Thursday 8 June 2023

10 Foodie Things the British do Better than Anyone Else

 

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I've been thinking a lot lately about all the things that I miss from the UK foodwise.  I lived there for over 20 years and I think its fair to say that their culture and food became firmly entrenched in my being. 


I can remember being told before I moved over there that it rained all the time and that the food was awful.  I thought to myself, what the heck am I letting myself in for!


Contrary to popular opinion it doesn't rain all the time, although it does rain a lot.  The rain is a part of what makes this such a beautiful green and lush country.  I soon learned that you don't melt in the rain and I came to embrace it.  There is nothing you can't do in the rain with a good brolly and a pair of Wellingtons.  There is naught so bracing as a walk in the countryside in a gentle rain, culminating in a pub trip at the end of the walk and a lovely Pub lunch.


Which brings me to the food. I think it is a fair statement to say that you can come across horrible food anywhere. I have to say my experience eating in the UK was, to be honest, simply wonderful.  Admittedly they don't really do salads very well, those are always hit and miss, but living back here in Canada my heart yearns for the meats, cheese, dairy and fresh produce of the UK.  


It really was some of the best in the world in my opinion. A fresh British strawberry during Strawberry season is a little taste of heaven. The UK is filled with wonderful producers of meats, fruits, vegetables, cheeses, poultry, etc. and most of them deliver all over the country, usually overnight.


I know it is a much smaller country, and that is a lot easier to do in a smaller country, but I find myself really missing good home food delivery, amongst other things.


There are some foods that the British do better than anyone else. Today I am sharing my top ten list of what they do really well. (Of course this is just my opinion and you are free to add your own in the comments below!)


sandwich shop


SANDWICHES


Nobody does sandwiches better than the British.  They invented them. They love their sandwiches and the country is filled with lovely sandwich shops selling some of the best sandwiches you could ever buy. Most Brits will happily chow down on a sandwich from one of these shops for their lunch and what Tea Party is complete without an assortment of finger sandwiches.



When I first got there I was astonished by the variety of sandwiches on offer.  Cheese and Tomato, Cheese and Onion, Tuna and Sweet Corn, Tuna and Cucumber, Roast Beef,Rocket and Horseradish, etc. That is just tip of the ice berg. 


Cheese and Pickle Sandwich



One of my favorites was the cheese and pickle sandwich.  Buttered white bread sandwiched together with a nice layer of Branston's Pickle and a good cheddar cheese.  I love LOVE Cheese and Pickle sandwiches. Thankfully I can get Branston's here in Canada.  Good British Cheddar too.  So I am still well able to enjoy them. 




Other favorites were Egg and Cress (egg mayonnaise with layer of mustard cress sprinkled over the egg filling), a Chip Buttie ( hot fresh chips (French fries) sandwiched between slices of buttered white bread.) I always loved having a slice of buttered bread with my fish and chips just for that purpose. A bit of salt some vinegar, a few hot chips and that buttered bread and I was in sandwich heaven.



Toast



TOAST

Nobody does toast better than the British.  Always lovely and crisp.  I used to love stopping in coffee shops and having a hot drink and a slice or two of hot toast.  They have the nicest thick white bread called Toastie. It has to be about an inch thick.  



I worked in a Care Home in the kitchen when I first moved over to the UK and all the staff would enjoy a hot slice of toast on their morning break time.  It would pass through this toasting machine which would toast it slowly on both sides so that it came out lovely and crisp.



Toast in the cafe's always arrived at the table un-buttered with butter on the side ready for you to spread onto it yourself. This actually allowed the toast to cool down a bit so that it didn't become soggy once buttered. I think that is one of the secrets to good toast!


beans on toast




They eat a lot of toast and love to top their toast with a variety of things. Beans on Toast are a real favorite. Often, when you can't think of anything to make for supper, Beans on Toast makes a delicious and quick supper that most people enjoy.  Cheese on Toast is another favorite.  




The British actually love eating things on toast. You will often see them eating tomatoes on toast, mushrooms on toast and scrambled egg on toast. All  make fabulous simple suppers for those nights when you can't be asked to cook.


Meat Pies


MEAT PIES


The British love their pies and they do them really well. Of course there are cheap and nasty ones (aren't there everywhere!), but if you were willing to fork out a tiny bit more dosh you could always get a really beautiful meat pie.  Steak and Mushroom, Steak and Kidney, Chicken and Mushroom, Lamb and Mint, even vegetable pies, etc. Beautiful pastries, ample rich fillings. All a delight served warm with mash and gravy.



Pork Pies were also a lovely British specialty. Made with hot water pastry, they were lovely served cold at picnics with a bit of pickle on the side.



I used to love ordering the pies from Piper's Farm.  They had a lovely assortment. I never had one that I didn't enjoy.  Thankfully I can make myself my own homemade pies.  A favorite is this Steak and Potato Pie.  I also make a really good Chicken and Mushroom Pie.  




British Takeaway



THE BRITISH TAKEAWAY


When referring to a British Takeaway you are not just referring to food that you take away to eat in the comfort of your own home, but an actual shop that specializes in this type of food. Every community/village has at least one or two of these and most people have their favorite establishment that they love to buy their takeaway from.



You cannot eat a meal in most Takeaways. You can only purchase food to bring away to eat elsewhere.  Popular options include:

  • Kebabs - Meat or chicken grilled and cut into slices and then folded into hot pita bread with salad, tomatoes and sauce.
  • Sausage rolls and meat pies.
  • Fried chicken.
  • Burgers
  • Fish and chips
  • Chinese and Indian food


Fish and Chips



FISH AND CHIPS


This should come as no surprise.  Nobody does Fish and Chips better than the British. Most people do not cook this at home. They will pick up a frozen version or they will get some at their local Chippie.  It is a dish that most wouldn't make at home and really, when you can buy really good fish and chips ready made and hot, why would you want to.


I can remember the first Fish and Chips I had in the UK.  Bought at the my local Parade of shops in Blacon, Chester. The piece of fish so large it was hanging off the sides of my plate. The chips thick and crisp. Both  came sprinkled liberally with salt and malt vinegar and then wrapped in plain newsprint.  So delicious.


Most Friday nights the line up at Fish and Chip shops will go out onto the street, filled with people waiting to pick up their Friday night supper and yes, a slice of buttered white bread goes very nicely as does mushy peas.


It is also impossible to go to the Seaside without treating yourself to fish and chips. They always, always have really good fish and chips there. Nothing tastes better, eaten on a bench on the boardwalk, looking out over the water with the smell of salt water and the sound of gulls in the air.


Failing that, I do have a lovely recipe for Homemade Beer Battered Fish and Chips, which is delicious. 


Sausages



SAUSAGES


Oh how I miss the great British Sausage.  They make the best sausages in the world and almost every area in the UK has a sausage that they are well known for. I was never enamored with sausage prior to moving to the UK. I just didn't find them very exciting, but I fell in love with the British Sausage, also lovingly called Bangers. Of course there are cheap and nasty ones, but nothing is more delicious than a quality British Banger in my opinion.  Plump and meaty and full of flavor.


My favorites are Cumberland and I do love a good Pork and Apple sausage. My sister and I have made our own from scratch back here in Canada and they were really good. There is a shop around the corner from me that sells the casings, etc. and I have a sausage making attachment for my Kitchen aid. I did post a great Tutorial here on how to make your own.


Classic Bangers and Mash is a favorite British Supper as is Toad in the Hole, which is sausages baked in a Yorkshire Pudding batter and served with gravy and mash. Sometimes I wrap the sausages in bacon before making that dish.


British Middle Bacon


Bacon is something else they do really well and it comes in two types, smoked and unsmoked. You can get it with the rind still on, or the rind removed. Streaky (which is like North American Bacon, but meatier) and Back, which is lovely whole medallions.  Or you can get middle bacon with is like the one in the photograph above which has a piece of the back with some streaky still attached.  Dry or wet cured.  


See, no end to the options. I preferred Dry cured myself.


Perfect for a Bacon Sandwich, stuck between two slices of white bread and slathered with brown sauce.  I worked at a service station for a time and we sold bacon and sausage baguettes, and bacon & sausage baguettes.  The lineup used to be out the door every morning of working class men wanting their morning Butty and hot coffee.  Never underestimate the deliciousness of a good Bacon Sandwich.


A Full English Breakfast


THE FULL ENGLISH BREAKFAST


I fell in love with what is lovingly referred to as The Full English. Every decent B&B in the UK has on offer one of these lovely breakfasts.  When I first moved to the UK, on Saturday mornings we would treat ourselves to a Full English in town at the BHS store.  You paid by the item.  Baked beans, grilled tomatoes, bacon, sausage, grilled mushrooms, black pudding, hash browns, fried bread.



Only the heartiest eater could  manage to eat all of that. I usually just had bacon, sausage, egg, beans, mushrooms and tomatoes. Sometimes I would treat myself to a slice of fried bread. You can get my take on the Traditional English Fry Up here.   Bring your appetite!  I also have a recipe for Fried Bread here.  So good.




A Cream Tea





THE CREAM TEA

Another thing that the British are well known and loved for is their penchant for Cream Teas.  
Cream Tea actually refers to scones served with clotted cream and jam, and enjoyed with copious amounts of hot tea.  In the UK you will find  the Cream Tea available on most café menus, especially those situated near popular tourist spots like cathedrals, castles and stately homes. 



 Clotted Cream originated in Devon and Cornwall, although it is now easy to find all over the UK. It is very difficult to replicate outside of the UK, due the availability of the cream which is normally used to make it. 



An age old question related to Cream Tea is whether the cream or jam should be put on the scone first. If you're in Devon, the cream goes on first, followed by the jam. If you're in Cornwall, the jam is put on first.  I talk all about putting together a Cream Tea here.



My recipe along with a complete tutorial for Classic Scones can be found here.  And I have also done another tutorial on how to brew the  proper cup of tea



Do take note that the Cream Tea is not the same as High Tea or Afternoon Tea. Most people make the mistake of confusing the three or lumping them all together.




Afternoon Tea -  a selection of finger foods like cake, scones, tarts, and other treats that is usually served more casually than a High Tea. Included may be small crustless finger sandwiches. The traditional British Afternoon Tea was  generally served in drawing rooms, and enjoyed while seated on couches or chairs rather than at a table.  This is the type of tea that you would have seen the Grantham family enjoying on Downton Abbey.  Basically it is the equivalent of an afternoon snack, and was taken mid to late afternoon at a time when families used to eat their main meal much later in the day.  It is this kind of tea that is what most people think of when they hear the words "tea party,' and normally includes china cups and saucers. 



 High Tea - served at a dining table, hence "high tea." This is much more of a meal, and will often include cold meats, jam, tea cakes, fresh bread, more substantial sandwiches, pork pies, etc. It is  usually served on regular plates instead of fine china.  This is what many workers might have enjoyed  after a long day of working in the fields or factories. In fact in many areas of the UK, supper is often referred to as "Tea."  You will often hear people saying to each other, what would you fancy for Tea tonight, and by that they don't mean a tea party, but supper!



Sunday Lunch




SUNDAY LUNCH


One of the most iconic British traditions is that of "Sunday Lunch", also known as the "Sunday Roast" or "Sunday Dinner."  Its a pretty good reason to look forward to Sundays, and can be great if you have a large family or group of people coming around that you want to sit down and share a meal with.  


It will usually consist of a slap up roast dinner with a roast of some sort, along with all of the trimmings. I did a complete post on Sunday lunch which you can find HERE. I also shared a variety of main roasts and side dishes for you to pick from so that you can put together your own Sunday Lunch.



Apple Crumble




PUDDING


When I talk about pudding here I am not talking about a sweet milky concoction that is eaten at the end of a meal or as a snack. I am talking about dessert.  The dessert course in the UK is always referred to as "Pudding."  


When eating out you will always be asked if you would like something for Pudding.  And what a wonderful array of sweet delights they have to choose from!  Nobody does pudding better than the British and it will more often than not be served warm and accompanied with lashes of warm custard or cold cream, or even both! 


Some favorites are Apple Crumble. Sticky Toffee Pudding. (World famous) Banoffee Pie. Queen of Puddings. Steamed Jam Sponge.  Just to name a few.


The British aways do Pudding well!


Tea tray






And there you have it, 10 Foodie things that I think the British do better than anyone else!  Have you travelled or lived in the UK?  If so what were some of your favorite foodie experiences?  I really want to know!  Just leave a comment below.  Let's talk!


This content (written and photography) is the sole property of The English Kitchen. Any reposting or misuse is not permitted. If you are reading this elsewhere, please know that it is stolen content and you may report it to me at: mariealicejoan at aol dot com 



Thanks so much for visiting. Do come again! 




14 comments

  1. I have never been to England. I have been to Scotland a long time ago, where I really enjoyed the "Ploughman's Lunch". Crusty buns, different cheeses, pickles and sliced meat. It was great.

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    1. I loved my visits to Scotland as well. It is really not all that different than England in many ways and yet very different in others. You can't beat a lovely Ploughman's Lunch anywhere! So easy to replicate as well! You can fine my version here: https://www.theenglishkitchen.co/2013/07/a-traditional-ploughmans-lunch.html

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  2. Hi Marie
    I absolutely love your blogs and recipes! I desperately want a copy of your book!!! You are my favorite!!

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    1. Hi Patti! I am looking into self publishing it or finding a new publisher for it. Possibly in two or three smaller volumes that are much more affordable. Thank you for your sweet comment! xo

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  3. This is such a fun list, Marie! And I'm saving it for when I one day get back to England. I do agree completely about the Full English breakfast and cream tea. And fish, of course!

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    1. Thanks so much Jeanie! I miss the UK so much. I am not sure if I will ever get back there but a Cream Tea and Fish and Chips is on the top of my list! xo

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  4. This is my first time commenting, but I've been following along for quite a while. I thoroughly enjoyed this post! I have been to England several times and Ireland a couple of times as well. I have always enjoyed the food. My mother was of British descent and sometimes cooked some traditional foods. My favorite of all was Christmas Day with Roast Beef with Yorkshire Pudding! I hope you'll do more posts like this. I love your down to earth recipes!

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    1. Welcome Joan! Ireland was on my bucket list Joan! I never got there. Glad I am not the only fan of British food! Thanks so much for taking the time to comment! Much appreciated! xo

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  5. Born in Manchester, came to Calgary with my family when I was 14. Mum made delicious steak and kidney pudding, rabbit stew, we all loved turkey dripping on toast-my DH almost turns green when I mention that one, cheese and onion pie, smoked haddock cooked in milk and I'm sure there's lots more I haven't had in the last 50 years!!

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    1. All favorites! You can't get smoked haddock here for some reason. You would think with it being Nova Scotia you would! xo

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  6. I could almost believe i wrote this myself lol. Everything you said is true. Ive been in USA for 34 years and i order bread online to get good toast lol. I also miss the fresh cakes from the bakery too. I’m still homesick. When you wrote about walking in the light rain, it carried me back. Regards, Aileen

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    1. Happy I was able to give you some nice memories Aileen! There is no place like home. It is tough sometimes to have pieces of your heart on both sides of the pond! xo

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  7. Great selections, people don’t appreciate British food enough

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