Thursday, May 7, 2009

Fighting for British Cuisine

Let's cut right to it: My name is Ryan, and I love English food. And dammit, I'm proud of it. I'm sick of listening to people bash the fantastic cuisine that the English turn out. Yorkshire pudding, black pudding, shepherd's pie, suet pudding, bangers and mash, spotted dick, I love them all.

The thing that bothers me the most is people thumping on English food without ever really trying it. I defy anyone to have a traditional Sunday roast, and not like it. See, my family is pretty much 100% English. I grew up with English food, and love it.

As travel writers, part of the deal is to immerse yourself in the local culture. Sure that means the sites, sounds, and smells -- but it also means the tastes.

Here's an Idiot's Guide to English food:

Bangers & Mash

I think sometimes people get freaked out simply by the NAMES of the meals. Bangers & mash is traditional fare. You'll find it at pretty much any pub you go to. So what is bangers & mash? Simply put, it's sausage stuck into mashed potatoes with gravy poured over it. Typically the sausage is flavored, and made out of pork or beef.

This meal is English cuisine for beginners. It's an easy entry point into English food, it has a funny name, and it tastes pretty good.

Black Pudding

Let's dive right into the deep end. Black pudding is also known as blood pudding. Where did it get such a crazy name? Let's get back to that. Black pudding is basically another sausage type dish, actually served with the traditional full English breakfast. The sausage is stuffed with animal's blood, and cooked with filler like barley and oats, until it has congealed to a point that it can be sliced and served.

Okay, okay --- I admit it SOUNDS gross. But it really isn't too bad. A lot of times places will infuse bits of bacon into the sausage as well. It kind of tastes like a sweet sausage. It's worth getting a traditional English breakfast just to try it.

Meat Pie

So traditionally the English relied on animals for most of their food products. According to wikipedia the "food of England has historically been characterised by its simplicity of approach, honesty of flavour, and a reliance on the high quality of natural produce. This has resulted in a traditional cuisine which tended to veer from strong flavours..."

I think meat pies fit into this nicely. It's not overly spiced, there is no strong flavor, but if you get a good meat pie, it's simply delicious. More specifically, steak pies are a traditional English food. Steak and ale pies are served in just about every pub. In Ireland (and in many pubs in London) you'll find the steak & Guinness pie.

The pie is what it sounds like. A pie crust covers the stewed meat, and often vegetables like carrots, and celery are cooked in.

Shepherd's Pie

Shepherd's Pie is another type of meat pie, but it's a family staple, so I need to include it. It's also known as cottage pie. Basically shepherd's pie is a meat pie with mashed potato used as the crust.

If you like stewed meat and mashed potatoes, you'll love shepherd's pie.

Yorkshire Pudding

Can you tell the English love their puddings and pies? Yorkshire pudding is another family favorite, so I include it hear. Usually served in the traditional English roast, Yorkshire pudding is made from batter. That's all it is. But served with roast beef, and gravy it turns into a fantastically delicious side dish to the meat. A traditional Sunday roast consists of Yorkshire pudding, mashed potatoes, roast beef, a vegetable (typically broccoli and carrots) and gravy.

I'm getting hungry just thinking about it.

Fish and chips

You knew this was coming right? There are fish & chip shops scattered across London, but some of the best is served right in the pubs. Fried fish (usually cod or haddock) with a side of chips (fries) and some mushy peas. Mushy peas are, well... mushed up peas. Get some froma takeaway shop, I'm sure you'll like it.

Now let's move on to a couple of deserts.

Spotted Dick

Spotted dick is a really tasty English desert. You'll find that English deserts aren't as rich as the desert you're used to, but they have a subtle flavor that really is enjoyable. Spotted dick is a steamed suet pudding. Usually it contains dried currants, or another dried fruit. It's usually served over custard, and is typically served warm.

Bread Pudding

Probably my favorite English desert. As Wikipedia says, it's pretty much baked layers of french toast, with raisins. It's usually served over custard, or creme, and is another treat you all should try before you leave.
So there's a beginner's list to English cuisine. I will say that I've left a lot out. The chocolate in Europe is better on the whole than the stuff we have in the U.S. There's also a lot of English cuisine that fuses traditional Indian fare with food products from the island.

While in Scotland, it only gets better.

Haggis anyone?

1 comment:

JustAnotherVoice said...

Deserts are dry and hot, much like Spotted Dick...I think you meant desserts.