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Thread: British Food

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    Chairman of the bored Maister's avatar
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    British Food

    Seems to me that the cooking of the British Isles has undeservedly gotten a bad rap. At the Maister household we like to prepare an 'international' dinner every other Sunday. We've got literally dozens of cookbooks with recipes from every continent and we try to feature an appetizer, entree, side dish, beverage, and dessert for each region or country's 'theme' that week. Last weekend we tried a British Isles themed dinner and drew from English, Scottish and Irish cookbooks for inspiration.

    I think part of the reason cooking from this region gets a bad rap is because most dishes feature fewer spices than typically found in other countries' cuisine, but this could in some ways be seen as it's strength; the quality of the produce and meat speaks for itself. Folks in the British Isles appear to have a fondness for various organs (haggis anyone?) not necessary shared with the same enthusiasm on this side of the Atlantic, but I see no reason why Americans couldn't enjoy a well-prepared shepard's pie, bangers and mash, cornish pasty, suet pudding, or bubble and squeek (gotta love that name - it's fried cabbage and potatoes).

    Another thing is, it seems like lamb is a more popular meat there than it is in the states. Anyone else enjoy foods from this area? I also wonder how much British cooking influences popular cuisine found elsewhere in Commonwealth countries? Do Aussies and kiwis eat much mutton?
    People will miss that it once meant something to be Southern or Midwestern. It doesn't mean much now, except for the climate. The question, “Where are you from?” doesn't lead to anything odd or interesting. They live somewhere near a Gap store, and what else do you need to know? - Garrison Keillor

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    Super Moderator luckless pedestrian's avatar
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    When we had our AGA in our house in Massachusetts, we really got into British cooking from the GA cookbook - it's very hearty, good comfort food - mix it up with country french cooking and you have good family meals

    when we were in England some years back, we hated the desserts, looked gorgeous, tasted like cardboard - stick with their chocolate, biscuits/cookies, and scones

    slightly OT: I miss my AGA, but we're saving up install it, we have to re-work alot of the kitchen to make it fit right and buy a new hood - we brought it with us to Maine, it's in pieces in the basement, waiting for the AGA geek to install it - ran on natural gas, but on the island, it's propane, so it won't be cheap to run

    what's an AGA, you say?

    http://www.aga-rayburn.co.uk/

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    Chairman of the bored Maister's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by luckless pedestrian
    when we were in England some years back, we hated the desserts, looked gorgeous, tasted like cardboard - stick with their chocolate, biscuits/cookies, and scones
    Speaking of dessert, another thing that the Brits seem big on is dessert wines. I bought a bottle of sherry and port to go with our dinner. I confess it will take me a litttle time to acquire a taste for it, but I said much the same about Aquavit when we did our Scandanavian meal, and I've subsequently come to very much appreciate an ice-cold dram of the stuff.
    People will miss that it once meant something to be Southern or Midwestern. It doesn't mean much now, except for the climate. The question, “Where are you from?” doesn't lead to anything odd or interesting. They live somewhere near a Gap store, and what else do you need to know? - Garrison Keillor

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    Cyburbian jmello's avatar
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    The only thing I enjoyed over there was a pub's steak and kidney pie and a homemade beef roast with Yorkshire pudding. Everything else was bland, heavy and gross.

  5. #5
    Quote Originally posted by Maister
    <snip>... but I said much the same about Aquavit when we did our Scandanavian meal, and I've subsequently come to very much appreciate an ice-cold dram of the stuff.
    Akvavit is delicious and typically consumed with cold beer (most frequently Tuborg Green, unfortunately not an export). Most of the meals I had with family in Denmark were accompanied by Gammeldansk (literally "Old Danish"). It is a dark liqueur that requires the same devotion as Akvavit.
    Je suis Charlie

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    My experience in England was that the food was great if you stayed away from the tourist places. Had wonderful meals at small neighborhood cafes in London and great classic pub food and real ale as we walked the country foot paths between villlages in Kent. These small town pubs rarely saw an American tourist. England is a very ethnically diverse country at least in the major metro areas. The Indian curry influence is obvious but I also had some great food at a Spanish cafe as well. No one can say that this food is bland. Even saw Mexican dishes at a few places.

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    Cyburbian Coragus's avatar
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    I honeymooned for two weeks in Cornwall back in 2003. The only thing I ate that I didn't like was the one time I ordered a cheeseburger. What I found was that no matter where I was or what I ordered, it was great, but it was the same stuff everywhere. Bangers and mash, fish and chips, pasties, scones with clotted cream, and tea. Oh yeah, the beer!

    I noticed too that the coffee was horrible.
    The cookies are worth the drive

  8. #8
    Chairman of the bored Maister's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Senior Jefe
    My experience in England was that the food was great if you stayed away from the tourist places. Had wonderful meals at small neighborhood cafes in London and great classic pub food and real ale as we walked the country foot paths between villlages in Kent. These small town pubs rarely saw an American tourist. England is a very ethnically diverse country at least in the major metro areas. The Indian curry influence is obvious but I also had some great food at a Spanish cafe as well. No one can say that this food is bland. Even saw Mexican dishes at a few places.
    Fair enough to say that Indian, Mexican and some other ethnic food is not bland, but the general criticism of British ethnic food is that it lacks nuance.
    I'd be curious to know how much of the typical British diet is made up these days of traditional British dishes and how much of it is imported from colonial influences.
    People will miss that it once meant something to be Southern or Midwestern. It doesn't mean much now, except for the climate. The question, “Where are you from?” doesn't lead to anything odd or interesting. They live somewhere near a Gap store, and what else do you need to know? - Garrison Keillor

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    Cyburbian otterpop's avatar
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    The pasty (beef, potatoes and spices cooked in a pastry) is a Montana staple and borrowed from the Cornish. I am very fond of shepard's pie and make it regualrly. I have the recipe favored by Keith Richards, though I've haven't tried it yet. Englsih style fish and chips is also a favorite of mine. My beer preference has always been for English-style ales.

    My all-time favorite food is corned beef and cabbage, but that really isn't from the British Isles. I read an article (on St. Patrick's Day, of course) that traditionally the Irish did not eat corned beef and cabbage, but typically ate ham shanks or salted pork, with cabbage and potatoes. Corned beef and cabbage is, as I understand it, a dish the Irish immigrants adopted in American, because the immigrants lived mostly in cities, where sources for their rural foods were scarce, so they adapted. Me, I like mine New England style.
    "I am very good at reading women, but I get into trouble for using the Braille method."

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    Cyburbian Mud Princess's avatar
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    If you're including Scotland, don't forget my favorite: Cullen skink. It's a creamy fish & potato soup made with finnan haddie (smoked haddock). I've found finnan haddie at seafood markets and some grocery stores.

    http://www.rampantscotland.com/recip...ipe_cullen.htm

    Yum! Great on those cold, damp days often experienced in the UK and Ireland...

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    Cyburbian dandy_warhol's avatar
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    mmmm. can't go wrong with scones. dee-lish!


    btw, i really like the idea of the International Night. i think i might have to borrow that idea from you!!
    In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends. -Martin Luther King Jr.

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    maudit anglais
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    Quote Originally posted by Maister
    Fair enough to say that Indian, Mexican and some other ethnic food is not bland, but the general criticism of British ethnic food is that it lacks nuance.
    I'd be curious to know how much of the typical British diet is made up these days of traditional British dishes and how much of it is imported from colonial influences.
    I grew up on British food, and for me things like Shepherd's Pie, Fish and Chips, etc. are comfort food. I don't eat them a lot anymore - they don't translate very well into the loosely vegetarian diet I follow now, though I make a mean Shepherd's Pie using textured vegetable protein.

    My relatives in the UK still eat a very "British" diet, but they are of an older generation for the most part.

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    Cyburbian DetroitPlanner's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Coragus
    I honeymooned for two weeks in Cornwall back in 2003. The only thing I ate that I didn't like was the one time I ordered a cheeseburger. What I found was that no matter where I was or what I ordered, it was great, but it was the same stuff everywhere. Bangers and mash, fish and chips, pasties, scones with clotted cream, and tea. Oh yeah, the beer!

    I noticed too that the coffee was horrible.

    Cornwall must be better than Dublin
    We hope for better things; it will arise from the ashes - Fr Gabriel Richard 1805

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    Cyburbian natski's avatar
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    Lamb is like the national meat for Australia- infact i would like to think if you didnt eat lamb, you are well unaustralian.

    No offence to any veggies meant!

    Down under i feel that our cusine has evolved from a variety of places, i mean it is still a bit british with the whole bangers and mash, but we definietly now have a lot of asian, indian, italian and french influences.
    "Have you ever wondered if there was more to life, other than being really, really, ridiculously good looking?" Zoolander

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    Cyburbian JNL's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Maister
    Another thing is, it seems like lamb is a more popular meat there than it is in the states. Anyone else enjoy foods from this area? I also wonder how much British cooking influences popular cuisine found elsewhere in Commonwealth countries? Do Aussies and kiwis eat much mutton?
    Lamb is pretty popular here but mutton is not - well, not with my age group anyway. I guess British cooking has a fairly strong influence here, seeing as we were colonised by the British as recently as the early to mid 1800s and a good proportion of us are directly descended from those settlers. Fish'n chips were a regular Friday night dinner for our family, and my mother used to cook many of the dishes mentioned in the posts above. However, in more recent years, Kiwis have welcomed many other types of cuisine, especially Asian, and traditional British cooking would form only a small part of the average person's diet. I am speaking from the perspective of my age group (mid 20s)- while I suspect the fare on offer in retirement homes is much more British influenced, for example.

    I have a great recipe for lamb with hokkien noodles and sour sauce (kind of an Asian (Thai?) stir-fry) that has carrots and snow peas and red curry... mmm

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    Cyburbian Zoning Goddess's avatar
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    Wouldn't any industrialized nation be like the US with a variety of restaurant types to supplement our usual diet? Brits and Aussies would be eating Thai, Mexican, Italian, etc? all the time. I know I don't eat an "old-fashioned" American diet at all. Just like our restaurants labeled "American" by AAA have meatloaf and such, guess Britain has its usual cuisine that is probably not eaten every day by its inhabitants.

    I was there 30 years ago and was so craving familiar food that our guide took us to a place in London called the "Great American Disaster" so I could have an actual American hamburger. (Well, had been 2 weeks on the continent before that and needed my "comfort" food...)

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    Cyburbian Howard Roark's avatar
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    Between the food and riding my bike, i lost 20 pounds in the 2 years I lived in the UK.

    Good food can be found in England, most of the Indian places are quite nice. I found a small country pub on the Thames outside of Oxford that was excellant fresh prepared Toad in the Hole, it was huge with the boating crowd. One of the best Italian meals I ever had was a small out of the way place in London.

    Senior Jefe - I would like to know what pubs you found that were good. Most of out of the way places that I frequented were pretty mariginial, even my local. The best pub food in Oxford was Head of the River, which also happened to be one of the bigger tourist places. Alot of pubs are chain owned now, and have microwave menus. The rest tend to fry the tar out of anything that will fit in a fryer basket.

    Cone to think of it, I miss bubble and squeak
    She has been a bad girl, she is like a chemical, though you try and stop it she is like a narcotic.

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    Cyburbian jsk1983's avatar
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    I was an exchange student in England for four months and rarely ate 'British' food. I did have some of their sausage once and it was quite flavorless, really some of the worst I've ever had.

    It was quite easy to avoid their food. Even English pubs would generally have pizza or curry on the menu. It certainly wasn't difficult to find cuisines from other ethnicities. Indian take aways in Britain are about as ubiquitous as Chinese take outs in the U.S. One of the things I came to appreciate in Britain was the ubiquity of Indian food. Even the tiniest of conveinance stores would stock nan (a popular type of Indian bread).

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    Cyburbian chukky's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by natski
    Lamb is like the national meat for Australia- infact i would like to think if you didnt eat lamb, you are well unaustralian.

    No offence to any veggies meant!

    Down under i feel that our cusine has evolved from a variety of places, i mean it is still a bit british with the whole bangers and mash, but we definietly now have a lot of asian, indian, italian and french influences.

    lamb and steak are definately contenders for the National Dish of Australia. More or less anything you can stick on the barbie is in the running. Seafood esp. prawns are popular too, we are a country with ninety percent of the popualtion within spitting distance of the ocean.

    Though I did read an article a while ago that "statistically proved" that if you were to go into any australian household in on any given day, the dish on the stove is most likely to be spaghetti bolonagese, probably due to Melbourne's huge italian influences.

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    Quote Originally posted by Howard Roark

    Senior Jefe - I would like to know what pubs you found that were good. Most of out of the way places that I frequented were pretty mariginial, even my local. The best pub food in Oxford was Head of the River, which also happened to be one of the bigger tourist places. Alot of pubs are chain owned now, and have microwave menus. The rest tend to fry the tar out of anything that will fit in a fryer basket.

    Cone to think of it, I miss bubble and squeak
    I found those chain pubs in London and agree with you. The menus where pretty much all the same. My favorite pub I came across was in the Village of Barham in Kent a few mile south of Canterbury. It was called the Duke of Cumberland. The menu was on a black board, changed with what they had available and was not a standard printed menu like the ones in London. Went back for a second visit. It was full of locals having a pint before heading up the hill for the local summer fete. Another one I remember is close by in the Village of Denton. It is call the Jack Daw. This pub was suppose to be a favorite of RAF pilots during WWII. Maybe it was all the walking to get there that made the food there so good?

  21. #21
    Cyburbian
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    Good food is not an anomaly in the UK. It's easy to find good food in London if you are willing to pay for it, and if you have a good dining guidebook handy for reference there are plenty of gourmet pubs and restaurants across the countryside and in upscale little villages. But unaided, it is easy to spend the entire trip eating poorly.

    When I lived over there, I noticed that among the affluent it is more common to eat at home and have dinner parties at home rather than eat out (in part because restaurant meals are very expensive, especially the better quality places). Certainly the British don't dine out as much as the Americans do, so especially outside of London the range of first rate/upscale restaurants is limited, leaving, for the most part, the restaurant scene to working classes and their tastes (which runs heavily to fried and processed food). The last time I was over in Britain I took an American friend to Sainsbury and Tesco, and he was astonished at the general quality of the British supermarkets, which are on the whole better than American markets, but at the same time the British restaurant scene isn't as reliably good as America (with the noticeable exception of Indian and ethnic restaurants).

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    Not Bad As It's Made Out To Be

    I was in the U.K. [London, primarily] on biz in January. While my immediate priority was to chase down as many cask-conditioned bitters and hand drawn stouts as possible , I did have to depart from "liquid nutrition" from time to time and get some grub.

    As far as I'm concerned, the Brits offer solid fare - well prepared and a good value - even with the pain incurred by the weak dollar against the pound. Like anywhere else, you've got to check out the places in advance.

    I did better than my "myopic" business colleagues who insisted on eating at outlets of US fast food chains only. Can you imagine? When returning, they get asked: "How's the food there?" Answer: "That Pizza Hut across from Wellington Castle was the best I had and the McMuffins are tastier than ours...."

    Actually, I did real well once I stopped asking for "oatmeal" and asked for "porridge" instead....

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    Cyburbian Howard Roark's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by PennPlanner
    The last time I was over in Britain I took an American friend to Sainsbury and Tesco, and he was astonished at the general quality of the British supermarkets, which are on the whole better than American markets, but at the same time the British restaurant scene isn't as reliably good as America (with the noticeable exception of Indian and ethnic restaurants).

    Actually I found the Big Giant Tesco's that appear on the edge of cities to be OK. Most of the local Sainsbury's and Tesco Metro's I was in were kind of cruddy (not to mention the CoOp )

    But they were all more expensive than American markets.

    There were nice local markets on thursday's in the square by the train station in, you could get good Cotswold honey, the central market in Oxford was nice and very expensive, built for tourists but a neat place to go. The food halls at Harrod's were amazing, but far beyond rational prices.
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    Chairman of the bored Maister's avatar
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    Bumping this old thread because of the recent influx of folks from the UK.

    So, do Brits still prepare and consume traditional British meals at home or have frozen foods forced everyone to forget how to cook? Are there any chain restaurants that specialize in British style foods? How often do Brits eat pizza?

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    Quote Originally posted by Maister View post
    Bumping this old thread because of the recent influx of folks from the UK.

    So, do Brits still prepare and consume traditional British meals at home or have frozen foods forced everyone to forget how to cook? Are there any chain restaurants that specialize in British style foods? How often do Brits eat pizza?
    IMHO - I think the younger generations (under 30 say) do not cook 'traditional' British food anywhere near as much as their parents do. I'd suggest this is due to the influences of other ethnic foodstuffs and recipes. In my experience a lot of British dishes need hours to prepare (if you avoid the frozen TV dinner shite), where as rattling up a stir fry can take 10 minutes. Admittedly, if you are to do a curry properly you should be marinating the meat overnight etc, but with a profusion of jar-based curry sauces you sort yourself something half-decent in 30 minutes. Preparing a Shepherds Pie in that time would be near impossible.

    Myself, I usually find myself cooking Spag Bol, stir frys and Thai Curries most regularly, or just a big salad with some balsamic vinegar for dressing. I can't ever actually remember preparing a 'traditional' British meal, besides a mountainous English Breakfast on a Sunday morning!

    As for chain restaurants, there aren't any restaurants per se. There are a number of national chain-pubs that do the usual British dishes, usually very poorly and microwaved or deep fried to within an inch of its life. Such chain-pubs include Brewers Fayre, Tom Cobleigh's, Harvester and J.D. Wetherspoons. My advice to anyone is to avoid these places like the plague. It is worth searching out local pubs that use local produce where you will find the menus a little more flavoursome(not only local to the UK, but local to the town - especially meats/fish/vegetables/cheeses). Don't be afraid to ask where they source their meat from, for example.

    Pizzas - massive business! I'll probably demolish one a week. Not sure which is top dog though, curry or pizzas...its a toughy!

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