So, I’ve put on a lot of weight since I’ve moved back to the UK and with very good reason. British food is not an internationally beloved cuisine. In most large cities around the world, you may be able to find a decent pizzeria, Chinese takeaway or Irish pub.
But, you will never ever find a good chippy or a proper British pub outside the British Isles.
Since being back, I have really appreciated things like Cadbury’s chocolate, fresh bread and never being more than a five-minute drive away from a pie. Who ate all the pies? Uh, me. Definitely me. With pleasure.
Here are just a few of my favourite British dishes, shared here to educate the rest of the world about the delicious-ness that is Great British food:
While the rest of the world is obsessed with streaky bacon, give me two slices of grilled back bacon between two slices of white bread and a good dollop of ketchup any day.
Roast Dinner – Sunday Lunch
While travelling, I meet a lot of people who assume that all the British like to eat is fish and chips. Although we love a good chippy every now and again, a meal that is much more common (some might even say weekly) is a proper roast dinner.
Note: the word ‘proper’ must precede the words ‘roast dinner’, just as ‘cheeky’ must precede the word ‘Nando’s’.
Roast dinners are usually prepared and eaten on Sundays. They include meat, potatoes (roasted in fat, boiled, mashed or all three), an assortment of vegetables and gravy.
Never underestimate the power of gravy.
The meats should be served as follows: beef with Yorkshire pudding, turkey with cranberry sauce (the usual for Christmas dinner), chicken with stuffing, pork with apple sauce or lamb with mint sauce. However, most families cheat and include all the things with their meat because Yorkshire puddings are too delicious to pass up.
And then there’s the matter of cauliflower cheese…
Toad in the Hole
Speaking of Yorkshire puddings (which aren’t puddings), we need to talk about Toad in the Hole (which has nothing to do with toads). Do you know what’s better than sausages? Sausages hiding in an ocean of batter. With gravy.
Never underestimate the power of gravy.
No listicle about British food is complete without mentioning fish and chips. My regular order is a small cod and chips (don’t worry, it’s never small) with mushy peas. For those of you who have yet to enjoy this accompaniment, mushy peas are literally what they say on the tin.
I also like to pinch some curry sauce for chip-dipping and if I’m in the north of the UK, then I ask for scraps (extra bits of batter). Of course, salt and vinegar on the chips go without saying and be sure to keep some bread and butter handy for those chip butties.
However, if you’re new to the fish and chips concept and you prefer your fish less like fish and more like meat, then there’s a huge secret I’m going to let you in on: chippies sell more than just fish and chips! You can order a pie, a battered sausage, fried chicken, or go ahead and order a doner kebab. You’re welcome.
Scampi and Chips
Why is this such a firm pub food staple? I don’t know. Battered prawns (that’s shrimp to some of you) with chips and peas doesn’t ever sound appealing, but sometimes I just get a hankering for it. Best enjoyed in a cosy pub with a pint. Don’t forget the tartar sauce.
Bangers and Mash
Sausages, mash potato and a healthy dose of onion gravy. Never underest… you get it.
A Full English Breakfast
And when we say ‘full’, we mean it: sausage, bacon, mushrooms, a fried tomato, toast, baked beans, eggs and sometimes hash browns and black pudding (also not a pudding).
What is black pudding? Why it’s a delicious kind of sausage made from pigs blood and fat, which is much tastier when you don’t think too hard about how it’s made.
All the Pies
Pies are another staple, usually served with mash, peas and gravy (I’m beginning to see a pattern emerging here). Popular flavours include steak and kidney, beef and ale and chicken and mushroom. There should always be a generous pie crust to filling ratio.
Confusingly, there are also two pies that aren’t really pies at all. They are a mix of minced meat and vegetables, topped with mashed potato and baked in an oven:
Shepherd’s pie (not to be confused with a shepherd spy) is made with minced lamb, while cottage pie is made with minced beef.
Chicken Tikka Masala
Yes, you read that correctly. What is the most popular British food? Curry. Chicken Tikkia Masala is a hybrid dish created by Indian settlers in the UK and the curry-mad British palette. Of all the foods I missed from my home country while I lived overseas, British curry was at the top of the list. Because you certainly can’t get it anywhere else. Not even in India.
After all that meat, potatoes and general stodge, how about something a little lighter for dessert? Like, I don’t know, freshly baked scones with a huge dollop of clotted cream and jam? Best served at afternoon tea, which – contrary to the opinion of other travellers I have met abroad – is only something we do for a special occasion.
As a side note, if you’d like a little guide to the best afternoon tea in York, Tales of a Backpacker has a great one.
Bananas and toffee and cream, oh pie!
The best thing to come out of Birmingham since… ever, nothing tastes like a Dairy Milk back on home turf. Australian Cadbury’s just isn’t the same; it crumbles rather than melts. Also, nothing smells as good as Bourneville, where the original Cadbury’s Factory is.
This has to be the laziest dessert ever invented. Named after historic Eton College where it was traditionally eaten (geddit?) after a game of cricket, this includes strawberries, meringue and cream, all whisked up in a mess.
Strawberries and Cream
Pretty simple and best served with a round of Wimbledon. Don’t forget to sprinkle sugar on top of your strawberries and cream to really get the most out of one of your five a day.
I don’t actually care for spotted dick, but I had to include it on this list just to write that very sentence. Despite Yorkshire pudding and black pudding having ‘pudding’ in the name even though they are savoury, apparently the word ‘dick’ was perfectly appropriate for an actual pudding.
Why is this so delicious? Pink and yellow sponge in a checked pattern wrapped in marzipan. Why is in checked? Why is the sponge pink? And why is it wrapped in marzipan? Who knows!
Beloved by grandmas all over the UK, this dessert is made with fruit, soggy sponge fingers soaked in sherry, custard and whipped cream. What I love most about this dessert is it’s Italian translation: Zuppa Inglese – English Soup!
The Best of British Food
Upon reflection, there is nothing remotely healthy on this list. It does seem like we eat rather a lot of sausages, potatoes, pies and gravy and cream… maybe that’s why I can’t fit into my jeans anymore…
Anyway, if you’re visiting the UK and reading this, be sure to try out a few of these dishes and if you’re British then I hope the pictures made your mouths water as much as mine did.
Now, I have the kind of munchies that only a slice of banoffee pie can fix…