haggis is considered Scotland’s national dish. The savoury meat pudding consisting of sheep’s offal (most commonly lungs) mixed with suet, oatmeal, onion and spices, then boiled in a bag and served with with “neeps and tatties” (translation: turnips and potatoes) and is still served in huge quantities on Burns Night every year.
Scotland is also famous for Bagpipes and Shortbread biscuit cookie, a traditional holiday dessert made of flour, sugar and butter.