British cuisine is the heritage of cooking traditions and practices associated with the United Kingdom. Although Britain has a rich indigenous culinary tradition its colonial history has profoundly enriched its native cooking traditions. British cuisine absorbed the cultural influences of its post-colonial territories – in particular those of South Asia.
In ancient times Celtic agriculture and animal breeding produced a wide variety of foodstuffs for the indigenous Celts and Britons. Anglo-Saxon England developed meat and savoury herb stewing techniques before the practice became common in Europe. The Norman conquest introduced exotic spices into England in the Middle Ages. The British Empire facilitated a knowledge of Indian cuisine with its "strong, penetrating spices and herbs". Food rationing policies put into place by the British government during the wartime periods of the 20th century are widely considered today to be responsible for British cuisine's poor international reputation.
Well-known traditional British dishes include full breakfast, fish and chips, the Christmas dinner, the Sunday roast, steak and kidney pie, shepherd's pie, and bangers and mash. People in Britain, however, eat a wide variety of foods based on the cuisines of Europe, India, and other parts of the world. British cuisine has many regional varieties within the broader categories of English, Scottish and Welsh cuisine and Northern Irish cuisine. Each has developed its own regional or local dishes, many of which are geographically indicated foods such as Cornish pasties, the Yorkshire pudding, Cumberland Sausage, Arbroath Smokie, and Welsh cakes.
Romano-British agriculture, highly fertile soils and advanced animal breeding produced a wide variety of very high quality foods for indigenous Romano-British people. Anglo-Saxon England developed meat and savoury herb stewing techniques and the Norman conquest reintroduced exotic spices and continental influences back into Great Britain in the Middle Ages as maritime Britain became a major player in the transcontinental spice trade for many centuries after. Following the Protestant Reformation in the 16th and 17th centuries "plain and robust" food remained the mainstay of the British diet, reflecting tastes which are still shared with neighbouring north European countries and traditional North American Cuisine. In the 18th and 19th centuries, as the Colonial British Empire began to be influenced by India's elaborate food tradition of "strong, penetrating spices and herbs", the United Kingdom developed a worldwide reputation for the quality of British beef and pedigree bulls were exported to form the bloodline of major modern beef herds in the New World. Developments in plant breeding produced a multiplicity of fruit and vegetable varieties, with British disease-resistant rootstocks still used globally for fruits such as apples.
During the World Wars of the 20th century difficulties of food supply were countered by official measures, which included rationing. The problem was worse in WWII, and the Ministry of Food was established to address the problems (see Rationing in the United Kingdom). Due to the economic problems following the war, rationing continued for some years, and in some aspects was more strict than during wartime. Rationing was not fully lifted until almost a decade after war ended in Europe, so that a whole generation was raised without access to many previously common ingredients. These policies, put in place by the British government during wartime periods of the 20th century, are often blamed for the decline of British cuisine in the 20th century.
The last half of the 20th century saw an increase in the availability of a greater range of good quality fresh products and greater willingness by many sections of the British population to vary their diets and select dishes from other cultures such as those of Italy and India.
Efforts have been made to re-introduce pre-20th-century recipes. Ingredients not native to the islands, particularly herbs and spices, are frequently added to traditional dishes (echoing the highly spiced nature of much British food in the medieval era).
Much of Modern British cooking also draws heavily on influences from Mediterranean, and more recently, Middle Eastern, South Asian, East Asian and Southeast Asian cuisines. The traditional influence of northern and central European cuisines is significant but fading.
The mid-20th-century British style of cooking emerged as a response to the depressing food rationing that persisted for several years after the Second World War, along with restrictions on foreign currency exchange, making travel difficult. A hunger for exotic cooking was satisfied by writers such as Elizabeth David, who from 1950 produced evocative books, starting with A Book of Mediterranean Food, whose ingredients were then often impossible to find in Britain. By the 1960s foreign holidays, and foreign-style restaurants in Britain, further widened the popularity of foreign cuisine. Recent modern British cuisine has been influenced and popularised by TV chefs, all also writing books, such as Fanny Cradock, Clement Freud, Robert Carrier, Keith Floyd, Gary Rhodes, Delia Smith, Gordon Ramsay, Ainsley Harriott, Nigella Lawson, Simon Hopkinson, Nigel Slater and Jamie Oliver, alongside The Food Programme, made by BBC Radio 4.
Since appearing in Christmas dinner tables in England in the late 16th century, the turkey has become more popular, with Christmas pudding served for dessert. The 16th-century English navigator William Strickland is credited with introducing the turkey into England, and 16th-century farmer Thomas Tusser noted that in 1573 turkeys were eaten at Christmas dinner. Roast turkey is often accompanied with roast beef or ham, and is served with stuffing, gravy, roast potatoes, mashed potatoes and vegetables. In addition to Christmas pudding, trifle, mince pies, Christmas cake or a yule log are also popular desserts.
Some Anglo-Indian dishes derive from traditional British cuisine, such as roast beef, modified by the addition of Indian-style spices, such as cloves and red chillies. Fish and meat are often cooked in curry form with Indian vegetables. Anglo-Indian food often involves use of coconut, yogurt, and almonds. Roasts and curries, rice dishes, and breads all have a distinctive flavour.
Signs of curry's popularity in Britain slowly became evident by the later 1960s and 1970s, when some establishments that originally catered almost exclusively to Indians gradually observed a diversifying clientele.
English cuisine encompasses the cooking styles, traditions and recipes associated with England. It has distinctive attributes of its own, but also shares much with wider British cuisine, partly through the importation of ingredients and ideas from North America, China, and India during the time of the British Empire and as a result of post-war immigration.
Scottish cuisine is the specific set of cooking traditions and practices associated with Scotland. It shares much with English cuisine, but has distinctive attributes and recipes of its own. Traditional Scottish dishes such as haggis and shortbread exist alongside international foodstuffs brought about by migration. Scotland is known for the high quality of its beef, lamb, potatoes, oats, and sea foods. In addition to foodstuffs, Scotland produces a variety of whiskies.
Welsh cuisine has influenced, and been influenced by, other British cuisine. Although both beef and dairy cattle are raised widely, especially in Carmarthenshire and Pembrokeshire, Wales is best known for its sheep, and thus lamb is the meat traditionally associated with Welsh cooking.
Angel cake (or Angel food cake; not to be confused with American Angel food cake) is a type of layered sponge cake dessert that originated in the United Kingdom, and first became popular in the late 19th century.
Made with butter, caster sugar, eggs, vanilla extract, self-raising flour, baking powder, and red and yellow food colouring, it consists of two or three layers of sweet sponge cake which is often coloured white, pink and yellow with a thin layer of white cream. It is traditionally sold either in long bars or small slices.
The cake has won many awards, most notably the 'English Cake of the Year' in 1986. The largest recorded Angel cake was 1 metre in length and 50 centimetres in width, which was baked in the English town of Bakewell.Apple sauce
Apple sauce or applesauce is a sauce made of apples. It can be made with flat top or unpeeled apples and a variety of spices (commonly cinnamon and allspice). Flavorings or sweeteners such as sugar or honey are also commonly added. Apple sauce is inexpensive and widely used in North America and some European countries.It can be substituted for fat (e.g. butter/oil) in baking.Commercial maps of apple sauce are readily available in supermarkets.Bakewell pudding
Bakewell pudding is an English dessert consisting of a flaky pastry base with a layer of sieved jam and topped with a filling made of egg and almond paste.Blue cheese dressing
Blue cheese dressing is a popular salad dressing and dip in the United States. It is usually made of some combination of blue cheese, mayonnaise, and buttermilk, sour cream or yogurt, milk, vinegar, onion powder, and garlic powder. There is a blue cheese vinaigrette that consists of salad oil, bleu cheese, vinegar, and sometimes seasonings.Most major salad dressing producers and restaurants in the United States produce a variant of blue cheese dressing. It is commonly served as a dip with Buffalo wings or crudités (raw vegetables).Cauliflower cheese
Cauliflower cheese is a traditional British dish. It can be eaten as a main course, for lunch or dinner, or as a side dish.
Cauliflower cheese consists of pieces of cauliflower lightly boiled and covered with a milk-based cheese sauce, for which a mature cheese (such as cheddar) tends to be preferred. A more elaborate white sauce or cheddar cheese sauce flavoured with English mustard and nutmeg may also be used. The dish is topped with grated cheese (sometimes mixed with bread crumbs) and baked in the oven to finish it.Chicken and mushroom pie
Chicken and mushroom pie is a common British pie, ranked as one of the most popular types of savoury pie in Great Britain and often served in fish and chips restaurants.Coronation chicken
Coronation chicken is a combination of cold cooked chicken meat, herbs and spices, and a creamy mayonnaise-based sauce. It can be eaten as a salad or used to fill sandwiches.Dundee cake
Dundee cake is a traditional Scottish fruit cake with a rich flavour.The cake is often made with currants, sultanas and almonds; sometimes, fruit peel may be added to it. The cake originated in nineteenth-century Scotland, and was originally made as a mass-produced cake by the marmalade company Keiller's marmalade. Keiller's first mass-produced the cake commercially and have been claimed to be the originators of the term "Dundee cake". However, similar fruit cakes were produced across Scotland. A popular story is that Mary Queen of Scots did not like glacé cherries in her cakes, so the cake was first made for her, as a fruit cake that used blanched almonds and not cherries. The top of the cake is typically decorated with concentric circles of almonds. Today, the cakes are often sold in supermarkets throughout the United Kingdom.
The cake was also made and marketed in British India, and in independent India after 1947, by Britannia Industries and its successor firms. However, after 1980 the cake was withdrawn from the market though it continued to be supplied privately as a corporate Christmas gift by the maker.
Queen Elizabeth is reported to favour Dundee cake at tea-time.Faggot (food)
Faggots are meatballs made from minced off-cuts and offal, especially pork (traditionally pig's heart, liver, and fatty belly meat or bacon) together with herbs for flavouring and sometimes added bread crumbs. It is a traditional dish in the United Kingdom, especially South and Mid Wales and the English Midlands.Faggots originated as a traditional cheap food consumed by ordinary country people in Western England, particularly west Wiltshire and the West Midlands. Their popularity spread from there, especially to South Wales in the mid-nineteenth century, when many agricultural workers left the land to work in the rapidly expanding industry and mines of that area.
Faggots are also known as "ducks" in Yorkshire, Lincolnshire, and Lancashire, often as "savoury ducks". The first use of the term in print was in the Manchester Courier and Lancashire General Advertiser of Saturday 3 June 1843, a news report of a gluttonous man who ate twenty of them.The first use of the term in print, as cited in the Oxford English Dictionary, dates from 1851, in a piece by Henry Mayhew in which he describes a dish identical to the modern product with chopped liver and lights in an outer wrapper of caul. This was in London.Ham salad
Ham salad is a traditional Anglo-American salad. Ham salad resembles chicken salad, egg salad, and tuna salad (as well as starch-based salads like potato salad, macaroni salad, and pea salad): the primary ingredient, ham, is mixed with smaller amounts of chopped vegetables or relishes, and the whole is bound with liberal amounts of a mayonnaise, salad cream, or other similar style of salad dressing, such as Miracle Whip.Hot water crust pastry
Hot water crust is a type of pastry used for savoury pies, such as pork pies, game pies and, more rarely, steak and kidney pies. Hot water crust is traditionally used for making hand-raised pies.
As the name suggests, the pastry is made by heating water, melting the fat in it, bringing the mixture to a boil, and finally incorporating the flour. This can be done by beating the flour into the mixture in the pan, or by kneading on a pastry board. Either way, the result is a hot and rather sticky paste that can be used for hand-raising: shaping by hand, sometimes using a dish or bowl as an inner mould. The molded crust retains its shape as it cools, and is prepared for baking with a filling and additional layer of pastry crust on top. Hand-raised hot water crust pastry does not produce a neat and uniform finish, as there will be sagging during the cooking of the filled pie. This is generally accepted as the mark of a hand-made pie. It is possible, however, to bake the pastry in a mould, as with other pies.
The pastry is often used to make pork pies, and the pastry allows a wet filling to be held in.Huff paste
Huff paste was a cooking technique involved making a stiff pie shell or coffyn using a mixture of flour, suet, and boiling water. The pastry when cooked created a tough protective layer around the food inside. When cooked, the pastry would be discarded as it was virtually inedible. However the shell became soaked with the meat juices and was sometimes eaten by house servants after the meal had concluded.Its main purpose was simply to create a solid container for the pie’s ingredients. The flour itself was stronger than normal flour, often made from coarsely ground rye, and suet, which was mixed with hot water to create an early form of hot water crust pastry.
Huff paste could be moulded into a variety of shapes, called 'coffyns' or 'coffers', similar to a Cornish pasty. Another benefit of these early pies was that meat could be preserved for several months and the food contained within was protected from contamination. It also allowed food to be preserved so that country dwellers could send it over long distances as gifts to their friends in other towns or areas.
Occasionally shells of huff paste were baked empty, or "blind". After baking, the pastry was brushed with egg yolk to give it a golden color. Later, the shell was filled with a mixture of meat and spices and then baked.A dish from Wiltshire, called the Devizes Pie, is layered forcemeat or offal cooked under a huff paste.Ice cream cone
An ice cream cone, poke (Ireland and Scotland) or cornet is a dry, cone-shaped pastry, usually made of a wafer similar in texture to a waffle, which enables ice cream to be held in the hand and eaten without a bowl or spoon. Various types of ice cream cones include wafer (or cake) cones, waffle cones, and sugar cones.
Many styles of cones are made, including pretzel cones and chocolate-coated cones. A variety of double wafer cone exists that allows two scoops of ice cream to be served side by side. Wafer cones are sometimes made with a flat bottom instead of a pointed, conical shape, enabling the ice cream and "cone" to stand upright on a surface without support. These types of wafer cones are often branded as "cups".Northern Irish cuisine
Northern Irish cuisine encompasses the cooking styles, traditions and recipes associated with Northern Ireland. It has distinctive attributes of its own, but has also drawn heavily from British cuisine and that of the Republic of Ireland.Phall
Phall (sometimes spelled fall, faal, fahl, phaal, phal or paal) is a British Asian curry Indian dish, which originated in British Bangladeshi restaurants in Birmingham, UK. It is not to be confused with the char-grilled, gravyless, finger food phall from Madras Presidency.
It is one of the hottest forms of curry regularly available, even hotter than the vindaloo, using a large number of ground standard chilli peppers, or a hotter type of chilli such as scotch bonnet or habanero. Typically, the dish is a tomato-based thick curry and includes ginger and optionally fennel seeds.Phall has achieved notoriety as the hottest generally available dish from Indian restaurants. In 2008 in the UK, a charity competition in Hampshire was based on competitors eating increasingly hot phalls.Potato salad
Potato salad is a dish made from boiled potatoes and a variety of other ingredients. It is generally considered a side dish, as it usually accompanies the main course. Potato salad is widely believed to have originated in Germany from where it spread widely throughout Europe and later to European colonies. American potato salad most likely originated from recipes brought to the U.S. by way of German and European settlers during the nineteenth century. American-style potato salad is served cold or at room temperature. Ingredients often include mayonnaise or a mayonnaise-like substitute (such as yogurt or sour cream), herbs, and vegetables (such as onion and celery).Roast beef
Roast beef is a dish of beef which is roasted. Essentially prepared as a main meal, the leftovers are often used in sandwiches and sometimes are used to make hash. In the United Kingdom, United States, Canada, Ireland, New Zealand, and Australia, roast beef is one of the meats traditionally served at Sunday dinner, although it is also often served as a cold cut in delicatessen stores, usually in sandwiches. A traditional side dish to roast beef is Yorkshire pudding.
Roast beef is a signature national dish of England and holds cultural meaning for the English dating back to the 1731 ballad "The Roast Beef of Old England". The dish is so synonymous with England and its cooking methods from the 18th century that the French nickname for the English is "les Rosbifs".Shepherd's pie
Shepherd's pie (lamb) or cottage pie (ground/minced beef) is a meat pie with a crust or topping of mashed potato.The recipe has many variations, but the defining ingredients are minced red meat ("cottage pie" refers to beef filling and "shepherd's pie" refers to lamb), cooked in a gravy or sauce with onions and sometimes other vegetables, such as peas, celery or carrots, and topped with a layer of mashed potato before it is baked. The pie is sometimes also topped with grated cheese to create a layer of melted cheese on top.Tapioca pudding
Tapioca pudding (similar to sago pudding) is a sweet pudding made with tapioca and either milk or cream. Coconut milk is also used in cases in which the flavor is preferred or in areas in which it is a commonplace ingredient for cooking. It is made in many cultures with equally varying styles, and may be produced in a variety of ways. Its consistency ranges from thin (runny), to thick, to firm enough to eat with a fork.
The pudding can be made from scratch using tapioca in a variety of forms: flakes, coarse meal, sticks, and pearls. Many commercial packaged mixes are also available.British schoolchildren have traditionally nicknamed the dish frog spawn, due to its appearance. The Guardian described it as "Britain's most hated school pudding", with names such as fish eyes, frogspawn and eyeball pudding. It is however making a comeback in the 21st century in Michelin-starred restaurants and less exalted places.
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